After two days of living off $4 a day I can tell you that it pretty much completely sucks. And not for just the reasons one would assume - less-than-full stomach, lack of choices, sense of impending doom - but for a whole grocery list of other reasons I'd never even thought of. (It felt so good to type "grocery list" just now. There is something very sad about that).
I've got plenty of food to make it through the week. There's still around $17 worth of lentils and potatoes and bananas and instant pancake mix and I've gotten by with much less than that before. What's really got me squirming, though, is what a flimsy excuse for a survivor I have become in the past several years. A spoiled little twit, really, and but a husk of the cheap-living man I used to be.
For one thing, somewhere along the way I became dependent on coffee, which is expensive and not in this week's budget. So I walk around hating things I shouldn't and wandering aimlessly when focus is sorely needed. I've also been pretty much an asshole most of the week, partially because the banana pancakes don't stick to my ribs like I thought they would and partially because I simply can't have what I want, when I want it, like a flimsy little twit. I don't like this version of me, but it makes me realize how entitled I feel regarding little treats like coffee and snacks between meals.
It's also got me thinking about some of the things people said when I first wrote about all this. One of the comments was from a guy who worked at a Circle K and watched people come in on the first of the month to buy a ton of junk food with food stamps. Well, guess what: After two days of nothing but brown rice, baked potatoes and instant pancakes, I feel like doing that. If I were forced to live on this same food budget for a few months I would certainly buy tons of sugary crap. I don't even like sweets, but it just sounds good right now. Why is that?
The other thing is that I actually have a little bit of money, so if I started actually starving I could just ditch this whole thing and go to Los Betos. People on the brink of poverty don't have that option, and it takes a ton of work and good fortune to work a life back up to the point of financial well being. It's a strange scary feeling and I'm only feeling this in a tangential way for a limited amount of time. It makes me want to hug my parents for struggling their way out of poverty. It makes me want to give every single mom or dad a money order for $50,000 and a handwritten apology from Mitt Romney and anyone who supports him. I'm serious. Or hypoglycemic.
So, as you can tell, this little jaunt through living on SNAP benefits has already driven me crazy and bent my mind so terribly that I can't stop writing run-on sentences about the most miniscule understanding of what it must be like to be living in poverty today. I thought I understood, but I didn't.
Now, if anybody needs me, I'll be having some more lentils and rice. If beer were in my budget right now, I would purchase as much of it as humanly possible. What have I become?