Eric Ravenscraft shares the following personal experiences with the high costs of poverty:
Some think that being poor is simple. You don’t have enough money to buy a lot of stuff, so you’re forced to buy less stuff. But that’s not really how it works. When you’re broke, you can’t do all the little things that will improve your budget over the long run. It actually costs more to be poor.
When you’re poor, you can’t buy your food in bulk, buy high-quality stuff that will last, or own your own [place] instead of renting. It costs money up front to save money over the long run. Worse yet, being poor often comes with hidden, intangible costs that make digging yourself out of poverty even harder.
As any college student can tell you, getting food when you’re poor isn’t that hard. Ramen is under twenty cents a pack. The problem is getting healthy food …
Time was more valuable than my health, and fast food was easier than cooking at home. It wasn’t much more expensive, either. This lead to an unhealthy hierarchy of meals: on a good week, I could buy hot dogs from my local QuikTrip for $2. On a bad week, it was Ramen for days. Two-liter bottles of store-brand soda cost less than orange juice or milk, so if I wanted something to drink besides water, that was what I got …
According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, healthy meals cost an average of $1.50 more per day (or ~$45 per month) than unhealthy meals. When you have money, that’s not a huge deal. However, if you make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and you work 40 hours per week, that amounts to roughly 3.6% of your yearly salary. If you can only get the part time hours of 32 hours per week (which is more common for minimum wage jobs), it’s 4.5% of your yearly take home. Before taxes, by the way.
When $1.50 a day can account for nearly 5% of your yearly salary, it’s no surprise you choose the $1 soda over the $4 orange juice. Who ... cares about “long-term health consequences” when you can barely pay rent? You know what has some serious “long-term health consequences”? Getting evicted. I’ll pay rent today and worry about heart disease later.
When you’re poor, you can’t afford to think about the “long run.” I knew that it was smart to buy some stuff from big membership stores, but I couldn’t even get past the membership fees. I knew that eating gas station hot dogs and ramen was going to kill me some day, but as long as that day wasn’t before rent was due, I had to live with it. I probably could’ve done marginally better if I planned to cook more meals ahead of time but I, like 6.8 million Americans according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had to work multiple jobs to get by. I didn’t have enough time to be healthy, and I didn’t have enough money to save money
… Replacing brake pads can cost an average of $145, depending on your car. If I had to spend $145 to change my brake pads (assuming I even had that much in my account), at best I’d wipe out my food budget for the month. At worst, I wouldn’t have enough to pay utilities. So I’d put it off.
On at least one occasion, my brakes got so bad they were grinding down the rotors. In case you’ve never had this happen, grinding rotors makes a terrible, metal-on-metal sound. Replacing a rotor also costs hundreds more than replacing brake pads. Sure, I successfully put off one expense, but when the rotors broke, I was screwed. The longer I waited on basic maintenance, the more expensive the repairs got.
With public transit, you face a very different cost: time. What would be a fifteen minute drive becomes an hour long bus ride. Miss a bus and you’ve lost another 10-15 minutes. When you only have a couple free hours in the day, that hour on the bus might mean you can’t prepare a decent meal or do laundry …
Despite their necessity, buying new clothes is often seen as one of the most stereotypically frivolous purchases. Why should poor people be shopping for new or nice clothing when they’re struggling to make ends meet, right? The problem is, if you don’t spend money on clothes, you pay a hefty social cost …
Dressing well is an awkward catch-22. If you’re poor and you have a nice wardrobe, people think you’re irresponsible with money. However, if you dress poorly, you’re more likely to be judged poorly, especially in job interviews.
Because of the way the world works, life places a weighty tax on the poor. Of course, the same can be said of those who are spiritually impoverished.
Here are a few ways the spiritually impoverished make themselves even poorer:
1) They don't buy in bulk!
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see" (Revelation 3:8)
2) Their diet consists of what's easily available (worldly consumption), when they should be seeking eternal sustenance!
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day" (John 6:54).
3) Instead of owning, they rent!
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2, KJV).
4) They don't think in terms of long term benefits!
"Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20, NLT).
5) They drag their feet with the truly important responsibilities!
"I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands" (Psalm 119:60).
6) Their overdrafts are accruing a huge penalty!
"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5).
7) They can't afford the membership fees!
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
No matter who you are, you are poor without Christ, and the poor can only get poorer!
“Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Matthew 13:12).