The perception of being "poor" varies with every family... and the different words defining poor vary too.
We're just about as monetarily-challenged as we've been in a long time. A decade or two, actually. Medical bills have piled up, hubby's pay hasn't increased with the cost of simply living, gasoline prices are through the roof, our utility bill is higher each month than any car payment we've ever had, school tuition for Caboose (which came out of the blue last November) equals our property taxes per year, it costs over $100/mo to keep my blood pressure down so that I can stay alive, and usually by the 15th of the month our wallets are pretty well dry (hubby gets paid once a month... the last work day of each month).
Like in the good ole days of our early marriage, we have to try to make a quarter stretch into a dollar most of the time. We have to tell ourselves "no" to many things that we used to do & take for granted. Eating out is a huge treat now... and by "eating out" I mean McDonald's.
You know you're poor when.... sitting down to a meal at McDonald's is as big a treat as going to a fancy restaurant used to be years ago.
When there's no money in the wallet, folks have a tendency to get creative. "What can we do, to get out of the house, that doesn't cost anything?" The library's a big one for us. We usually head there, especially when we have granddaughter, because there's so many things she can do... run around, color, play on their children's computers, etc. We can get books & movies too. The library is still an amazing luxury to me & one that I'm shocked, in today's economy, isn't busier than it is. Reading books... checking out movies... for FREE. Doesn't cost one thin dime. A better deal can't be had anywhere else!
We sometimes head to our local mall as well. That place is nearly deserted most evenings & how they stay open I have no idea. But it's wonderful for our uses, in letting granddaughter run to her heart's content, in a sheltered environment. We look at all the store fronts & once in awhile we buy a few turns on the Bob The Builder ride. Granddaughter enjoys that! :-)
Yesterday was payday for us & we had granddaughter since Sunday noon. We were all feeling a little stir-crazy & money-deprived so hubby went to the bank, withdrew our monthly allotment, and we all (hubby, son, youngest daughter, granddaughter & myself) headed for the open road. Our first stop was the library, of course, and we spent about 90 minutes there. We had such a wonderful time!! We saw the son, and some of his children, of a dear former neighbor of ours who moved back to Louisiana about 7 years ago & has since passed away. It's always a blessing to see this man & speak to him, with hugs & handshakes all around, talking about years gone by. We couldn't believe how tall his oldest daughter is. When hubby saw her last, she was a toddler no bigger than granddaughter, in a frilly little dress visiting Grandma & Grandpa next door.
We all found books to read & brought home a Mickey Mouse video for granddaughter to watch while here. Our son even colored one of the pre-printed pages at the children's table (he's 6'4" tall... those long legs at that little table, sitting in that little chair... priceless!) & granddaughter did her usual library routine except this time she didn't cry when we left. She must have had her fill by the time 90 minutes was over. Have we hit on the magic number? :-)
We then all went to McDonald's for supper. It will be our only time we "eat out" for this payday so everyone ordered what they wished. No instructions to "Only order from the $1 menu, guys!" and no admonitions to "We have food at home too, guys, so don't order enough to get stuffed... just enough to fill the empty spot!". This time we had a table full of food with apple pies for dessert. We feasted & it all tasted soooo good. As we sat around the table eating, we talked & laughed & reminisced about so many things. We hadn't all been around a table, eating out, in a long time. After we got done we let granddaughter play in the Play Place at McDonald's, for the first time. I don't know if we've ruined it for future visits or not, as far as her eating before wanting to play. But somehow that thought didn't matter last night. It was a magical night with not a money concern in sight. Some playground fun in the Play Place seemed in order.
After we left McDonald's we went to the drugstore to pick-up my blood pressure pills & headed home. My heart was full. Really full... of joy, happiness, contentment. When you can go to the library & to McDonald's afterward and come home feeling like you've had one of the biggest treats imaginable, then that's the blessing of being poor. When you can find joy in the simple things, that's when you know that you are right where God wants you. He has brought you back to a place you left years ago, to perhaps locate once again some things you misplaced without even realizing it.