Do You Feel Poor??

Here are the numbers for the poverty line in 2009:

The 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.


I’ve gone through some tough economic times in my 50 plus years, and have had many years of plenty, also. I have to say, if I’m honest with myself, excepting when I was very young and starting out, that the times I’ve felt poor were times when my finances were allocated in such a way that I had less disposable income than I’d like to have had…big difference between feeling poor and being poor. If only I knew than what I do now – which is the point of this blog – Eating Better for Less and my Twelve Strategies:  passing along information that might help someone else.

Hopefully this site will help reallocate some of the funds spent on groceries and eating out, and put them where you’d like them to be:  enhancing your lifestyle in meaningful ways, including saving and investing.

Check out these numbers from the USDA on average food costs for families at four different price ranges, from thrifty to liberal; just click on a month and it will give you the ages of the individuals and the different price points.

I generally beat out those prices for my ‘now’ family of two by a LOT, and that includes all personal items, household items, cleaning & laundry items, pet care items, etc. and groceries for my son and myself.  I’ve always been frugal, but in the past few years, I’ve made saving more a big priority.  I’ve also completely revised my thinking about money:

  • I realized at some point I had “old” ideas programmed in my head from childhood – little thoughts in the back of my mind I’ve heard my Dad say, like:  “No matter how much money you have, it always seems like you spend more than you make…”  He said this tongue in cheek, but I found evidence of it in my  life.  Or another, from my mother:  “A lady always…”  (Finish this one up yourself?)  Wears nice shoes?  Carries a ‘good’ bag?  Shops in certain stores?
  • I sat down and ruthlessly examined my attitudes, and tried to dig out some of these deepseated subconcious threads and figure out if they really are true and valid.  Sit down with a pen and paper and really think about what you’ve heard about money and jot down those phrases you’ve heard from your parents, from financial advisors, from friends, etc. and really examine them.  Are they true for you?  Are they true in today’s Bearish economy?

At the risk of sounding blatantly self promoting, last year I spent $964.00 for what I bought in the above items, and I supported several extra people here at the house.  One month there were five of us, and for several months four adults.  (And one small cat.) Now, I did spend money on newspapers, and solicited coupon inserts from my friends.  I’d have to add roughly about $76.00 to my annual bill.

We ate very well, and I was also was so well stocked after the year that I hardly bought any groceries except for fresh food like milk, fruit and vegetables until around May of this year.  (I still haven’t bought any personal care items except for a bottle of Walgreen’s brand ibuprofen this year as of September when I revised this.) The best part about it was that it became fun!  No longer did I dread going to the store or spending money.

There was a lot of discussion on CNN’s Eatocracy Site about living on $30.00 a week, per person, and yes, I joined in.  You’d have to muzzle me to get me NOT to comment!

Here are few things that helped me with my attitudes about money, finances and allocation of funds:

I started thinking very carefully about every purchase:

  • I started really thinking about what my money was buying me and where else it could be allocated where it might work harder or be more lasting.
  • I started thinking of every dollar, even every cent as a precious resource instead of something I’ll always have more of.  All those dollars are bought with time – a very limited resource.
  • I started thinking of purchases in terms of what purchases add up to over the course of a year and what else that could have bought me.  (A twelve pack of pop every week at $5.64 = $293.00.  That’s the flight to see a dear friend in Arizona that I put off last year thinking I couldn’t justify the cost at that time.)
  • I started thinking in terms of “You can go with this or you can go with that!”  Thank you Kia for your darling hamster commercials – I replay that song in my head when I’m thinking about buying something.  I think in terms of “I can have a Cafe Mocha Latte for $4.78 or I can take my kid to the discount movie for $3.00.  I can take my son to Burger King and we can each order off the dollar menu for $6.00 plus tax or I make a dinner for 4 or 6 or 8 for under $5.00 and have friends over and watch a Netflix movie.)

Before I make a purchase, I think to myself:

  • Can I do without this item?
  • Is this really the best that I can do?  Can I hold off and find it cheaper/better by another method?  If I buy it right now, I’ll spend $54.96.  If I go home and look through the ads and check online, can I get it for $49.99?  What can I do with that extra $5.00?  If you’re frugal, a lot.
  • Can I borrow or share someone else’s?  And perhaps lend something of mine in return?  Do I need a new pair of heels for the once a year cocktail party or can I borrow a friend’s for the night?  Do I need a lopper to trim up the hedge, or can I borrow my neighbor’s?  And maybe lend something in return?
  • Can I buy used?  Garage sale? Thrift store?
  • Can I buy something slightly damaged for a huge discount?
  • Can I get a discount when I’m buying?  Cash back?  Points toward something?

I also started thinking about how many times I could use the same money over and over without extending more.  This was huge for me, and I was shocked that I’d never seen this as a possibility before.  I do this often now at both Walgreens and CVS when shopping for personal and cleaning items.

I started seeing life more in terms of abundance and choices as opposed to feeling poor and hopeless…

Especially because there really are poor in America – people who aren’t in a place to dictate where there money is being allocated.  Here’s the site where the USDA explains in great detail how they came up with the numbers for the plans and what a ‘thrifty’ basket looked like in 2006.

This I find very interesting:  The SNAP site, which includes the recipes recommended for recipients of “food stamps,” or EBT as it is called in Minnesota.  I looked through a LOT of the recipes, and I feel fortunate.

My frugal mind immediately began making judgments about the ingredients and processes; it took a few moments to think things through and realize that not all are in a place where they can cook, where they have the necessary time, conditions or equipment, mental or physical health, or even the knowledge.

On Eatocracy, I saw a lot of comments on what people do with their food stamps, and how they looked while using them (what they were wearing, etc.)  I think it’s important to realize that I do have things that many of these people will never have – I have a home, a car, a modest retirement plan.  I struggle, yes, as many middle class Americans, and as I mentioned before, my disposable income is tight, but I have hope.  I’m not buying it with a lottery ticket or a bag of chips.

I’m grateful to have come from where I came from, a small Iowa town with a Mom who was a great cook, grandmother’s that helped me, 4-H and Scouts.  And after looking these numbers over, I’m very grateful that I am where I am today, and for what I have.

Discussion:  I’m always curious how others manage and what kind of thinking has helped you get through the tight times.  Do you have a philosophy you can share?  I’d love to hear it!

Related articles:

Links for The Twelve Strategies: 


2 thoughts on “Do You Feel Poor??

  1. Fantastic post! I have a post on this subject as well. I have 2 teens and they are not as much in the rat race as their peers. Just proves that poverty is a state of mind! They often tell me, with a high voice full of surprise “they didn’t even know this or that” (lack of interested) or “they couldn’t even do this or that” (skills). I will read your links soon! Love the subject 🙂

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