It can be easy to think that all poor people need to do to be less poor is work harder or save more money, but the truth is a lot more complex. There are a million factors that keep the poorest of us from getting out of their situation, and Reddit user Rebris explains it perfectly in his description of what keeps poor people in poverty. If you thought it was easy to step out of poverty, you won’t after reading this.


In response to The Atlantic’s It’s expensive to be poor:

This is something very few “well to do” people realize. Being poor isn’t just a temporary inconvenience, it’s utterly lifecrushing. The smallest things can turn into the worst disasters.

Even if you’re decently smart, have no kids and live by yourself, things can quickly get out of hand. Say you work 30 hours a week at $8 (and that’s generous), that’s 960 dollars a month to live on before taxes. Let’s make it an even 1000.

  • Rent costs you anywhere between 300-500 USD. Let’s assume the cheapest apartment in the worst part of town for 400. We’ll even include the utilities.
  • If you want to get from and to work reliably, you need a car. Public transit outside of major US cities is unreliable and nobody will hire you if you depend on the bus to get to work since service is often delayed or canceled. Car requires insurance and gas after the initial cost, which we’ll ballpark at an ultra-low 150 a month.
  • You try to eat responsibly; no instant junk, instead lots of eggs, cheese, meat and veggies, and make sure never to let food spoil. Since you’re by yourself you can eat for $200 a month; it’s not fancy food but a slow cooker goes a long way. Add another $50 per month for things like shampoo, dish soap, paper towels etc.

We’re at $800 now. Say you use public library internet (so no monthly costs), have no TV, never go out to eat or to the bar with friends. This leaves you with $200 to put away every single month, which you do for 3 months. Note that your job doesn’t provide you health insurance, so we’re opting for none (currently).

Now your car breaks down. You take it to a shop everyone tells you is reliable, and they say it’s a $500 repair. This is okay, because you have $600 saved up, and this still leaves you with $100. After all, you need a car to get to work.

On your way to work with your repaired car you get pulled over because your taillight is out. You get a ticket for $200. Shit.

What do you do? Ask work for a pay advance? Most minimum wage places don’t do that. You don’t have credit and don’t own a credit card, cash advance places are a scam. You can ask relatives but you will still owe them the money and shatter what little self esteem you have left.

Keep in mind these are minimum numbers. Next to no minimum wage job will give you 30 hours a week, fines and unexpected expenses can easily be double that, and if you manage to live with no internet, TV and miscellaneous costs for 3 whole months, MAYBE you’ll end up having those initial $600 saved up. Then in an instant, it’s all gone and you’re back to square zero.

Now think about going to college to better your education (while still going to work to survive). This adds more expenses on top of the $0 you already have left in your margin, even if you get financial aid and a scholarship. Not to mention your job will have to accommodate your school hours, and they won’t like that one bit, putting you on the shit list super fast.

This can go on for hours, but it’s not always as simple as “spending too much and saving too little”. This is a hole that is very, very hard to get out of once you’re stuck in it, twice so in US states that have high unemployment rates.

Banks will fuck you over with fees and fines, people look down on you, nobody will give you credit and the worst of interest rates, purchases are more expensive, trivial odds turn to huge issues. This simply doesn’t happen to people who earn a “living” wage; these are things they never have to think or worry about. Once you have a reasonable amount of money, it opens so many doors for you and erases so many worries that it’s absolutely absurd how condescending society acts toward people living in these situations on a day to day basis.


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