In addition to clipping the coupons I always enjoy reading the Sunday newspapers. This Sunday the following headline from the St Petersburg Times caught my eye:
No Longer King, Queen, of their Castle
This family made all their riches in the building trade when it was booming. The husband probably did a lot of the work on their staggering 7000 square-foot home with some help, but they still had a mortgage, RV, boat, pool table, golf cart, etc. They weren't keeping up with the Joneses. They were the Joneses. Anyone with half an an eye for furniture can see the pieces in the background of the video and know that money was no object when they were sprucing up their nest. Of course his business was bringing in three to five million in better times.
Now he gets to work every other week or so and they still own too much in property to qualify for food stamps. In order to try to keep their house, they retreated to just a few rooms, and rented as many rooms as they could. They still may not be able to keep their house.
They must have never heard the phrase, "Live simply so others may simply live." After all, she paid $14,000.00 for the front doors alone. Another $10,000.00 went towards curtains.
I can understand their pain. They are letting strangers live in their home just so they can afford food and electricity, for the work is gone. Their daughters have to share bedrooms for the first time. Coming down from a three million a year business to wanting public assistance must be quite a blow to them. However, the poor person in me is wondering how they could see such lavishness as a necessity. I also wonder how they plowed through their savings so quickly.
It's weird this brief glimpse into another way of life. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I could never see myself spending $20,000.00 on a piano, or needing all of the play toys that they had.
The economy is rough for everyone to some degree. From what I've read about the Depression the very poor were sometimes better off than the newly poor, because they already knew how to survive with a lack of money. It proves true with our recession to some extent too.
I know of people in my own poor neighborhood who once made their living in the building trade. Some collect unemployment, some keep afloat with odd jobs, and some have carved dinky apartments out of their already small homes to rent to others who are even worse off. One of these apartments I saw was no bigger than a walk-in closet, but the extra $50 a week was sorely needed by the out of work painter.
I hope this family learns some frugal skills, and pull through this trying time as better people. While I can find empathy for them as this is a real ordeal they are experiencing, I also see many ways in which they may have made poor decisions.
There are many news articles lately about the rich, or formerly rich, who feel impoverished. Some readers may become angry, while others understand. I want to bring these people into my home, serve them a dinner of salad, vegetable lasagna, or roasted chicken and homemade rolls. We can eat at my card table which serves as my formal dining room table in my dining room which is also my kitchen. After dinner I can share a few recipes from my cookbooks (bought used) from my bookcase (handmade, yet still serving the same purpose as their $3,700.00 bookcase.) We could talk of several subjects. I could try to convince them to give up a few cell phones. Are you sure every member of your family has to have one? Before they leave I can show them my budget and let them know that they can survive on less. Really, it's not as bad as you think.
What's your initial reaction to the story? Empathy, anger, astonishment, or something else entirely?