by Daniel R. Snyder
Pick up deposit bottles and pennies. Ten bottles
and six pennies buys a can of soup. Try not to let
anyone see you. Stock up on canned vegetables
when they’re two for a dollar. Clip coupons, but be
careful. A name brand with a coupon can still be
more expensive than the store brand. Try not to
buy fresh vegetables in the fall because co-workers
usually give away extra from their gardens. Don’t
ask, but don’t turn them down. Figure out if it’s
cheaper to buy apples by the pound or by the bag,
and get whatever’s on sale even if you don’t like
that kind. Never buy anything at the grocery that
you can find at the day-old bread store. Adding
powdered milk to regular milk cuts the price in
half. Kool-Aid is cheaper than pop. One pound of
hamburger plus a full bag of elbow macaroni and
two cans of tomato sauce makes six meals,
assuming you eat crackers with it. Salt to taste.
Never wear dirty clothes. Fix seams if you can. If
you have to buy new ones, get them at thrift stores
or yard sales. Make sure they’re in good shape. You
can look like you have more outfits if you dress in
layers, mixing and matching things differently
every day. With iron-on patches, you can extend
the life of a pair pants by as much as a year, but
don’t wear them to work if it shows. You don’t need
a winter coat. Just wear a couple extra shirts. You
can always take them off when you get to work. It’s
less expensive to have new heels put on a good
pair of shoes than to buy a new pair. If the lining
on your jacket is frayed, sew in a flannel shirt.
Nobody will know the difference.
Don’t eat grapes from your shopping cart. You
haven’t paid for them yet. Never buy a book. They
are free at the library. So are DVDs, if there’s
nothing good on TV. Don’t subscribe to a
newspaper or a magazine: there’s always some
sitting around the lunchroom. Keep the thermostat
at fifty when you’re home, and turn it down just
low enough that the pipes won’t freeze when you
sleep. If you’re cold, throw on another blanket.
Turn off every light you don’t absolutely need,
including the front and back porch lights. It’s not
like you have anything worth stealing anyhow.
Never use the air conditioner. If you’re hot, ride
your bike to the library and stay until it closes.
Read the want ads while you’re there. You never
Take a close look at people’s trash as you’re driving
to work. It’s amazing how many useful things
people throw away. Do it in the dark, though.
Check the freebie section of the newspaper every
Sunday. Don’t buy off-brand light bulbs. They may
cost half as much, but they don’t last nearly as
long. Wait until you go to work to go to the
bathroom in the morning. It saves on toilet paper.
Paper towels are wasteful. Use a rag. Don’t buy
cheap dish soap or laundry detergent. You have to
use three times as much. Run all your errands on
the same day. Map first to save gas. Never fill up at
the end of the week. It’s almost always more
expensive going into the weekend.
Don’t swear. Being poor doesn’t mean you have to
talk like trash. It’s cheaper to write a letter than to
make a long-distance phone call. Make sure you
keep a list of all the reasons you’ve given for not
going out to dinner with friends. Do not use the
same one for at least six months. Write them down
to make sure. Don’t make a pig of yourself at
parties. Buy gifts at the dollar store. Everybody
likes candles. Recycle greeting cards by cutting out
the pictures and gluing them to construction paper.
People will think you’re just being creative. Give
them out in person if you can to save postage. Do
not accept leftovers from co-worker’s lunches. And
remember—it doesn’t matter if your towels don’t
match. You never ask anyone to come over anyway.
Don’t beg. Don’t steal. Resist the urge to deal
drugs. Going to jail is worse than being poor. Just
imagine what people would think of you.
Remember how lucky you are. Think about those
people shivering on street corners every winter
holding signs that say, “Will work for food.” Remind
yourself every day that this is temporary. Things
will get better.
Daniel R. Snyder is a writer living in Saginaw, whose better
works have appeared in various literary journals, including
Bellowing Ark, Controlled Burn, Whistling Shade, and the
Adirondack Review. The bad works keep a fire in his workshop
continuously burning through the cold and dark nights of
Michigan’s winter. When he’s not writing or teaching, he can
be found making huge piles of sawdust and playing with the