Saturday, January 31, 2009

From Prosperity to Poverty...and Back Again

To go from living a comfortable life of prosperity to "living well below the poverty line" hasn't been easy. Anyone who has been doing this one-month poverty experiment with me knows that there are times you just want to scream.

Our family moved to New York in 2004 for my husband to go to grad school. It was a financially tight time for our family. First, we were doing grad school without the burden of student loans. Second, we had saved up the first year of tuition before we moved to New York and worked through school to pay for the second year of tuition. Third, we had three small children. We weren't quite living under the poverty line, but we were sure close. We lived tight so that we could live without consumer debt (or "mommy and daddy debt"--we didn't want the strings that are attached to money that comes from parents.)

I remember going to ALDI, our favorite discount grocery store, and getting exactly what was on the grocery list. I scoured thrift stores to find darling clothes and house decor. We even drove the streets of Syracuse looking for fun and funky discarded furniture. (We still have one of the treasures that we found on the streets of the village of Camillus.) It was both empowering and exciting to know that our future freedom from debt was in my hands. My ability to control my spending, to be creative and to live well despite our lower income was a challenge and a blessing.

We were able to graduate without debt, without mommy and daddy strings attached and with a tremendous amount of dignity. Within a year of graduating we bought our first home and have been amazed at how much living with less has taught us.

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