A twenty something vegan blogger posted a video called Food Stamps to Six Figures in One Year. If YouTube had been a thing when I was 15 I would’ve grabbed a notebook and watched it with high hopes. As a grown woman who found her way out organically I pressed play with objective curiosity and jumped to the comments; a stream of yeah but nu-ugh. Two minutes in she talks about selling all her possessions and moving to Hawaii. She had valuable things to begin with. First clue. Four minutes in she’s talking about wisdom collected from her chiropractor in high school. Second clue. Pumpkin, you’re privileged. Real poverty doesn’t come with spinal alignments, the choice to abandon reality and live on a fruit farm in a tropical paradise, unless you were born there, in which case I’m left to wonder why picking fruit doesn’t lead to YouTube success for the average laborer. Softbox kits are only $167 and an Apple, they basically grow on trees.

Privileged culture love writing books and making inspirational videos about how to sprout wings and take flight into self-actualization #bebrave; we will and thanks for the encouragement but well intended advice from up there perpetually fails to recognize the landlord is a dealer, rent is due yesterday, the car has a hole in the passenger floor, it’s the dead of winter and we can’t afford to fill the oil tank again.

According to fancy research I’m in the 3% club, meaning I’m one of 3% of ‘wicked poor people’ (they call it deep poverty) to finish graduate school. I’m smart but I’ll be in debt till I’m 90. So I emailed Pew Research to confirm the data and find similar studies. I’ve wanted proof or a how-to guide since grade school. How far can someone like us really go? I say that mostly to advertise. I’m looking for my tribe. Raise your hand if that’s you. Stand on a chair if that’s you and you’re still good vibes only despite a decade of sexual abuse, witnessing a fatality, having a bi-polar, alcoholic parent, a workaholic parent, a step-parent and got kicked out. I was only homeless for three weeks, maybe a month but hitch-hiking to no where in nothing but a sundress had an impact. Now I say it ‘gave me character’.

Without further ado, here are my real-world tips for breaking out of poverty:

  • Forgive all the people; even that one rich guy with the yacht who tried to buy your for his son. True story. Love wins so decide to do all things with unconditional love and go from there.
  • Look up. Ask yourself about the spirit in the sky. Decide on an answer or at least investigate the questions. It’s a rough road without friends in high places.
  • Use the energy in your twenties to work at least four jobs and go to school full time. Keep going to school even though you’re exhausted, don’t feel like you fit in and want to quit every day. You’ve got massive catching up to do and a social life is overrated.
  • Try not to marry a jerk who accidentally burns down the apartment. But if you do, it’s ok. Just leave everything, get out quick and fix your picker. There are friendlier fish in the sea and despite what you might think, you’re unconditionally lovable.
  • Don’t have babies…yet anyway. Each one costs between $200,000.00 and $500,000.00. Let’s think about that. Do we have the time, money or energy to grow another human? Nope. Still figuring out how dress myself. Lugging kids up the ladder sounded awful; a recipe for repeating disaster. Lots of people do have babies and things work out beautifully so don’t despair my opinion. For me, babysitting and parentification were great birth control.
  • Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you but do express sincere thanks when the Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion and Fairy Godmother show up. Friendship bracelets never go out of style.
  • Go to therapy. Read all the books. Question the world. Do codependent recovery. Write in journals. Deal with the feelings. There’s a great life waiting on the other side of self help.
  • Overcome all the bad habits you developed which helped you not rip out your hair or gnaw off your arm while you were surviving childhood. For instance, I traded in full time starvation for part time starvation. Healthy compromise is what enlightened bloggers call mindful self-compassion.
  • Learn to meditate. You don’t have to buy incense and robes or anything, just become the Zen master of your own mind. Only let the good thought-tenants stay. Kick out the low life. Filter everything through an invisible, mental fence. Zap all the drama before it enters your force field.
  • Laugh. Out loud and often. It’s only life.
  • Stay in one place and save all your work money for five years to buy a bed, a car and a couch. Don’t shop, eat or go on vacation. Ok, I did eat cool whip and corn meal but looking back maybe that was a bad choice.
  • See a doctor. I know they cost money but we can’t work if we’re dead. Ask the doctor how much it will cost to fix all the broken parts on a super tight budget. Cry in your car (Yay! We have a car!) when he tells you. Since the alternative is dying, set up a payment plan and try to not feel sad about having to wear fast fashion for at least 5 more years. Not to mention I.V’s suck. Ugh.
  • Research, prepare and apply for the one big job that will equal four jobs. Interview at eight places. Decline all the offers until you get the salary you calculated will be enough to not just pay bills but also to do cartwheels on Lovers Beach in Cabo.

About 17 years after getting kicked out you have a bed, car, couch, nice clothes, more than one pair of shoes, food, the good body lotion and you take vacations. High five. Next: write a book about how you did it.

What the world can do to make it easier for people to get out of poverty:

  • Share

Don’t wait for the giants to play nice. There’s hope. You’re it.


I’m telling you this to prepare you for the rough road ahead.~John 16

p.s This article about the new aristocracy by Matthew Stewart, not to be confused with Martha, is fascinating.

45 thoughts on “How I Didn’t End Up on Food Stamps

  1. Thanks. I ran out of food stamps this week. My daughter is with me for the summer. It helps me in the long run because I skip meals otherwise which affects my judgement. School debt is out of hand. The upside is my income has been improving every year. For the most part I’ve felt blessed. This year is different

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s why god invented peanut butter, so good parents don’t have to get low blood sugar. I’m glad to hear things are improving. I’ll send a shout to the big guy for extra favor to head your way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So — wow. This hit me hard. I raced through it, liked it, then went back and read it again. Now I want to deconstruct it and make each of your How-To Points the chapter headings of my memoir called “‘If You Can’t Be a Good Example’ — Yeah, I’m the Other One.” I love how you write. You distill truth down to an essence that is immediately understood and absolutely essential. The way you ended it is perfect. “There’s hope. You’re it.” Love and light and many thanks E. ♥.

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  3. :):) at least you graduated from grad school hehehe I had to quit school, high school that is, to get 2 jobs just so I could starve. But only the suffering severely part of starve, obviously not the death part :):) Sorry, I couldn’t help adding a little more humour to your post. Which bringe me to the lecture at hand, I am always astonished when I read how to get out of poverty to six figures, and then they proceed to tell me to sell the bmw my parents gave me for graduation(ummm) sell my designer clothes(because I only need one or 2 really) get a 1,000 dollar apartment to cut down expenses(wonders what a 1000 dollar apartment looks like), cut down to 2 lattes a day or better yet make them at home. Followed by a suggestion of couple hundred dollar latte machines to help me achieve this dream. Its usually at this point where I realize, this “advice” is too rich for my blood, or sarcastic, or a joke hahaha.

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    • Mags I bought you this $12 caramel frappiatto; the good news is it has 8,000 calories so you won’t starve 😉 I’m sorry you had to quit school but st least you’re a great writer. You said it! And you crack me up. Sell the Beamer…ugh. Someone tried to get me to read a Suze Orman book once. I opened it but was instantly choked by Red Door perfume and math for invisible money so I threw it at the wall and ran for my life. Who’s Ira?!

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      • Looks down at my “good value” coffee, that I brewed in my “cheapest coffee maker that was on the shelf” that I could find hahaha, and thinks NOBODY LIKES CARAMEL FRAPPIATTO E hahahaha. Yeah it wasn’t so bad quitting school. You had to get permission back then from the principal. He signed the box that said “yes but you have to wait 6 months” He said since I was one of the best students he felt I would change my mind. I thought, well, I have to eat, and I don’t like sleeping under a bush so a job is what’s on my mind. :):) I squeezed in the high school classes at the local college. They were free and it afforded me an actual High School Diploma. I also finish about 2 years before my classmates that I went to the local high school with, since I didn’t have to take all the extras. You know art, home ec, etc. My bosses were happy to give me a little flexibility in my schedule but they were more concerned with the labour board, who said I worked more hours than I should legally anyway. It worked out best for all 🙂 I can’t complain, well I could but I’m not mad about it. I lived more before I was 20 years old than most people live their whole lives 🙂 🙂 LOL at Ira, uh huh. I went to a financial planner at the local bank. They were giving away $25 visa gift cards hahaha. He sat down and told me that if I gave him $30,000.00 he could give me $120,000.00 in 20 years. I said if I had $30,000.00 I would go put down $5,000.00 on six $50,000.00 houses( there use to be a lot of those little cottages like that around here) and I would already have $300,000.00 in property right now, duh.

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      • 😂 How about a Dunkins? With a chocolate munchkin, every time I go back east it’s a must when I land. I give you credit for making the effort to finish your degree. And you’re right about the life in your years; that’s the mixed blessing of having to earn our lives. We get the chance to discover strengths and abilities we’d never find in a classroom. You can complain if you want 😉 I did. Service jobs, manual labor and having to re-use the same towel for a week, wasn’t much favorite. Look at you understanding banking better than the banker! A $50,000 cottage sounds like a dream.

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      • Mmmmmm munchkins. Have you ever had Krispy Creme hot donuts? Now those hot donuts are heavenly. Yes E, Here there use to be all these quaint little “cottages” that were inhabited by the fisherman, the waitresses, and the folks that worked in the fish houses, or shad factory. Now they have all been torn down and replaced with several hundred thousand dollar homes, all the way up to in the millions. If I had just had that $30,000 hahaha. I’d be a multi millionaire right now. The 2 I remember the most were adorable. I wanted them so badly. My plan was to live in one, and rent out the other. The start of my real estate empire LOL. They sat side by side. A block from the drawbridge that brought you into town. So, you could see the water in front, the water to the right(if you were sitting on the porch), and you were 2 blocks from “Front Street” which is the “true” waterfront where all the restaurants and shops are. They were asking $55,000.00 for the pair, or $32,000.00 if bought separately. I went to the bank to see if I could get financed. They not so politely laughed me out the door hahaha. Now you couldn’t even buy the porch of one of them for $55,000.00. God has His plan though, and I am happy and content with that. He has given me everything that I need, and most everything I want. I have never known you to complain E. Share you exeriances, yes. Complain, no 🙂

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      • Once on a road trip at 3am I did eat a hot Krispy Kreme donut; it was a mouthful of heaven. Like a stick of butter dunked in sugar. Your cottages also sound like heaven. What a quaint little town you’re describing. I would’ve gladly rented in your empire 🙂 oh those millionaires scooping up all the good views with their buckets of money. Sigh…Thank God for God, huh? His love empowers us to inherit the earth either way so amen for that! I complain to him haha but he usually talks me back to reason pretty quick. And surrounds me with faithful friends like you who help me laugh and see the gifts in the challenges.

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      • Yes, our quaint little town is not even recognizable any more. We were discovered, and invaded hahaha. Yes God is good to put all His children right where He wants us to be, and seems He sat us right next to each other, my friend. He wants us to bring everything to Him, so complaints are welcome. I have started practicing something new, and I have to say, praise God it is miraculous. When things are going bad, I start thanking Him. Even if I can’t think of a thing to thank Him for because I am in the midst of a storm. I just repeat, thank You God, over and over. My friend I have to say, things start happening, in a great way. I am going to try my best to keep this up hahaha.

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      • Sorry your little town got found out 😉 I love your gratitude practice! I promise not to invade your hood (though I’m glad to be your worldly neighbor) but I will be scooping up your idea. Thank you is the best prayer. ❤️

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  4. Ah, this is excellent! A wonderfully acid social critique that makes me go “Right on!” and laugh in turns!

    I liked your advice section, and it’s so weird that I have so much in common with it even though I overtly came from privilege. Covertly, though, I was materially less advantaged for my teenage years than my average classmate from families who didn’t have the assets and income that my own parents had. Some examples from my experience: No dress for the formal / no formal in senior high school (the only one who wasn’t from religious nutter families not to go), cold or lukewarm water to shower in in the wintertime, lectures about excessive shampoo and toilet paper use, a few changes of cheap clothes and shoes that got wet in winter so I had wet feet in school a lot, a work camp sentence because I accidentally cut an acrylic shower curtain too short, never knowing what decent quality fruit and vegetables tasted like till I graduated and worked professionally because with my family we got so much bruised and wilted stuff, having the cost of my existence and my pet counted into my face and feeling that I had to pay it all back somehow (volunteer labour right into my early 30s), to the point that I wouldn’t ask them for anything and starve if I had to from the time I was 16 and at university (because academically so focused I accelerated through school – my light at the end of the tunnel was independence). Malnutrition for all my university years, cycling everywhere as I could not afford bus fare, getting wet clothes in winter because I had no decent warm waterproof winter clothing and getting sick from it all the time; and then top graduate, and a graduation I never went to because of how our family was.

    And everyone thought I was a spoilt little rich girl, and my birth family still think it now. That was one painful place to be in – to be thought of by most people as the opposite to what the reality was for me. A few people saw through it and helped me – an English teacher, a university adviser, snippets from strangers, little angels along a dark road. And books.

    It’s one hell of a climb out of that dark hole and all its repercussions, Ms E., and your post really makes me appreciate all over again what a lot of work that was, and how long it took. We’re all still works in progress of course, but isn’t it strange to see in retrospect the heavy heavy load you were shackled to when young, and to only see the huge extent of that load in retrospect and from far away. At the time you just couldn’t contemplate that, although you felt it of course.

    Big hugs to you and everybody who has been through something like this. ❤

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    • Ah, Sophie thanks so much for all of this. For the validation and for shedding light on the unseen and equally invalided pain that is often experienced in families who appear to have it all. I’m so sorry for what you had to go through; the wounds of humiliation and deprivation leave deep marks that no one can see leaving us to feel we must be crazy, ungrateful or?? Cherilyn Clough writes a blog called Little Red Survivor; she does a great job describing the subtleties of narcissistic abuse. https://littleredsurvivor.com/ I think you were the one who introduced me to her work. She’s great.
      I appreciate what you said about the long climb out; you’re right and I’m sure you faced a similar mountain. It’s an important reminder that healing takes a unique combination of time, compassion, effort, rest and little help from friends who often show up when we least expect it. 😉
      Side arm group hug from me too ❤️


      • Cherilyn’s blog is excellent, and I think is also how I discovered your blog! 🙂 There was this interesting comment I followed back by an E. and then suddenly I was here! ❤ Possibly I was recommending Cherilyn's blog on another blog you saw. Or, maybe I followed your comment back from another blog; I do know I followed a comment by E. elsewhere back to its home! 🙂

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