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Adventures in Poverty - Part 2

In January of this past year, I still didn't have everything together.  Winter bills were killing me, again, and water bill got being.  Then turned off.  That sucked, but here's how we handled it.

I live in Michigan, and in Michigan we get snow.  Lots of snow.  This is advantageous when you have no running water.  For flushing the toilet, we would pack buckets full of snow, bring them in the house, let them melt, and then pour them quickly into the toilet to force it to flush.  It worked quite well.

For cooking water, my [ex] Husband brought over gallon jugs full of water, and when they were empty, he'd refill them for us.

For showers, I went to the school locker room, again, and my son would go to my step-dad's to take a shower after school every day before coming home.

Then, I got the money together, paid off the bill, and turned it on.

Just writing this so if you ever get the water turned off, you have some ideas of how to make it work :)

YMCA Here I Come! LOL

For a long time, I've wanted some sort of fitness center membership.  I want to get in shape.

I'll be starting school again next fall, and the college that I'll be attending does have a student fitness center, with free memberships for students, but the hours are horrible, and it doesn't do me any good right now.  It also wouldn't do my son any good.

Enter the YMCA.  The local YMCA has a state of the art fitness center, offers free fitness classes to members, and has a pool.  They're open from 6am to 9pm, 7 days a week.  The fitness center and pool are open to not only adults, but children accompanied by adults as well.  They have youth basketball programs, and a self-defense/karate program for 7 and up.

I found out that they offer scholarships to low income families.  The scholarship covers up to the cost of the initiation fee and a year long membership.  I'm turning in my application tomorrow.

I never knew about the scholarship.  I knew that the YMCA had a fitness center, but other than that, I was clueless.

So... hopefully, very soon, I'll have that membership for my son and I.  They also have a homeschool program, that offers fitness and swim programs for homeschool families.  I'm excited!

And the YMCA is right on the bus line that I take to go downtown :)  Can't beat that!

Good times... NOT

So I got up this morning with the intention to spend my day working.  I have just now gotten to where I could even remotely start working at all.  This computer has been giving me problems for quite some time now.  It's slow, and it crashes frequently.

Over the weekend, I began playing around with a dual-boot of Windows and Kubuntu, doing most things in Kubuntu, and using Windows only for those tasks that I have to use Windows dependent programs for.  It worked quite well.

Until this morning.  When I went to load up Windows, and got the repair feature saying that windows could not start and that it was attempting to repair.  After going through this multiple times, it simply would not start.  I had to do a full restore to factory condition.

Which, of course, meant losing all of my installed programs, having to wait while the start-up went through, Windows downloaded the updates, and then downloading and installing all of the programs I need.  And the backup of my files.

Not fun.  I need a new computer, and don't know how I'll ever afford one.

Adventures In Poverty

The last year or so has been tough.  Actually, my whole life has been tough, but the last year has been worse in some ways.

Last August was rock bottom.  Really, because it's been a struggle to go up, but I've been going up since then.

In August of last year, my husband moved out.  And my power got turned off.  Yup.  August sucked.  Thus began the adventure without electricity.

And it was an adventure.  First, was moving everything from the refrigerator to a cooler, and trying to use it as quickly as possible.  Son loved that we ate ice cream for dinner that day.

Next came grocery shopping to try to find stuff that could be eaten with having to cook it.  Lots and lots of canned goods.

The gas was still on, so the hot water heater worked, so we were still able to take baths, which was good.

For the computer, I would spend most of the day at the community college that I was attending, with my laptop plugged in at the student lounge.  They have wireless internet access there, so I was able to get logged on and do my work.

Then in the evening, it was walk home and turn on the candles.  My son and I would play board games by candle-light, or read books.  It was good times.

Then in September, the gas got turned off too.  Technically, the gas and electric should have been turned off at the same time, but apparently there were issues with the gas meter at that house.  Showers were now impossible, but I didn't let that get me down.  I went to the women's locker room at the college everyday to take a shower.  My son spent a lot of time at my step-dad' house after that.

Then in late October, I got a student loan disbursement that was large enough to pay the over $1800 that it took to get power and gas turned back on.  Just in time, too, as the night they turned it on, it dropped below 40 degrees!

I've had people ask how it got so far behind, why I didn't just pay my bill, and why I didn't go to the state for assistance before it got so bad.

First, my husband at the time was not working a very high paying job.  We had enough for rent and for the utilities through the summer, but winter 2006/2007 was expensive.  Our heating bill skyrocketed to over $600 a month.  And the landlord refused to install better windows or put in insulation.  We paid as much as we could.  By May, the past due bill was up to over $2000.  I continued to pay as much as I could on it.  I had begun working from home, and was contributing my small income to the bills as well, but it wasn't enough.

The bill continued to add up.  By August, with the payments I had made and the added ongoing bills, I had it down to less than $1400.  It wasn't enough.  They turned it off.  I went to the state.  They couldn't help.  They were limited on funds, and could only pay $650, not enough to get it turned back on.  I spent every day for a month calling the Salvation Army first thing in the morning to try to get on their list, but they'd run out of funs before I could get through.  It was crazy.  By the time my student loan came through, I had to pay the past due bill, a reconnect fee, and a huge deposit.  Yeah, it hurt, but at least I had power again!

When you live a tough life, when you go through tough things, you learn how to cope, how to adapt.  You find tricks that work.  Like what to eat when you can't heat it up.

But the funniest thing, my son still talks about those two months like they were the best in his life.  There were fewer distractions, and it was like camping out for him.  I miss that.  I think tonight, we'll camp out with candles and play board games in the spare bedroom.


I'm a giver by nature.  Several years ago, my husband and I were doing pretty well for ourselves.  At least pretty well by my standards, which means we brought in $18,000 that year.  I went to the bank to pull out the money for rent (we always paid with money order, the landlord preferred them) and then went to the grocery store next door to the bank to do some shopping.  There was a woman there with four kids.  Their clothes were clean, but obviously worn.  You could see the signs of hunger in their faces.

As she walked down the aisle, she'd pick something up, look at the price, and then decide whether she could afford it or not.  As I watched her go through the store, she put back much more than she actually put in her cart.  She ended up with a half gallon of milk, a bag of cereal, and a case of ramen noodles.

I overheard one of the children whispering, "Momma, do we have to have ramen again for dinner?"

"I'm sorry, we don't have the money for more right now."

Right there I made a decision.  I walked up to her, handed her $100, said, "You need this more than I do right now."  And walked away.  I got in my truck, and drove to my husband's work and told him what I'd done.

He wasn't exactly pleased.  I hadn't given the rent money away.  Nor had I given the grocery money away.  It was money that would have been used to buy some other thing that we didn't need.  I'm not even sure what it was for, something he'd wanted that is obviously meaningless if I can't remember it.  He didn't quite understand how I could hand $100 to a total stranger.

He didn't grow up hungry.  His parents weren't wealthy.  They were lower middle class, but still much better off than my family was.  They owned their own home.  His dad had full-time work with medical benefits his whole life.  Even now, his dad does well as the assistant chief of a fire department.  His mom was a stay-at-home-mom until she passed away when he was in his 20s.  They never got divorced, they were always there for him and his brother.

He didn't know what it was like to wonder when your next meal would come.  To be so grateful that you got to go to school, because at least you'd eat once that day.  To dread summer vacation, because you never knew when you were going to eat those months.  To have ketchup soup, because the bottle of ketchup was the only food left in the house.  To know what the strange cans of food that came from the federal surplus for the poor tasted like, and that yes, when you're that hungry, you would eat them no matter how bad they smelled.

Government cheese was a joke to him and those he grew up with.  It was a luxury for me and those I grew up with.  Food stamps were a handout, dirty, something to be avoided to him.  Food stamps were, and are, a blessing to me, ensuring that food will be in the cupboard.  He didn't have teeth that were cracking not from lack of hygiene, but from malnutrition throughout childhood.  He assumed that poor people who were fat were that way because they ate too much.  He didn't realize that it was often because they were so starved that their bodies went into storage mode as soon as they got food, storing every spare calorie possible.

I understood all of that.  All of that and more.  So I couldn't watch a family starve when I had extra money that I could give them.  I still can't, and I never have extra money now that I'm single, divorced, struggling to make it on my own.

But I still give what I can, when I can.  Extra canned goods I send to the food bank every week.  I get the surplus commodities, and there are things that I can't use.  Those get donated, passed along to someone who can.  I bake, giving the neighbors who run out of food the last week of the month, before the next month's food stamps come in, bread and bagels and sausage rolls, because while I don't have a lot, I've learned how to make sure I have enough even with the little that I have.

When Giving, Don't Forget the Basic Essentials

Having grown up in poverty, and still struggling with it, I know all the area food banks.  I know that if I go up to GCAARD, I can get a huge box of free food every month.  I know that there is a church on Dort Highway that gives away tons of food every Thursday.  I get food stamps, and am learning to use coupons to extend my buying power.  I know that there is a church downtown that offers lunch and access to their food bank every Tuesday.

Clothes are also not that big of an issue.  There are several churches that have clothing banks that I can get free clothes for myself and my son.

What does become and issue for me, and for many, many others in need, are the basic household essentials.  Toilet paper, laundry soap, shampoo, tooth paste, cleaning supplies.

When you're already short on your house payment, and don't know where you'll come up with the money to pay the heat and electric, when your water is about to be turned off, you don't have the money to buy these things.

Food stamps don't cover them, and the few food pantries that do offer them as additions to the food pickup run out very, very quickly.

My best Christmas present each year is the very, very large basket of household supplies that my step-mother gives me.  She gives us 24 toothbrushes, enough for my son and I to have a fresh one every month.  24 packages of toothpaste.  2 dozen boxes of soap.  A huge refill bottle of hand soap.  12 bottles of laundry detergent.  A dozen bottles of shampoo.  And a dozen large packages of toilet paper.

Those gifts mean that I don't have to worry about taking any of the money for my house payment or my utility bills to by those things that are necessary for personal hygiene.

Green BECAUSE I'm Poor

There have been times when I couldn't afford to buy toilet paper.  I did, however, have lots of cotton fabric from someone that had freecycled some craft materials.  I washed it in hot water, dried it so it shrank, and then cut it into large squares.  That became our toilet paper for the week.  It got thrown into a bucket with a lid, and rewashed every evening, dried, and ready to go for the next day.  Imagine how surprised I was to find that people sold these online!

I've done the same thing when I couldn't afford to by pads or tampons.  Again, imagine how surprised I was when I found out about Glad Rags and other reusable cotton pad replacements!

I keep the heat in the house at 65 through the winter, and simply bundle up in sweaters and other warm clothes, and lots of blankets.  I do this not to reduce my carbon footprint, but to save money.  Heat bills kill me through the winter.  Same goes for electricity.  Lights are off, unless someone is in that room.  When I'm working on the computer at night, the light is off, because the screen puts off enough light to see.  Again, it's not to reduce my carbon footprint, but to save money.

I work hard to keep everything in working order, and in very good repair.  That's not so I save energy, that's so that I don't have to worry about the furnace breaking down in the middle of the winter, with no way to replace it.

I'm debating whether or not to buy a dryer in January.  I probably won't.  I'll buy a washer, but in the summer, I can hang clothes outside to dry, and string lines in the basement to hang them to dry in the winter.

All these things that I see suggested as ways to green up, and save the environment, are things that I've had to do to save money and just to survive.  It's kind of interesting to see how everyone is changing and adjusting and moving to a lifestyle that I have no real choice but to live.

It's all about the Expectations

If you expect to fail, you will.

If you expect to succeed, you will.

That's how I live my life, with the expectation that I will succeed.  Some days, it's easier to do that than others.  When you come home from a long day of classes, to find a note taped on your door, and that note contains a positive pregnancy confirmation, with the words, "Sorry, Michael, but you have to tell her," and Michael is your husband, and the note is from your best friend...  it can be hard to look past that moment and expect anything but disappointment.

When the doctor, after the fifth MRI, says, "We can't confirm that it's Multiple Sclerosis, but based on all your symptoms and all the tests, it probably is," it can be hard to look past that moment and expect anything but hardship.

When you wonder how you're going to make the house payment, let alone pay any of the other bills, and then the computer, on which your entire livelihood depends, crashes with an irrecoverable error, it can be hard to look past that moment and expect anything but loss.

When you look back at a life filled with abuse and deprivation, it can be hard to look past all those moments and expect anything but more of the same.

I make it my life mission to look past those moments, because they aren't what life is about.

Life is about looking at your child for the first time, knowing that in spite of being born 6 weeks early, and nearly dying because the doctors didn't catch the placental abruption as soon as they should have, that he's going to be okay.

Life is about watching that same tiny little boy grow up, and laugh and play and joke, and watching how smart he is.

Life is about those little moments when a stranger shows kindness.  A new neighbor offers a stove, and when you can't use it because you don't have the right hook-up, says he'll keep an eye out for the right one for you, and he means it.

Life is about forgiving those people that hurt you, and realizing that while they did some pretty hurtful things, pain was never their intention, and everyone makes mistakes.

Life is about looking for opportunities, and seizing them when they come, no matter how small they might be.

Pancakes - In a Rice Cooker

I had a short-lived blog about cooking various things in a rice cooker.  I might just have to revive it one of these days ;)  Until then, I'll put some of my recipes and tweaks here.

So why do I cook in a rice cooker?  If you haven't read any other post on this blog, you might not realize that I don't have any major appliances.

No refrigerator ~ All cold items are stored in a plastic bucket on the back porch until I'm able to buy a fridge.  It's cold, so it's good.

No washer and dryer ~ Between the laundromat and my sweet [ex] Husband, my clothes get washed.

No stove/oven ~ I cook in a rice cooker, boil water with my Hot Shot, use my sort-of-working microwave, and bake in an 18-quart roaster oven.  I also have a bread machine.  I don't bake in it, I just use it for mixing dough.

I was once called the MacGyver of the kitchen.  I can cook anything in anything.  And, well, it's pretty much true.  I have yet to encounter something that I haven't been able to cook with those small apppliances that I have.

Okay, so pancakes in the rice cooker.

A rice cooker is a boiling pot.  That's it.  The sensors are set to click the cooker to warm when the pot gets above the temperature of boiling water, 212 F/100 C.  As long as there's water in the pot, it will stay on.  As soon as all water is absorbed by something else, or evaporated, it will click to warm.

It takes some things longer to cook in the rice cooker.  I actually made brownies in there once, but it took 8 hours.  I won't be doing that again.

Pancakes take longer than they would on a stove, but not that much longer.  And you end up with perfectly round pancakes, that aren't prone to burning :)

Okay, so how do you do it?

Use whatever pancake recipe or mix you like.  Mix according to normal directions.

Put a small bit of butter in the rice cooker, and turn it on.  You could also coat the bottom with cooking spray instead of butter.

Put about 1/2 cup of batter in the bottom of the cooker and let it spread out.  Leave it on until it clicks.  Check the pancakes.  When the entire top of it looks dry, it's done.  Depending on the thickness of the batter, this could be as soon as it clicks to warm, or it could be a few minutes longer.

Using a hot pad, take the cooker pan out of the cooker, and flip your pancake onto a plate.

Perfect pancakes in a rice cooker!

Only one side will be brown, and that's the side that ends up on top when you flip it onto the plate, so no one will really know the difference!

And it's so much easier, and much less messy, than cooking them on the stove!

No coat, No gloves, No scarf

This isn't a post about my son.  He's got a nice coat, three of them actually.  And half a dozen good pairs of gloves.  And four scarves.  He's bundled and warm for the winter.

Not me.  My coat is a size two small, with a broken zipper.  No gloves, no scarf, no winter boots either.

All over, there are donation boxes for winter coats for children.  And that's great.  Because kids need coats, they need to stay warm.  I see so many parents around town wearing designer clothes and fancy coats, while their kids are in rags, and it's just... wrong.  My kid comes first.  Always.  If we're low on food, he gets to eat while my tummy rumbles.  It's okay, I've got plenty of extra padding to keep me going, and could stand to lose a lot of it.  If it's a choice between buying him something, and buying me something, he's the one that gets it, whatever it is.

I chose to buy a house when it was offered to me for the same payments that I was renting a far worse house for so that my son would have a safe place to live.

Moving without a car was no easy feat.  It was only a block away, but the neighbors got a kick out of watching us move all of our belongings using two little grocery carts and a borrowed wheelbarrow!  [ex] Husband came over one Saturday to help move the furniture using his Dad's truck, but other than that, everything went with the little carts.

Anyway, back to what I was saying.  There are so many great, great resources for kids to get winter coats and gloves and other necessities like that.  And I'm so glad there are.

But there aren't any for adults to get the same things.  It's kind of frustrating at times.  But at least I know my son is warm.

Grocery Shopping Today

Just got back from grocery shopping.  My [ex] Husband comes and drives me to the grocery store when I need to go, which is very sweet of him, especially considering how busy he is.

This week was my first attempt at clipping coupons.  Having recently moved, I got a free 4 week subscription to the local paper.  When the Sunday paper came, I decided to clip, clip, clip, and see what I could do.

I also had a checkout coupon for $9.00 of $110 or more.  I hit that and then some today.

All told, my total, before coupons, was $221.94.  After coupons, my total was $175.55.  That's $46.39 in savings.  Yay me!

I now have a full "refrigerator."  LOL  Okay, so I have a full box of cold food sitting on my back porch with a sturdy lid to keep the animals out.  I'm buying an actual refrigerator when I get my tax return...

Lots of goodies today.  Tons of frozen veggies, and bunches of Pillsbury rolls.  I had a TON of Pillsbury coupons today.

And lots of water.  About a month ago or so I quit drinking Pepsi.  I had a MAJOR addiction going.  Caffeine and sugar withdrawals were bad.  But I just really wanted to quit.  I want to lose weight, and I knew all those empty calories were NOT helping me at all.  So I stocked up on Motrin, and I quit.  To replace the Pepsi, I started drinking flavored sparkling water.  Good stuff, and my picky-eater son likes them, too!

Groceries are one of my largest expenses.  Right now, I receive food stamps.  The $335 I get a month for that is enough to feed my son and I, with some left over each month, or some for extra goodies if we want.

Mostly because I buy in bulk, and I make most things from scratch.  In fact, today I bought two loves of bread for the first time in over a year.  I had coupons for them, they were on sale, and the coupons were doubled.

I bake bread, I make soup, I do all sorts of stuff.  Making it from scratch is just cheaper.

And I do it all with no major appliances... Just an 18-quart roaster oven, a cheapo bread machine, a hot shot water boiler, a toaster, and a rice cooker.

Tax Return Not Gonna Last

Tax return time is when I buy the big stuff each year.  Last year, I bought two computers.  One died, and the other is already on its last legs.  Not good.  But I likely won't be able to replace it with the tax return...

Have to buy a refrigerator, a stove, a washer and dryer, a car, and I promised to take my son to Vegas to see his bio dad...

And anything left needs to go into savings towards monthly bills...

It's kind of depressing.

What would I do with $6000 worth of HP products?

Wow. A lot...

Such a great opportunity, thank you for this contest!  Thanks Living In Theory!
And this contest too!  And thank you Firemom!
And this contest!  And thank you TechMamas!

These are part of the HP Blogger Magic giveaway, just incredible!

First, a bit about my story, so you can see where I am.

I'm single. Not by choice. I was married for nearly seven years. We were separated for the last year of it. He cheated. I forgave. She got pregnant. We split up. We're still friends. All of us. Yes, even her and I.

I have a son. He's 11. I was single when I had him. His bio dad wasn't ready to be a father (his words) and I didn't want the hassle of forcing him to be something he didn't want to be.

And so now, I'm single again. It's okay, I'm doing okay now. Not necessarily great, but I'm happy with my life, and where it seems to be heading.

When [ex] Husband and I separated, I had to buckle down and work to support myself for the first time in... well... pretty much ever. I'd lived with my mother before getting married, and while I had worked to pay for my son, mom paid the house payment and utility bills. When I got married, he worked and I stayed home to take care of the kid.

I had skills. Typing 100+ wpm, admin skills up the wazoo, and was going to school for a degree in Philosophy and Psychology when we got separated. School got put on hiatus. Making money to put a roof over our head was a tad bit more important.

This year, I will make less than $10,000. I can say that with confidence because the year is almost over. And because I supported myself and my son, working from home, and homeschooling, buying a house, and paying all my monthly bills on that.

We cook from scratch a lot to make sure we can afford everything...

Anyway, yes, you read that number right. It's not a typo. A 1 with 5 zeros after it. Actually, it'll be more like $9800 give or take a few dollars depending on the work I get in the next week or so.

Insane, ain't it?

And now you see the problem... well, not so much a problem. I work at home as a transcriptionist. I want to expand into Virtual Assisting work. Would LOVE to expand. If I could get 10 clients paying $35 an hour for one hour of work a week, I would be SET. That would quite nearly double my yearly income. Woohoo! That would rock.

Problem A. My computer. It... well... it sucks. I bought two computers last year with my sizeable income tax return. It was the last time [ex] Husband and I filed jointly, and he let me have the entire return. Not sure I'll get quite as much this year. Maybe, maybe not.

One of those computers was a nice, big laptop. 3G memory, 160G hard drive... loaded. LOVED IT. Until it DIED. *head->desk* Luckily, I'd bought a second one for my son. Had to take it back from him. He was so bummed :( He still gets to use it, but not as much. We have to be careful. If this one dies, we're... well, we're screwed. I don't like that kind of screwed. Because there are no jobs around here. I live in a state with 12% unemployment, in the city where GM was founded... It SUCKS. There's about a 15% unemployment rate in this city! NO JOBS. My work from home is it for me.

So we're careful with the computer. Very careful. It blue screened on me once, and I cried. Literally. Tears, screaming, panicking... luckily, a restore fixed it.

But it's not a very good computer. Slow. Very slow. And starting to give me problems now.

So yeah, I really actually need a new computer. But there's so much MORE I would do with that HP package.

Oh, what would I do!

I'd keep the Touchsmart. Powerful, and looks cool. It would likely do everything I need for my work, and oh, so much more.

I'd give my son the mini. Why? I homeschool him. Most of his curriculum and work is done online. Right now, we have to do this scramble shuffle thing to figure out who gets the computer when. And if I've got a lot of work on a deadline? His schoolwork suffers. I don't like that. So that one would go to him.

The HP Pavilion Entertainment notebook... would go to my [ex] Husband's girlfriend. I know, I know, that probably sounds strange. I'm telling you, my life is strange, and so are my relationships! Their son will be 9 months old on December 18th (he's so cute!) She wants to go back to school and get a teaching degree. But their computers... well, they're worse than mine! His laptop has a 126M processor... and she's working on a 7-year-old Mac! Having the baby means putting him in daycare if she goes back to school. Been there done that, I know how hard that is on a kid! So I'd give her the laptop so that she can take distance learning classes, and work around [ex] Husband's work schedule, so they don't have to put baby Ty in daycare!

I'd keep the printer. Oh so useful for my son and I to have that. I could use it to help expand my business, printing flyers and such, and my son could use it for printing out lesson plans and projects to show family members.

The HDX notebook... wow... I mean, I wouldn't need it! So where would that go? There's a women's shelter in the area that is struggling. They try to find jobs for the women that they are trying to get out of domestic violence situations. I'd probably give the last notebook to them. They could use it in their office, or use it to help the women search online for jobs.

So, yeah, that's where all that stuff would go.

And what would I do on my new computer? What would my son do? As I said, he homeschools, so he'd do all sorts of school work.

And me? I'd keep this blog up. It's about poverty, but not in that vague abstrat, "Oh there are so many poor people" way. It's about living it. And trying to get out of it.

I'd expand my VA business. Having an up-to-date computer that doesn't lag me into insanity would make it oh so much easier to expand! I have DSL internet (love the Cavalier), but this computer is so slow at times, that it crawls slower than dial-up! Makes it hard to get anything done when I just want to pick it up and throw it across the room!

And then maybe, just maybe, I could work on my real dream. A housing foundation in my area. Buying abandoned and foreclosed houses, fixing them up, and selling them to low-income families. Because really, there just aren't enough programs out there like that. In my neighborhood alone, there's a dozen houses that sit empty, and could be refurbished into decent housing for people who are working hard to survive.

So how would I do that?  I'm not entirely sure, but I'd love to start a non-profit foundation that accepts donations.  Those  donations would then be used to purchase the abandoned houses in the area.

Those that could be repaired would be, through donations and volunteer time and materials.

Those that could not be repaired would be demolished, making room for new, eco-friendly housing to be built on the property.

Then, families would be found to buy those homes.  They'd be sold on low-interest loans, at the cost of the house and repairs, on terms that the family could afford.

It's a big dream, and one that I've had for a long, long time.

But I have to pull myself up out of this before I can do that, and a good, reliable computer would help me to do that.

Life Without Major Appliances

I currently have no major appliances.  No refrigerator, no stove, no washer, no dryer.  None.  I haven't had any since moving to my new house in the beginning of October.

Before moving, I had all of the above.  The dryer had quite working months before.  The washer would continue to fill, even when it was off.  I had to turn the water line off to prevent overflow.  Only one burner on the stove worked, and the oven only worked some of the time.  And the refrigerator would alternate between freezing everything, and letting everything thaw.

So instead of bringing these appliances that needed to be replaced to the new house, I left them there.

And have lived quite comfortably without them.  How?

It's winter where I live, and very cold.  Anything that needs to be frozen goes in a closed box on the back porch.  It works quite well.  And it's free.

I fill plastic containers 3/4 of the way full with water, and put those in the back porch.  I've got about 15 of them right now.  At any given time, five of them are placed in a cooler inside, where items that need refrigeration, but not freezing, are kept.

For cooking, I have multiple small appliances.  A hot shot very quickly boils water for me.  A rice cooker is used just like a pan on the stove.  In fact, I made pancakes in it this morning.  I have a bread machine for mixing dough, and baking is done in the 18-quart roaster oven.

And my [ex] Husband takes my laundry to his house once a week and washes it for me.

And so far, that's all I've needed.

I am, however, going to buy a refrigerator and stove when I get my tax return.  I'm debating whether or not to buy a washer and dryer... My laundry comes home washed, dried, and folded... and I don't have to do it, so it's tempting to just let him keep doing that!

So, Did You Get a REAL Job Yet?

I got asked that question the other day, by none other than my son's bio dad.  Immediately before telling me that he's jealous because of how much free time I must have.

*head->desk*  lather.  rinse.  repeat.

He's not the first to say that to me, though, and I suspect he won't be the last.  It grates on my nerves.  I sort of want to hit people when they say that.  Good thing I've got (sort of) decent self control.

My family whines that it must not be a real job because I don't make a lot of money.  Nevermind that I have a roof over my head (that I'm buying), bills are all paid, and have food on the table.  I don't have the big screen TV and all the latest gadgets, so it must not be a real job.


What do I do?  I spend the majority of my mornings typing.  Currently, the main source of my income is transcription.

Then in the early afternoon, after lunch, it's house cleaning time.  Considering I'm a slob, and my last house was an unholy mess... getting the dishes done everyday is a miracle...

After house cleaning time, it's time for Tarot and Oracle readings.  These, for now, tend to consist of freebie readings that I give to my peeps at a large forum that I belong to.  (Really need to quite doing that...)

Then I log onto the chat readings site for a couple of hours, hoping to snag a couple of readings, and build my clientele there.

Then I log onto the phone readings site for a couple of hours, hoping to snag a couple of readings, and build my clientele there.

I'd really prefer to do live, in person readings, but not having a car puts a bit of a damper on that.  (That situation, I have decided, WILL be resolved with the tax return coming next month...)  I know, I know, I should get some flyers made and post them, inviting people to come for readings to my home... and I'm mostly comfortable with the idea of that.... except that I'm a slob still working on making sure my new house doesn't become an unholy mess...

Now, during all this work, and sometimes the transcription ends up taking the place of all of the above... I'm also homeschooling my 11-year-old son.

So... if any of that sounds like it's not real work to you, please, please, please, please... trade places with me!

Bills... and stuff.

I hate bills. I really do. So I try to have as few of them as possible.

House payment
Phone/DSL payment
Gas and electric payment
Water payment

And... that's it. Yup, those are all the bills that I currently have. Which is, of course, why I'm able to live on less than $10,000 a year.

House payment puts a roof over my head. Pretty decent one at that. I wouldn't say it's in the best neighborhood, but it's not the worst, either. The most excitement we've had was when the brother's living in two houses across the street got drunk and got in a fight a couple of months ago... Two story, three bedroom, full basement, and a nice yard. For $18,000, on a zero interest land contract at $375 a month, which means I'll have it paid of in four years. Yup, beat that one, babay!

Phone/DSL is a necessity. I shopped around for the lowest price options amongst the very few available providers in my area. Comcast, AT&T, and Cavalier are it for options that would get me phone and high-speed internet service. Comcast, well... I wasn't going there. Installation alone was nearly $200, and monthly payment for phone and internet was going to be $100. For just $30 more I could add cable... no thank you. AT&T wasn't bad for DSL, just $14.95 a month, if you had a phone. That would have rounded the bill out to $110 a month after taxes and fees. Youch! Cavalier was my bet. $50 a month plus taxes and fees for unlimited local and long distance with all the options AND 6G DSL. It works out to just over $60 a month. Yuppers, that's the one I've got.

Gas and electric... well, there's a monopoly going there. Sure, you can contract with a different gas provider for lower gas rates, but Consumers still charges up the ASS for delivery fees to make up for it, so you really end up saving zilch. In the summer, bill is around $60. In the winter... well, let's just say I save all summer to pay my winter bill...

And water is only about $40 a month.

No cable TV. Yes, that's right, I don't have cable TV. And my TV doesn't pick up broadcast channels, so I don't really watch TV. We have DVDs, I have a Zune with dock that allows me to download video and play it on TV, and for those shows I REALLY HAVE TO WATCH (House, Heroes, The Starter Wife, Psych, Life, Fringe, etc...) I get them on Hulu. Thus another reason to have broadband internet :D Well, besided the fact I make my living online...

No car. Yes, I have no car. I'm debating getting one in January when I get my nice fat tax return. I could buy a car, and pay a year insurance, and put a chunk on a gas card to get me through several months, but... then I wouldn't be able to spend that money on other stuff. Still debating. Cars are expensive. My [ex] Husband bought a cheap car shortly after he moved out, and he and his GF are CONSTANTLY forking out cash they don't have to fix that thing. And with a 9-month-old son, they are always broke because of it. Cars ain't that appealing to me.... I take the bus. And have an [ex] Husband who I'm still sleeping with to take me to the grocery store once or twice a week... Car is not a necessity. But it sure would be nice to be able to hop in the car and head to Borders or to the YMCA for a workout on a whim, instead of having to wait for the bus...

Don't have credit cards. My credit sucks, so couldn't really get them anyway. At least not without paying out the ass in interest rates. No thank you.

There's a couple of reasons that I don't have that many bills. First, I can't afford them. I mean, come on, I make less than $10,000 a year!

But also, I don't want that many bills. I have, literally, everything I need, and most of what I want. If I don't have what I want, it goes on the TAX REFUND LIST. This is the list of things that I want to buy each year when I get my tax refund, which will be HUMONGOUS this year, due to buying a house and getting a nice credit for doing so. Every year, I get a very nice tax refund. Because I pay out extra in taxes. Sure, it doesn't earn interest like it would in a savings account, but I can't get to it but once a year, so it actually gets saved.

Last year, I bought two computers. One crashed in the summer. I haven't had a chance to send it in, though it is still under warranty until March. [ex] Husband has it at his house, as soon as I call the company and change the address, he's going to send it in for me. I'm working on the other computer right now. And they're good computers. Even if I bought a new one, it would be pretty much the same thing that I bought last year. So, I don't need to buy a computer.

I'm going to Las Vegas with some of the tax refund money this year. No, not to gamble. And not to get married, either. My son's father lives in Vegas, and we're taking a week or two to go see him. He was supposed to be a one night stand, a fling. Yeah... 11 years later...

And I've got a few Tarot decks on my list, ones that I just haven't had the money to get, but that I really, really, really, really want. So I'll get those.

I'm going to buy a refrigerator (don't have one), a stove (don't have one of those, either), and a washer and dryer (nope, don't have them). All used. That'll run me less than $500 for all of them, including delivery and installation.

And... that's it. That's my big spender list for the year. About $1500, total. Out of about a $6000 tax return.

So what do I do with the rest of the money? I pay my bills ahead.

So, I'm broke.

Yes, broke. Really broke. I make about $10,000 a year. Yes, that's a 1 followed by 4 zeros. I'm am so far below the poverty line that the poverty line looks luxurious to me.

I am a single mom, recently divorced. I am buying my own home. I am self-employed. And I'm living a life that I enjoy. We want for nothing.

Oh, there are things that I would buy if I had more money, but I don't need any of those things. Not even close to need any of those things. We have food on the table for multiple meals a day. I'm homeschooling my son. We have two computers (well, three, but one is in the shop right now).

And this blog is about how I'm able to have everything that I need, while making the little money that I make.

Don't get me wrong, I want to make more money. Emergencies are, well, a crisis around here, and I'd like to have an emergency fund. And I've got goals that will help me to do that. But right now, we're making it on what I bring in, and it ain't much!