WARNING, using credit cards can be like carrying a loaded gun. At the same time, they can be financially beneficial if you know how to shoot. On the other hand, they can be deadly if you don’t. In fact, many people do end up in debt using them. The interest that accumulates can make it impossible to ever pay them off. Groups that help people get out of debt prohibit their use altogether.
But in my case, using credit cards is part of my financial survival toolkit. With this caveat, I also strongly suggest the following. If you are not able to be vigilant using them by never missing a payment, do not include them in your financial survival toolkit.
How I Make Money Using Credit Cards
Yes, I have actually learned how to accumulate cash or credit towards purchases using my credit cards*. So far, I have discovered two ways to create income. If you know of others, please let me know. I have the following cards:
• a cash rewards card
• a travel points card
* The ‘income’ from them, the cash rewards are not taxable because the money is a discount or purchase rebate, not income itself.
Cash Rewards Credit Cards
Some banks offer credit cards that accumulate cash points for purchases. The points are a percentage of the expense. They range between 1% and 3%. I have been able to earn about $20/month with this system.
Travel Rewards and Sky Miles Credit Cards
I signed up for a travel rewards credit card when the bank had a special promotion. If I charged a certain amount of purchases within three months, I would receive 20,000 in travel points. I did this. The travel points will go towards a trip out of state to see family and friends.
Sources & Resources
Here is a list of the best credit cards for a variety of categories. You can explore these websites for even more suggested card categories.
We love stories. We can read a book or have one read to us. Perhaps a story is online or viewable on the multiplicity of media available. Ultimately, the results of the creation of an authentic story is a treat for us all. Besides entertaining, a story can be informative. In addition, it can promote a business or a product. Whatever the purpose, the process is basically the same. In this post, the focus is on the process.
The Creation of a Story
The process of creating an authentic story requires intensive research and lots of writing. I’ve created several stories containing the required elements. In all four authentic story situations, there was access to primary sources and extensive research. Sometimes having access to primary sources is impossible. So when it does happen, it can be very special for both the writer and the reader.
Four Authentic Stories
The authentic stories here touch upon four different non-fiction topics:
• business-a multi-million dollar corporation that started in a janitor’s closet
• social issues-The Middle Class Poor Crisis, a serious situation that exists today
• creativity-a creative-organizational process called Knolling
• music-some very special musicians
Each of these stories is set up as a series of blog posts. To read each of them, click on their link. That will be the first post of the story. You will be able to read the additional posts from there.
The Story of A Corporation That Started In A Janitor’s Closet
Poor middle class thrifty shopping tools are part of my financial survival toolkit. My toolkit is filled with tools that I have discovered and tools that others have shared with me. By participating in this process, we are all part of a financial survival support community.
This blog post is part of the series, The Poor Middle Class Crisis. Most of the thrifty shopping tools that I describe in this post and have added to my Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Toolkit come directly from a dear friend of mine, Danny Eitingon. He is very much part of my financial survival support community.
Using The Financial Survival Toolkit
Thrifty shopping tools from a financial survival toolkit can help many other poor middle class people survive, as well. Sharing this information is how we can help each other to survive. Not only do I welcome and appreciate input to fill my toolkit with but we also all benefit from sharing tools with each other. This give and take can helpful for everyone. In fact, it is why I call this exchange a financial survival support community.
A Financial Survival Support Community
Thrifty shopping tools are intended to help Poor Middle Class people. In addition, these tools are prudent for use by people who are still middle class. Becoming an educated consumer is especially important now. We can all benefit from being part of a financial survival support community. We take tools when we need them. Then we add tools when we can spare them. The following tools that have been shared with me and added to my Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Toolkit.
Shop at Dollar Stores
• Shop at the dollar store for short-life items. For example, you can buy soap, napkins, toilet paper, shampoo, paper towels, etc. There are many perfectly decent products, including environmentally friendly ones, that really do only cost a dollar!
Save on Gas
• Go to Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood.
Alternatives to Expensive, New Furniture, Household Items and Clothing
• Consider a buckwheat mattress
• Acquire wooden furniture like tables, dressers, desks from places like the Salvation Army
• Shop thrift stores for good quality, second hand, even vintage clothes
Buy In Bulk
• If you are shopping for a large family or need large quantities and have the storage space, join Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s for less than $50/yr. You can save hundreds, possibly thousands per year buying in large quantities or bulk.
Buy Store Brands
• Try store-brand rather than name brand products. Many are significantly cheaper. In addition, quality is very often not compromised. This is especially true with cleaning products and other household items.
• Recycle soda bottles, cans and water bottles
You will be surprised by how much change you can accumulate using this simple thrifty shopping tip.
Negotiate on Utilities
• Contact your Internet service provider, telephone, and other utility providers every six months. That way you find out if the they are offering less expensive plans than you currently have. Sometimes, you can achieve significant savings by contacting your utility companies on a regular basis. Try to negotiate more economical plans.
Compare Credit Card Rates
• Check your credit card companies on a regular basis. See if they’re offering new cards with lower interest rates or better rewards programs than the one you have. Banks will not automatically transfer your account to a lower-interest or better reward credit card. Instead, they will let you cancel your existing card and apply for a new one.
Join Credit Unions
• Join credit unions instead of banks. Their interest rates and fees tend to be significantly lower than banks. Credit unions offer the same exact products and services as banks. In fact, credit union customer service is often significantly better.
Get Online Savings
• Subscribe to online savings (21st Century coupon clipping)
Many companies offer discount programs if you provide them with an email address or text number.
Save on Car Insurance
• Shop around at least once every 12-18 months for cheaper car insurance. This is especially important if you have an excellent driving record and/or are a senior. Significant savings can be realized by changing car insurance from time to time.
Compare Service Contractor Costs
• Always shop around for service contractors of any kind, e.g. plumbers, carpenters, electricians, car repair, etc. The competition among trade contractors can be fierce, but make sure you check out their reviews before hiring one. Angie’s List or similar services can be very helpful in this regard.
Subscribe to Consumer Reports
• Subscribe to Consumer Reports to check out their product reviews. Their research on the quality and value of appliances, electronics, and cars is really reliable. It can save you a lot of money in the long run.
The Poor Middle Class Crisis is real and it is serious. This Financial Survival Resource Guide can help individuals and families alleviate the effects of the Poor Middle Class Crisis. The guide consists of a series of blog posts. The goals of this Financial Survival Resource Guide are:
1. to make people aware of tools to help build a financial survival toolkit
2. to encourage people to form ‘financial survival support groups’ or communities with other poor middle class people
3. to share our experience in the day-to-day survival as poor middle class people to give other people hope for survival
At this time, the guide is a series of blog posts written by me for people like me, the poor middle class. This post is an overview that introduces all of the blog posts in this guide. Because I am a visual person and I love tool boxes, I am using this great lime green tool storage box as the storage box for my ‘Financial Survival Toolkit’.
LIST OF BLOG POSTS
Each blog post title is an underlined link to the post itself. Click on it to view a post that interests you. They include:
The US homeless housing crisis today affects over a half a million people, both individuals and families. This post is one of a series of blog posts, The Poor Middle Class Crisis.
• introduces the homeless housing crisis itself
• is a vehicle for the public to become more aware of this crisis
• provides resources of services that are available to the homeless
• is part of the goal to help end homelessness
Mark Horvath and Invisible People Fighting Homelessness
How I Am Different From A Homeless Person or Family
What makes me different from a homeless person? I still have dignity, self-respect and a sense of belonging. Other people treat me with respect. I have a roof over my head and my name is on the lease. Without that roof and a permanent address, I become part of the homeless housing crisis community. This can lead to the loss of many other qualities of life. We take so many things for granted. Things like:
• having a dwelling with several rooms
• accessing a kitchen to cook in
• sleeping in a warm bed
• taking regular baths or showers
• grooming oneself regularly
• washing clothes
• having medical and dental care
Without these amenities, one can spiral down, beginning to look and even feel different. A homeless person can become so different that they ultimately become invisible to the rest of the world.
Mark Horvath, a champion for the homeless, calls the homeless, Invisible People. He seeks to end the homeless housing crisis in his lifetime.
A Homeless Spokesperson
This video bring out some crucial issues. Certain things are needed by a homeless person to become employed again. The public thinks these are luxuries. They are not. Everyone needs a cell phone and a laptop. Both the employed and those seeking employment need them for their work.
Smartphone & Social Media: A Solution to Combat Homelessness | TEDxSyracuseUniversity
A Homeless Person’s Lifeline
Social media, a cell phone and iPad in particular are the lifelines for a homeless person. They are often the sole means of communication with another person. It may be a family member, a friend, another homeless person, calling for help or a ‘warm line’ to hear a friendly voice at the other end of the line.
Essentials For The Homeless Individual
Besides the ‘life and death’ things like food, shelter, clothes, blankets and medical care, these are also essentials for survival when someone is homeless:
• clean socks
• a place to receive mail like a PO Box
• a cell phone and laptop
• access to a cell phone ‘warm line’
• knowledge of wifi hot spots
Many homeless people agree that official homeless shelters are not the best place to stay. As a result, homeless groups band together to seek safe, optional homeless housing. Protected, warm spaces are the priority. The homeless create homeless housing communities like tent cities. Groups gather within the infrastructure under bridges. Abandoned tunnels are popular homeless dwellings. Assistance organizations do exist in some states. There are homeless housing programs for veterans, as well. Families are put in temporary hotel housing. But much more needs to be done to eliminate homelessness in the US.
How To Help End Homelessness
We can help end homelessness:
• Donate to InvisiblePeople.tv.
• Increase awareness about the homeless housing crisis
• Speak in public about homelessness in our communities
• Hold a presentation about Invisible People
• Contact our elected officials
This post follows, Affordable Housing. Some of the ideas for alternative living resources are fascinating. They are definite considerations if they fit one’s lifestyle or goals. As I had mentioned in the first part of this series, some information would be geared to seniors. Most of these ideas are for younger people or for the young at heart.
Live Rent Free
Here are some alternative housing resources that are unique lifestyle options. Tips from the Yes, You Can Live Rent Free.
• Farm Livin’
• Fun With Fido
• Share A Home
• Work As A Nanny Or Au Pair
• Volunteer for Uncle Sam
• Move Back In With Mom and Dad
Invest In A Tiny Home
Tiny homes have become quite a craze. They are much smaller than a regular home. They cost much less. Therefore, they usually do not require financing. The can be mobile. They are available premade or custom built. Due to the nature of a tiny home, it is possible to become a homeowner at a very reasonable cost, for tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This allow their owner to have more mobility with their funds and their home. There are a huge number of links about tiny homes on Google. My favorite company is Tiny Heirlooms. HGTV and the DIY Channel both have shows about Tiny Homes.
Relocate to A Cheaper Area, State or Another Country
Either for a change of scenery or because someone lives on a fixed income, relocating can be a good alternative. There are online resources for all of these options. Chambers of Commerce are a good source of information. Websites for potential expats are as well.
Poor Middle Class Affordable Housing is hard to find. But it is a top financial survival toolkit priority. Without it, poor middle class people can fall into the following crises:
• unable to pay bills
• end up in debt
• go hungry nutritionally by eat mostly cheap, unhealthy food
• become homeless
• unable to get proper medical care
• suffer from all of the above
What Is Affordable Housing?
According to Wikipedia, affordable housing is:
Finding Affordable Housing
Our search for poor middle class affordable housing was a nightmare. In fact, it was the hardest part of our financial survival journey. This is because of the following aspects of it:
• the amount of paperwork involved
• a time-consuming application process
• the bureaucratic qualification procedure
• pressure due to our tight deadline
What Is Subsidized Housing?
According to Wikipedia, subsidized housing is:
• a government sponsored system of economic assistance programs
• designed to alleviate housing costs and expenses
• meant for people in need
• designed for low to moderate income families, seniors and the disabled
• often called, ‘affordable housing’ in the United States
According to Wikipedia, subsidized housing is:
Subsidized Housing Programs
There are several forms of subsidies:
• direct housing subsidies
• non-profit housing
• public housing
• rent supplements
• some forms of co-operative and private sector housing
Those who qualify to apply for subsidized housing must be:
• Families in financial need
• Seniors aged 55 and above
• Disabled people over a certain age
There are two types of management, either government or privately run.
What is Senior Housing?
Senior housing is housing available to independent seniors, aged 55 and older. It is usually subsidized. As a result, it is more affordable than market value housing.
Seeking Senior Housing
There is a huge amount of research and paperwork involved in applying for senior housing. In fact, it is the worst part of the process for us. Each housing project requires its own application. Because of this, I was very overwhelmed. Just the thought of it stopped me from applying originally. But eventually, relocation became an emergency. We were hard pressed to find an affordable place to live. Because municipal senior housing units had several years waiting lists, we did not know what to do. We were on the verge of homelessness.
Here is our strong recommendation. Don’t let this happen to you. Apply for senior housing years before you think you may need it.
Fortunately, a private senior facility had a vacant unit. Much to our relief, we were accepted within two weeks. But there was one drawback. The only units available were studio apartments. In spite of the size, we grabbed one. As a result, we were set up in our new home within a few weeks. After that, it took another two and a half years to get a one bedroom apartment. When that happened, we felt like we had moved into a palace. In the summertime, we see nothing but tree. It feels like we live in a tree house. It is like heaven.
Section 8 Housing Vouchers
Large apartments buildings and multi-family homes accept Section 8 Housing Vouchers. According to Wikipedia:
A New Home
Our subsidized apartment is modest. There is no dishwasher. In addition to that, there is no terrace or yard for growing food. There is nowhere to make a compost heap for food garbage. But best of all, having a roof over our heads is a blessing. In addition, we have made a home here. There is a saying, ‘home is where the heart is’.
This is a continuation of the last post, The Poor Middle Class Housing Crisis. In this post, poor middle class housing alternatives are presented. This can involve some ‘out of the box thinking’ solutions. These tools can include:
• Downsize possessions
• Buy or rent a smaller home
• Rent subsidized or senior housing
• Find Ways To Live Rent Free
• Invest In A Tiny House
• Relocate to a cheaper area, state or country
• Live off the grid
Have you ever noticed how many storage facilities there are? This has become a booming industry. We have too much stuff and we don’t know how to part with it. So we rent space to horde it. My rule of thumb is this. If you feel the need to rent a storage space for your overflow of belongings, don’t. Downsize instead.
• Donate possessions to the Salvation Army or other charity
• Give things to your children or someone you know who wants and needs them
• Have a garage sale
• Sell things online
• Buy or rent to a smaller, less expensive residence
Buy Or Rent A Smaller Home
It is much easier to go bigger than smaller. But for the poor middle class, the latter may be a necessity. It may be difficult emotionally to let go of a treasured home. But would you rather be in debt in a home you adore or be solvent in a house you can afford? For those in crisis as part of the poor middle class in the US, when it comes to housing selling and downsizing may be the only way to go. Even for those not in crisis, more modest living can open more doors than it closes, financially.
I have found this to be the most challenging, time consuming and confusing of all the tools for the poor middle class financial survival toolkit. Because of this, I feel that an entire blog post needs to be dedicated to this issue. In addition, the other tools will also be on an additional post. ‘Out of the box’ alternative housing is for the poor middle class of all ages, not only seniors.
• Live Rent Free
• Invest in a Tiny House
• Relocate to another area, cheaper state or another country
• Live Off The Grid
Safe, affordable housing is the foundation for poor middle class survival. How to find and create safe, affordable housing is the focus of this and several additional post in this series. But first, let’s look at housing from both a traditional, indigenous perspective and the modern, industrialized crisis it has become today.
TRADITIONAL INDIGENOUS HOUSING
There was a time, and still is a time when indigenous cultures build their own shelters. They use the materials at hand. To us ‘civilized’ folks, their homes may pale in comparison what the poor middle class have in the US. But when looked at from a different perspective, who is the poorer and who is the richer? The above photos display what I consider rustic but magnificent shelters. They are clean, dignified, well constructed and proudly held by their makers.
THE CRISIS IN HOUSING
But ‘civilization’ brought about by our industrial age has changed all that in some place. Detroit, for example is a casualty of the demise of the auto manufacturing industry in that city. The working class, once gainfully employed as auto workers have been replaced by the poor middle class. They have fled the city. Anyone who can has left that city. It was left in ruins.
A TWO-FOLD CRISIS
But the crisis is two-fold. It is about foreclosure on the homes of the poor middle class due to the inability to pay their mortgages. It then also becomes about finding housing that is affordable, safe and decent. This brings us to the next part of the crisis. It is the need for alternative housing for the poor middle class due to a change in lifestyle affordability.
THE DOWNWARD LIFESTYLE JOURNEY
One of the most difficult parts of becoming a member of the poor middle class is that it is a downward lifestyle journey. This process involves letting go of new, even luxurious material things that we could once provide for ourselves. Then there needs to be an admission of needing help and an acceptance of getting that help from others. This is not glamourous. I have found that it can feel very humiliating. Then it becomes humbling because it is about survival.
Alternative housing can involve pursuing traditional means of seeking less expensive housing. It can also involve some ‘out of the box thinking’ solutions. Either way all are potential and important tools to have in our Poor Middle Class Financial Survival ToolKit. They can include:
• Downsizing to a smaller residence
• Subsidized and senior housing
• Tiny Houses
• Living off the grid
• Moving to a cheaper area, state or country
I continue to refine and gather more financial survival tools for my middle class poor financial survival toolkit. I have to. Financial survival continues to be more challenging. Social Security will go up $5 for us on January 1, 2017. Our cable bill went up $6. So we will start 2017 with a dollar less. Situations like this require continual accumulation of new financial survival tools.
MAJOR CATEGORIES AND FINANCIAL SURVIVAL RESOURCES
First I would like to mention some general tools. Then I will get into major expense categories and tools that are specific to them. Here are some general tips:
• save change in as large a bottle as you can find
• avoid monthly fee checking accounts
• avoid credit card fees
• join groups that offer discounts to members
• make use of discounts you are entitled to for being a member for a particular organization such as AARP, the military and many more
• buy in bulk, only when things are on sale and always look for discounts
• make a purchase with a no fee promotion credit card that requires set payments over time
• use EBATES, GROUPON, etc.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
BOTTLE REFUNDS This is probably one of the most important resources for not only the poor middle class but everyone. Redemption of bottles and cans is probably one of the best known tools for creating income through recycling. People in all kinds of circumstances do it. You paid for the bottle. You deserve to get the fee back whenever you can. Those nickels will add up. This is not income and it is not taxable. You are just getting back money you already paid out.
CLOTHES, FURNITURE AND HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
Depending upon your financial status, you can make use of food pantries. They often have clothes in addition to food. For people who can afford to pay, thrift stores are a great resource for finding furniture and all kinds of household items.
Clipped paper coupons, online coupons and text discounts proliferate. Get into the habit of only buying things on sale for a discount.
HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS EXPENSES
I learned to make my own laundry detergent. It is amazing how much money it saves. The guideline is to make your own whenever you can instead of buying prepared products. It is easier than you think and saves so much money.
SHELTER, FOOD AND HEALTHCARE
These are three categories that can be the major areas of expenses in the budget of a member of the poor middle class. They are so important that a separate blog posts will be devoted to them.