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Early Retirement/Saving Money when Poor with Low Wages  RSS feed

 
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Sorry, it's undoubtedly too late for this, but I'll throw it in there anyway. Been listening to the podcast chapter readings. Thought about responding, but didn't. Didn't think it'd do any good. However, I've changed my mind.
The chapter on getting rich, early retirement, etc. reminded me of what I really dislike about these 'hey, you can save money and be rich / be mortgage free / retire early etc.' schemes. Every one I've read assumes a person actually has a job which provides a living wage. Lots of people are too poor to have any slush in their budget, they already know all the tricks to live cheaply. They just don't have enough money to make the jump. You know that aphorism, it takes money to make money. Well it takes money to save money in the long term. Ask anyone who's poor, and never had access to a lump sum to kickstart the process.
So if you, or anyone you know, knows of ways poor people can, for example, retire comfortably rather than dying in a ditch when they're no longer able to work, then lots of people out there need to hear it.
 
pollinator
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I think there is definitely a floor below which it becomes very difficult/impossible to save money. I also think this floor is substantially below the US poverty line. IMO the floor is around $6,000-$10,000 per year per person. At least that is my floor. I would be happy to talk more aout this if people think my numbers are crazy.

I know many people who I believe are objectively capable of saving money, but feel that they absolutely do not have enough. Some of these people have relatively low incomes, some have very high incomes.

I know many people who consider themselves poor, are officially below the poverty line, and/or are “culturally poor” by which I mean that they and their families have a history of poverty and live in ways/places associated with poverty (trailer parks, slums, chronic semi-homelessness), who make more money than me, but cannot save any of it.

I think that one problem is that social capital can often substitute for actual capital, but for poor people this social capital is often lacking and/or their social network is all other poor people, which lessens (although doesn’t eliminate) the benefit.

I think that also it can take some pretty extreme solutions to save money on super low incomes. It is often easier psychologically for people who do not think of themselves/their families as poor or have not grown up with poverty to do these things, because they do not have a fear complex and self image issues around being perceived as poor.
 
pollinator
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In 2017 I made $15,550 with a family of six

In 2018 I made $6,517 with a family of six

It has not been easy, and as my signature line shows, by the good graces of Permie People they got me out of a real jam this past Christmas, but I am still am able to save money. Sometimes it is not enough for the next biggest bill, but even when I was on unemployment I was able to save money.

The trick is to use CASH for everything, no excuses, and then when you get a $5 bill, put it away in a cookie jar. Every $5 bill. The thing is, you never miss them because you do not think about it. Even in the hardest months, I have been able to save $40-$45. It is not much, but it is better than 70% of the USA because I am saving SOMETHING.

 
Jennifer Richardson
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Travis, I think your post brings up an important point. When I said $6-10k per person, I should have said $6-10k for an individual. Each additional person in a family/household sharply decreases the amount per person. For instance, it is almost as easy for a couple to live on $3,000 each as it is for one person to live on $6,000.
 
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The ability to live well with little income, and/or to save money also depends hugely on your starting point.  Starting from a paid-off farm with a mature orchard, woodlot, gardens, and some livestock is vastly different from starting from three people with a couple of part-time jobs with unpredictable hours sharing a one bedroom apartment, even if your income is identical.  One allows you to reduce your needs to the point that less money is needed in order to still have a decent standard of living.  The other is a situation of desperation and hopelessness, where there is little you can do to improve things, short of landing a better job.  

I think a lot of folks miss that you can't just learn to cook and bulk buy food when you are in an unstable living situation (say, couch surfing or living in hotels).  Bulk buying saves a ton of money over time, but it is expensive to get started with, and requires that you are stable enough to not have to abandon the stuff you bought, and also have somewhere to store it with no bugs, humidity issues, rodents, etc.  It's a similar story with most of the typical money saving tactics.  There are a lot of things that middle-class folks (even lower-middle-class folks) take for granted that are prerequisites for saving money, including predictable pay, general stability, and basic physical and mental health.  

I could live of a lot less money here on my acreage than many people in shared accommodations in a city...BECAUSE of where I live.  I can garden, heat my house with wood, raise chickens (and eggs) on waste grain from the neighbors, and so on.  Those things were not available to me in an apartment.  I can save huge amounts of money on buying bulk food and shopping sales for clothing...but ONLY because I have the money to buy things before I need them, and also have places to put them.  I am not under any threat of having to abandon them (and end up wasting the money I spent) due to abusive boyfriends or roommates, terrible landlords, or sudden job loss where my under-the-table employer withholds my last pay, forcing me to leave in a hurry when I get evicted.  

Sure, maybe some of them could take up some opportunity to move an work on a permaculture farm, but what about the ex who won't let them move out of state with the kids?  The lack of vehicle to get to the opportunity, and the lack of ability to escape if things go bad?  What about their inability to come up with a damage deposit for when the internship is over (or doesn't work out) and they still have to find a place to live?  Can they really afford to give up even a crappy part-time job if the opportunity is not 100% rock solid?

Almost all of the middle-class folks I know (including me) could trim their budgets substantially to save more (or save some) money.  Gym memberships, buying lunches at work, vacations, expensive shoes and clothing, a second family vehicle, nights out at the bar or going to movies...the list of things is pretty long.  Very few of the poor folks I know have the same sorts of options, because they didn't have those luxuries in the first place, and are often in fairly desperate situations where the money they can make doesn't even cover the necessities, so they are constantly juggling which minimum payment on an overdue bill to make in any given month (ie. power or gas - I'm not talking phone data vs. gym membership, here), and are really only scraping by because of charity like food banks and hand-me-down clothing.  

You simply cannot save money when you are in that situation, and I feel it is victim blaming to suggest these folks could do better if they just tried harder.  
 
Jennifer Richardson
pollinator
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Jess,

I just wanted to clarify that my comments were not based on the assumption of having land or living in an already “permacultured” situation. They are based on my expenses when living without access to land, doing part time and transient work for minimum wage with no benefits.
Although even paid-off land works out about the same for me, give or take a few hundred dollars per year, due to taxes and insurance, equipment, etc. that comes with owning and developing a property.

When living in my vehicle, I use a propane stove, haybox cooker to save fuel, and buy in bulk. Store bulk items in large plastic jugs (repurposed). Cotton ball soaked in alcohol in the jug will kill any bugs. Also save those silica gel packs that come in some stuff and toss them in. Fresh veg and fruit I forage, glean or buy on steep sale (loss leaders) and dry in lightweight hanging solar dehydrators. Ferment in mason jars with airlock lids. Use bungees to keep in place or rig up scrap lumber retaining frames to keep in place. I forage in city and country as well. Harder to do when living out of backpack, couchsurfing, but not impossible. I use backpacking clothing to stay warm, have no utilities. Can find relatively cheap secondhand technical clothing, wear layers, and I mend it.

I don’t want to just say “try harder or you deserve to be poor and miserable,” but I do want to say, “You have options that may not be apparent to you, and you may not be as trapped as you feel or as badly off as society tells you you are or you tell yourself you are, but it will require a radical change of perspective that will allow you to keep sacrificing things when you think you’ve already carved yourself to the bone if you want out of the vicious cycle.” Sacrifice—as sacrificing a piece in chess—means to give something up in order to gain something more important or improve your position. Like I said, there is definitely a point below which it is difficult to make progress, but I think that point is much, much lower than people think.

Mental health, interpersonal violence, addiction etc. is another can of worms that very likely will make it impossible to get ahead financially or otherwise until dealt with.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Like many people, I often feel really frustrated by the advice given for saving money. I already do all of it, but there's still not much--if anything--left over. We have savings left over from before we had kids, but they don't grow (unless you count my husbands retirement accounts--we still contribute to those.) I'm going to start listing things/stragaties I've seen for living below poverty means:

  • Live in Your Car or Bus: Dale has a couple of great threads about this, how he lives at his construction sites and in his car and saves a lot of money in a place with really high property costs. This, however, is not something that many women/people with kids could do easily. THose with kids might get thier kids taken away by the government, and women are more likely to be assaulted than a man.
  • Live With Your Parents/Friends: If you can do this, SAVE everything you can. Don't use the extra money you get to do fun things that cost money.
  • Do Fun Things that Don't Cost Money: Take  your kids to library and free events in the park, and free days at the museum, rather than putting them in ballet or soccer unless that's a huge passion/skill of theirs---and even if it is a passion, they probably don't need those classes when they are 3 or 4; wait until they're 7 or 8 or older. Instead of eating at a restaurant, have a picnic at the park. Invest time and energy into making a date fun, rather than money. You need fun in your life, or you'll get depressed and get your wants/needs all messed up and spend money on things that are fun in desperation. Do fun things that don't cost money. Make that a priority.
  • Postpone Having Kids: If you still can, wait to have kids. You can save a lot more if you're not supporting children. And, if you're in a relationship with someone, you can both work (either both in jobs, or one in a job and another doing frugality stuff like cooking from scratch, mending clothes, fixing things, growing food, etc). This allows you to hopefully save some money. If you do this, try to live on only one person's income, if possible. We saved my minimum wage pay and pinched pennies to live on my husband's salary ($14/hour), and this allowed us to save $15,000/year. With that, we bought our Honda Fit in full...and then put my husband through college (couldn't save then and used up savings), and then bought our home. 5 years of delaying kids saved us $75,000 in total.
  • Dumpster Dive: My husband has brought home so much useful things from the hospital dumpster: office chairs, shelving, bicycles, window, and more. This book on scrounging is AMAZING. Yes, it's $14. Yes, that's a lot when you don't have money. I can tell you, though, that the tips in it will save you that much in very short time. It has a lot more information that just how to dumpster dive, such as where to get free food and how to gleen and manage money.Here's another good thread on dumpster diving.
  • Sell Things on the Side: Dale has some great threads on this. He'd go and pick a bunch of berries in popular areas, and sell them to people who didn't have time to buy them. He made $50/hour that way. He'd set up small shops and sell things he'd make right there, and pull in a bunch of money. Seriously, just look at Dale's Threads for ideas on making money and saving money.
  • [list]Garden on Other People's Property: Ask people if you can garden their lots. Dress as nicely as you can so you don't look scary, and ask. I stink at asking, but maybe this would work for an extrovert...[/list]
  • Fix Stuff: If you have time, fix stuff. Not only will it save you money, you'll feel better. You can look at it and say, "I did that!" and feel good about it. Darn your socks, pants, shirts, etc. Oil your furniture to make it last. Sure, it might be stuff you got a a thrift store or off the side of the road, but it's yours and if you maintain it, it will keep working. We've got hideous table and chairs that my husband got from his parents. He never tried to maintain them, because he didn't see the point. They were water damaged and pretty ugly. A bit of canola oil (or olive oil if you can afford it, or even bacon fat from your pan) can oil it and make it look better. Learn to fix stuff. Do the PEP badges to gain basic skills and watch youtube channels and believe that you can do it!
  • Make Stuff: Preferably from stuff that is free or doesn't cost much. Find the cheep thriftstores and get sheets for $4.00 to use as fabric. Find wool sweaters to unravel to use as yarn. Use old clothes to make a quilt. Stuff pillows with fabric scraps. Carve things from wood you find lying around. Don't buy supplies from the craft store unless you absolutely have to, because you might be like me and buy nice expensive stuff that you don't have a project for and never use...
  • Hang Out with Frugal People: Being the only frugal one in a group can not only be depressing, it can also make being frugal really hard. Find support of other frugal people, so you don't feel the need to eat out or "keep up with the Jones" and you're inspired by their frugality.
  • Hang Your Clothes to Dry if You Can: If you're in a dry climate, you can do this indoors as a sort of swamp cooler, even in the city. It'll humidify your home during the dry winter months. Every drier load costs about $1. A load every day is $30/month!


  • I think a large portion of surviving on a limited budget, is believing that you can, and making life worth living. You get depressed, and you're wants and needs might get all jumbled (I know mine do!) and soon you're buying a new pair of pants or a video game instead of paying a bill or buying food. Or you eat out instead of cooking from scratch, because you're depressed. Fight the depression as best you can. Go for walks, do fun/free things, create something, fix something, write down things you resisted buying. Give yourself lots of positive reinforcement.

    This blog is GREAT for practical tips for the urban poor: Nana is Frugal lots of good stuff in there, from somone raised by a depression era grandma and surviving on social security, in the city.

    I just scanned some of Dale's threads, here's some to look at:

    Dealing with bureaucracy – covert tactics
    Dale's Super Simple Sizling Solar Shower Solution - Saythatfast
    Dale's series of permaculture business ideas --- 5. Plant rescue --- Demolitions, land clearing...
    Avoiding Camping Fees
    Do you spend too much of your income on rent?
    Dale's drain cleaning tools. Made from thin vinyl cutting board. Takes 3 minutes. Use scissors.
    Dale's Three Day Garden
    Don't Pay Rent ! The best money saving strategy available to millions of us.
    Hot pies Craigflower Road Victoria British Columbia available sporadically
     
    Jess Dee
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    Jennifer Richardson wrote:Jess,

    I just wanted to clarify that my comments were not based on the assumption of having land or living in an already “permacultured” situation. They are based on my expenses when living without access to land, doing part time and transient work for minimum wage with no benefits.
    Although even paid-off land works out about the same for me, give or take a few hundred dollars per year, due to taxes and insurance, equipment, etc. that comes with owning and developing a property.

    When living in my vehicle, I use a propane stove, haybox cooker to save fuel, and buy in bulk. Store bulk items in large plastic jugs (repurposed). Cotton ball soaked in alcohol in the jug will kill any bugs. Also save those silica gel packs that come in some stuff and toss them in. Fresh veg and fruit I forage, glean or buy on steep sale (loss leaders) and dry in lightweight hanging solar dehydrators. Ferment in mason jars with airlock lids. Use bungees to keep in place or rig up scrap lumber retaining frames to keep in place. I forage in city and country as well. Harder to do when living out of backpack, couchsurfing, but not impossible. I use backpacking clothing to stay warm, have no utilities. Can find relatively cheap secondhand technical clothing, wear layers, and I mend it.

    I don’t want to just say “try harder or you deserve to be poor and miserable,” but I do want to say, “You have options that may not be apparent to you, and you may not be as trapped as you feel or as badly off as society tells you you are or you tell yourself you are, but it will require a radical change of perspective that will allow you to keep sacrificing things when you think you’ve already carved yourself to the bone if you want out of the vicious cycle.” Sacrifice—as sacrificing a piece in chess—means to give something up in order to gain something more important or improve your position. Like I said, there is definitely a point below which it is difficult to make progress, but I think that point is much, much lower than people think.

    Mental health, interpersonal violence, addiction etc. is another can of worms that very likely will make it impossible to get ahead financially or otherwise until dealt with.



    I was thinking of a few people I personally know when I was describing situations, and your solution still wouldn't work for them.  One doesn't have a car to live in, and likely wouldn't last long in a vehicle in our local climate (where winters can be -40 or colder for weeks).  The other has children, and the state would remove them if they were to live in their car, even in the summer.  I don't think it's worth losing your kids in order to save a few dollars, especially when she's managing (if barely) where she's at.  Your own efforts sound pretty heroic, and not something an average person would be able to deal with for any length of time...and probably wouldn't have the knowledge to pull off.  I mean how many people know what a haybox is?  How to ferment food?  What is safe to forage?  How to make a solar dehydrator?  I didn't get the impression that you, personally, were victim blaming, but it definitely happens a lot in conversations about this sort of thing, largely because a lot of the people commenting have had no experience of real poverty.  
     
    gardener
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    I agree with a lot of the things Jennifer mentioned above and the bit Nicole mentioned in the initial thread.


    There are so many variables so I'll try to stay as generic as possible.
    It's mostly just the two big elephants in the room;
  • Work More to Make More than just enough (find a side hustle) or
  • Find a new living situation that allows for current income to be more than enough (e.g. https://www.cheaprvliving.com/).

  • Oh and the third little baby elephant which is maintaining the frugal lifestyle to put any extra to savings.


    In that case, I think building social capital is most valuable in this situation. It should not cost any money and It can do two things, Increase the potential income and/or offer a better a living situation.

    Most importantly; build it with people you would like to emulate.
    Find someone in your area, or Join a group of people, that is doing something you love and talk with them.
    e.g. If you want to start a side business, find a group in your area that is doing/learning/teaching how to start a side business. (These are absolutely available, for free, in every medium/large city via something like meetup.com)

    You may find something/someone that allows you to increase your income or an awesome new flatmate or a farm owner that needs someone to watch their farm in return for a place to live.


    Keep those thoughts positive and things will move in the right direction.


    Also, Frugality advice from Thor: HOW TO LIVE LIKE A KING FOR VERY LITTLE BY THOR HARRIS
     
    Jennifer Richardson
    pollinator
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    Jess,

    I don’t have kids, so can’t speak much to that, but I do know several families who live in RVs or sailboats with a total family budget of $600-800 per month (that probably sounds crazy to those who aren’t familiar with the budget sailing scene, but they’re the RVs of the sea—cheaper than a house and more sustainable). I definitely wouldn’t advise doing anything that might induce the state to take away one’s kids! One other strategy employed by families I know is the get live-in care-taking positions for an elderly person. I have seen quite a few of these on Craigslist and local classifieds. Single women (maybe guys) can get free housing as nannies, esp. with foreign language skills. Families can sometimes get a free apartment if one of the adults gets hired as apartment manager for a building. I also know many families who take advantage of shared housing with family members or in city co-ops. Sometimes it is necessary to relocate to more tolerable climate or near friends/relatives in order to take advantage of cheap/free housing. Of course this can be too radical for many, but I think that usually if one is willing to sacrifice some combination of location/privacy/convenience/normality, one can find a way to make the leap. But if one eschews all radical solutions one will probably not get radically different results (which is fine—everyone has different priorities). Still, I often talk to people who are desperate but will not consider relocation, unconventional housing, shared housing, or relinquishment of any number of expensive habits in terms of food, vehicles, clothing, phone/internet/TV etc. I do not know what to tell those people or how to help them.

    I actually enjoy the kind of lifestyle I described more than a conventional 9-5 plus mortgage, but I am admittedly odd. This is a permaculture forum, so I mention some of my haybox etc tricks as pointers. Most of what I do could be learned in an hour to be honest. And I must admit that I bought cheap solar dehydrators from Amazon because I was lazy. *shame* But no, I doubt 99% of people struggling financially in the United States would find most of my advice or ideas relevant or even comprehensible. But for people here on Permies, I think it would be better odds.

    I definitely agree that there is often victim blaming from people who are happily isolated in their bubbles of prosperity, and it can be very frustrating.
     
    pollinator
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    Jess Dee wrote:

    Jennifer Richardson wrote:

    I don’t want to just say “try harder or you deserve to be poor and miserable,” but I do want to say, “You have options that may not be apparent to you, and you may not be as trapped as you feel or as badly off as society tells you you are or you tell yourself you are, but it will require a radical change of perspective that will allow you to keep sacrificing things when you think you’ve already carved yourself to the bone if you want out of the vicious cycle.” Sacrifice—as sacrificing a piece in chess—means to give something up in order to gain something more important or improve your position. Like I said, there is definitely a point below which it is difficult to make progress, but I think that point is much, much lower than people think.

    Mental health, interpersonal violence, addiction etc. is another can of worms that very likely will make it impossible to get ahead financially or otherwise until dealt with.



    Your own efforts sound pretty heroic, and not something an average person would be able to deal with for any length of time...



    Jennifer, very well put.

    In the first world, heroic is about the nicest way these lifestyle choices would be described. In the third world, there is nothing remarkable about living like this.

    The inability to make deliberate sacrifices, against societal expectations, seems to be a greater barrier than many of the more tangible problems. This extends right up the chain to where people earning 6 figures save little or nothing because they will not 'sacrifice' even half of the vacations or meals out...

    Are there people who really can't sacrifice anything for later benefit? Certainly. but I believe that for most people it's 'won't'.
     
    Jennifer Richardson
    pollinator
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    Nicole,

    Free fun things to do is often overlooked. The library is the only reason I am not in thousands of dollars worth of book debt. Treats have to be recalibrated—if you can learn to enjoy, say, trying all the free samples at Central Market rather than dropping $30 on a meal out because another bowl of oatmeal will physically gag you, life improves. If you can learn to enjoy mending and doing your laundry by hand in buckets (which I do—it’s pretty meditative) rather than shopping or getting robbed by the laundromat, life will be easier.

    I will also say that living in a vehicle (or tent) as a woman has not often made me feel unsafe. Most violence against women is perpetrated by people who know us. I had break-ins twice in the city, at a house and a condo, both in good parts of town, both by people whom the cops believed knew me and my schedule, and was harassed/semi-stalked for a few months by a guy in the condo next to me, who was really hard to avoid since I couldn’t exactly start up my condo and drive away. I have had no break-ins or attempts in the truck. There are definitely risk/benefit analyses to be done, but I have found it really un-scary. My mom is a 69 year old single woman who lives in her RV fulltime and has been all over the US (moving with the climate) and she does not feel insecure either. She used to have a pair of huge men’s work boots that she left on the step of her RV when parked to make people think there was a large man inside, but eventually she got tired of carting them around.
     
    Jess Dee
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    Jennifer - I think we're in absolute agreement that most people have choices, even if they don't like them.  I think the vast majority of people are unaware of how they could make relatively minor changes and save tons of money.  Even my family's not-remotely-radical choices, like not buying new vehicles, cooking from scratch, not going to movies, and waiting until things are on sale raises a lot of eyebrows amongst my (fairly well-off but complaining about being perpetually broke) colleagues.  I go on a rant from time to time, because so many of my colleagues have a dual income household, where each income is quite high, and they complain about being broke just after they buy a quad and a tropical vacation on credit.  That drives me bonkers.  On the other hand, I have a hard time envisioning living in a vehicle with my family, though if it came down to it, we could probably manage.  I've had family members live in an RV for a period of time, and it was fine for them.  
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    For me, I do not blame people who are stuck in poverty. There are LOTS of compounding reasons for them to be stuck there. It's hard to see ways out when your brain doesn't know they exist, or is sure they won't work because you don't see anyone else able to escape.

    So, I do NOT blame those who are there. I struggle with many of the same problems, though I am not nearly as poor as others. My husband grew up so poor that their power was turned off, they didn't answer their phone because it was probably a creditor, they were kicked out of their apartments, and they sometimes didn't have food to eat. Part of this was poverty mentality (which, contrary to what many believe, is NOT easy to overcome), part was lack of money management (think using payday loans to pay off payday loans), and part was just the downward spiral and economic realities of being poor.

    I think there is also a large difference from being poor with land, and being poor without it. With land, you have resources you can use, and perhaps parents who taught you how to do things with the land (that's my side of the family--strong work ethic and skills were taught, and there was land to use to grow food, etc) and those that are urban poor (like my husband's family, where there are very few resources and much higher cost of living and more crime)

    Instead of blaming the poor (and myself!), I try to find solutions. Some might be applicable. Some might not. Some might help one person but not another. When my husband was a child/teen, he kept waiting for the magical mentor to come along and help him know how to overcome poverty. They never came. Instead, he got a school councilor who said he wouldn't live past 21.

    So, I try to share things I've learned, and to try help those I can. Because, this knowledge IS hard to find, and it IS hard to know where to look, and it IS hard to even know that you can look, or what to look for.
     
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    When you are not making a living wage, and the most you could save per month is $100, the destination looks and is so far away. It's pretty hard not to just throw your hands up and say "well, I'd rather enjoy my life a bit today than save this $100 for 25 years and maybe be able to afford some land."

    I realize a lot of these suggestions are practical in their nature, but the psychological effect of being poor (as has been mentioned) is worth reiterating. Hell, I've never been that poor, but even at my closest working retail with no benefits or anything, the daily grind was so disheartening as to render any future aspirations a pipe dream. I would rather have gone and gotten a burger on the way home from work and not have to put in a second shift cooking dinner than do all the "common sense" things.

    There's only so much willpower in the human brain in any given day. When yours is expended at a crappy job (often dealing with the public), keeping up with bills (rather than the expenses being an afterthought), and raising any children on top of that, there is little energy or motivation for anything else. It's almost as if the work culture and quality of work at the lower ends of our society are designed to make people exhausted, complicit, and disheartened, only looking forward to a few hours of Netflix to check out each day.
     
    Jennifer Richardson
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    George, I think that is a HUGE factor. When I falter, that is exactly the attitude that sucks me down.

    I have personally found that two things help a lot.

    One is a financial independence framework based on very low, very concrete expenses. Say that I allocate myself $100 a month for food. That means that if I can save $2,500 and get a 4% return on it, I never have to work to buy that food month’s again (Note: multiply this by 12 months and never have to work to buy any food ever again). That helps with the discipline to save (small, concrete goal, easier to reach), and the discipline not to spend $800 a month on food (which I could do so, so easily), which would require saving $20,000 instead of $2,500.

    The second thing sounds kind of bad, but it involves cultivating a sort of protective arrogance. It is not how I really feel when I am being nuanced, and I definitely never apply these ideas to people other than myself, but it is a shell that I can put on and say, “I am not going to be a poor, unhealthy schmuck wasting my money on fast food because I am too lazy to cook. I am not so desperate to look attractive that I am going to drop money on new clothes and a haircut. I am not some fool who sits in front of the television like a sheep.” Etc. Basically I motivate myself by appealing to my own self-image as a disciplined, free-thinking, self-reliant, and determined person who would very much hate to think of myself as a weak, spoiled, lazy consumer who is just going to drop to her knees for her societal overlords. Also I imagine Diogenes and Seneca and some other Stoic philosophers judging me. It works for me.
     
    pollinator
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    K Rawlings wrote:
    So if you, or anyone you know, knows of ways poor people can, for example, retire comfortably rather than dying in a ditch when they're no longer able to work, then lots of people out there need to hear it.



    I think we have to find other people like this and get together in community.  I don't think we can all "paddle our own canoes."  I think we have to pool our resources somehow in co-housing or some other intentional community arrangement.  I think the paddle your own canoe ideal is fucked.
     
    George Bastion
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    Go find a remote, abused piece of public land and just start improving it with a dozen or so people. Build up, and when they come for you be like "what, we made it better!" ;p
     
    Jennifer Richardson
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    Wanted to mention another free housing alternative that I’ve done—a friend of mine is a travel nurse. She takes usually six week contracts. During those contracts I sometimes live in her house for free in exchange for watering her plants, mowing the yard so the city doesn’t cite her.

    My mom lives full time in an RV she bought used when she retired. She has gotten house sitting and pet sitting jobs that last for weeks or months (five months was the longest, and the house was a mansion). All the amenities of a house for free! Sometimes she does nursing work (staying with patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s or people recovering from surgery) and gets paid in addition to the free housing. She is a retired RN. She gets just under $1,900 a month in Social Security and TRS, pays $1,000 toward her debt and lives on the other $800-$900. This includes her medicare, gas/maintenance/insurance for the RV, travel around the US, cell phone, groceries, and eating out a couple times a week. In other words, she has chosen to enjoy herself at her age rather than scrimp constantly, and since she has all but eliminated her housing cost, this is possible. Before the end of this year (her third year paying off ~$30,000+ on a fixed income) she will be debt free and doesn’t know what she will do with the extra money, since she can easily live on $800/month. She intends to invest most of it, and would like to travel to Spain. Eating out, walking, and swimming are her favorite hobbies. She was never able to get ahead while working as a nurse because rent and car payments ate up most of her money.

    I also know ladies who do live-in elder care with no nursing license, and men who are live-in handymen for widows or older couples. Serial house/pet sitting might be something many women are more comfortable with as opposed to living in a vehicle. Or it is a nice break from the vehicle. You can do house/pet sitting gigs in various cities and countries if you want to travel on an extreme budget.
     
    K Rawlings
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    Hmm, this is sounding like another book, eh? Takers, anyone?
     
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    Ryan Barrett
    There are so many variables so I'll try to stay as generic as possible.
    It's mostly just the two big elephants in the room;

  • Work More to Make More than just enough (find a side hustle) or
  • Find a new living situation that allows for current income to be more than enough (e.g. https://www.cheaprvliving.com/).

  • Oh and the third little baby elephant which is maintaining the frugal lifestyle to put any extra to savings.




    That second elephant is an important one! I am a graduate student and we don't get paid very much and I was stuck in a viscous cycle of not being able to afford the house I was living in (because of people drama), so I couldn't save up for a new deposit on a different cheaper house, it took me a while, but eventually I downsized to a smaller cheaper house with the same landlord. Then I eventually was able to save up and get out from under that horrible landlord.
    It took time and patience and a lot of being as cheap as possible in many ways already listed above, but I also believe that sometimes you can save money by spending a little. I know my garden plot has been my biggest asset in the last few years. I get hundreds of dollars worth of produce and herbs for a 35-70 dollar investment, so there is more to it than just being cheap you also have to be smart about what you spend it on.
     
    master steward
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    My husband and I were able to retire early.

    Some of the things that I did that helped us retire early:

    Live below our means.

    Save any raises we received.  Example, if I was bringing home $300 then received a raise so I brought home $350, I would put $50.00 into a savings account each payday.

    Lived on a cash basis so I paid no credit card interest.

    I used the envelope system to budget.  That is the only way I could do a budget.

    One suggestion that I would like to offer is to get in the habit of putting something into savings every month that is not an employer fund.  If nothing else put $5.00 that you would have bought lunch with once a week. $5.00 times 52 weeks equals $260 saved.
     
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    I have a piggy bank that I put my change, and an occasional $1 or $5, in.  I've never been able to do the envelope thing.  I've also stuck Ones, Fives and Tens in an old Bible.
    41eGuvygQkL-1-.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 41eGuvygQkL-1-.jpg]
     
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    Well first of all, a city, any city is not a basis for 'frugal living'. Urban centers by their very nature live in an 'excited state' to borrow a physics term. That requires those residing therein also have to operate at that higher cost plane. People in NYC are leaving because they cannot afford to live there and they are making six figure incomes!

    When I started out I had a job but was barely above minimum wage at the time. Apartments were full up and those that were available were out of my price range. A friend of a friend was moving out of town and had a boat he had to unload. Nobody was interested as there were dock leins on the boat. I went to talk to the dockmaster, approaching the building I noticed a 'apply within' sign. Inquiring they were looking for a night manager which kicked my original intent in high gear. Short of it was I swung a deal to trade my time 'on site' to pay off the dock fees, paid pennies for the boat (friend was desperate to unload it.) and essentially moved in. It was cheaper than any rent in town even though there were some inconveniences of living on a boat.  

    Today I would not be able to pull that off, regulations, etc. That is another reason that cities frugal unfriendly. You have to live to a certain standard or enforcement comes looking for you. Bottom line is frugal living requires unconventional thinking to make it work.
     
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    Without debt and insurance you can live on almost nothing.
     
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    I'm loving this thread.  One of the most financially inspiring things for me has been playing with a compound interest calculator, such as http://www.moneychimp.com/calculator/compound_interest_calculator.htm

    I think most people could somehow come up with at least $100/ month to save.   I won't touch the topic of who can or cannot do this! The trick is to start young!  One popular financial guru repeats over and over that $100 per month invested in a 'good growth stock mutual fund growing at 12% /year' will add up to $1 million over 40 years.  If you make it only 10% growth rate,which is a fair enough number for an S&P 500 index fund, that comes out to $584,000.  If you only do that for 30 years, you still end up with $217,000, which could provide a sustainable and ever growing income of around $8k/year.  Try out all kinds of different scenarios with the compound interest calculator, and it's guaranteed to educate and inspire you! Its extremely simple for anyone with internet access and a bank account to take advantage of the power of compound interest.

    In one sense, life on planet Earth is about survival on planet Earth.  The animals in the forest and waters don't have the benefit of compound interest (ok maybe you can count soil building as a kind of compounding!) and are forced by the necessities of survival to work like hell every day of their lives.  I watch the squirrels around me and they inspire me because no matter how bad it gets for them, they just keep working like hell.  If you remove their nest from your workshop, 5 minutes later they are chewing up fiberglass insulation and dragging it back to where their nest should be, then heroically lopping spruce cones from the treetops...  By comparison, most humans have it pretty good, even if we do have to 'work until we die.'
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    Corey Schmidt wrote: The animals in the forest and waters don't have the benefit of compound interest (ok maybe you can count soil building as a kind of compounding!) and are forced by the necessities of survival to work like hell every day of their lives.  I watch the squirrels around me and they inspire me because no matter how bad it gets for them, they just keep working like hell.



    I'm inspired by the vultures who just cruise around for hours without using any effort until they find a nice roadkill.  Long period of relaxed observation followed by decisive action.
     
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    There are 2 sides to this equation: The income and the outgo. I am blessed to have always had very modest wants and I find it easy to not buy what I don't need, so I don't clip coupons: They are a buyer's trap anyway: the majority of what you can buy is processed food, and if you have that coupon, you are hellbent on using it. You know you are. If you have to buy food, you are better off visiting the green section of your favorite grocery store. You do not control the income because that is dependent on someone giving you a job . You can only control the outgo ... up to a point.
    I was lucky to not experience the hardship of war or the Great Depression. That is just dumb luck. But I listened to those who did: My mom, who weighed only 45 kgs [That is just under 100 Lbs, if you don't know] when she gave birth to my older sister in 1945 in occupied France. I still keep the last of her "butter coupons" as a reminder that things can get a whole lot worse than they are. Everything was rationed as the Germans had appropriated every chicken, sheep, cow... Everything. She was allowed one pat of butter per week. That is not much when you are pregnant. She would peel potatoes a little thicker so she could bury the peelings in the basement. She could not plant them outside where Germans might have found them. This way, they had a second meal of potatoes, each about the size of a marble.
    The only vegetable they could gather in relative abundance were Jerusalem artichokes. My father learned to detest sunchokes and joined the Resistance to fight not only Germans, but those they called "the collabos". Those were easy to spot because they were never hungry. Parsnips and rutabagas are other vegetables you could eat ,if you could hide them.
    The collabos were often folks just like them but changed by the war, they would point those who were part of the Résistance to the Germans. In revenge, folks ratted on those who sold meat to the Germans. My dad told me of the regret of his life is to have participated in the murder of a butcher in a quarry. They had already made up their mind that they were going to kill him. They wanted to shame him, but he held his own, and told them: "In my shoes, you would have done the same thing: You can't hide a butcher shop. I had not other way". They killed him and left him there.
    Hearing those things from very young also taught me the ugliness of war, and compassion for those in need, and gratitude.
    There is indeed a state of abject poverty beneath which you are absolutely helpless, and have no other resource than what you can beg.  If we are "middleclass" or even "lower middleclass" we are light years ahead of folks who are reduced to begging. We want to believe that we could weather economic storms, that because we have the gumption, we are hard workers, we would fare well. We are deluding ourselves.
     
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    We are the "urban nomads" and even with 20$ a month internet/phone our transportation costs are 240$ a month our only two bills; this is overwhelming with no way to limit. We are on a list for low income senior housing now waiting 2 and a half years. Every year for quixotic reasons our Food Stamp benefits go up or down. My social security and supplemental fed. benefit for being 65 and homeless barely covers food and the bills. If not for the kindness of some friends and a few strangers we would be in a lot worse shape. All the ideas and suggestions are good but situational. I need medical benefits and services for my wife so we are pretty much stuck where we are geographically and needing to get Medicaid by our low income. My Medicare is a different situation.I don't need prescription drugs as she does which under her Medicaid are totally free. Any large amount I might make like from selling my artwork would be counter productive! Catch 22's galore! But on a brighter note please read "Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. A great National Homeless Foundation by the same name as this book came to be from the incredible friendship that came out of a homeless ex-con and a wealthy Art dealer and his beautiful wife Debbie.
    Watch "Same Kind of Different as Me Evening Talk" on YouTube

    Watch "Same Kind of Different as Me Evening Talk" on YouTube
    https://youtu.be/sgztkSo_AuoSame Kind FoundationSame Kind of Different As Me Foundation
    https://www.samekindofdifferentasmefoundation.org/

     
    Jennifer Richardson
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    Wanted to throw a few more things out there.

    In my country (USA) and experience, the big, deal-breaker expenses in order are:

    Housing
    Transportation
    Food
    Maybe health insurance/healthcare depending on your situation

    IME the first two are the critical ones. My solution and that of many people I know has been to turn my transportation into my housing.

    For people who want/have already bought expensive housing, this solution is not feasible (maybe you could sell, though). So one solution I have seen is airbnb style rentals or renting out a spare room to a local. Airbnb stuff is hard if you are not pretty middle class already. No one wants to airbnb in the ghetto or trailer park.

    Another solution might be dirt cheap raw land + makeshift primitive housing. I think a lot of Permies probably dream about this anyway. May need to save up a couple/few thousand dollars for an acre or two, if you can’t find a landshare type arrangement. Still, you probably need a significant percentage of that even to get a crappy apartment that will never give your deposit back in a lot of cities. And it is 100x cheaper than a middle class mortgage (which is probably not even an option for the target audience of this thread) or the ongoing drain of city apartment living (which even poor folks unfortunately get sucked into for lack of better options). Unfortunately raw land usually is somewhat remote and requires a private vehicle, which is a big detriment to financial independence. Also, I just rarely see people make this work although it is probably the most romanticized.

    All of this is easier if you are young and/or healthy. Wish I had better advice for the alternative.

    To summarize, I think the best options are: turn your transportation into your housing, live for free in other people’s houses in exchange for services (as mentioned in previous posts), live for cheap by sharing housing, make your housing pay for itself by renting a room if you are middle class enough, buy or borrow raw land and live in a tent-esque-thing somewhere you won’t freeze to death and maybe build a more permanent natural home over time.

    If you have a vehicle and your vehicle is not your housing, it is probably severely setting you back in terms of financial independence.
     
    Corey Schmidt
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    Tyler Ludens wrote:

    Corey Schmidt wrote: The animals in the forest and waters don't have the benefit of compound interest (ok maybe you can count soil building as a kind of compounding!) and are forced by the necessities of survival to work like hell every day of their lives.  I watch the squirrels around me and they inspire me because no matter how bad it gets for them, they just keep working like hell.



    I'm inspired by the vultures who just cruise around for hours without using any effort until they find a nice roadkill.  Long period of relaxed observation followed by decisive action.



    Good point.   lots of animals seem to live like this and its a great lesson for me about how to act... sometimes we actually get more done by doing less....  I'm not aware of any other species that 'retire', however.
     
    Greg Mamishian
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    Jennifer Richardson wrote:Another solution might be dirt cheap raw land + makeshift primitive housing.



    That's what we did.

    We bought a cheap tiny piece of raw land for which the former owner couldn't get a building permit. Our application was rejected three times before we got one to build a cheap tiny house. Because we did a lot of the building ourselves we were able to complete the project without going into debt. That was our prime directive... no mortgage.

    This is our monthly budget of recurring expenses averaged out over the last year:

    $206 Property Taxes
    $264 Utilities (Water Propane Electricity Phone Internet Trash Netflix)
    $65 Vehicle Insurance (Work Truck Car Motorcycle)
    $300 Food

    $0 Mortgage
    $0 Vehicle Loans
    $0 Credit Card Debt
    $0 Insurance (Home Life Health)

    (those last ones are where the real slavery lies)

    Total: $835

    The result of our approach is owning a house for a mere fraction of the cost of renting one. As to retirement, I'm 70 and still work in my business even though I don't need to. I love what I do and it keeps me active and fit.
     
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    Corey Schmidt wrote:

    Tyler Ludens wrote:

    Corey Schmidt wrote: The animals in the forest and waters don't have the benefit of compound interest (ok maybe you can count soil building as a kind of compounding!) and are forced by the necessities of survival to work like hell every day of their lives.  I watch the squirrels around me and they inspire me because no matter how bad it gets for them, they just keep working like hell.



    I'm inspired by the vultures who just cruise around for hours without using any effort until they find a nice roadkill.  Long period of relaxed observation followed by decisive action.



    Good point.   lots of animals seem to live like this and its a great lesson for me about how to act... sometimes we actually get more done by doing less....  I'm not aware of any other species that 'retire', however.



    My idea of retirement is to not concern myself of the next day regardless of how much I have or dont have.
     
    Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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    Corey Schmidt wrote:

    Tyler Ludens wrote:

    Corey Schmidt wrote: The animals in the forest and waters don't have the benefit of compound interest (ok maybe you can count soil building as a kind of compounding!) and are forced by the necessities of survival to work like hell every day of their lives.  I watch the squirrels around me and they inspire me because no matter how bad it gets for them, they just keep working like hell.


    I'm inspired by the vultures who just cruise around for hours without using any effort until they find a nice roadkill.  Long period of relaxed observation followed by decisive action.


    Good point.   lots of animals seem to live like this and its a great lesson for me about how to act... sometimes we actually get more done by doing less....  I'm not aware of any other species that 'retire', however.



    True that. In the animal kingdom, there is no compassion for the weak and helpless, except, perhaps for the females of the species, who may die defending their offsprings. All animals become meals for those who are swift enough to catch them. Sometimes, we tend to romanticize animals who live 'free' and 'on their own terms'. However, life is harsh, and short for them.
    There is something to be said for living in a *human* society, one that does not lack compassion. Some will say that by helping our brothers and sisters, our parents, we break Darwin's rules of the 'survival of the fittest' perhaps at the expense of the strength and fitness of the human race as a whole: We do live longer and longer, but often in worse health. So, maybe.
    I will leave this debate to the more philosophical than I. I'm not particularly social in that I enjoy my own company, and visitors who just barge in unannounced are not particularly welcome... but in a pinch, I'd help a stranger. I'm just enough of an 'animal' to not seek help, even sometimes when I could use it. That might just be a flaw of my character: I enjoy more helping than being helped.
     
    Greg Mamishian
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    Corey Schmidt wrote: I'm not aware of any other species that 'retire', however.



    While I don't think it's a very good idea to hold up animals as models for human behavior, as humans are uniquely accountable to higher standards.
    However, I do agree with not retiring, and believe that we fulfill our purpose here by being of useful service to others.
     
    Greg Mamishian
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    Tyler Ludens wrote:I think we have to find other people like this and get together in community.



    That's not difficult, Tyler.., for everyone already lives together in their community.

    I don't think we can all "paddle our own canoes."  I think we have to pool our resources somehow in co-housing or some other intentional community arrangement.  I think the paddle your own canoe ideal is fucked.



    I don't. My own personal experience is different. Before I could ever be of any useful service to my community, I first needed to be able to paddle my own canoe.
     
    pollinator
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    Cécile Stelzer Johnson:

    I enjoy more helping than being helped.

    I do not think that feeling is uncommon. Like so many things we are conditioned for or taught when young, "It is better to give than to receive", we need active learning to overcome and learn and practice cooperation and teamwork. The schools are supposedly working on that, because they suddenly realized that it was an important skill for workers, but as with so many social skills, they stick a group of kids together and expect them to learn team building and cooperation by osmosis. That works for some, but not most.

    Because of all that, asking for and receiving help is often perceived by the receiver as "charity". We do not teach people how to give and receive charity with dignity and grace. If someone is already struggling on minimum wage, having to receive charity to get ahead can easily be one more blow to their self esteem. There are studies that show that when people's income is too low, or their social assistance money is not enough to actually survive on, there is a tendency to participate in higher levels of behaviors like smoking and drinking alcohol. I suspect their sense of hopelessness translates into, "I might as well enjoy the moment - I have no future worth working towards."

    Similarly, so much of "charity" is not really about giving a "hand up". It's about puffing up the givers. If we *really* wanted to give people hope, we would support increases in minimum wage and require companies to offer affordable health and dental care to *all* workers, not just full time ones. We would support free/almost free adult education classes up to Grade 12 and subsidize skills and trades training entry level education. We would teach people how to grow their own food, and not put up road blocks that prevent them from accessing public land or telling them they can't plant veggies on their front lawns. We'd plant edible trees in our cities, rather than ornamentals.

    Humans tend to puff themselves up by thinking/seeing that they are richer than those around them, and we're bombarded with technology that tells us that "richer" means "owns more stuff". That means there is huge inertia in the status quo! This is not a situation that will be solved easily.
     
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