You are not poor.

notpoorPIN ITIf you are reading this, there is a pretty good chance that you are not poor.

Some days you may feel poor. You may even cry poor… but you are not.

If you have food in your fridge, you are not poor.

If you have coins in your wallet or in your car or in a dish by your bed… you are not poor.

If you have fuel in your car… you are not poor.

If you have any of life’s extra’s that are not necessary… think, cable tv, coffee machines, take out, an item of clothing that you bought not because you NEEDED it, but because you wanted it at the time… out of season produce, fancy treats, new furniture, fashion… the list goes on and on. If you have any of these things, chances are… you are not poor.

Just because you don’t have the money to go on a resort holiday, or buy a bigger house, or a bigger car, or a bigger life or a better newer fancier pair of jeans… YOU ARE NOT POOR. You are privileged. Endlessly, unbelievably privileged. You may feel sorry for yourself because it seems as though everyone else has a better phone, or a better camera, or a better computer, or better clothes, or a newer couch… the list goes on and on. You may feel poor. But you are not. You may lay in bed at night and worry about how you are going to make your home repayment on the house that you bought that is far more extravagant than you need… you may have serious debt. You may have real financial problems that don’t have simple solutions. This doesn’t make you poor. This makes your life complicated, sure. We are all complicated. Debt is hard. it is stressful. It causes pain. But debt doesn’t make you poor. It’s hard to get out of debt. Really hard. But it doesn’t make you poor. You may have a business that is failing or a car that you can’t pay off. You may have too many expensive things and a credit card you can’t manage. You might live week to week on a minimum wage that doesn’t give you much breathing space.

You may be broke because you live out of your means, but that doesn’t make you poor.

True poverty is not having the means to feed your children. Or keep a roof over your head. Or keep yourself warm. True poverty is having very few choices about the way you live your life. Being poor is not having only a little money left over at the end of the month for non essentials. I have seen true poverty, both here in Australia where I work and in countries all across the globe.

You are not poor. Trust me. You don’t want to be.

I am a single mother living on a modest social security payment and a small income from my work and creative pursuits. I make far less than your average wage. I am careful about where and how I spend my money and I put value in particular things (primarily food and experiences) and I am not poor. I feel very lucky for the security system we have in this country, a system that while flawed and often painful, it is also supportive and financially generous and something I know MOST people take for granted. I don’t have debt. I don’t buy anything on credit. If I can’t afford to pay in cash, we go without. I drive a shit old (ugly old, not funky vintage old) car and we shop at op shops and I upcycle trash into furniture I love. And I prefer it that way. Instead of buying things we don’t need, I save money to travel. Because without travel I don’t know who I am. I have my own priorities, we all do. There are so many things that we may want, but we certainly do not need. So I happily go without.

We (our society) put so much value in money. How much we earn. How much we have. How much we can show the world we have with the fancy things we buy.  Our big car loans and home loans and credit card debt… We judge each other on it. I am so grossly opposed to it, and even I JUDGE PEOPLE ON IT, I judge myself on it… even if for only a moment, before I am able to remind myself that this is not the way I want to live. There is something so backwards about the way we teach our children about what is valuable in life.

What if money wasn’t the most important thing?

What if instead of putting so much value on what we have, we put just as much value on what we did. On the way we behave. On the way we treat other people. Imagine how different the world would be.

I see lots of blogs and articles and writing around that strongly focus on messages of non-consumerism more wholesome living. But then feature clothing and furniture and family props and childrens toys that are very expensive and extraordinarily unattainable for most people.

It’s really no wonder that people think they are poor, even when they are not.

It’s really no wonder our world is full of people who are putting themselves under great financial strain and stress to just keep up. And when they can’t, they feel like they are failing.

Never mind that we don’t know our neighbours… or that we are afraid. Never mind that as a society we are lonely and disconnected from one another on an honest and personal level. Never mind all of that. Instead we shop. We buy. We push past each other in stores to get to the best deals. We fill our trollies with crap to wrap and give for the sake of giving, without thinking of the cost these gifts have to other people. We try to prove ourselves to other people who are all doing the same thing. Keeping up. But with what exactly?

Why do we put so much value on money and possessions? Why is every second post I read about a “wish list” or a “must have list”?

Is this really what matters most to us? Is this what matters most to YOU?

With Christmas just around the corner, there is a lot of crazy spending going on. I get sucked into it most years. To do my part at my family Christmas. To fill a stocking. To fill a need. The need to keep up. The need to buy. To give. To receive. I wonder if we do it because that’s what we truly want to do, or if we are just so well programmed we do it without even thinking. We just go through the motions, handing over cash for colourful chunks of plastic and useless nicknacks. Cash that could be used for much more important things.

Imagine if we did it differently?

The spirit of Christmas is beautiful. It’s a joy to give. It truly is. But when we give and receive so much, do we really appreciate any of it? Or have we already started lamenting what we didn’t get? Or what we couldn’t afford to buy? Or have we already moved on to the next big thing, without pause.

Instead of buying enormous amounts of useless things to stuff stockings and pile gifts under the tree… what if we bought one well thought out thing. One thing that someone will truly love. One thing that someone will really appreciate. Just one. One thing for our children. One thing for our family. One thing for our friends. Or what if we made things. Or focused on experiences. What can I give to you that you need. Do you need my time? My skill? My love? What can I give to someone I don’t even know? Instead of stretching ourselves so thin financially that we are stressed and in debt and struggling… why not celebrate comfortably within our means, whatever that is, and focus on what really matters.

The people we spend it with.

And be bloody grateful for the fact that we have means with which to choose how we spend the little bit we have left over.

We get to choose how we celebrate, what we eat, what we give. And that in itself is a blessing that is NOT afforded to everyone this Christmas.

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  • December 9, 2013 - 9:03 am

    Lilybett - Beautifully said Sash. It’s very easy to get sucked in to comparing what we (don’t) have with what others have. I feel the twinge when I see lots of tropical holidays and stupidly enormous piles of presents in my blog/Facebook/ instagram feeds. But it passes. I’ve been worried about money recently because work didn’t renew my contract but very quickly came to realise that I have safety nets in every direction to help us if we need it. I’m incredibly lucky that it probably won’t be all that difficult to find another job thanks to s largely government funded education. I complain about the system a lot especially after an hour long wait to talk to Centrelink but I feel ever so lucky that it’s there at all if I needReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:47 am

      Sash - I’ve just started removing a lot of that stuff from my facebook/instagram/etc. I’ve had a gutfull of it. Each to their own but I honestly don’t want the consumerism and competition of it all in my face anymore. I hope your work situation improves quickly. It’s hard adjusting to a change in income, regardless of how open minded (and grateful) you may be. xReplyCancel

  • December 9, 2013 - 10:38 am

    Lila - Beautiful Sash. It really feeds in to what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, what we value. Having people literally turn their back on me because they decide that a stay at home mum doesn’t have enough value for a conversation.
    And also seeing the ridiculous amounts people I know are buying for Christmas telling me they’re keeping it small this year insane.
    We’re sticking with something to wear, something to read, something they want and giving to someone in need this year. Even that seems like a lot until you compare to others out there, it’s definitely more than enough that’s for sure.ReplyCancel

    • December 9, 2013 - 10:11 pm

      Emily - I really love the idea of something to wear, something to read, something they want, and giving to someone in need! What a great way to teach children!ReplyCancel

      • December 10, 2013 - 11:44 am

        Sash - There is beautiful simplicity in the concept isn’t there?ReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:49 am

      Sash - That’s disgusting that someone would turn their back on you because you are a stay at home mother. Though I can’t say I’m surprised. Our general decency and humanity is slipping away. Something needs to be done. I know, that’s why I’ve ended up purging a few blogs that are preaching “keeping it small” but obviously not. It’s as if simplicity has become a fad that is now overrun by expensive clothing and fancy (yet organic) toys and furnishings. I feel like there are a lot of people missing the damn point. Drives me nuts.

      x We all have more than enough. xReplyCancel

  • December 9, 2013 - 12:34 pm

    Karen - It is sooo easy to get sucked in, to feel like you MUST have it all!! Even when I spent every day working for a NGO and teaching kids about real global poverty, I still got sucked in to consumerism, it is such a huge force in our society.
    Like I told the kids,, if you have internet access you are in the top 2% of the worlds richest people (I think a running tap is top 9%) it is just crazy how we convince ourselves even still that we are poor, it is all about perspective!
    Such a great post, and a great and timely reminder! x KarenReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:46 am

      Sash - Consumerism is a very dangerous beast. It’s destroying community and relationships and human experience. It’s all bullshit. We are so bloody lucky… Thanks for joining in on the conversation. xReplyCancel

  • December 9, 2013 - 12:54 pm

    Yvette - Amen!!!!!ReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:45 am

      Sash - *High five* xReplyCancel

  • December 9, 2013 - 1:47 pm

    Julie - Thank you for writing this. Beautiful, beautiful post. Hope you don’t mind I am going to share it via my Facebook page.ReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:45 am

      Sash - Share away. xReplyCancel

  • December 9, 2013 - 7:33 pm

    Elena - Beautiful post Sash! Thank you for the gift of sharing! xxReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:44 am

      Sash - Thank you Elena. xReplyCancel

  • December 10, 2013 - 3:27 am

    Amy - Exactly how I’ve been feeling… but I’m also afraid of needing to keep up a show of gratitude for all the useless – though well meant – gifts that I’d rather not receive! Really want to enter Christmas with a peaceful attitude, not afraid I have received too much, or not given enough.ReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:44 am

      Sash - I definitely understand. I’ve just started asking people not to give me gifts. I’d rather recieve nothing but the love and the friendship of the people around me than a pile of crap I have no interest in that I then have to be gratful for when at the same time I’m thinking about what a waste of money it is. It’s a fine line. It’s definitely hard. But I think it has a lot to do with refocusing our entire families and opening a discussion about what *our* family traditions of gift giving are all about. If everyone is on the same page, it makes a big difference I think.ReplyCancel

  • December 10, 2013 - 9:00 am

    erica @ expatria, baby - Beautifully said, Sash. And I absolutely agree with the the idea that many of us need to radically adjust our notions of what poverty actually is. I mean, I love nice things. I really do. But I also understand that they’re a privilege, an illusion, and, largely devoid of meaning in the long run.
    In some ways this world view has developed more of a hold on me since moving into a five-star hotel in the heart of super-rich Jakarta. Which is ironic. Its here that I see close up the emptiness (and often downright evilness) of the money. I see first hand how assholery often goes hand-in-hand with Chanel handbags and I want nothing to do with it. You know?ReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:41 am

      Sash - Erica, I know. I really, really know. In Indo it’s so obvious too, the assholery. In the west we are *slightly* better at covering it up. That incredible distinction in Indo between the rich and the poor is so vast and so powerful. It’s an illusion. Money is only money. Things are only things… at the end of the day, both mean nothing. xReplyCancel

  • December 10, 2013 - 9:06 am

    erica - Very well said!ReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2013 - 11:40 am

      Sash - Thanks Erica :)ReplyCancel

  • December 10, 2013 - 3:45 pm

    Abeer - Brilliant post Sash!
    We all could use a little perspective. Thanks for writing. I am gonna share it :)ReplyCancel

  • December 12, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    sarah - As always so well written Sash. I too have been quietly removing things from my IG feed that makes me feel like I’m comparing, or not doing enough for S because I haven’t bought x,y and z. We have been pleased this year and managed to get off ebay a brilliant wooden bike for S. It was lovely to search, wait and win something at a good price that my husband has spent time cleaning and making like new rather than paying 4 times more for it and ripping it out a box. I don’t know whether it is the same in Oz but in the Uk there is a sort of obsession of always moving up the property ladder if you buy, like you need to keep getting a bigger mortgage and a bigger house and this and that it is crazy – and a sure way to get into debt. Being freelance I have never had a credit card, if I don’t have the money I don’t spend it.
    Me and my husband have bought new windows for christmas (rock and roll!). It took an age to save up, but it is more important to us than holidays etc – to make the house warm and more energy efficient!ReplyCancel

  • December 14, 2013 - 12:44 am

    irene betty amores - wow…this hit home. i’ve been feeling down lately worrying about money and griping over what prospects i have of the future and how small our apartment is and how i wish we have more. thank you for this post! i’ve been reading your blog for a while now, i came across it when i was about six months pregnant and i kind of related a bit because i’m from the philippines but my family migrated to indonesia when i was 12 yrs old. i’m back in manila now and i have a beautiful 7 month old baby girl. you are truly encouraging.ReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2013 - 4:43 pm

    Louise Gibbens - Beautifully put and so right. I completely agree and yet I think I’ve fallen foul of some of the things you’ve highlighted. I think I need to work on managing our expectations a little in the coming new year. We’ve maybe bought a little more than we needed to for Christmas for our two boys, and scrabbling around for the money to do so. And I’m still worried they’re not going to love it because we haven’t managed to get EVERYTHING they’ve wished for. So it’s about managing their expectations, too. Less is probably more and I set out with that intention, but little by little, the pile has grown. That said, we have totally stopped buying unnecessary gifts throughout the year like we used to so we are moving in the right direction. And I agree; love, time spent together, and experiences are the memories that will endure. I’ve shared this on Facebook so that perhaps it will make others think , too xxxReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2014 - 5:00 am

    Week 12: Radically Simple. » Inked in Colour - […] project certainly reeks of privilege. Of course it does. We live in a privileged country, full of privileged people who are constantly crying poor because they are spending money on stuff they don’t need. Underprivileged people don’t […]ReplyCancel

  • August 12, 2014 - 12:48 pm

    Magda - That’s a brilliant answer to an initresteng questionReplyCancel

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