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Last year, I made just a little bit over $10000, but I still lived quite comfortably. My living expenses were roughly $450 per month, I spent about $1300 on car insurance for the year, and aside from student loans, the only real debt I had was a credit card. I do not own too many possessions, but if I want to buy something, I know that I need to save up for it. That being said, poverty in the United States still remains a problem, but it can be solved from several angles.
According to the US department of Health and Human Services, the poverty level last year, in 2017, was right around $12000. So if you made $12000 or less in that year, you were considered under the poverty line. Now, consider what I wrote above. I have been living either at or under the poverty line since 2011, and yet I still lived comfortably. I was able to travel out of town several times a year and still was able to keep myself nourished and healthy.How was I able to do this? First, I decided to make good long-term choices. I decided not to purchase a home and instead lived in apartments. The average cost of the apartments I lived at was right around $450 per month. Compared to the average mortgage payment of nearly $1500 per month, according to investing website The Motley Fool, I pay just about a third compared to them. I also decided to save up for a car and buy it without taking out a loan. I wanted to make sure that my car would last me 15 to 20 years. This was ten years ago. I still own the car today, and have spent maybe $2000 or so repairing it.
The second thing I did was make the decision to only purchase possessions that I absolutely needed. If there was something I wanted, I would have to save up for it. I also made sure I spent $20 at most in groceries, only buying the food I needed and food that I knew would last at least two weeks. This also meant I needed to practice portion control, and only eat when hungry. If I was raising a child, I would have had to tell him or her these things as well. Doing these things require discipline, and it is thing that can end poverty in the United States, at least on a personal, individual level. The blog Becoming Minimalist offers many more strategies on how to make the most out of every precious dollar you make if you are under the poverty line.
Another way that poverty can be addressed in the United States is to reconsider our concepts of social status in our culture. I have always argued that high school never really ends for an American, as it seems that we are always locked in a constant battle for fleeting social status. The concept of “Keeping up with the Jones’s” is a testament to this. Our culture still operates on mentalities where people are judged by how much and how “new” their possessions are. The minimalist who still rents and drives a 2006 Nissan Sentra at 35 isn’t successful. The person who owns the $300000 house by the beach and drives a 2018 Ferrari is much more successful. When this mentality is challenged, poverty will also be addressed that much more, as there will be less consumerism among even the impoverished, thus improving their quality of life one ounce more.
The income levels between those in poverty, the middle class, and the upper class has been experiencing very big discrepancies for what seems like forever. A common observation that people make is that rich people get richer, and poor people get poorer. And because of the combined efforts of large corporations and large governments telling people in the middle class and those in poverty what they can and cannot do with their money are systematically lowering the incomes of those who are not extremely affluent. When these discrepancies are addressed without risking higher unemployment rates or artificial inflation, it will improve poverty in the United States even further.
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