Being poor is just a series of emergencies.
do crop up more often for poor people. Necessities, like vacuum cleaners
or phones or bedding or shoes, need replacement or repair more often
when you only buy the cheapest possible option.
health tends to be compromised by cheap, unhealthy food; stress; being
around lots of similarly-poor contagious sick people who can’t afford to
stay home or get treatment; inadequate healthcare; and often, hazardous
and/or demanding work conditions – including longer hours allowing
less time for sleep, home food prep, and mental or physical exercise.
homes may not offer much respite, as we’re less likely to have
comfortable furniture for sleep or relaxation, more likely to be forced
to rely on abusive people for financial reasons. We’re also more
likely to live in high-pollution areas, food deserts, and in
poorly-maintained rental housing. We’re less likely to have access to
heat or cooling even in dangerous weather.
For all these
reasons and more, we get sick more, and when we do, we have less access
to medical care – even the poor people lucky enough to have adequate
insurance and a doctor who will provide appropriate care without discrimination may face significant difficulties getting to and from a doctor
Poor people have less reliable transportation; any cars
that are affordable for a poor person will usually need major repairs at
least a couple times a year - more emergencies! - and poor people are less likely to live
anywhere near an adequate public transit system. Just the cab fare to
and from a doctor visit can easily cost a week’s worth of groceries or
Ignoring medical needs as long as possible and not accessing preventative care causes massive future expense.
Many people are
poor specifically because of disability, making work difficult or
impossible in addition to the expenses of managing chronic illness,
accessing mobility aids, or other costs associated with disability.
Poverty runs in families, and friend groups are often based heavily on class in our stratified society, so in addition to your own emergencies as a poor person, you’ll likely also be sharing resources to keep your loved ones alive. You’re not likely to have wealthier friends or family who can or will help.
Poor people are less likely to have enough clothing that we can wait to replace unwearable items. Because our clothing collections are smaller (and often secondhand and/or poorly made), our clothes wear out faster. Not having clothing that marks us as ‘respectable’ can bar us from employment, make us more vulnerable to violence from police or other harassers, and make resources like social programmes less accessible.
Overdraft fees target poor people specifically. Being a few pennies off in your maths can mean sudden huge bills that compound themselves. Predatory banks routinely run all charges before processing the deposits you make earlier in the day or week, which can mean huge overdraft fees can happen even if you deposit your money hours or days before trying to spend any of it.
There are thousands of examples. For poor people, unexpected expenses happen more often. And when you’re
poor, any unexpected expense can be an emergency with serious consequences.
Even the cheapest (most temporary) solution for an emergency often
breaks the bank. People who
aren’t poor don’t realize that an urgent expense of thirty dollars can
mean not eating for a week. Poor people who try to save find our savings
slipping away as emergency after emergency happens. Some poor people turn to predatory lending companies, not because they don’t know it’s a bad deal but because being hugely in debt tomorrow is better than your kids starving today.
I don’t think
people who’ve never been poor realise what it’s like. It’s not that
we’re terrible at budgeting, it’s that even the most perfect budget
breaks under the weight of the basic maths: we do not have enough
Cos we’re fucking poor.