My Experience as “Poor”

A few weeks ago, I lost my car and my job. It was interesting because I was taking at the time a university course on subsistence marketplaces, ie, how people in poverty make decisions about buying and selling products and services.

Now, I don’t mean to say that I actually became poor. Just being able to sit here and type this article and post it online makes me way richer than the people living in the circumstances that we studied. However, it made me realize a few things:

I had to become creative.

1.- We tend to judge people in these circumstances too harshly and too quickly. Many of the things we do without thinking are a big chore for people in poverty. For example, in my car, going to a job interview and coming back home usually takes me a total of 1 hour and a half. Without my car, it became a 4 hours and a half trip.

2.- People in poverty have to make financial decisions that are more expensive. Normally, when I go to the supermarket to buy groceries, I buy all that I need for a week. This means that I get better prices because I buy in big quantities and I have to make only one trip. Without a car, there was a limit on how much I was able or willing to carry back home. And it was very tiring as well. This means that poor people not only have to buy in smaller quantities (which typically means lower price per unit), but also that they just can’t carry much.

First world problems!

3.- When money is low, not only small luxuries go out the window, but also your social life. It’s not only that I stopped buying beer to drink at home, but also that I had to come up with excuses to turn down invitations from friends. It does feel embarrassing not to have money, even if it’s not your fault. So when a friend said “let’s go have a drink tonight” I had to add the cost of the taxi to the cost of the drink, find it unfeasible, and then say “I can’t, I have to work tonight,” even if I didn’t.

4.- Mobility and communication becomes much more difficult. As mentioned above, going anywhere became a big cost in terms of time. Not only that, I had to learn to have some change with me all the time, because I couldn’t pay the bus with big bills. If I didn’t I risked getting stuck and not being able to get back home. Also, buying credit for your cellphone becomes a bit like paying the rent. It’s expensive but necessary.

5.- You really see who your true friends really are. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.

So what’s the lesson from this experience? Don’t be poor.

What? You expected some piece of deep wisdom?

The circumstances of poor people and their love for their children are not a laughing matter tho.

If you liked this article, you can read more about my insights into this world.