Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You're Not Poor If You Can Buy a Beer

Every now and then, someone posts a comment on my blog or its Facebook page that really gets my goat.  Today, I woke up to such a comment.  Even though I have places to be and things to do, I decided to write out what I was thinking in response to it and then decided I wanted to share it here as well.  The comment was in response to a blog post by Poor As Folk, entitled The Privilege of Real Food.  Here is the comment (reposted anonymously):
When I see folks with EBT cards (food stamps), buying beer,Not with EBT, chips, candy, soda and all the crap food it burns me up. Don't tell me they are poor. They eat better than I do without that help. It's sometimes a matter of laziness also. Know some who sit on their butt and do nothing and eat crap food and get obese. Sorry, but I work very hard for what I ahve and I don't get help to do it. I make toime to cook healthy. if the limit is $2.22 or such for each person per day, tell me how a $5.00 fast food meal is cheaper? Math wasn't my best subject but only an idiot thinks that's correct. Eat food for that $5 if you ahve it to waste.
This irritated me for a number of reasons, many of which I took personally.  So here is my reply to the comment (which I realized halfway through typing that it was, in fact, long enough to be a blog post on its own):
It can be a matter of time too. I know that for me right now, running two businesses and homeschooling four kids as a single mom, I sometimes HAVE to go with the more expensive option because if I don't grab something quick, I don't eat, period. And it certainly isn't a matter of laziness, since any ONE of those things I just listed I do is enough to fill someone's day! A LOT of other poor people are in the same boat, having to choose between time and money when people are working two to three jobs each and still don't make enough money to support their families because the minimum wage is so out of step with inflation since it was implemented.

I don't know how you know people that do nothing but sit on their butts and eat crap that get SNAP, because that isn't allowed under the program. You have to document working a minimum of 20 hours a week OR be engaged in work search activities a minimum of 20 hours a week. That's why my food stamps got cut off last month ago--they lost the documenting that I work enough, so despite typically working 50ish hours a week (the homeschooling doesn't count as work, even though I save the gov't a ton of money by doing it, or that number would be much higher), I got a notice saying I don't work enough and my family would no longer be receiving food benefits. And I don't have the time or energy to fight it.

And just because you see someone buying crap ONE time doesn't mean that's their regular diet or that they "aren't poor" just because they buy beer once in a great while. Even bringing in approximately $1200 a month (including child support) to support myself and my four kids, so in "extreme poverty" by US government standards, I will on occasion treat myself or my kids with something. You have to for your mental health in that situation or you'll give up all hope and end up being in poverty forever as a result, since hope is a critical ingredient in trying to claw your way out of poverty. If I drank beer, maybe that treat would be a beer, but I don't--this past week I bought nail polish for myself (not on food stamps) and some candy for the kids, because it is hard for them to always be told no, they can't have anything. Heck, I'm not going be buying them any Christmas present this year because I can't afford them, but you want to judge and say someone in the same isn't poor because they chose to treat themselves with what little resources they have? That's just plain cold.
Moral of the story:  You don't know everything that is going on in someone's life just because you have a two-second snapshot of what they decide to buy ONE time.  Don't judge others when you don't know what they're dealing with.  Like EVERY major religion ever pretty much says: Play nice.


  1. Hey,I sometimes buy beer to kill slugs in my garden,too! Grr, people.Busy bodies.
    I LOVE beer. Good beer. We buy it very rarely but you know, we just got married (simple ceremony, dinner at home w/ family) and you bet we had beer with our dinner. Besides,my husband works 40+ hours at a job he hates. I think the small amount of beer we buy is well deserved. Sheesh.

  2. Thank you for this post. This is a regular conflict between myself and my brother. He doesn't remember when our mother was single and struggling and he can't understand my husband and I going to college so that we don't have to keep living like this.

  3. I came here via Poor As Folk, on Facebook, and can I just say THANK YOU. I like to have a beer, sometimes. So my husband bought a case, to save money, at Costco, in September. There are still many bottles in that case. But the person behind him may well have thought "Hey, he's buying beer with that EBT card!" But no, because you CAN'T buy beer with SNAP. He was saving money while still treating me, in the long run. The thing that gets me more than beer though are the people who complain about folks like us at Costco buying "50 lb bags of dog food." Again: doesn't go on SNAP. Government really doesn't want to pay to keep our dog alive. But that one is just so cold. What, pray, are we supposed to do with our dog, because we happen to live below the poverty line? And in the name of all that is thrifty, how are you at COSTCO and still don't know that buying the huge bag of something is cheaper, long run?! There is just no logic and so much cruelty.

  4. http://poorasfolk.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/its-hard-being-poor-in-america-when-your-kid-is-sick-enough-that-you-cant-work-but-disability-doesnt-pay-the-bills-it-is-crushing/

    You never know what you are witnessing...