Six things I didn't understand about being broke.

 I read a quote that said, once you carry your own water, you'll value every drop. I have also heard the popular phrase, who feels it, knows it. I strongly agree with both of these. I grew up in a family of hard-working people. I've never seen either of my parents depending on handouts. Even though they weren't on a weekly or monthly payroll, our basic necessities were provided for. Sometimes, I saw the look on my mother's face and I heard the frustration in her voice. Just knowing, she was doing her best, but the ends would never meet. I never understood the pressure she endured, until I settled for a low-income job that could barely afford my cost of living.  Here are six things I didn't understand about being broke until I started working in a low-income job at nineteen years old.

How to survive on an low income job

1. The cost of food.

If you haven't searched every corner of your sofas, wallets, and handbags for a dollar, or a couple of pennies to add to your food bill, then you won't understand how important it is to conserve food and to make it stretch over to your next paycheck. You also would not understand what it means to tell the cashier not to let the total pass a certain amount because you know all too well that every dollar is already distributed. As a matter of fact,  there isn't anything extra in your tight budget and you aren't getting any food stamps. Let me not forget when things get super low, and you have to invent all kinds of strategies. Like squeezing and or cutting the toothpaste tube until every last bit of it comes out. Or, cutting the lotion bottle to utilize every bit of it.

2. Prioritizing rent and utilities.

If you haven't sacrificed the cost of clothing, hairdo, or cut back on your food bill to pay your month's rent or keep the utilities on, then you wouldn't understand what it means to pay the rent/ utilities first and figure out the rest. You will also not understand if you haven't invented all kinds of mathematical equations, to keep your utilities down, and make each dollar cover the remaining living expenses after you've cleared your rent/ utilities. 

3. Saving travel expenses.

Unless you have your own vehicle, a friend that drives, or you can comfortably cover your traveling expenses. You wouldn't understand what it means to hitch the staff's bus before and after your shift. Or, ensuring that you clock out on time to catch the bus every day because the extra cost for transportation is a big deal, it's already transferred to another part of your budget and the week isn't over yet.

4. Not being able to buy new clothes often.

If you haven't been on many window shopping searching for discounts at the local clothing store, you'll not understand what it means to save for shoes or articles of clothing until you can afford it. Only to find out that when you can finally afford it the price is either changed, or they are out of stock.

5. Hoping that you or anyone else in the household doesn't get sick.

You'll understand if you know what it means to budget every dollar long before payday approaches. Only to find out that you're still in debt, flat broke, and there isn't a red cent to cover a doctor's bill for yourself or anyone else. God forbids if anyone should get sick!

6. Avoiding outdoor dining

You'll only understand if you've had many failed promises made to yourself about getting a well-deserved treat. Only to cancel at the appointed time because you convince yourself there's no point in dining out if you have food at home and the cost for a proper meal, could actually cover two or more of your utility costs.

I've experienced most of these when I just started living on my own. I'm sure that many persons can relate to these situations. Life isn't easy out there and many persons are still living from paycheck to paycheck on a low-income job.  For me, I have learned some valuable lessons about being broke. They have helped me to control my earnings! I've also taken the necessary steps to obtain better employment and I'm in a much better position than when I started over a decade ago. It's no walk in the park surviving on a low-income job. In fact, it is extremely stressful. If you're working a low-income job, as much as possible try to seek better employment. If you don't have the necessary skills, get yourself certified. It isn't worth wasting your years in a job that pays little or nothing! 

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Annette Kinglock-Murray

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