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ftp901's avatar

When you were dirt poor, what was the most creative / resourceful thing you did to get by?

Asked by ftp901 (1315points) July 14th, 2010

At that time in your life when you had only $5 to your name and had to pay the rent, buy food & gas, what crafty things did you do to make money, save money, or make the money you had stretch as far as possible?

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21 Answers

Berserker's avatar

Pawned off most of my video games. Not too imaginative, but it works.

knitfroggy's avatar

When we hit some hard times a few years ago, and I didn’t have much money in the bank, I’d buy a few groceries and then write the check for $20 over and deposit the $20 in the bank, so when the check came thru the money was there. I would do it a few days before payday and would do it a few times so that the checks would clear. It caught me a couple times, but you have to eat!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I worked for a catering company and two restaurants which pretty much covered my food bills, supplied tip money and free booze.

Haleth's avatar

I got a second job at a restaurant. I didn’t work that many hours, but all the free food really saved my ass sometimes.

Pandora's avatar

My husband and I did several things. Some very creative, to warm things up. : D Ummmhummm!

Lived on eggs, bread, milk and balony and cheese and jelly sandwiches.

In the morning the house would be iced up. Even the doors. So I would have 2 large pots of water ready to go and boil it. To warm the place up and melt the ice. (Gas was cheaper than electric heat.)

We took our showers together to conserve water. And I used the remaining hot water we boiled to hand wash stuff or to clean the dishes.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I couldn’t afford rent at one point in my life and had to live in my car (it was paid off). I used the bathrooms at stores and rest stops and used the showers at the rest stops or the beach. I had a job as a waitress and the pay was horrible. Luckily it only lasted about 3 weeks and I found someone to rent a place with and got a better job. It was one of the lowest points in my life.

rebbel's avatar

I ate bread with cheese for about seven, eight years, instead of hot meals.
For money reasons, but to be honoust i also didn’t like to cook for me, myself and i.

YARNLADY's avatar

I lived in a commune with a group of other people. We all lived in a dorm, and I was in charge of the toddlers. Some of our people worked in the fields which supplied our food, and some worked in the bakery, where bread was made and sold in our produce store.

After this broke up, I lived in shared housing with several of the same people, and we ran a second hand/consignment store and a restaurant and did pet grooming. We had no TV or any other electronic devices, shared one clothes washer and dryer, and slept when it was dark, so used very little electricity.

charliecompany34's avatar

well, wasnt dirt poor, but my wife and i needed to make some changes to get thru a season of employment. so we got rid of the cell phones, enjoyed basic cable and bought only what we needed. and it was purchased with cash and not credit.

we went to bare minimum. it was all about priority and not desires or want. after about a year or two, we got through it.

Cruiser's avatar

I recycled aluminum, sold my albums, worked 2 jobs, moved back home, lived in an apartment under the take off runway near O’Hare airport, took the bus, mac and cheeze, made my own beer, patched my blue jeans, shopped flea markets for furniture and my guitars, frugal is still my middle name.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Freecycled.. a LOT. Luckily when we were both laid off, we received food packages from the local church, and that certainly helped. We sold everything we owned of value. I sold art, purses, anything that I could make that people might want. Ebay was a lifesaver at times. We recycled our cans… we ate a lot of ramen and mac & cheese. Definitely a lot of flea market and goodwill shopping. I think the most creative thing that I did when things were really bad was coming up with concoctions my pets would eat when we ran low on pet food. Anything that wasn’t really good for us to eat anymore, got cooked up in a mish mash of stuff for the pets. Eggs, meat, veggies… all mixed together. And I would alternate that with their kibble. To this day my dogs still wait for a treat of lettuce or the yucky end of a carrot.

ftp901's avatar

@charliecompany34 No, you were definitely not dirt poor – what you are describing as your “bare minimum” is my regular life and I have a decent, middle-income job.

tinyfaery's avatar

Two words: Top Ramen.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I sold a watch worth over 2,000 that I received from my Grandfather’s estate for $700 at a pawnshop so I could feed my family.
I sold a working antique Leica 35mm camera for a pittance to feed my children.
I sold a hand make classical guitar purchased for me in Spain for a pittance to feed my family

YARNLADY's avatar

@ftp901—If you have a decent, middle-income job, what, exactly do you spend your money on? See this budget suggestion

jerv's avatar

I am no stranger to beans and rice. My wife can cook them so many different ways…
I do my own car and computer work, as well as much of the electrical and plumbing. That saved me $700 on a head gasket once when we really couldn’t afford it.
For many years, all of my computers were recycled or built from salvaged parts.
My wife and I got practically adopted by our landlords, so they didn’t have the heart to evict us despite being $2400 behind in rent after a series of mishaps.
And there have been a couple of times where I called in sick or burned a vacation day merely because I couldn’t afford the gas to get to/from work. That “extra” $10/day will feed two people pretty comfortably.

@tinyfaery How could you?! Maruchan Ramen is vastly superior, and often the same price!

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@jerv good call on the Maruchan.

augustlan's avatar

I lived in a trailer park, in a leaky trailer with a hole in the floor. We subsisted on these horrible things that came in jars called Pasta Meals. They were 99 cents each, and fed two of us for dinner. Ramen noodles, white bread, and peanut butter were also mainstays of our diet. We didn’t buy one new thing (except food) for a year.

Kraigmo's avatar

Lived on beans, rice, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If I wanted to splurge, I’d get Tofu, vegetables, and soy sauce.

Reused cooking oil over and over. Walked through my employer’s building daily picking up cans and recycling them on my lunch break. Forged a dead man’s name to get electricity after not paying the bill. I kept the dead man’s credit good, though.

Created an auto policy out of nothing, at Kinko’s and used that to register my car, which cost $500, while bribing a shop owner to make it pass smog test.

Then when I registered the car, I used old paperwork from the State, that had lower fees on it than I was supposed to pay. I figured they’d be so swamped they’d process it anyway. And it worked.

I wasn’t trying to cheat the system to be a rebel or a thief. I was just doing what needed to be done to get by without going homeless or jobless. There were no buses to my work at the time. None at all. And it was 55 miles away. Because the rent near work was not affordable, since it was near a horse racetrack. Eventually I moved into a motorhome I bought for $2000 using a loan, and paid a woman $5.00 a week to park in her driveway, and that was a great decision at the time, so I could get caught up with money. At one point, I paid $60 a month to live in a fairly large but obviously porous treehouse. One day a county building inspector showed up. Luckily the building inspector was attracted to my landlord and my landlord did what it took for my treehouse to pass inspection. My treehouse had cable TV (stolen from the neighbor’s signal with his permission), a cold room lined in plastic sheets with a small AC in there, and 3 stories of small space living.

And lots of this stuff took place prior to massive computerization of state agencies. I’d do it all again, if I had to, but it’s not as easily doable now.

gemiwing's avatar

Learned how to darn and sew by hand. Most clothing places throw out clothes that don’t sell- but they rip them up first. If you know how to sew- hey, free clothes/pieces for blankets. Nowadays you have to be able to pick the locks on the bins quickly. Dumpster diving for food saved my butt tons of times.

Learning how little you can get away with helps us. That cup of laundry detergent? Chances are you only need a 1/10 of it. No laundry softener either, we use a tsp of vinegar. I handwash clothes and line dry them in the house. Saves us about fifty bucks a month. We also water down dishwashing soap to a mix of ⅓ soap and ⅔ water. Washes just as well.

I’m re-learning how to cook like my ancestors did in the mountains. Simple food, minimal ingredients and quick cooking time. It’s saved us some money already. I make bread by hand and it ends up cheaper than the 99cent loaves at the store- plus much better tasting. Hubbs is brewing kambucha(sp) and beer for himself.

The biggest thing that helps us is that we both know how to cook. You can have better nutrition than Ramen for less cost if you know how to cook cheaply. Soups are a lifesaver- and not the fancy kind of soups, just basic soup/stews. It’s easy this day and age of Cooking TV and gastric-fancy recipes to forget that you don’t really need those things to cook with. Parmesiano Reggiano? HA! It’s thirty bucks a block so I can sprinkle it on some damn pasta- no thanks.

We heat/cool one room in the house. There are color coordinated blankets/curtains hanging in the doorway and extra layers of insulation on the windows. It may not be the most attractive thing ever, but it works well. Our electric bill was 50 bucks last month and I even used the oven a few times.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

When a partner and I moved out of state, we went with a fresh start. We sold our financed cars for one paid up front one. Our apt. wasn’t in the greatest part of town and no goodies, our furniture was cardboard boxes I would turn upside down and then cover with fabric. We had an air mattress and whatever clothes didn’t stack on the closet shelves or hang got folded and kept in laundry basket on the floor. The .99 cent store was our supermarket, we lived this way for just under a year before buying a house. I was never afraid during that time because I’d lived frugally and shoddily before as a teen but my then partner took it hard, he cried and acted as if his life had come to a close.

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