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The Art of Being Poor

Written By: Jackie Weger - Feb• 25•17
My newest release. 2.99 or read free with Kindle Unlimited

My newest release. 2.99 or read free with Kindle Unlimited

There really is an art to being poor.

It’s funny that for most of my life I had no idea that I was poor or lived in poverty. True, I was raised poor, married poor, had a slew a kids and so stayed poor. I budgeted every nickel. Now here’s the thing. My parents came from good families. Working stock. My grandfathers owned their own businesses. All had been through the Depression. Money was tight. Next along came World War II and my uncles and dad went into the military.  We had coupons for every shortage–shoes, fabric, sugar, butter, gas. I had my first stick of gum after the War. Juicy Fruit. One pair of buckled sandals got us through summers, otherwise we went barefoot. A six ounce Coca Cola was 6 cents and a treat.

When I was raising my kids there was no such thing as Food Stamps or Aid to Dependent Children or Disability. Never heard of it. My first job paid fifty cents an hour. My husband earned a dollar an hour. There was no such thing as credit cards. Or ATMs. We didn’t have checking accounts. We got our salary in cash in little brown envelopes. We fed, sheltered and clothed our families on what we earned. We ate our meals at home, rode buses to church. We sometimes went to a matinee movie. 10 cents. For family entertainment we went on picnics, crabbing and fishing.

Every single woman in my family, including me, darned socks, turned collars, replaced missing buttons on shirts and blouses and often hand-stitched our own clothes. We put Christmas for our children on layaway at department stores. We went out into the country to pick black berries and wild plums to cook up jellies.  During the War we couldn’t get out to the country. Farmers hooked up mules to wagons filled with garden produce and made the rounds in our communities well into the late Fifties. Until bylaws and restrictions were passed against it, we kept chickens and hung our wash on clotheslines.

A day trip to movies with my granddaughter ended at an upmarket bakery. I bought 6 cupcakes...almost fainted at the price: $37. Won't be doing that again--ever.

A day trip to movies with my granddaughter ended at an upmarket bakery. I bought 6 cupcakes…almost fainted at the price: $37. Won’t be doing that again–ever.

By the time I snagged my first good job, paying $425 a month, I owned a second hand sewing machine and made every dress I wore to work. Years passed and I lucked up into writing romance novels. The money was wonderful, but we got paid only twice a year. Still had to budget. I thought we had arrived at upper middle class. Nope. Old habits prevailed and that’s a good thing because everything is more costly today.

Now, I’m an indie author. It’s my day job. I pay for editing, cover artists, formatting and promotion. I pay for my websites, computers, Internet and newsletter carriers. My rule of thumb is that my books have to pay their way. Which brings me to this: Indie authors saying they cannot afford editors/proof readers or promotional fees so they put out a less than stellar book, though the story may be wonderful.

I wonder is it they don’t want to afford these critical services.  My first year of indie authorship was tight. I did not dine out. I didn’t go to a movie. I didn’t go on vacation. I budgeted for groceries, I made an extreme coupon shopping trip. I cut back on gift giving. I bought one new pair of sandals.  I didn’t feel at all deprived. My goal was to get my books out there and earning. I hit that goal.

It is much more difficult to move indie books today than in years past. So, I’m sticking to basics and taking care when I venture outside the box. I’m reeling in my budget.  Believe me when I tell you I’m baking my own cupcakes into the hereafter. Back in the day, I fed a family of seven on $37. Planted tomato bushes, basil and mint this week. I’m having a deck garden in pots this year.

What about you? Do you budget? Avoid impulse shopping? Are you searching for inexpensive services for your books? If so: Go Here.

Would love it if you followed me on Amazon. Better yet: Download one of my books. All are Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

Would love it if you followed me on Amazon. Better yet: Download one of my books. All are Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

@Jackie Weger, Founder of eNovel Authors at Work. Thanks for stopping by. Always nice to meet and greet new folks. Comments welcome.

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15 Comments

  1. Amy Vansant says:

    Great little peek into your life… and the resolve to get ahead. Being poor is certainly good practice for becoming an author! 🙂

  2. Yes, I never lost the knack of budgeting.

  3. Donna Fasano says:

    I agree! It’s an art form… a fading art form. 🙂

  4. dalefurse says:

    Thanks for a peek into your life, Jackie. Kids don’t know they’re poor. Mum had 10 of us so yeah, we were ragamuffins but we had fun. Being an author and saving, or selling something, for editing etc is just something we have to do.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Dale! You are one of a gaggle of ten? Wow. Your mum needs a halo. That’s preparing meals for 36 every day. I’m thinking of how many dishes washed–not to mention laundry. Golly.

  5. Barbara Plum says:

    Jackie, I thought for a minute I was reading my autobiography–except I never learned to knit, darn, or sew. Like you, I knew how to work and to save. That experience grounds me in the indie world of publishing where I’m not yet making enough to make me rich.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Barbara–you are not alone! Few of us get rich writing. I’m satisfied if my books pay their way and leave me a little change for a bottle of nice perfume or to treat my granddaughters to a movie. Plus, along the way I’ve met and engaged with some wonderful authors.

  6. Leslie says:

    Really loved this post, it took me back to my childhood and my mother sitting in front of the (black and white) tv, darning socks. (I refused to wear them, though.)

    As a newbie author, I’m spending every extra cent on production and marketing costs. I’ve cut out most junk food, eating out, going to the movies, drives into the mountains, clothes shopping, etc., because there just isn’t enough money for everything.

    I like being focused on my new career and putting everything I have into it: time, energy, and money. It feels great to me.

  7. In another country but so similar in many ways, Jackie. We grew up tagged as ‘the poor family’. As kids, we never knew we were, even though my high school uniform consisted of Dad’s white shirt and maroon tie, and the gym slip was worn shiny by so many girls before me. But we were well loved and that made up for any deprivation. My dad was a cray fisherman, which meant we had crayfish sandwiches for school lunches, not cheese or tomato like other children. I learned how to barter! A crayfish sandwich for cheese. Mum sewed all our clothes right down to our panties, and we slept in unbleached calico sheets. Yes, we learned how to budget too, and make our pennies go a long long way. We also learned the value of sticking at something, no matter what it cost. The same with being an author. Stick at it!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Susan Tar: You come from a remarkable family. I, too wore homemade undies. And school uniforms. When they appeared too short after a growth spurt, the nuns penned paper hems on the things. Now girls wear shorts to school.

  8. Great post. A lot of the above sounds familiar. I used to make most of my wardrobe when I was at school and college, using a hand-cranked, pre-war machine. The market used to sell remnants of fabric for pennies, and I’d re-use the same paper pattern. There’s a TV show in the UK, now, called The Great British Sewing Bee. I love it.

    We weren’t ‘poor’ but we were thrifty. Every autumn saw us out as a family picking blackberries for pies and jam. Still do it. I don’t need to I just can’t bear not to.

    And when it comes to buying clothes these days, I’m never happier than when I get it half-price.

    But I agree with your comment about self-publishing; like you, I invested good hard cash in a professional critique, edit and cover. I saw it as investment in my career.

  9. Nancy Anderson says:

    Loved your article. It’s great to reminisce and there is such a contrast to today’s technological era. I sure wish that thrifty mindset was alive in our politicians!

  10. Marilyn Kurtis says:

    I can definitely relate to you Jackie. Since I got divorced I have had to budget carefully. There is no one to fall back on for support. If I don’t have it I don’t spend it. Always looking for bargains. Thanks for sharing your story.

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