I was mulling over the irony of how being poor ends up costing me more money this morning, specifically thinking about how deferred maintenance leads to more expensive car repairs, when a deer leaped out of the bushes and darted across the road in front of me. I slammed on the brakes which seized up and the car skidded wildly to the side – thankfully in the opposite direction from the deer – and came to a halt with one wheel in the ditch. Granted, regular oil changes are not going to protect me from suicidal deer attacks but if I had hit the deer I would have been adding repair expenses to my long list of things that I cannot afford.
Naturally that list includes a lot of things we would like to do such as attend my daughter’s basketball games – the entrance price of $7/adult, $5 per child will limit us to the rare game; purchase new glasses to replace my outdated, scratched 6-year old pair; buy books at the Scholastic book fair, etc.,. Unfortunately it also includes a lot of things that are more needs than wants. But with my income currently limited to sales at my Etsy shop, gifts from friends and the now infrequent plasma donations, I never have enough money to pay bills. True, some of our bills have diminished since moving in with a relative – he pays the mortgage and utilities – but other bills have increased (notably car insurance which tripled) and combined they all far exceed our income. Although we have pared down our spending to the bare minimum there are things we can’t do without and some expenses that are inflicted upon us (like kids’ textbook rental fee which even with the break we are given is $154).
So I prioritize – feed the kids and animals, put gas in the car (we drive more miles than we used to) and pay the car insurance -these top the list. But I’m always behind on everything else which results in late payment fees. Even paying the car insurance in installments tacks on an extra $6 per payment in ‘handling’ charges. I can’t maintain a bank account because I don’t have the minimum to avoid the myriad charges (ATM fee, per check fee, overdraft fee, etc.,) which means cashing the occasional check at Walmart or other check cashing places (for a fee).
And there are some bills I just cannot pay, not even late. My minor surgery this spring – which I had hoped would be covered by Medi-Cal (and should have been except that due to numerous paperwork snafus our coverage did not get established before we left California) – that bill hangs over my head, arriving monthly in an envelope filled with ever more threatening language. When/if I find a job and we are able to move into our own place I’ve no doubt there will be additional deposits and fees associated with hooking up utilities and the such – all part of the price one pays for having recession ruined credit. It’s a downward spiral that seems impossible to break free from. Given the figures on unemployment and poverty I’ve no doubt that there are hundreds of thousands (low estimate) of other Americans in the same boat. I wonder if there is a life-line for those of us stuck in the sinkhole of our post-recession world.