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It's actually really ridiculously expensive to be poor - an unfortunate truth that a lot of people are learning firsthand this year. There are even some among us who are too poor to be able to afford to work.

We know, it sounds like a complete contradiction; but it's a reality for a shockingly large number of people.

One Reddit user asked:

What's your example of "it's expensive to be poor"?

and yeah ... poverty is complicated.

Fees On Fees On Fees

Overdraft fees. Oh, you ran out of money? We'll just charge you more then!

- VonSnapp

My bank just switched our free checking to an account with a monthly fee. $7.00 a month if your account goes under $10. So if it goes under $10 they basically just help themselves to your remaining balance? It really chaps my behind.

- ComprehensiveSet902

While charging overdraft fees they also want to charge you fees for your debit payments failing - each one. But they failed cause the bank processed them started with the biggest payment instead of the order you spent and each fee lowers your balance till the last one also fails.

- MyPacman

NSF fees too. Juggling bills becomes hazardous. If you guess wrong, or lose track, or have a sudden emergency, or someone cashes a check you thought they'd already done, or an automatic withdrawal (which got me the most frequently). The payment gets refused, which, sure, if the money's not there of course the bill isn't paid. But then the company charges you an NSF fee, and so does the bank, and the bill you already weren't able to pay just got 50-100$ more expensive.

- Mjolinirsbear

The Differences

In the past 10 years, I've gone from borderline poverty to being upper middle class. Here are some of the differences:

- An overdraft/late fee could be as much as 10% of my savings account. Now it's a drop in a bucket, and having white collar job, means I know how to effectively negotiate to have fees waived.

- When you're broke you can only afford cheap products that break easily, Now I buy quality products that are built to last for years.

- Expensive dinners are completely out of the question when you're broke. Now I frequently eat great (And healthy!) meals because my job pays for lunches and dinners.

- When I was broke I had to purchase expensive equipment to learn my craft so that I could get a job. Now I my job pays me to use my equipment.

- Broke people have to pay for an expensive education to get a good job. Many people with good jobs are encouraged to take classes at the expense of the employer.

- People with good paying jobs can be 10 minutes late for work without fear that they will lose their job. If I have a good excuse, like my car breaks down, I can literally not show up for work for the day, get paid, and receive a heartfelt message from colleges offering support.

- Things like expensive booze and other luxury items are something you want when you are poor. When you work a high paying job, these sort of things are frequently gifted to you from bosses/co-workers and sometimes it becomes a hassle of trying to get rid of nice things you don't need (I end up giving away, re-gifting or donating a lot of stuff).

- When you are broke, it's hard to find a good paying job. When you have a good paying job, you are seen as a valuable and you will receive multiple job offers.

A few things that are new to me that I find weird about having money:

- Expensive clothes fall apart so fast, like the fabric will start to dull after a 3rd wash. I had an Old Navy shirt that easily lasted 20 years and never faded.

- Expensive things take up so much time and can be such a hassle to care for. Like fountain pens, nice wooden kitchen utensils, Linen place settings, etc.

- -CoreyJ-



Better shoes last longer before they need to be replaced. But they cost to much for me to afford them, leaving me with sub-par shoes that need to be replaced more often.

It's not easy staying healthy on a tiny budget. I stay fat. Shoes wear out. It's expensive for my body.

- [Reddit]

Definitely true irl. I wear duty boots every shift I work. When I was new I couldn't afford anything other than a cheap pair of $80 boots. My feet froze in the winter, sweated in the summer, and they weren't really waterproof. That first pair lasted me about 10 months, and that was a stretch.

I managed to scrimp and save for a $300 pair of Danners and that pair lasted me nearly a decade, kept my feet warm in the winter, didn't make them sweat much in the summer, and kept my feet dry in standing water up to about 6" deep. When they wore out, I sent them back to Danner to be refurbished about about $120 and have gotten another 7 years and counting out of them.

- Obwyn


Housing. The longer you commit to stay, the lower your monthly price. But poor people don't always know where they'll be in a few months time, especially these days.

- SPP_TheChoiceForMe

Oh man, got a really good look at that recently. Me and my fiancee wanted to move to a new house, and we didn't know how long it would take to sell the old one and find one we liked, so we rented an apartment in the meantime.

They had really flexible leases, with durations from 6-15 months, different prices for the same apartment.

We calculated the cost of breaking the lease at different times together with the cost of each lease, and found that even if we moved at exactly 6 months, it would be cheaper to sign a 15 month lease and pay the penalty than to sign a 6 month lease.

Moving at pretty much any point would be cheapest to sign the 15 month lease and break it (I think at 10 months, it would be very slightly cheaper to have signed a 10 month lease). Funnily enough, we ended up moving after 6 months, but we still made the cheaper choice with the 15 month lease.

- ka36

The Breakdown

car trouble vintage GIF Giphy

Not being able to afford routine car maintenance and then having to shell out thousands when it breaks down

- Grass-Content

Nothing like having to push your car off an intersection because it suddenly died and won't restart, never mind if you were on your way to school, work or similar. It's a great way to lose your job.

- MyPacman

This. THIS! THIS THIS THIS. And having a flat tire every other week because you can't afford new ones. Spending ten bucks a pop to have your old tires patched when a new one (for your cheap little clunker car) costs $85 but you can't afford that because you've spent ten bucks a week for the last six months getting patches.

- Pokey1984


Coin laundry :(

- camriver

I'm feeling this one.

My washing machine went kerplooey two weeks ago. I finally broke down and went to the only laundromat in my rural county.

$4.25 to wash each load, $1.75 to dry each load. I spent twenty bucks doing three loads of laundry.

That's $480 a year to load up my stuff and take it to a communal laundromat, during a pandemic. Holy f*ck I miss my washing machine.

- SuperTurnip

Or to put it another way, and really drive home the "expensive to be poor" aspect, in a year you'll have spent enough money to buy a brand new washing machine, without getting the washing machine.

And that's not counting the time spent there. At home you can multitask while the laundry's going.

- CommodoreBelmont

Can't Afford Health

So I'm in the US and it's "Open Enrollment" I've been looking at health insurance plans for a few weeks now. Here's my best option, as a 36-year-old single white woman with no health problems.

$235 per month (discount because I'm low-income) premium. $85 co-pay for normal doctor's visit. $145 if the doctor treats something in-office. I pay any in-office supplies that were used out of pocket. $13,000 deductible. Insurance pays 40% of hospital visits and overnight stays. Separate $7000 deductible for prescriptions. Zero dental or vision care.

Guys, I make between $800 and $900 per month. That's a quarter of my income as a premium alone. Which would be great, except if I pay the premium, I don't have any money left over for the co-pay, so I literally can't afford to both buy the policy and use it.

When I absolutely have to see a doctor I drive a couple hours to a clinic that offers huge discounts for people who self-pay. They are actually a god-send for things like sinus infections and strep throat. I had pneumonia a couple of years ago and not only did they give me the "self pay discount," making my office visit just $35, but they also found "office samples" of an albuterol inhaler and steroids, meaning all I had to buy was an antibiotic from the walmart $4 list.

I also drive an hour and a half to a Planned Parenthood clinic for my annual exam and things like that. They charge on a "pay what you can" scale. I figure out how to get by, mostly. But if anything big ever goes wrong or I develop a chronic health problem in the future, I'm gonna be so screwed it's not even funny.

I really need an eye exam as my glasses are giving me headaches, which means my prescription has changed again. And forget getting my teeth fixed, which is actually my biggest problem right now. There's no help for things like that. The healthcare situation just sucks.

- Pokey1984

Freebies For The Rich?

An inverse example is all the things rich/well-paid people get for free:

paid vacation days, gym/pool in your building, company cell phone allowance, commute reimbursement, retirement match and investing advice, paid lunches and travel, education opportunities, ability to participate in investment opportunities, references to even more highly paid jobs, etc etc.

- BurtReebus

It is definitely frustrating when I hear about rich celebrities getting giftbags with tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise in them. That is just silly.

- AbandonAllHope



Everyone always argues "it's cheaper to eat healthy! Buy X, Y, Z in bulk, check A, B, and C specialty grocery stores, meal prep and freeze for the week, grow your own produce!" But these sorts of solutions really require a base level of wealth to begin with. Not a ton of wealth. If you're lower-middle class but still ending up in the red because you eat out too much, you can probably (probably) use these tips to cut your food budget enough to make a difference. But to do these things you need:

  • to live in a place with easy access to many different places to buy food (conventional groceries, discount groceries, big box stores, farmers markets, ethnic groceries, and bulk retailers)
  • a car, or very, very reliable public transportation and strong arms
  • time to travel to all these places to bargain hunt
  • a kitchen that has all the appliances to cook and store these items, and space for bulk foods in both a pantry and freezer
  • time to prepare these foods daily, or meal prep
  • the money to buy these things up front in bulk
  • the money to pay for a bulk shopping membership up front
  • the space, materials, and time to grow a significant amount of food

  • When you live in a food desert, like many inner cities and rural areas, pick-and-choose grocery shopping is not an option. When you don't have a car or live a very short distance from the store, buying more than an armful of groceries is not an option. When you work multiple jobs to pay rent, spending many hours per week on shipping or food prep isn't an option. When you live in an efficiency apartment, complex cooking and infinite food storage isn't an option. When you don't have a surplus of money this very minute, buying in bulk isn't an option. When you live in an apartment, or a desert, or an urban house with a concrete backyard, or a place that is a snowy tundra 6 months out of the year, growing a garden isn't an option.

    Plus, everyone gives this advice assuming a single adult or a two-adult, no kids household. But not everyone eating dollar menu and ramen noodles is a broke single college kid in a dorm blowing their allowance on beer then crying poverty. Children complicate all of this even further. So people end up buying dollar menu because it's Tuesday, payday is Friday, and they quite literally have $10 to their names to feed themselves and their kids. They could buy apples, but apples won't keep the the hunger pains away.

    - TerribleAttitude


    I used to think that Costco was good for bulk sales

    My son founded a food charity and we started applying for business licenses. Guy mentioned a wholesaler to me.

    My son and I went to the wholesaler and he had 200lb pallets of pork shoulder for pulled pork- which my son needs- for $140! 200 lbs of food, which my son uses to feed like 500 homeless people- for $140.

    Or like 1000 chicken legs in cases for $0.29 per lb. something like $80 for 1000 chicken legs.

    Can you imagine if you were dead broke and spent $80 on 1000 chicken legs- you could eat for 6 months. Working with real food wholesalers is so much crazier than anything I expected.

    It's the set up for all of that - the ability to move pallets, have a huge deep freezer that all has to be there first. You're not going to have that if you're poor.

    I remember there were these cabbages, like $20 for 40 cabbages. A guy was buying like 80 cabbages to make cole slaw for his restaurant. He could spin that into profit and make money.

    I just felt like buying them and giving them to poor families. People have no idea how much more they're really paying than what food actually costs.

    - BaseballCollector

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    They say one man's trash is another man's treasure - and sometimes that saying is pretty literal.

    Lots of people build entire businesses picking up cool stuff on bulk-pickup trash day, and upcycling it into something even better that people are willing to pay for.

    Sometimes, you might even end up with something pristine and usable right away.

    Reddit user JampackedAlborn1976 asked:

    What is the most valuable item that you have seen somebody throw away or have found in the garbage?

    And for real ... some of these people scored BIG TIME. Like big time. Like really big.

    Like Refrigerator Big

    just ask leslie jones GIF by Saturday Night Live Giphy

    "Our current refrigerator is a double-door one with exterior ice and water dispensers. We got it for free, with absolutely no problems whatsoever. It's just a few years old."

    "How we got it? My dad (civil engineer) was doing some work on someone's apartment when they said they had bought a new modern French door refrigerator and that they were just going to discard their current refrigerator."

    "My dad simply asked if he could have it.. and they said yes." - SauloJr

    Immigrants In Action

    Dog Brazil GIF Giphy

    "I immigrated to the US from Brazil when I was 12. And every Saturday, my mom, stepdad, sister and I would go out at night to upper middle class neighborhoods the day before trash pickup to rummage through the garbage they were putting out."

    "We found perfectly good TVs, VCRs, microwaves, couches, lazy boys, tables, books and comics, etc."

    "I couldn't believe these Americans were throwing out like that. We furnished our entire house with that stuff. The entire Brazilian immigrant community in my town did it. We were flabbergasted." - PhillipLlerenas

    With A Note

    Television Bunny GIF Giphy

    "My wife yelled at me that someone put a big TV outside with a note on it. Walked across the street and it was a brand new Samsung 37 inch HDTV."

    "They were actually renovating the apartment building and got an upgraded TV. Even had the remote taped to it with batteries, I guess I have really nice neighbors here in NYC." - MadLintElf

    Life Hack!

    studying busy philipps GIF by Drunk History Giphy

    "If you want high end stuff out of the garbage for free, follow these steps:"

    "Pick a city with a large university in it. If it's a school well known for its law programs, or medical, or engineering, all the better."

    "Search for luxury apartment complexes that market themselves towards students. Look for things like included shuttle service, pools, fitness centers, etc. The more expensive and swanky the better."

    "Figure out when finals week is at the end of Spring semester."

    "Dumpster dive at those luxury apartment complexes during that week and the following weekend."

    "Very wealthy international students will arrive in the US, fully outfit an apartment with nice furniture, big TVs, audio systems, gaming consoles, you name it, and when the semester ends they just junk it all because they aren't going to fly it back to wherever, and it's too much effort to spend the time selling when they do not care about the money."

    "It's a smaller scale phenomenon a little like all the luxury cars abandoned at the airport in Dubai." - whattothewhonow

    Literal Gold Treasure

    valley of the boom david kim stanley GIF by National Geographic Channel Giphy

    "I found a gold coin at goodwill for 5 bucks. It was in a case with someone's name and company name."

    "It was their gift from the company for retiring. I assume the family threw it out when he died not knowing it was solid gold. It was in a in a thick solid plastic case that had to be cracked opened."

    "It literally said 1 oz fine gold on it. I figured 5 bucks was worth the risk it not being real."

    "It was a South African KRUGERRAND 1 oz coin. Everyone was just too busy to read it lol."

    "Bought it and took it too a pawn shop and sold it for a couple grand." - streetmitch

    The Best Day Of My Life

    Will Smith Wow GIF by 1LIVE Giphy

    "When I was a kid, I grew up right outside the Los Angeles area in the suburbs. My stepdad was a garbage truck driver for the city of Beverly Hills."

    "I swear in the late 80s and early 90s we'd have so much basically brand new stuff (still in boxes) brought home on a regular basis."

    "I'll never forget one day in particular. My stepdad came home and was like 'get ready, come to the car, I'll need your help.' So I go down there and in back seat of his car he had a few large black garbage bags."

    "We haul them up to our apartment and he's like 'go ahead, open them.' Inside was what I could only describe as an 80s kids trove of treasures."

    "One bag contained just about every Ghostbusters and GI joe toy you can imagine, they were played with but had every little accessory, there was a bunch the playsets and everything."

    "In the other bag was pretty much every LEGO of the early 80s sets, still in their original boxes. I was a big LEGO nerd but was totally thrown off by the old school space ones because they looked nothing like the 90s space sets. I think they even said "NASA" the minifig's chests."

    "That was like a random day in July, it felt like Christmas. I was 9 years old and it was basically like the best day of my life up to that point." - Zombgief

    Who Throws Away Money?

    spongebob squarepants money GIF Giphy

    "A jar full of quarters."

    "Annual spring cleaning projects happen in a lot of towns where anyone can put almost anything on the curb and it's taken away for free. It's to stop open dumping or stuff being dumped in ditches."

    "Sometimes people deal with estates from winter by just dumping all their grandfather's stuff on the curb for the cleanup to get the house empty immediately. Most often they don't even bother to look at what they are throwing away."

    "In 2012 on north road in Akwesasne I found an estate pile that I shuttled back and forth with my bike trailer getting lots of older tools like a scythe, hammers, saws, screwdrivers and wrenches, a 22 rifle with 100 round of ammo, a bunch of ar15 magazines, cast iron cookware, oil lamps, a hand crank food mill with all kinds of accessories, a black raven axe head (worth $100 easily since they are a collectable), and a quart size mason jar full of change mostly quarters."

    "That was spring and the sheriffs office did a gun buyback in the fall where I took the mags and got $20 each for them (30 round mags suddenly illegal under the safe act of fall 2012. The buyback was a local political move). I still got the 22 and picked off a lot of woodchuck with it in my gardens." - Bogtrotterso1980

    Filing Fever

    Files Workload GIF Giphy

    "I own a small company which is located directly in front of a state funded program facility. The state decided to have this office shred all of their files as they were going to switch to electronic data (exclusively)."

    "We found two of these old rotary filing cabinets outside of their office. They're worth almost $3k each!"

    "They just placed them there and we saw them and asked what they planned on doing with them. They said, 'Hmmm.....either donate them or trash them.' The state told them simply to get rid of them."

    "We jumped at this and took the two into our already tiny office because there was no way in hell that we were going to let these gems go. (We do use paper files, unfortunately)."

    "They wanted to give us two smaller ones but seriously, our office is very small. I made some phone calls and they were picked up immediately by other office workers/friends." - GlitzBlitz

    This Sucks - In A Good Way!

    mrs doubtfire vacuum GIF Giphy

    "In the 1990s my moms work had a really nice high end Hoover that stopped working. They threw it out."

    "My mom took it home because my dad tinkers and repairs things easily. Turns out since it was a bagged vacuum all the dummies had to do is REPLACE THE BAG."

    "Like it never occurred to them to do the most easy and basic step. My parents were excited to have a really upgraded vacuum. Maybe like $500ish." - schweddyboobs

    Tiffany's Trash

    Audrey Hepburn Movie GIF by The Good Films Giphy

    "My dad found an old stained glass window laying out by someone's trash. He thought it would look cool hanging in our cabin, so he stopped and grabbed it."

    "It sat in our garage for a few years before he looked at it more closely and found "Tiffany and Co." branding on it. He got in touch with some stained glass window dude who figured it was worth about $40k fully restored, so my dad sold it to him for somewhere around $30k." - throwaway_stopdrink

    Have you had any awesomely trashtastic treasures? Let us know!