Not sure why I felt the need to censor myself there in the title, but whatever. Fuck it.
Oh, that’s why.
You could argue that technically I’ve been poor pretty much my whole life. My parents were never exactly “rolling in it” when I was a kid, and even less so when they divorced. Mum was on the DPB (Domestic Purposes Benefit) for a while there, and working at the same time which meant she had less money than if she just sat around doing nothing just collecting the benefit. I’ve had jobs, of course, but I’ve never quite mastered the art of living within my means – the more money I make, the more money I spend – there was a time I could afford to buy a brand new full-priced Nintendo DS game every week and I was still broke come day-before-payday. And when my alcoholic tendencies started to properly kick in, I got even poorer. But right now I am the poorest I’ve ever been, as an adult at least. Work & Income pays my rent for me, luckily as right now I can’t be trusted to pay it myself, and after that I get $120 in my bank account each week. Except it’s not $120 because there’s always bank fees or interest payments on my perpetually maxed-out overdraft, or credit card transactions I forgot I made or that weren’t actually processed when I made them so I have to pay them now. Usually I end up with around $100 – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. If anyone doesn’t believe me when I say I want to get back into work as soon as possible they can eat my d***. Being poor is shit.
But there have been some positives to being on the bones of my arse. Well, I like to call them positives because you have to have something to laugh about or you’ll just wither and die, probably. The positives are random things that I have learned via necessity. Things that a normal person with a reasonable income would possibly never even notice or care about. So I decided to make a list. This one is as much for me as it is for you, a reminder of how things aren’t so bad really, and a reason not to cry I guess even though I feel like it so often.
- Number one: You can open canned goods with a butter knife given enough patience and/or determination.
Okay well maybe not one quite like that.
It’s true! I don’t know that I’d try it with anything containing brine, ie corn kernels or peas, unless you’re fixing to make a huge mess, but it works. You simply take the tip of the buttering end of the knife, place it where the blade of a can opener would normally go, get a firm grip on the knife handle and the can and then bash the can down on a bench. Voila! You have a hole in the can now! But don’t keep bashing because you’ll make a mess. Instead, just wrench the knife backwards and forwards around the top of the can with a bit of elbow grease and eventually you’ll have access to those delicious baked beans or whole peeled tomatoes.
- Number two: The name “rice cooker” is really only a suggestion.
I should say right from the top that I’m by no means the original repurpose-er of rice cookers. My mum owns a nail salon, and for that she needs moist and warm hand towels. How does she accomplish that? By keeping them in a rice cooker, of course. Because as it turns out, they work just as well as purpose-built appliances and cost less than half the price. But I digress.
I’ve learned that you can cook damn near anything in a rice cooker. You can cook noodles, boil potatoes, make soup, shallow-fry meat patties, slow-cook a stew, and I soon plan to attempt a bacon and egg pie with which I foresee no problems. They’re brilliant little machines and if you’re poor I recommend acquiring one. Hell, even if you’re not poor it might make for some entertaining time-wasting trying to figure out what will or won’t cook in a rice cooker.
- Number three: Really cheap video games are ALWAYS worth it.
Good news everyone! …wait
It’s no secret that I love playing video games. My gamerscore on Xbox 360 is currently sitting at 23030 and I’ve had this account for just over three years. That’s about 7676 gamerscore per year. If that means nothing to you just trust me, it’s kind of a lot.
Now I, obviously, can’t afford to play all the new games that come out and it’s not even really all that cost-effective for me to rent them, so what do I do? Why I trawl the game sales of course! Now is a fantastic time to be a gamer, not just because of all the amazing new stuff coming out, but also because of the sales. The platforms that I personally use have been great in the last three months and I have gotten endless enjoyment out of them. From the interactive visual novel Dysfunctional Systems that I picked up on Steam for $4 to the mental “Burnout-esque” Driver San Francisco on Xbox 360 which I snagged for $3.28, I have had a ton of fun playing all kinds of different games for considerably less than the price of one major brand new title.
Even if the game you buy doesn’t turn out to be all that fun, if you spent less than $5 on it then you didn’t really lose much. And if you bought it digitally then you can always come back and try it again later.
- Number four: Budget brand foodstuffs isn’t often actually all that terrible.
You know the ones. The brands that sit next to the ones you buy. The ones with the crappier looking packaging and/or brand names that include the word “brand”. The ones that are 89 cents while the ones that you buy are $1.69. But guess what? You could save a TON of money! Those cheaper brands, while sometimes yes they are terrible (I’m looking at you, Budget Cola), are usually just the same thing as what you’re buying but with a different name on the pack. For example, I recently had a can of spaghetti (yes, I opened it with a butter knife!) which was labelled “Home Brand”, but I swear if you’d served it to me and told me it was Watties I’d have believed you. And Pam’s potato chips? Some flavours are actually nicer than the Bluebird equivalent.
- Number five: Buying music digitally is much easier and cheaper than buying CDs.
The music is cheap because they didn’t spend any money on detail for this image.
It may be that I’m just really late to the party on this one, but it’s something I discovered about a year ago. Really like that one song you heard on the radio? Just buy that song! iTunes has basically anything you’ll ever want and you aren’t forced to buy the whole album just for one track. New Zealand pricing for songs is usually between $1.29 and $2.39 depending on how recent or popular the particular track is, but not only that, the whole album itself is usually considerably cheaper. Last year I picked up a Bic Runga album for $10 and you can bet your arse it was probably $30 at The Warehouse at the time!
- Number six: Potatoes and onions are your friend.
You can not tell me that this does not look tasty.
Ostensibly two of the most boring vegetables known to man, potatoes and onions are cheap. Dirt cheap if you’ll excuse the pun (because they grow in the dirt get it??). But you can add onion to basically anything! And potatoes don’t have to be boring. One of my favourite foods is mashed potato and gravy, and it’s probably the easiest thing in the world to make – peel potatoes, boil potatoes, mash potatoes, eat potatoes. You can even dice onion to mix through it if you’re feeling adventurous or literally only have potatoes and onions in the house.
Both potatoes and onions are so versatile though. Everyone (most people) loves fried onion with their barbecued sausages in bread. Potato and cheese bake is a hit with kids (and with me because it’s so friggin easy to make). Raw onion mixed with mashed boiled egg and mayo goes great in sandwiches. Fried potato is nearly easier to make than mashed potato and if you add a bit of salt it can be eaten on its own… or with fried onion!
- Number seven: Water isn’t really so bad.
I just want to go swimming in it.
When I had money I used to hate water. Tasteless, dry, boring. I would drink nothing but powdered drinks, soft drinks, syrup drinks – anything with a flavour that wasn’t water-flavour. The only exception was when I needed to take a pill of some sort. Being poor has shown me the error of my ways.
Chilled water is now probably one of my most favourite things. I keep a 2.25l bottle of water in my fridge at all times and it is the best thing ever for cooling off before bed on a warm night or for refreshing yourself first thing in the morning. I’d probably still choose lemonade if I had the option, but hey, water isn’t the awful gross liquid I always thought it was is my point. And the best part about water is it’s free!