Yes, It’s Expensive to Not Have Money
I had a financially rocky couple of months. An unexpected trip to the vet, several car repairs, and some college expenses I wasn’t anticipating; my emergency fund was wiped out.
A popular saying when people are struggling is, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” The thinking goes that poor people just need to “bootstrap” themselves out of poverty; that is, work harder. Except, this expression was a play on the fact that people can’t pick themselves up by their bootstraps. And when you run out of money, new problems emerge.
I couldn’t pay off my credit card balance this month, so I paid what I could. No problem, said the company, that’ll just be a $28 fee. Oh, and your rate went up, so if you’re in the same spot next month, you get to pay more.
Also on my mind: someone called me, telling me he’d just closed a bank account. His account had been overdrawn, due to fees that had stacked up. He had just closed an account at another bank, after being hit with fees for not having enough transactions, and thought this one would be better. Now he was facing monthly fees for statements, and a $1.50 charge for checking his balance at an ATM. He hadn’t even taken money out.
On the flip side, if you have lots of money, you can leave it in the bank, which will give you more money just for thinking of them. Or you can invest it, where it can really grow.
The idea that not having money will cost more money is perfectly summed up by Terry Pratchett’s “ ‘boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.” If you can afford to pay the upfront cost to something that will really last, such as quality boots, you’ll end up saving money (and be better off).
For example, in some areas, it’s much better to buy a home than to rent — but people who can’t afford a down payment end up spending much more in a lifetime than those who can buy.
These economic injustices add up. Having trouble paying your bills? Your interest rates go up, and you’ll have more trouble getting a loan. You might have to pay more to cash checks or get money orders, because you don’t have enough money to justify a bank account without getting hit with fees.
Some people support requiring a photo ID for people in the USA to vote, but many people can’t afford the necessary documents. If an ID is lost, or people can’t afford a hefty fee to renew it, it can be a real barrier to not only voting, but also obtaining a job or housing.
When the government shut down recently, wealthy people told furloughed or unpaid government workers to “just take out a loan.” Just call your bank and explain what’s going on. Ask the grocery store to work with you. What world are these people living in?
Even if people can get a loan in those circumstances, they end up paying interest when they could’ve just been paid in the first place. And if you think grocery stores take IOUs, you clearly haven’t been in one lately.
I was recently reading an article about how a lot of people can’t afford essential medications, even with health insurance. Not having an extra $100 can mean the difference between life and death.
Still, when people have a lot of bills to pay and not a lot to pay them with, people tell them, “Just work more!” Which I’m doing. The act of living just seems to be increasingly expensive.
I try to save money wherever I can. People were surprised when I told them I checked out textbooks from the library, instead of buying them. One semester I saved hundreds of dollars by doing that. I guess if people have the money, they don’t think about every possible alternative.
I’m trying to cut back on the credit card bill. I’ve stopped going to restaurants. I’m buying less prepared food, and trying to cook more meals at home. I’m also going to try a new grocery store that’s more affordable.
Hopefully, all my efforts will pay off, and pretty soon I can pay off that darn credit card balance. If not, that’ll cost me.