Matthew Scott Kirkham
Priority Poverty Collected Blog Posts of a Bipolar Author

Living in poverty, especially when you HAVE to rely on commissions/charity, what you think is important can get…


For example, I know exactly how much I have to pay for my bills each month, so before I spend a dime on anything, I make sure to hit that number first.

I do not consider food a bill, and I regularly do not hit the target until the first of the next month. Which means I end up jumping through some weird hoops to stay fed. Trading favors? Check. Theft? I can neither confirm nor deny that. Urban Hunting/Gathering? Not just yet, but I do know the exact location of every rabbit hole in a mile radius and all of the edible plants in the region.

My priorities are just completely out of wack based solely on how much money it would take, in the moment, to take care of it. As implied above, buying food is pretty far down the list, but so is washing clothes, transit, hygiene supplies (luckily I still have a bunch left from when I had a job), repairing the various equipment I use for my writing, etc. etc… Hell, even my bills are sorted in a weird hierarchy: Pills, Credit, Phone, then Rent/Utilities. You’d think Rent would be at the top of the list, but here’s a breakdown of why things are where they are.

Pills: Whenever I’m off my meds I come incredibly close to committing suicide. No sense in trying to pay anything else if I’m just going to kill myself, so better get that taken care of.

Credit: I use PayPal Credit instead of a standard credit card. It limits where I can spend it (so that I don’t go absolutely hog-wild with it), and they run a standard ‘promotion’ where spending $99 on a single payment freezes the interest on it for six months. Is that a good thing? In the long term no, but since I can buy Dry Goods through Walmart it helps mitigate the current damage for a little while.

Phone: If I end up homeless or have to move again, I’m still going to need Internet and ways to communicate with people. The phone paired with my laptop allows me to do basically all of my work without interruption, so that gets paid before rent and utilities.

Rent/Utilities: If this doesn’t get paid, I’ll still have a roof over my head, but I’ll have to find a new place to live within the next month. I’d hate for that to happen for a lot of reasons, primarily because I like my roommates and don’t want to accidentally stick them with a bill they don’t expect, but also because I like living in the city. There’s a lot to do, I love the skyline, The weather… I love the people who live here, and traveling across the country is INCREDIBLY easy (when I get the chance)

This is a pretty wild priority list even among the impoverished, but I love telling people who’ve never had to struggle financially before. The few friends I have who have never had to struggle listen to this and think I’m writing a horror story, or a comedy about an idiot who can’t make it in the world. And my old Dog Walking clients couldn’t even grasp the concept.

I once mentioned to a client of mine that I was a kind of struggling a bit during a candid conversation, to which they claimed to also be just scraping by; They were a couple, one of which was a banker (not sure how high up the ladder, but fairly high), the other OWNED A CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, and they had three large dogs. After mentioning that they seem to be doing alright, they claimed that all of their money was ‘in the bricks’

This is when I found out that they were landlords: They owned the building they lived in (three stories with a penthouse and a garage with an outdoor kitchen/dining area on it), and rented sections of it out as apartments.

They literally could not grasp what barely getting by actually meant.

I kind of lost track of what I was supposed to be talking about here, but the moral of the story is Eat the Rich, both figuratively and literally.

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