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    Financial Advice for the Very Poor

    Hello fellow humans.

    My name is Elijah, I'm 24 years old, came from a very poor family (in and out of shelters and subsidized housing, yada yada yada) and spent my entire adolescence in foster care. I'm now a young man back in NYC, on my own. Currently I'm attending a public college for which I have taken out some small loans which I am paying off while in school, so I'm not worrying about that. There is an even smaller debt - $2,026 in credit cards - that is affecting my current mode of living, and that is because I am very, very, very poor.

    Let's get some perspective. I work a part time job at 21 hours a week, making $11.61/hr. That comes out to roughly $840 a month (if I don't get docked). My rent and utilities are $400.00, my transportation cost is $104-$116, food costs are $150 to $250 (groceries and eating out, which is impossible not to do in New York) and then the above $2K debt, which I make combined payments of at least $100 monthly to. I am stretched very thin, most of the time I'm scrambling to find side jobs, which are hard to come by, like everything else in this city. I realized that I needed to start building a savings, but I'm only at around $100 because I keep having to withdraw to pay bills.

    I really only have two cards that are giving me trouble (both Capital One) with combined balances of $945.00. I was late making payments a few times and the interest jacked up from an already high 19% to 23-25%, and the payments I do make (above the minimum) go mostly to interest. I have been stuck in the $400 balance range with both cards most of this year. I tried to get a balance transfer card but my credit is too bad (at around 570-580).

    To give you an idea of how poor I am, it took me three years to pay off a $1,000 Prosper loan. You never really see any financial advice aimed at the "financially disadvantaged", so I'm wondering if anyone has any. I have been told to find a full time job, find a better paying job, but it is incredibly hard when you go to school fulltime and have to fit a work schedule around a school schedule. Also, I have no marketable skills. I'm working on my writing and creating my own website, so maybe that will take off for me, but for now, I'm in this predicament. I've been trying to find a cash tip job in a restaurant but lord knows it is impossible if you don't have 3 years NYC experience. I think I remember how to sling dishes and drinks, it doesn't take three years to master.

    Rant over. I realize that I am on the road, and that's all that matters. My poverty is probably temporary. I am getting a degree in a very wide field (Media Studies) and have very concrete ideas of what I want to do. I just wish I could find a better source of income to pay down this debt, put a little towards savings, be able to treat myself and my family here and there and pay my bills with ease. All I would need to make to achieve this is around 1,200 to 1,500 a month. It's such a shame that it seems to impossible for me to reach that level of income.

    Debt List

    Credit Cards
    Bank of America: $655.00
    Capital One (1): $483.00
    Capital One (2): $462.00
    Wells Fargo: $395.00

    Student Loans (final, have started paying them down while in school)
    Fed Sub (1): $2,000.00
    Fed Sub (2): $5,500.00
    Fed Unsub: $4,500.00 (DEF paying this down first, accruing $0.76 a day!

    Income: $820-$850/M (working on raising)

    P.S. I am not innocent, I spend probably too much money on food outside of groceries, and spend around $30 to $40 at the pub each month. I view this as "treating" myself to a meal and a couple of drinks. But really the only thing I spend money on outside of my bills is food (probably 85%, which I justify, because it's FOOD), clothes (about 5-10%, at Goodwill) and booze (5% to 10%). If think if I learned how to cook and made all my meals, that would help.

    #2
    Rather than finding a job as an employee, is there a service you can provide directly, that is, create a small business yourself? For example, walking dogs, repairing stuff, or perhaps something that ties into your field of study? Being your own boss lets you pick your hours and pay rate. Start at a low price, but do a quality job and your reputation will spread and people will pay you lots more.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by eLIEjahTailor View Post
      To give you an idea of how poor I am, it took me three years to pay off a $1,000 Prosper loan. You never really see any financial advice aimed at the "financially disadvantaged", so I'm wondering if anyone has any. I have been told to find a full time job, find a better paying job, but it is incredibly hard when you go to school fulltime and have to fit a work schedule around a school schedule. Also, I have no marketable skills. I'm working on my writing and creating my own website, so maybe that will take off for me, but for now, I'm in this predicament. I've been trying to find a cash tip job in a restaurant but lord knows it is impossible if you don't have 3 years NYC experience. I think I remember how to sling dishes and drinks, it doesn't take three years to master.
      Please note that I do not mean any of this as an attack or anything. I am just very blunt

      With that said, I think you have an attitude problem which is affecting your finances. First of all, get the words "poverty," "poor," "broke," and "disadvantaged" out of your vocabulary. You live in the United States of America- the greatest country on this planet! And to top it all off, you live in NYC! Be excited! Get pumped! Get amped! Opportunities are out there and are ready for you to seize!

      The victim mentality is the thing that is hurting you. Not some 3 year requirement to get into an NYC restaurant. Everyone has marketable skills- you need to figure out what yours are! Creative writing? GREAT! Work on it! I am developing mine as well, so I know what you're going through.

      Figure out what skills you have and how you can serve others with those skills. Do not have a mentality of "I can't." If you tell yourself that you can't, then you're probably right. If you tell yourself you CAN, then you're probably right.

      So build up a positive attitude. Your past does not define who you are today. You can change who you are whenever you want. You can change your perception whenever you want. So go out there and get 'em champ!
      Check out my new website at www.payczech.com !

      Comment


        #4
        For what are you going to school? You are going into debt for school, so there must be some end game in sight where you end up in a position to make more money than you do now, correct? What is that goal?

        Comment


          #5
          Sorry OP, but your comments about being poverty-stricken is an insult to those who really ARE poverty-stricken. The truly poor don't go out to eat, and certainly not at $100/month. They can't, because they don't have enough money to do that. They also don't have the money for ONE person to spend an additional $150/month on groceries and $30/month drinking down the pub.

          I get that you might FEEL that you're poverty-stricken, but you really aren't. Not even close. You have a roof over your head which has light, heat and indoor plumbing, and all that only costs you $400/month in one of the most expensive cities in the world. You're able to eat every day, probably more than once a day. You have access to public transportation, allowing you to easily get to/from work and school. You are well-educated and have access to a computer and the internet (since you're creating a website). And YES, you have marketable skills, you just have to find something that fits those skills.

          Lastly, although you are in debt, it could be MUCH worse. Altogether you have $14k in debt, including your student loans. I know that seems like a lot (and it is), but aren't you glad that you're not $25k in debt? Or $50k or $100k or $125k? I bet there are countless people out there who would give anything to "only" have $14k in debt.

          Okay, rant over. Like the others, I'm not trying to pick on you, but I think you just need a quick kick up the bum to realize that things really aren't as bad as they could be.

          One recommendation I have for you is to make it an absolute priority to pay your bills ON TIME, every month, without fail. Even if that means only paying the minimums. Doing that can help to raise your credit score, and after 6 months of on-time payments, you should call the credit card companies and ask for a reduced APR. I used to work for Capital One and that was the standard time frame for account reviews.

          The other suggestion I have is to STOP EATING OUT. STOP GOING DOWN THE PUB. You already spend $150/month on groceries. If you start cooking at home (and there are a bazillion websites that can help you learn, for free), even if your groceries increase by $50/month (because cooking more means more food to buy), you're automatically saving yourself $80/month or $960/year.

          Also, I think you should take a VERY honest look at your spending habits. You say all you spend on is housing/utilities, groceries, eating out, booze, clothes and transportation. What about insurance and medical expenses (prescriptions, etc)? Cable/Internet? Phone? Gifts? Taxes? Entertainment (books, DVDs, movies)? School supplies and books? Household items (linens, pots/pans, broom, etc)? Do you have a significant other or ever go on dates? Think about it.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by dczech09 View Post
            Please note that I do not mean any of this as an attack or anything. I am just very blunt

            With that said, I think you have an attitude problem which is affecting your finances. First of all, get the words "poverty," "poor," "broke," and "disadvantaged" out of your vocabulary. You live in the United States of America- the greatest country on this planet! And to top it all off, you live in NYC! Be excited! Get pumped! Get amped! Opportunities are out there and are ready for you to seize!

            The victim mentality is the thing that is hurting you. Not some 3 year requirement to get into an NYC restaurant. Everyone has marketable skills- you need to figure out what yours are! Creative writing? GREAT! Work on it! I am developing mine as well, so I know what you're going through.

            Figure out what skills you have and how you can serve others with those skills. Do not have a mentality of "I can't." If you tell yourself that you can't, then you're probably right. If you tell yourself you CAN, then you're probably right.

            So build up a positive attitude. Your past does not define who you are today. You can change who you are whenever you want. You can change your perception whenever you want. So go out there and get 'em champ!
            I agree wholeheartedly. I'm trying to decondition myself from the learned helplessness. I also have some opportunities coming up, so I believe my resilience is starting to reap cosmic results. I guess I just have to stay positive, like my mother always said. Thanks.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by neatdesign View Post
              Sorry OP, but your comments about being poverty-stricken is an insult to those who really ARE poverty-stricken. The truly poor don't go out to eat, and certainly not at $100/month. They can't, because they don't have enough money to do that. They also don't have the money for ONE person to spend an additional $150/month on groceries and $30/month drinking down the pub.

              I get that you might FEEL that you're poverty-stricken, but you really aren't. Not even close. You have a roof over your head which has light, heat and indoor plumbing, and all that only costs you $400/month in one of the most expensive cities in the world. You're able to eat every day, probably more than once a day. You have access to public transportation, allowing you to easily get to/from work and school. You are well-educated and have access to a computer and the internet (since you're creating a website). And YES, you have marketable skills, you just have to find something that fits those skills.

              Lastly, although you are in debt, it could be MUCH worse. Altogether you have $14k in debt, including your student loans. I know that seems like a lot (and it is), but aren't you glad that you're not $25k in debt? Or $50k or $100k or $125k? I bet there are countless people out there who would give anything to "only" have $14k in debt.

              Okay, rant over. Like the others, I'm not trying to pick on you, but I think you just need a quick kick up the bum to realize that things really aren't as bad as they could be.

              One recommendation I have for you is to make it an absolute priority to pay your bills ON TIME, every month, without fail. Even if that means only paying the minimums. Doing that can help to raise your credit score, and after 6 months of on-time payments, you should call the credit card companies and ask for a reduced APR. I used to work for Capital One and that was the standard time frame for account reviews.

              The other suggestion I have is to STOP EATING OUT. STOP GOING DOWN THE PUB. You already spend $150/month on groceries. If you start cooking at home (and there are a bazillion websites that can help you learn, for free), even if your groceries increase by $50/month (because cooking more means more food to buy), you're automatically saving yourself $80/month or $960/year.

              Also, I think you should take a VERY honest look at your spending habits. You say all you spend on is housing/utilities, groceries, eating out, booze, clothes and transportation. What about insurance and medical expenses (prescriptions, etc)? Cable/Internet? Phone? Gifts? Taxes? Entertainment (books, DVDs, movies)? School supplies and books? Household items (linens, pots/pans, broom, etc)? Do you have a significant other or ever go on dates? Think about it.
              Definitely agree about the cooking. Don't see what's wrong with spending $30 at the pub. It's $30, you can't hamfist every penny.

              I rarely buy clothes, maybe once every six months, so my money goes to rent/util, food, transpo, small amount to booze. I have no health insurance and haven't been to doctor or dentist in years, don't watch TV, my share of Internet is in utilities payment, phone was $33, but just qualified for a safelink, so that is gone (yay!). I made only $8,000 this year, most of this wouldn't apply to me. Your assumptions are inherently classist, but that is not surprising. This is what I mean that there is no financial advice out there for lower income people, and this is why they remain in poverty.

              Comment


                #8
                need interest rate/minimums for better advice

                Originally posted by eLIEjahTailor View Post
                Debt List

                Credit Cards
                Bank of America: $655.00
                Capital One (1): $483.00
                Capital One (2): $462.00
                Wells Fargo: $395.00

                Student Loans (final, have started paying them down while in school)
                Fed Sub (1): $2,000.00
                Fed Sub (2): $5,500.00
                Fed Unsub: $4,500.00 (DEF paying this down first, accruing $0.76 a day!

                Income: $820-$850/M (working on raising)
                Hello Elijah!!

                Glad you're doing a lot better than you and your family were in the past!

                what i wanted to get straight were your finances which i believe you stated were:

                paycheck: $820-850
                rent/utilities: $400
                transportation: $104-116
                food: $150-250
                pub: $30-40

                i would suggest the only thing i would get rid of is the pub. i know that you view this as treating yourself but what i would suggest is that for a while, buy yourself a six pack a month and put it in the fridge. you can start going back to the pub once you get some breathin room. u literally can't afford it right now.

                also i would suggest gettin coupons to help with groceries. there are normally coupon groups in your area that you can get them from. and also you can print them off from your computer. learn how to cook. or just do it old school. get some ramen noodles and frozen veggies. mix together while cookin the noodles and you have yourself a meal. (be mindful that each ramen noodle pack is 2 servings lol)

                so let's say you get paid $820 this month. -$400-104-150-$10 (for the bear)= $156.

                use $150 to pay off your debt and put what's over that in your savings account.

                i suggest only payin the interest accrued on the unsub loan which would be $23.56 in a 31-day period. so just pay them $25/mo. that'll take care of the interest and a $1 on the principal. this loan is rather large so it'll take a while to have it go down anyways.

                leaves $125.

                now for me to make anymore suggestions is difficult because you didn't put down what your minimums/interest rates were for your cards.

                since you don't have a lot of money to go around i suggest to pay the minimums on all except the wells fargo card.

                let us know what the minimums/interest rates are for your cards and that will give us a better idea for suggestions and then we can even give you an idea of a timeline of when you get out of debt!

                i suggest gettin rid of wells fargo first is because it has the lowest balance. and therefore can free up $15-20 extra to throw at the others.

                Comment


                  #9
                  btw

                  when i say for a little while with puttin beer in the fridge i meant every couple of months.

                  so every two months treat yourself. it gives you somethin to look forward to. a small reward for doin good.

                  this way instead of spendin $360-480/year at the pub you've cut that down to $180-$240/year at the pub.

                  You've cut that to half if you do that!! =D

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by eLIEjahTailor View Post
                    Your assumptions are inherently classist, but that is not surprising. This is what I mean that there is no financial advice out there for lower income people, and this is why they remain in poverty.
                    Classist? Hardly. Realistic? Absolutely. There are always expenses that people tend to overlook when working out a budget, regardless of how much money they have or make. Cigarettes, birthday cards, postage stamps, bank fees, etc. It's the tiny stuff that slips through but really adds up over the course of a year.

                    There are tons of threads and posts about this very issue throughout these forums.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      The mark-up on pre made foods even at the grocery stores is around 100%. There are lots of cook books and on-line sites to teach college students with little money or supplies. I too hope you'll drop 'learned helplessness,' buy a smaller sized crockpot [also called slow cooker] at GW or whatever thrift shop nearby [$12-$15] and follow basic instruction. Bkfst: make oatmeal the night before [Quaker Oats + water]. Cook overnight @ low. If you read, you can cook!

                      For Dinner...Basically, chunk up 2 potatoes, carrot + any veg you'll eat and add 1/2 cup water. Add 8 oz. of some kind of meat [chicken/beef/pork] cheaper cuts are best & dehydrated onion, salt, pepper & a tablespoon of all purpose seasoning like Dash or Adobo. Set on low for 6-8 hrs. or high for 4-6 hrs. depending on your schedule. Those two meals can be repeated using 1 cup of rice or 8 oz of macaroni or barley. Support this with salad...thats chunk up lettuce & slice a tomato. Dessert is a couple of oranges/apples/pears...whatever you'll eat.

                      What is the price differential between buying a six pack for fridge and 6 draws at the pub?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by snafu View Post
                        The mark-up on pre made foods even at the grocery stores is around 100%. There are lots of cook books and on-line sites to teach college students with little money or supplies. I too hope you'll drop 'learned helplessness,' buy a smaller sized crockpot [also called slow cooker] at GW or whatever thrift shop nearby [$12-$15] and follow basic instruction. Bkfst: make oatmeal the night before [Quaker Oats + water]. Cook overnight @ low. If you read, you can cook!

                        For Dinner...Basically, chunk up 2 potatoes, carrot + any veg you'll eat and add 1/2 cup water. Add 8 oz. of some kind of meat [chicken/beef/pork] cheaper cuts are best & dehydrated onion, salt, pepper & a tablespoon of all purpose seasoning like Dash or Adobo. Set on low for 6-8 hrs. or high for 4-6 hrs. depending on your schedule. Those two meals can be repeated using 1 cup of rice or 8 oz of macaroni or barley. Support this with salad...thats chunk up lettuce & slice a tomato. Dessert is a couple of oranges/apples/pears...whatever you'll eat.

                        What is the price differential between buying a six pack for fridge and 6 draws at the pub?
                        Nobody goes to the bar for the booze. They go for the social interaction. At least I do. I love talking to strangers, gives me a lot of material for my writing.

                        Thanks for the tips on making dinner, you don't know how helpful that is. It sounds very nutritious too, I desperately need more fruits and veggies in my diet.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by neatdesign View Post
                          Classist? Hardly. Realistic? Absolutely. There are always expenses that people tend to overlook when working out a budget, regardless of how much money they have or make. Cigarettes, birthday cards, postage stamps, bank fees, etc. It's the tiny stuff that slips through but really adds up over the course of a year.

                          There are tons of threads and posts about this very issue throughout these forums.
                          You have to budget everything down to tiny purchases like that. Sounds exhausting.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            eLIEjah, I suggest you stop paying on your student loans for now (I'm assuming you aren't required to make any payments as you are still a student). Instead, make certain you pay all of your bills on time each and every month. Work on adding to your savings account.

                            Once school is behind you and you are working full-time, you will be more able to pay those student loans.

                            And your statement that any extra you pay towards your credit cards just goes to interest is incorrect. Your minimum payment covers the interest for the month and a tiny bit of principal. Any extra you send goes directly to principal.

                            I also suggest you stop using your credit cards. If you don't have the cash to buy the item, then don't buy it.


                            Best of luck to you.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by eLIEjahTailor View Post
                              You have to budget everything down to tiny purchases like that. Sounds exhausting.
                              I don't budget for every small expense. Instead, I give myself an allowance for personal spending, and an allowance for misc. irregular household expenses.

                              For example, you might give yourself $20 cash per week to pay for misc. incidentals. You can spend it however you choose, but when it's gone, it's gone. There's no whipping out the credit cards or debit card, there's no trip to the ATM.

                              Comment

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