December 15, 2006

Finances - How I cope on a limited budget

First, a poem:


The many worlds theory says that there is an infinity of universes in
every possibility a choice or event has, so that if I toss a coin and it
turns up heads, there is also a universe created where it turns up tails
as well as one where it lands on its edge.

The life I didn’t lead
took place at the bottom of the class, struggling
to get Cs more often than the Ds of failure,
those eye-folds the insignia of my ability
not to do what I was mainstreamed to try.
In the early years, I had no friends.
People shunned me, “the retard,” and feared
I was catching. Outside of school, everything
was “Special” or “Exceptional” which meant
for those who weren’t, not in ways that matter
to the world. One girl called me Turtle, said
You’re slow but you get there eventually.
I liked that, liked her for it.

In the life I didn’t lead
I hid my face and shielded my body
in a thick black abaya, revealing only modest eyes.
I never drove a car or traveled without a man
of my family with me, yet within our walls
I showed off my shiny dark hair, my slender arms
and secretly danced, holding hands
with other jewelled women in my father’s large family.

The lives I didn’t lead are taking place in universes
untouched by ours, inaccessible, though created
by my choices. In some I’ve already died, in others
I live, but with some strange exotic disease,
in this one with schizophrenia,
in a few I may even be completely healthy.
They are none of them up for grabs.
I make a choice, lift this pen—
With one word, I create my world.
I leave all others to the lives I’'ll never lead.

I've created a "post-it note" or stickie as it is called in Apple-computer land on my laptop
and there I've rewritten everything I've bought since December began. I originally wrote it in a small notepad, but I find that transcribing to the computer is safer, because of how easily I lose notepads and pieces of paper. Now, mind you, this is the very first month I am trying this, trying to actually see where my money is going, and it was Lynnie's idea. But it is interesting, and illuminating, and depressing, when I see how far my small check doesn't go...

Now to the nitty gritty. I get both SSDI ( disability) and SSI (Supplemental) because I didn't work often or long enough to have my SSDI check be large enough to meet the minimum standard payment. So SSI makes up the difference, bringing me to the barest minimum they pay, which I believe is or is going to be in 2007 around $623 a month. My rent in this HUD-subsidized housing complex is $177 this year, but will no doubt be increased by the same amount that my SSD check goes up for the cost of living increase, which means, of course, that I get no cost of living increase, and haven't for many years. So while the prices of food keep shooting upwards, my income stays the same year after year as my rent goes up. Ten years ago my rent was $125. Next year it is likely to be $180 something. This leaves me approximately $443.00 to work with all month, in Connecticut, oon of the most expensive states to live in in the entire counntry. If I lived in Mississippi, or Alabama, I'm sure I could survive pretty easily on $443.00, or do better than I could here. But at least in W and Hartford, prices are high. Thank heavens we are not in Fairfield County, where Greenwich is, formerly the richest town in the country (that title now usurped by Beverly Hills, I believe). Prices all through that county are shamelessly stratospheric!

With no further ado, here is:

Rent $177 (all utilities except phone included)
Books $28
Petty cash $47 (Lunch out, coffee, and drugstore items)
Car $65
Omega 3s $88
Peapod Delivery (groceries) $100
Socks 3 packs of 3 $18
2 bras at Kohls $60 (!)
TOTAL: $583 ( w/$40 left from my monthly check)

However, to help me out, Lynnie pays my cable bill (including telephone, for which basic service is a dollar), my car bills and the Omega 3 oils, which Dr O wants me to take. So those expenses I will be reimbursed for, giving me back $153 which plus the $40 adds up to $193.00, surely enough to live on for 16 more days, since I don't need to do any more Christmas shopping and my only major need is for food! (Now, don't get me wrong. Lynnie helps me with anything I need. But I wanted to see what I could do with just my check this month, minus the regular expenses I don't pay for anyway.)

I dunno what $100 for 2 weeks worth of food sounds like to most of you but it is utterly reasonable here, 2 weeks going on 3 or more, since I have plenty frozen from the delivery before this and plenty left from this one itself. The first time I ordered $150 worth in November and stocked up on freezable foods, like cold cuts from the deli, in half pound packages, and bananas, which are great frozen and great in shakes when frozen. And plenty of soymilk and yogurt and such, things that have a decent shelf life. With birthday money I invested, with some trepidation, in some special plastic containers impregnated with silver nanoparticles that are supposed to keep foods "Fresher Longer" which is the name of the brand. Fresher longer meaning, two weeks longer or so. Meaning, I cut a pomegrante in half stored the halves in one such container for six days, long enough for it to rot if left in the fridge ordinarily. But after that time, I opened the container to find not only a fresh pomegranate, but even the cut edges still fresh, if a little dry, and completely edible! I have stored apples in a container for 3 weeks now and they remain as crisp as if I had just purchased them yesterday. Bread is supposed to remain fresh for just as long, no mold for as long as three weeks. My only trepidation concerns the nanoparticles, which they claim are safe, but I'm not convinced have been tested properly for food contact or for that matter skin contact when used in make-up. Nanoparticles are known to behave quite differently from particles of a larger size, even to behave the opposite. So you cannot extrapolate from what you know about silver in general to say that the nanoparticles will do exactly the same thing, ie be entirely safe when in contact with food. Now, I bought the containers on a gamble that the particles are embedded in the plastic and not actually in contact with the food, but that is probably just justification for trying them. I'm taking a certain risk, I know, and I am hoping that it is not discovered later that some deadly disease is caused by these particular containers...Cuz if there is, I am sunk! :)

Nevertheless, in terms of aiding my efforts to be frugal, they do work wonders in keeping food fresh and not letting it go to waste when I can't eat it all fast enough, yet don't want to buy in small quantities that cost three times as much per ounce. Warning: they are great and useful, but they ain't cheap, not by a long shot. You get 12 per box though, including the tops, 12 containers and 12 tops. And if you want to try them you can buy them at though I am not shilling for them, so if you find them elsewhere, go elsewhere to buuy them if you like. They are the same anywhere, as long as they are called "Fresher Longer" and are yellow, because of being silver impregnated.

I forgot a few expenses that I didn't write down because they only appear on my bank account: I give $40 a month to a soup kitchen cum educational center in Hartford and some small amounts to Unicef and Amnesty International, which take about 60.00 out of my 193.00 left, leaving me 133.00, which I can still live on, I think. I am still paying cash for everything or using my debit card, so I don't have to keep track of more than 2 checks a month (which I don't keep track of really). Still have to learn to keep and balance a check book, if I'm going to use one, and Lynnie thinks I should learn Quicken, whatever that is. I dunno if I'm ready for that just yet. I'm only now learning to keep track of what I buy, and I am sure I have missed things as it is (I have a cushion in the bank to take care of that).

Welp, that's my finances, and I'm not doing too badly, thanks to Lynnie and my parents, Many people are not so lucky in my situation, and I feel for them. If you feel like sharing your financial arrangements feel free to comment.

Posted by pamwagg at December 15, 2006 03:05 PM


hi, i was just surfing throught the web on a whim looking for ideas on how to live on a limited income..I happened upon your blog and was amazed on what you live on.I live in NC.I am self employed and a mother of three boys.I thought I had it tough.Kudos to you, you are a very strong lady.I loved your poem.I am bi polar so I can relate.Please look me up, Id love to be pen pals. Teresa

Posted by: Teresa Hales at October 19, 2007 06:42 PM

Hi Elizabeth,

If you're talking about me, thanks so much and check out my blog. I'd love to hear from you.

Posted by: Kate K. at December 18, 2006 10:03 PM

I wish you would write more. Selfish, yes, but I love reading your missives and am always sorry to come to the end.

Posted by: Elizabeth Grace at December 17, 2006 10:21 PM

I got "Your comment was denied for questionable content." again. So frustrating. I'll try again later...

Posted by: Kate K. at December 17, 2006 02:16 PM

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