The Poor Woman's Financial Crisis
BY Ali Liebegott
October 22 2008 12:00 AM ET
When the stock market fell more than 700 points recently, my girlfriend said, “Thank God we don’t have retirements and stocks to worry about losing.” I understand what she means. There’s something very soothing about the simplicity of doing what’s right in front of you: paying the rent, buying groceries, and when there’s a little extra for a treat like cinnamon rolls, whoopee! When you live paycheck to paycheck you only have so much to lose.
Yesterday was my first day off after working nine consecutive days for $13.48 an hour. I’m ignoring the piece of pink notebook paper on the refrigerator with the heading “People I Owe Money To.” My girlfriend deemed these our “pioneer months,” and it becomes perfectly clear why when I open the cupboard to find only dented cans of pinto beans and diced tomatoes. I started working at the grocery store because I get a discount on groceries and there’s an amazing free box filled with bruised organic watermelons, eggplant, apples, and bread. I easily take home $100 worth of bruised produce a month.
Every night when I come home from work, my girlfriend stops doing whatever it is she’s doing to meet me in the kitchen, where I spread out everything I got from the free box. “Let’s look at the booty,” I say to her. Sometimes we make entire meals consisting only of free items. One breakfast she made eggs, potatoes, and toast -- everything was free. She really loves a deal, and I adore the free box. It’s one of the ways that we’re really compatible.
In times of uncertainty -- whether it’s economic, psychological, emotional, or philosophical -- people often say that the only thing we can truly control is our attitudes. If that’s true, then I’m going to spend today walking my 14-year-old dog on a free beach and treasuring the fact that she’s still alive. Then I’m going to head to work five minutes before my shift starts and make a beeline for the free box