If you’ve lived a comfortable existence for most of your life, you most likely don’t understand a lot of the daily things that make being poor extremely difficult.
And these answers from people might give a lot of folks some perspective about this reality.
So, in what ways is it expensive to be poor?
Here’s how AskReddit users responded.
1. Hard to get out of it.
Basically if you’re poor you need to borrow some money to either get a house or buy food and after a while the debt keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
2. Tire problems.
Used tires cost 1/3 price and get about 20% of the life of a new tire. Also you are paying mount and balance every time, plus worry about blow outs. Even a new tire at $80 with a 30K mileage expectancy or a $100 tire at 65k mileage warranty.
Over twice the life, little more than 20% in extra charge.”
3. Caught in the system.
“The justice system.
If you can’t pay a fine, the state will make things more expensive by adding fees on top of fees on top of fees, then they will incarcerate you for not paying the inflated fees.
Then you have to pay the parole officer who is keeping an eye on you while you care unable to get a job that pays enough to pay him.”
4. All about power.
“When you have less money the power relationship is flipped in nearly every financial interaction you have.
When you have money, banks and companies compete to get access to your reliable spending, be it with low interest rates on borrowing or better deals for early payment. They have to compete because you have the option to go to someone else who will gladly take your payment history and stable income.
You’re a safe bet, so you have the luxury of choice.
When you don’t have money institutions know you have nowhere else to go. So they happily gouge you knowing agreeing to horrendous loan terms is your only option.
I teach econ and always remind my kids that commercials boasting about “no credit, low credit, no problem!” know exactly who they’re getting in the door.
People who have nowhere else to go.”
5. Nickeled and dimed.
“I saw a lady coming out of a laundromat, loading her baskets of clothes into a taxi (there is zero other public transport where I saw this happen and only a few taxis).
Not being able to put enough money together at one time to buy a car or a washing machine (she probably rented so this maybe wasn’t even an option) was costing her a fortune. Just being nickeled and dimed to death.”
6. What do you do?
“My car has a leaky seal on the transmission.
It’d be about $250 to replace the seal and flush the transmission. I don’t have $250, so I keep topping up the fluid and keep driving it because I’ll never get $250 if I don’t get to work.
But, in time, that’s going to destroy the transmission, which will be about $1200 to replace.”
7. All kinds of charges.
“There are late fees for everything.
Overdraft fees at the bank. Sh*tty jobs usually don’t have good healthcare plans. If you’re poor, you need credit cards just to survive, but interest rates are higher for those with low credit scores (see late fees above).
Sh*tty cars are always breaking down, and that’s expensive…”
8. Good point.
“If you’re well off, you buy one pair of boots for $150 and they last a lifetime.
If you’re poor, you buy boots for $30 and they last one winter.”
9. It adds up.
“Renting to own anything is really bad.
You pay 4x the value of whatever it is you’re renting to own. And if you miss a payment they repossess it. Not only that you very well might be paying 4x the new value for a used item.
And only low quality items are sold rent to own. Ashley furniture, sh*tty used cars, the cheapest big screen tvs available at wholesale. Houses might be better, but rent a center, and JD Byrider are worse than loan sharks.”
“If you’re ever desperate enough to take out a title/payday loan you’ll discover you just stepped in financial quicksand.”
11. A great example.
“Not having in-home laundry is a great example.
Say it costs you $4 to do your laundry each week (which I think is very cheap). In 5 years you will have spent over $1,000 on laundry.
For $1,000 you can get a good washing machine that would last you through those 5 years, then another 5 years, and maybe a lot more. And that doesn’t count the time saved doing laundry at home, and any transportation costs.”
12. A big one.
“Healthcare. That’s the big one.
If you don’t have a healthcare plan, or have a sh*tty one you don’t go to the doctor unless it’s life or death.
That means small problems that could have been caught in the beginning become hugely expensive problems later on.”
“If you can’t maintain a minimum balance or don’t have a bank in your neighborhood or were raised to be suspicious of banks and don’t have a bank account, you’ve got to pay fees to cash your paychecks.
Then there are fees to buy money orders to pay your bills– or the cost of getting TO the utility office or car dealership or wherever to pay in cash.”
14. Food deserts.
“Food deserts, where everything at the single grocery store for miles around is marked WAY the hell up because its shoppers usually pay in food stamps and/or have nowhere else to go.”
15. The laundry game.
Imagine needing an entire morning/afternoon to load and lug your sh*t to a hot building and feeding machines quarter after quarter after quarter while being tethered to the spot so your stuff won’t get stolen.”
16. Sad state of affairs.
“Biggest one that I always think of for all my fellow Americans is medical care.
If you’re poor you put off medical care as long as possible, and it’s extremely expensive by the time it’s serious enough to address.”
17. Can you retire?
“No money to invest in a retirement fund, stock market, etc.
With inflation you’re losing money, if you have any saved up at all.”
“I’m facing this struggle with my driver’s license.
In 2019, I got a ticket. The officer didn’t give me a copy of the ticket so I didn’t even know I had it. Of course, my license ended up being suspended which I didn’t know about.
Got another ticket for driving while suspended. Paid both tickets, and it’s still suspended. They want a $500 reinstatement fee because they’re claiming I didn’t have insurance.
Submitted proof of insurance, they rejected it because the officer put the wrong car year on the ticket.
Got the ticket amended but the licensing people are still rejecting my proof of insurance because it doesn’t show the ticket being amended in their system.
So for almost 18 months I’ve been fighting this ticket and reinstatement. This has caused my car insurance cost to increase and I refuse to pay the $500, even though it would be easier than fighting it. (at this point, it’s a matter of pride).
The biggest issue is that it takes 24-72 hours for them to process anything or return your calls and it all has to take place during “business” hours, which is when I work as well.
So, I’m just frustrated over all this.”
19. This is true.
“Mental health. Or more specifically stress.
You will always have stress about future, always making decisions based on your poverty so that it won’t affect your situation in bad way.”
20. Dangerous work.
“Low paying jobs can also be physically harmful ie factory work, and you can be treated like garbage because it’s cheaper to pay out the occasional law suit and medical expenses rather than resign the factory and make it less efficient to be safer.”
21. No wiggle room.
“As prices go up, and minimum wage stays consistent, it’s completely expensive to be poor.
We’re paying all of our checks for food and rent, and we have no wiggle room.”
22. Can’t buy in bulk.
“Not being able to buy more than you need to save money in the long run. The toilet paper in the larger bundle is less expensive per roll? Too bad; you can only afford the smaller package.
Buying peanut putter? If you get the bigger family-sized tub of it, it’s actually cheaper by the ounce. But if you can only afford the smallest size, too bad.
I sounds like it’s not a big deal, but when you’re counting individual coins, the savings from buying in bulk can definitely make a difference.”
23. No connections.
“Lack of network.
Poor people often come from poor families, and their neighbors and close friends growing up were also poor. I grew up in an affluent neighborhood. My high school girlfriend’s mom was a controller for a real estate company that my other friend’s dad owned, and they got me my first job. If I ever need advice from a lawyer or doctor, I have friends who are lawyers and doctors, and the same was true for my parents.
I know a number of owners of restaurants and other businesses, and have often gotten food or services for free or at a discounted rate. None of that’s possible when you grow up poor.”
24. Very expensive.
For us, middle class now, it’s easy to assemble a meal from what is in the pantry and freezer supplemented by what’s in our garden or in the stores within three blocks of my house.
It feels thrifty, healthy, sensible.
But to get to this point took a lot of investment. We have pots and pans, spices, flour, oils, vinegars, bags and cans of staples, grills, steamer, measuring devices galore.
We have the knowledge of cooking that comes from being able to afford to learn what we liked by going to restaurants, and having the spare time to watch cooking shows, and the energy to cook everyday because we don’t have two jobs each with long commutes.
And if you don’t have $500 to put together a basic kitchen, or secure private cooking space so that your investment won’t immediately be soiled or stolen, you’re likely going to be eating a lot of fast food. And that isn’t the most nutritious foundation for the next day.”
“In every manner.
If you want healthy food, that costs. But eating cheap food, while sustaining, will inevitably lead to poorer health.
Bad health will cost you.
If you want to not be stressed-and stress is huge when it comes to health-then that means not having to worry is kind of an integral part of poverty.
Stress means less awesome interpersonal relationships, means less sleep, means overwork to try to make ends meet.
Good interpersonal relationships, getting enough sleep, and not working yourself to exhaustion are things that help you stay alive.
Mentally, you now have a running total of how much everything in your life costs. I guarantee you that every poor person knows exactly, precisely, how much milk costs or gasoline, or a bus pass, or the subscription to Netflix that brings them just a little joy and if they can afford it or not. There are no coins in their couches, $5 to discover in an old coat; they need that money and they know where it is.
And if not, now they have to spend time (another expense!) dealing with debt collectors, or people at utility agencies or banks or government offices, trying to negotiate and navigate systems that may or may not be willing to help them (regardless of that system’s original intent).
Poverty is merely the accumulation of expenses that one cannot pay and once you are poor, there is a system in place to ensure that you never, ever run out of those expenses.”
Can you offer up some more examples of how it’s expensive to be poor?
Please share them with us in the comments.
We’d love to hear from you!