Unlike many of my fellow financial bloggers, I have gained street cred (credentials) when it comes to having been poor. When we first came to San Jose, CA in the early 1980’s, my family lived with another family until my parents were able to save up to rent an apartment. The house we lived in was a typical three-bedroom, two-bathroom house on McLaughlin Avenue. My parents were friends with the adults who rented this house. They met in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Things didn’t get any easier once my parents were able to rent an apartment. All they could afford, despite the fact that they both worked full time, was a one-bedroom apartment in Sunny Court. My sister and I slept in the living room. The food was not always plentiful. I remember many times when there wasn’t much to eat and school was where I had my only regular meals. Clothes were bought on an as-needed basis at the thrift store. The shoes came from friends or, if money had been saved, from Payless Shoes.
Living month to month in those days was stressful, even for a child. There’s nothing worse than your parents visibly trying to make ends meet and you can’t help. In Mexico, he would have taken to the streets to sell gum or shine shoes to earn money. But in the United States, there are laws… child labor laws. You must also be able to speak the language in most cases. At that time, he had just begun to learn English.
I’m not ashamed to admit that as a kid I was trash diving, shoplifting, and working adult cleaning jobs around the neighborhood. Anything to help my family. I am not proud of the acts that were illegal, seeing them as avoidable now with adult eyes, but as necessary to me in those days. Life without regrets is not life at all.
From my experience, today I can offer you ways to raise money that may be widely known among poor people, but not so much among the middle class. Okay, so maybe my middle-class brothers know the following ways they too can raise money, but they can see it as “beneath” them.
Most people do these things because they need money to pay bills, eat, and survive. I have done this simply because I wanted cash to invest and was not willing to use leverage (debt).
1) Store aluminum cans and glass bottles instead of putting them in my recycling bin. After four months, I take them to the recycling plant in Oceanside, CA and sell them, earning between $15 and $25. It’s not much, I know, but multiply that by 3 and you’ll have an extra $45-$75 per year. The poor do not recycle; they look for cans, plastic and glass bottles, and sell them!
2) Sell something of value at the pawn shop for quick money. I’ve sold unworn watches (birthday/Christmas gifts) and electronics. Save a lot of time.
3) Sell things on Craigslist. Don’t you use your bike anymore? Make a Craigslist ad and sell it to a private party. Find valuable things around the house you no longer need to sell on Craigslist. If you have a lot of things but not of great value, then do #4.
4) Garage or garage sale. Jessica and I have a garage sale at least twice a year. We collect from our junk sales about $100 each time.
5) Sell a gift card for cash. What!? Yes… have you ever received a cash value gift card and knew you weren’t going to use it? Sell it to a friend or go to the place and cut it up. Have the person take the card and get a balance check if they don’t trust you.
6) Selling blood (I’ve never done this…too much chicken). Find your local blood bank and sell that plasma!
7) Sell your hair on eBay. Yes, you can sell your hair online. I’ve never done it because nobody wants my hair, but if I had Fabio’s locks…
8) Do you have corners? Look under your couch cushions, your bed, dusty drawers, under your car floor mats, wherever. If you’ve been saving coins, then it’s time to head to the supermarket and find your nearest Coin Star machine. It’s easy to use. Just throw away all your change and the machine will count every penny, print you a receipt that you can then take to the line and cash out – just like a casino!
9) Start using coupons and take a break from going organic. Poor people have no choice when it comes to buying condoms and junk food at the supermarket. For them, the price is the selling point. But for us, we can opt for healthier foods from Trader Joe’s, for example. I’m not telling you to eat below your means, but if you want to save a little more for a few months, this may be an option.
10) Take the bus or go to work. This is an option we have that the poor may not have. A bus pass will cost you between $30 and $45, depending on the city you live in. You probably spend twice this amount, even with falling gas prices, driving to and from work every day. Like #8 above, this would also be a temporary strategy. Don’t you want to sit among the poor? Convince a coworker to join your savings plan. Or if you didn’t sell your bike, go to work for a month.
11) Buy cheap wine. I used to buy $11-15 Cabernet Sauvignon. I would drink about two bottles a month. Then I found Sutter Home Moscato and Cab’s for sale for $3.99! In the neighborhood I used to drink malt liquor and nasty beer. Now what interests me are tasty and cheap wines and micro/craft beers. However, I have sometimes reduced the latter when I was on a savings “program” to invest. You could prepare your own!
Being poor has given me insight that most people at my level of wealth don’t have. I can do several of the above without feeling embarrassed or embarrassed. I am confident enough with my circumstances that for me the above scenarios are optional ways to raise money for investment purposes only. But what about the people who have to rely on these money-raising strategies to survive? I can imagine it. If this is your life, I can give you some great advice: Stop blaming others and feeling sorry for yourself! This won’t help you one bit. Instead, start by creating a list of ways you can improve. Improve what? Here are some of the lists you need to make and brainstorm:
1) Free ways I can improve (what I know and am able to do).
2) Ways I can improve my decision making.
3) Ways I can improve what I spend money on.
4) Free ways I can make those I meet better (emphasis is on smartly finding money, “better”, people to have as part of your network). You can count on me as part of your network!