My family and I will be officially below the poverty line starting next week. My job hours (and hence, pay) were cut in half this morning. This comes as a surprise to me because this morning, I was full-time, salary, with benefits (medical/dental, 401K, 3 weeks vacation) and almost 10 years with the organization. I suppose this is how it feels to most people. They say, “Well, the economy is bad but I still have a good job. It won’t affect me. I can still pay my mortgage every month.” Now it’s time to re-evaluate. The good news is, I still have a job. I did a little figuring and I think I can still pay my bills every month. Maybe. Now that we are officially “poor,” we qualify for food stamps and other things. My wife and I might not have health insurance, but we are usually healthy anyway. We eat well and mostly organic. (that might change though…too expensive) Now we have an incentive to start that Victory Garden in the backyard. Our 9 month old will now qualify for Medicaid too. Maybe we will as well, I’m not sure. My wife was a little shocked when I told her I was going to look at buying an army surplus field suture kit so I wouldn’t have to go to the Emergency Room.
Our situation isn’t as bad as I make it sound. I know that compared to most of the world, we are still very rich. Our car is paid off and I can bike to work if I want to, which most days, I do. We have some debt (house $52,000/student loans $10,000) but we also have some savings, but that has been shrinking by $1,000 every month since my wife stopped working last year to stay home with our new baby. We only have to survive until September when she will start her teaching job again. Our new roof will have to wait.
This is also good timing on God’s part for several reasons:
1) It’s almost spring time so our heating bills will drop from $200 to $40.
2) We only need to hold on for 6 months.
3) Better weather means we can grow our own food. We’ve never done this, and my wife has a notoriously black thumb (meaning she kills plants, no offense to my African American readers) but I think our motivation is high enough that we will see success.
4) We had already decided to join The Compact this year (you can’t buy anything new, except food, health/toiletries etc. You’d be surprised how excited you become when you visit a second-hand bookstore, architectural salvage store, or Thrift store where everything is allowed.) So this won’t be a stretch as far as deprivation is concerned. We already consigned ourselves to not buying much this year. Entertainment is cheap too. It’s called a LIBRARY. you can get books and movies (even recent releases) there for FREE.
So here are my options. I can try and get a second job and struggle with that whole hassle of driving twice as much and being away from my family even more than I am now. This might be cool because I have a chance to start fresh so to speak. For instance, I’ve always thought I would be a good security guard, landscape architect, ninja, or something else. OR
I can stay home. Enjoy this new turn of events, spend more time with my wife and son, finish my novel-get an agent- become a best selling author, have perpetual 3 or even 4 day weekends, etc. We may even qualify for getting our house painted because of the lead program. We always made too much before. We could even get new windows! The thing with this plan is that we really need to focus on saving money. See Compact above. Not too hard. So that’s where I am right now. Poor, but optimistic.
2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines