How to be Poor in a Rich City

You’re poor. No matter what type of poor, you don’t have excess money. Perhaps you spend more money commuting to your job than you make at your job. Perhaps you just graduated from college and you’re scrimping on your puny little savings, mad at the world. How could the world that promised you so much offer you so little? Yeah, you’re not alone. Maybe you joke about being poor. Maybe you never use the word. Maybe you have a laptop and a car and a smartphone so you couldn’t be poor, right? Listen, you don’t have to admit anything. You’re just reading this post out of curiosity. It’s cool.

1) Save, but Don’t Get a Savings Account

I know you make so little that saving any money seems like a joke. Whatever, save a goddamn penny once a month. Just save something. Don’t open a savings account because a savings account literally costs more to have than you would make in interest, which is, like, a penny a year. Hide money. Hide actual cash. Whether it be under your mattress, in your Koran, a winter coat pocket, taped underneath your bathroom sink, or underneath your condoms in that drawer that is definitely collecting dust, you’ll actually save money. You know that awesome feeling you have when you find a $20 bill in a coat pocket? Imagine planting that for yourself and finding a few hundred bucks. It’s worth it, I promise.

2) Save Your Change

Your change is worth pretty much nothing in the current U.S. economy. If you live in the Czech Republic and use koruna, that’s entirely different. You’ll probably use that. Still, save any unused coins weighing down your wallet, purse, or that existential dread in your mind in some empty jar that used to hold spaghetti sauce. Eventually, that change will mean something, I think. As long as you don’t put it in a savings account……

3) Stop Smoking and Stop Buying Coffee

I can hear you from the past as I’m writing this. “Shut up, Michelle. No fucking way. I am addicted.”

I know you are. Quit. If you live in New York, that pack of cigarettes costs you $10 that you could be putting towards rent, utilities, or food. A cup of coffee costs around $2.00. That’s $14 a week if you only have one cup a day. You can purchase bulk coffee and make it at home, or quit your addiction altogether. You don’t need it, I promise. You can still wake up at 5am and pretend that you’re not thinking about killing yourself that very moment your boss asks you if you sent that vastly unimportant email.

4) Buy Food in Bulk (when you have money)

Buy rice, spices, beans, pasta, barley, granola, or whatever else in bulk. It’s mad cheap, doesn’t go bad, and when you are literally too poor to purchase food, you can just boil up some water and not worry about starving to death. Don’t do this when you can barely afford food as is. Do it when you have a little bit of spending money and don’t buy a new shirt instead.

5) Buy Clothing Secondhand or On Sale, and Only Secondhand or On Sale

It won’t be difficult to keep up with fashion trends. Plenty of people shop at thrift stores and don’t give a fuck about what other people think. You can do this too. You can buy a basically new pair of pants for $2. You should do this. Is there a St. Patrick’s Day Sale at Urban Outfitters? Go. Buy that $3 bathing suit. You won’t regret it and if you do, donate it to a thrift store. If someone is trying to get rid of their stuff, offer to go through it first. Offer your friends the opportunity to do the same. There’s no rush in this world like free clothes. It’s a little sad, but you’re still pumped about it. 

6) Mend Your Own Clothing

Buy a little sewing kit at a JoAnn Fabrics, some department store, or on Amazon and learn how to sew. Your favorite shirt doesn’t have to go in the trash just yet. Also, holes in clothing is cool again?

7) In Fact, Buy Nearly Everything Used

Okay, don’t buy, like, used food or underwear. Don’t buy a used undershirt or socks. This is within reason. If you can buy a used bookshelf for $40 on Craigslist instead of $90 for an even crappier new one at Ikea, why not? Who’s going to stop you from taking that desk sitting on the street and painting it so it looks like new? You’ll probably get compliments on your handiwork.

8) Purchase Produce, Not Packaged Pre-Made Dinners

Have you even been to the produce section? Veggies are actually pretty cheap, even if you buy organic, which you still should even if you’re poor as fuck. Remember that Starbucks run you decided not to go on? Spend that extra money on a sweet potato that is only 50 cents more because it is organic. No excuses.

9) Meal Prep

Take all that produce, that dry bulk stuff, and make a bunch of something delicious that you can freeze. Not only will you eat healthier, but you’ll save a ton of money and time during the rest of your week.

10) Do Free Things With Your Friends

Obviously if you can’t spend a bunch of money, don’t just sit in the house and sulk. You can invite someone over and talk over extremely cheap tea or 2 buck chuck at Trader Joe’s. Go hiking or have a healthy picnic. Run with friends, I don’t know. Play board games. Purchase a book of Mad Libs. Have a house party instead of going to a club. Go on a bike ride in a neighborhood you haven’t explored yet. It’s possible and there will be less tension between your friends about whether or not to have another drink based on whether you can pay or not.

11) Chill on the Netflix

Assess your subscriptions: Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Magazines (if people still do that). Do you really need these? Can you watch/listen to the same things for cheaper/free? How much do you really watch Netflix? If it’s every day, you should keep it. If not, maybe hitch onto your parents’ account? I would suggest not staying on your ex-girlfriend’s account and then getting angry when she changes her password without giving it to you. Come on, you cheated on her. Are you serious?

12) Move Somewhere Cheaper/Live with Roommates

If you are paying $1500 rent and there are a bunch of places similar to yours that are $700/month, what are you really doing? You just borrowed money from your friend. Move. If you can stand living in the same room with someone, do it. Do it unless your very happiness comes from living in a place you can barely afford and eating one meal a day doesn’t bother you or make you pass out at all.

13) Walk

If you can walk, but choose to drive or take a Lyft, you should just walk. Not only is it healthier, but you’ll save a solid $12 (those taxi app prices are absurd now).

14) Travel

Traveling and meeting new people will bring happiness into your life. You’ll realize that money isn’t the most important thing in this world – that this is actually the relationships you keep and the experiences you have. You’ll remember that you can quit your dead-end job and easily change your entire life by packing up your car with your winter coat pocket savings, free clothing, extra bulk beans, and a puny little deposit, move across the country, and work on a farm if you wanted to. Traveling is not that expensive. A plane ticket to Japan costs about $400 if you buy if far enough in advance. A bus to another city could be $1. You could bike, drive, or hitchhike to Canada if you want to. Yes, you really can do it.

15) Treat Yourself

Give yourself the opportunity to buy something you’d really like to have once every month, or two weeks. Go to a bar with friends. Go to Disneyland or to brunch. Ride a boat to Catalina Island and get so hammered that you pass out in the ocean and one of your friends has to take you to the hospital so you can get on an IV. Do it. You went to college, so you deserve it.

16) Don’t Feel Bad

You’re seriously not alone. You know this. Your friends turn down your “treat yourself” plans because they can’t afford a $15 cocktail at a bar with a $25 cover. You are right there with millions of people within your age range. You know you can’t talk about being poor because there are homeless people everywhere and you should “feel good” about that minimum wage secretary job you have with your degree in International Relations and $25,000 of debt so you could get that secretary job. Well, you shouldn’t feel good about your dead-end job. You deserve to be paid more, but you also deserve self-worth. You might not have that much money, but you’re still brave enough for moving to an enormous city, perhaps knowing no one. You can get through this and if you want to, you can move. You can do anything and you don’t need money to do it.


Don’t listen to me if you don’t agree with everything in this post. If you want to keep smoking, smoke. These are merely suggestions and nothing to get angry about. This is also not an affiliated post, of course. I’m pretty much slandering a bunch of corporations in this post. Sorry, corporations. I doubt my 2,000-something following will destroy your massive business. This blog supports a $15 minimum wage for all workers, no matter how unimportant their job may seem. Rock on with your bad selves. Try to ignore that my posts are gradually revealing how little of a fuck I give as I get older and older.

Love you guys.

Photo Credit

One thought on “How to be Poor in a Rich City

  1. Pingback: Diet Series: Anna’s Story | The Barefoot Aya

Any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s