Newsflash: Some Americans Don’t Live in Cities

An aerial view of my ENTIRE town. Like, all of it.


You guys know I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. I’ve received some great emails, comments, and tweets and I’m immensely grateful for the support I have online (since I don’t share a lot of this information in real life).

That said, it’s Friday, and that means it’s time for a rant. I haven’t had one in awhile. Some of the feedback I’ve received has been…less than great. If you read this and think it’s aimed at you, it’s probably not. This one has been building for YEARS. So grab your popcorn and have a seat, because it’s going to get all kinds of ranty up in here. I’ll try to stay calm.

John Mellencamp Knows What I’m Talking About

Ever heard the song “Small Town”? That’s pretty much where I live. I always overestimate the population here, but the census says it was 4,398 in 2000. There are only about 30,000 people in the entire COUNTY, which consists of maybe 13 towns.

My town has two stoplights. The only sidewalks are on Main Street, on the block surrounding the courthouse. We have a public library and two locally owned furniture stores. There is no public transportation. None. If I want to buy alcohol, I have to drive about 10 minutes to another town because alcohol sales are banned in most of the county. When it snows, I could be stuck in my house for days because the snowplows only run on the main roads.

I know nearly every single person here. If I don’t know them, I probably know their parents, siblings, or kids. And if that still doesn’t tell me who they are, I just need to hear the beginning of some gossip about them. “You know, she’s the one who dated that guy with the blue F-150. The one who got arrested for meth.”

The main form of entertainment? Listening to the police scanner (every home has one) to see who’s getting in trouble or being rushed to the hospital. I wish I was joking. Back when everyone had landlines, we used to cross our fingers for a cordless phone conversation that would be picked up by the scanner for the whole street to hear.

Why I’m Telling You This

I just want to create a picture of where I live. I’m not some grandma telling you a story about the 1940s; this is how things are right now. This is the life I live when I’m not glued to my computer screen.

Many of you have probably never seen a place like this. A place where it’s common to stop for cows who escaped and are standing in the road. A place where there are more churches than gas stations and you’re judged by your last name. A place where you might get pulled over if you rent a car, just because the sheriff didn’t recognize the vehicle. (That actually happened to me once.)

I try to remember that things aren’t this way all over the US. I really do. Because there has to be a reason why so many people give me shitty advice.

It’s Different in the Country

I’ve posted before about financial advice that gets on my nerves. Because so many people assume that their circumstances are the same as mine when they’re not. Here are just a few differences off the top of my head:

I’m not going to get rid of my car. It’s not possible to survive in this area without my own transportation. I can’t take a bus or a cab because they don’t exist here. I can’t walk to the grocery store because there are no sidewalks and the nearest store is probably a good 7 miles away. I can’t ride a bike to work because it’s 30 miles from home. I hate my car payment, but I must have a reliable vehicle. Period.

I can’t just “go get another job.” Last night I picked up this week’s newspaper. Yes, I said this WEEK’S paper, because we don’t have enough news to fill a daily one. Actually, 80% of the weekly one is filler, like the social column about who had visitors from out of town last week and the list of people who filed for bankruptcy. (Again, not joking.) Here are the exciting listings under Help Wanted:

  • Snow plow operator (requires Class B CDL. And avoiding my road at all costs, apparently.)
  • Part time bus driver (requires CDL)
  • Part time preschool teacher at a Methodist church (you must be Methodist, which I’m not)
  • Mechanical engineer/drafter (2 yrs. exp. with AutoCAD)
  • PRN certified lab tech at the hospital
  • Hourly “team member” at Wendy’s

That’s it. That’s all. The only one I could even apply for is the job at Wendy’s, but they won’t hire me. I’ve applied at McDonald’s and Dairy Queen and they laughed because they know me - they know I have a master’s degree and wouldn’t stay there for minimum wage. It’s not like there are all these opportunities and I’m passing them up; there simply aren’t any opportunities.

I can’t enroll my son in after-school programs to work a second job. We don’t have after-school programs here. Some kids ride the school bus for an hour just to get home. Our middle and high schoolers start and end their day (9-3:30) an hour later than the elementary kids (8-2:30) because there aren’t even enough school buses for the whole county. Many of the teachers live 30 minutes or more away - there’s no way in hell they’re staying after that last bell rings.

I can’t go apply for public assistance unless we are literally starving to death. People from a bigger area won’t understand this. But I would have to run out of things to pawn, including my refrigerator and possibly my dental fillings, before I would humiliate myself by applying for food stamps or anything else. Reasons?

  1. I know everyone who works there.
  2. People would see my car there and gossip. It would be Facebook official within 20 minutes.
  3. My career is in social work. I would never work in this town again. Clichéd but true.
  4. My son would be teased at school. Mercilessly. Because of #3.


Those are some of the realities that many people don’t seem to understand. I’ve been pretty calm and tried to explain them, so do me a favor - STOP TELLING ME TO DO STUFF THAT ISN’T WITHIN THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY.

Many people in my situation could, theoretically, find a different job or a side job. Some could get rid of extraneous vehicles or find childcare for their kids. Some would apply for assistance, even if temporarily.


Right now, I am completely stuck. Life won’t be this way forever, but there aren’t many ways out at the moment. And before you open your mouth, moving isn’t an option either. My son has two sets of grandparents and three sets of great-grandparents in this county, and I’m not going to rip him away from his family. (Plus I don’t want to give up the free babysitting.) Also, the cost of living here is incredibly low - my house is 1450 square feet with a full basement on an acre of land, and we paid under $90,000 for it. Find me a deal like THAT in a city.

Put This in Your Pipe and Smoke It

In therapy, I make a point to start where the client is. That means I don’t start telling someone how to climb Mt. Everest when s/he can’t even walk to the bathroom. I don’t expect clients to rattle off all their positive coping skills when they don’t even know what coping skills are. And here on the blog, I’m not going to post a bunch of crap about investing when many of my readers are struggling to pay their bills.

Similarly, it does no good to email me a bunch of useless drivel about what you would do in my situation if you don’t really have a clue what my situation is. I know you mean well, and I know I don’t deserve a lot of the support and suggestions I’ve received. Especially since I’m bitching about it now.

It’s enough sometimes to say, “That really sucks. I’m so sorry,” and move on with your life. People don’t always need someone to rescue them or solve all their problems. People don’t always want advice, no matter how kindly worded or well-intended. And I’ll just tell you now - the next person who offers me irrelevant advice from a city dweller perspective is going to get e-slapped right across the face. So just stop it.

Country folk, if you know where I’m coming from and have suggestions I haven’t thought of yet, you can tell me anything you want. I know there have to be people out there who speak my language.

This entry was posted in intro, poverty, rant, work by Andrea. Bookmark the permalink.

About Andrea

Andrea is a single parent trying to help others avoid the same financial mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over Debt, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.
  • Dave Hilton

    Andrea- the only thing I think would make me disagree with you is if you prefer Country music (but that’s an entirely different conversation)!

    I also grew up in a county with a population just over 30k. My school had right around 400 people from K-12th Grade! My senior class was a whopping 35 people! My HS was too small to have a football team. The town we lived in had ZERO red lights, the school (which was created because the state consolidated two other town schools about 20 years earlier), one convenience store, a volunteer fire department and a cemetery. That’s it. A little cherry for the top of my redneck sundae- one of my sister-in-laws now lives in the house my family and I used to live in.

    I’d be interested to know what specific advice/comments were sent to you and also where the people who sent them live. Although I currently live about 30 miles from Dallas, the town where I live now has less than 5,000 people. It’s nice to be so close to so many things…but far enough away to be able to see the stars at night.

    I completely understand the vehicle issue. The town I grew up in and even the town I live in now don’t really have what I consider to be reliable public transportation. There’s an Area Transit System you can use- but they can’t guarantee when they can be at your house to pick you up or when they’ll drop you off at your location- it all depends on how many other people are using the services that day. I drive a truck…with nearly 300,000 miles on it…and I’ll keep driving it until it falls apart. We only have a payment on my wife’s car. I drive 35 miles one way to get to work everyday- so you’re not going to see my fat ass on a bicycle!

    What people need to understand is that the amount you pay for your rent, car payment, gas, etc. are probably equivalent to just the rent they pay in the city. We’re all spending too much- just in different ways. An example- Texas property taxes are much higher than Oklahoma property taxes- but Oklahoma has a state income tax and Texas doesn’t. However, when I compared the two- I was basically paying the same amount when living in both states.

    I hope most of your readers can take the advice/ideas you share and ADAPT the concept to their specific situation instead of writing you to tell you that you’re wrong.. It’s unlikely the negative people are going to make changes to their lifestyle anyway- so don’t sweat it.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      We nearly had a riot here when the 7 high schools were consolidated into two in 1990. Now the 2 schools are consolidated into one school with two campuses - a 9/10 center and an 11/12 center. Which is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard.

      I definitely do NOT listen to country music. Well, maybe a few songs here and there. I’m a sort-of fan of older country, before they all decided to look like boy band members.

      Glad to know I’m not the only small town person hanging out in the PF blogosphere - thanks for your perspective!

  • Susan Bachelder

    I can appreciate what you saying, because I live in the prairies in Canada. There is more rural than city. I like the way you put your words together in your rant. I also can relate to the debt situation. I am a single Mom of 2, a RN by career but have been unable to work for 6 1/2 years since a car accident. The debt has caught up with me and it is uncomfortable.
    I hope that your “advice givers” enjoy this post and either stop or adapt
    I am going to stay here awhile, I would like to get to know you

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Welcome, Susan, and thanks for taking the time to comment! I can’t say a lot about your situation since I don’t know how things work in Canada, but I do hope things get better and you find some financial relief. (See, that’s me, not making assumptions because I don’t know. Imagine that!) Seriously, I appreciate your comment and I hope you find something you like here.

  • Eric J. Nisall

    I was watching a hockey game the other night and they threw up a graphic of the populations where some of the players are from. One guy was from a town of 45. now that’s a small town!

    I know exactly what you mean about crappy advice. I hate it too, and dedicate a post now and then about it. What you do with your clients, is exactly how approach my clients…by listening. Letting them talk and taking in what they have to say before formulating any kind of opinion or plan. Unfortunately, especially on the internet where people can hide behind a monitor or a screen name, the people giving advice tend to just like to see themselves speak (my new phrase) or like to seem smart.

    I don’t know how many times I have said in comments or forums that it’s ridiculous for people to be giving advice based on two or three semi-significant points without having a friggin clue about the person’s total situation, which is the only way to be able to do so both ethically and responsibly.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Everyone is an expert on the internet. That’s what I’ve decided. No matter how pathetic life gets, I have a little bit of comfort knowing I’m not one of those people who sits around criticizing and demeaning people all day. I only do it for part of the day. (Kidding. Sort of.)

      I may have my own thoughts about what someone is doing, but I tend to keep them to myself unless I really think I can help the person by saying something.

      • Eric J. Nisall

        I actually do it all day. Fortunately, my brain takes over most of the time and makes my fingers keep my opinions to themselves. Unless I write a post telling people how stupid they are for doing certain things, which really isn’t condemning them so much as it is to just shake them a bit and make them consider something different. (who am I kidding, though. That’s just a nice way of saying that I like being an ass sometimes)

  • The Girl Next Door

    Weird - living in NYC I have the same problem when it comes to the PF advice I read and receive. What is with the rule that your rent shouldn’t be more than 25% of your take home pay? LOL.
    Pretty much EVERYTHING costs more here, especially food, and coupons never double. I also pay an additional 3% of my income as a “NYC Resident” tax - the highest rate in the country. So I have the opposite, yet same, problem as you.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      You definitely have more career opportunities in a city than in a place like where I live. It’s a tradeoff - housing is cheaper for me, but I have trouble finding jobs to pay for said housing. You pay more for rent but you could probably find 10 jobs you’re qualified for very easily.

  • Cash Flow Mantra

    So glad I didn’t send you any advice in an email. I have a rough idea where you are coming from. My town was big at 14,520 in 2000 compared to my wife’s of 1536 and 1 square mile. When I drove to her town while we were dating in college, I didn’t even bother to ask for directions. She lived on 4th Street which was very easy to find. The whole street is only 2 blocks long so it didn’t take much.

    I really enjoy your blog, your wit, and your rants. You sound like a strong individual which is an asset in your favor.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I don’t mind advice as long as it isn’t stupid. And somehow I can’t see you sending me stupid advice ilke, “You should just sell everything and live in a tent! Then you can eat dirt for the rest of your life without spending money!” THOSE are the emails that make me want to bang my head on my desk.

      • Cash Flow Mantra

        Are you seriously getting emails like that? I would be banging my head too.

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          You wouldn’t believe how many people know exactly how to solve my problems. They’re all so much smarter than me!

          • Eric J. Nisall

            That’s like the comment on someone’s post I left. I think they were complaining about something that I thought was ridiculous so I said I agree and I was going to sell off all my possessions and go move to the Himalayas where I wouldn’t have to worry about anything.

  • kim

    Good post Andrea. People don’t understand living in a rural area. It is hard when everyone knows your name. You have to be extra careful.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      No doubt! That’s why I love blogging - I have a place where I can be myself. Until someone discovers it and I start posting utter crap to protect my reputation.

  • lora kathleen

    Hey Andrea,

    Coming from a smaller town on the high plains, I completely understand your point. My grandparents own a farm outside of an even smaller town (county pop 18k) where I spent every summer growing up. If I were living in either location, probably 90% of the advice I have received and use today would be completely irrelevant.

    Good luck and I hope you’re able to figure something out!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’m surprised how many people have small town roots. Someday I may move to a larger city (never a huge one) so I can learn about all this civilization stuff.

  • Little Miss Moneybags

    Thanks for posting this. I grew up in a small town like that - one high school for the entire county, more cows than people. I came home for college one weekend and nearly caused a wreck because they put a third stoplight up where there had never even been a stop sign before. There were about four last names that indicated who was related and how they were related and how far back they were related.

    When Walmart came to town, all the mom & pop businesses went out of business. All. of. them. Friday night fun was cruisin’ the square. I used to sit on the front porch and look down into the valley and watch people driving down the main drag - because there was only one road, and I knew everyone’s cars and could tell who was out and where they were going.

    Every school year, we got a day out of class to go and look at the tractors that 80% of the students drove to school. They got prizes for the most souped-up tractor, prettiest tractor, etc. Public transit meant the school bus, which didn’t even stop on my road. My mom had to drive us a few miles over the elementary school, where I could board the bus to go to junior high and high school. There was one “taxi” in town - just a guy you could call who’d come pick you up and drive you where you needed to be. Sometimes you’d call him and his car would be in the shop, so he couldn’t come get you.

    Most of the people in that town live at or near the poverty line, because there’s just nowhere else to be.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I think we grew up in the same town. The part about recognizing everyone’s cars cracked me up. Even now, I recognize nearly every vehicle I pass on the road.

  • PKamp3

    I get your point - things definitely have to be different in the smaller towns. I was born in Boston and grew up in RI… you know, the Bos-Wash Corridor mega-city. I went to school in Los Angeles, and now I live in the Bay Area. I don’t really have much small town experience.

    However, I have worked at an apple farm.

    I do think that once your job’s paychecks work out you’ll be okay, just keep plugging away!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I LOLed. Working at an apple farm… Where do you find an apple farm in any of those metro areas?

  • April Stotler

    I go to school in a town about that small. Its sort of a gown v. town type atmosphere out here. We have a whole four stoplight but that’s only in the city proper. Which is one road. We are over 15 miles away from the interstate, the only places to eat out here are on the ‘main strip’ which I can walk. Because once you get through the whole three blocks of the strip, you are at the end of the town. There is a Lucky’s grocery store, but if you want to go to a fancy store like a Wal*Mart or Target (pronounce Tar-jay), you need to drive.

    The only thing I can think of in terms of assistance is to take advantage of the fact that you live in a close knit community. If you are apart of the church, talk to your pastor about suggestions for networking opportunities. See if there are any doors he could open for you. I know this could mean being put on the Prayer list…(I’m sort of proud that I’ve stayed on my mom’s sunday school class’s prayer list since 2008…) and I know your reputation is really important.

    Could you save money on food by getting meat from the local hunters in your area? What about save money on heat or something by using your fireplace? (IF you have one, which I don’t know if you do…)Anyway, I’m sorry things suck right now. I hope it all works out and know that I check this blog everyday because your continuing on in the face of the shit bog make me feel stronger. I’ve been dealing with my own anxieties and it’s almost like having a buddy with both of us going through our own shit storms. Good luck A.


    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Only fifteen miles to the interstate? Pfft. I’m trying to think of the closest place to get on the interstate from here… Probably 80 miles or so.

      We don’t eat a lot of meat (Jayden is practically vegetarian) but I do have unlimited access to beef from my ex-inlaws who have a farm. No fireplace unfortunately, but my utility bills really aren’t bad.

      Thanks for commenting, from one stressed A to another.

  • Jolyn Myers

    Short-term, I got nothing for you. Except maybe cleaning houses. Is that too awful? My sister contemplated doing that once, and they’re upper middle-class. Her husband was “in between jobs” and she figured at least she likes to clean (seriously). She, too, would have known a lot of people in her town at the time, but it wasn’t quite as small and incestuous as yours. (That’s supposed to be a joke.) We didn’t grow up there, for instance.

    Will no one hire you as a waitress? Or is that taking you out of the house at bad hours? (Or are there no restaurants/bars hiring?) I donned my (cocktail) waitress cap many, many times with a BA under my belt. (Good GOD I hated waitressing.)

    I have no question you are willing to do anything to bring in more income aside from taking you away from your son too much, and I agree: you can’t get these years back. I’m just grasping here.I’m glad you addressed the moving issue b/c I was wondering about that and assumed it had to do with your son. Have you even thought long-term along those lines at all? Or just trying to get your head above water now and think about that later? I really, really hope something comes along your way as an opportunity to earn more money, whether it’s through your accredited professional work or something unrelated and temporary. I also really didn’t like the stink that others smelled with your collections post. Have you ever called Dave Ramsey for advice? He gets all kinds of calls from people on how to deal with creditors/collections, but I’ve never heard a story like yours. I bet you anything he’d know how to determine its legitimacy and what your next step should be. Just a thought. Like I said, I got nothing. I’m just so sorry. But please, please, please remember: you are an old soul in your life experiences; but in years you are so. young. This, too, shall pass. Hang in there, girl. And keep writing.

    (Anyone have any paying freelance writing opportunities for her here??)

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      We don’t have any restaurants with waitresses. The exhaustive list in the whole county: McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Sonic, Arby’s, Hardee’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Dominos. No bars because only one town in the county sells alcohol.

      Cleaning houses is pretty much my worst nightmare. I would do it if I had to, but I couldn’t do that while keeping my existing job. OMG I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

  • Niki

    Hah I love this.

    I grew up in a huge city with anything and everything. I loved it

    We currently live in a very similar county. This town just got a Walmart 4 years ago. It’s the type of town where people pay more for their trucks than their home and the kids get the opening day of hunting off from school. I am ready to move on to a “normal” town/city, which won’t be long.

    I hope you get through this whole situation soon. I know you are doing everything you can and I don’t think there’s anything I can tell you that you don’t already know. You’re an intelligent and hardworking woman and you’ll get this all figured out. Even if you do end up making some mistakes along the way or just making up for past mistakes, you’re still extremely capable and you’ll be more than fine.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Our schools won’t officially close for the start of hunting season, but all the mysteriously sick children are kind of overlooked and the absences are excused. Those are also the days when subs are needed most.

  • Hunter

    A little perspective goes a long way. That narrow list of ‘help wanted” adds is so tight.

    On a completely different subject: my Brother-in-law worked for John Mellancamp in Bloomington Indiana, a few years ago when he was still with Elaine. How’s that for a random piece of information!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’m pretty jealous of your BIL. I LOVE John Mellencamp!

      • Anonymous

        Okay…. I love John Mellencamp too! ( had to jump in and comment on that! Lol!

  • 100wordson

    Well, as one of the people who gave you advice you couldn’t use, I am sorry. I had not realized/remembered (because I know some things one day and forget them the next) that you lived in such a small town. I grew up some place slightly larger (10,000 people- we were the county seat and home to the only high school in the county) so I do understand. In kindergarten I didn’t know why I had to memorize my phone number/address in case I got lost, because all I had to do was say my last name- my father was the CO of the local National Guard unit, and any cop would know who I was. (The daughter’s of the police chief had the same attitude.)
    But as for financial advice, your options are definitely different than they would be in a city. Best advice would be network, let folks know you’re looking for some general office work on the weekends, or something like that.
    *hugs* One nice thing about close knit communities, though, people will step up to help out as much as they can.

    • 100wordson

      this is from shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet. for some reason it’s not letting me post with my actual information

      • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

        That’s true - people will help out. But they’ll also gossip and judge at the same time. No one outside of my family and maybe 3 friends knows my situation and I really hope I don’t have to put it out there. I mean, I know I put it on the internet, but the whole universe is much less scary than the people who live here! I’ve definitely let people know that I’m looking for another job, so hopefully that will help.

  • Rachel

    As promised the Rhino Circus business model to solve all your financial problems.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      You guys need to go read that. It probably won’t make sense to you but it’s very entertaining!

  • Carrie Smith

    I totally understand your situation here. I grew up (and still visit on a weekly basis) a small town of 15,000 people. My dad is very well known all over the city, county and other places in the U.S. because he’s a speaker and counselor.

    Anything I’ve ever done or said gets out through various means and then I meet people that are like “Oh gosh you’re all grown up I’ve followed your life since you were a baby”. And then they pinch my cheeks. I’ve never seen them in my life.

    Sometimes I forget that I live in such a small area, because I moved out of that and have a much bigger mindset and dreams than what a small town/city can give me. I’m sorry, I can come off rude or impatient with people, but I’ve been/am in your situation. I just forget it sometimes.

    Now I understand a little more about the policeman showing up at your door for the medical bill at the collection agency. That SUCKS!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      If someone pinched my cheeks, I would probably pinch them back. And not on the cheeks. What is it about knowing someone that makes people think they can treat their kids like pets?

  • Insomniac Lab Rat

    Well, I’ve always lived in at least a medium sized town, and now I live in a huge city, so I can’t really personally relate. But my dad grew up in a town of less than 4,000 and my grandparents still live there.

    My dad’s parents got divorced when he was young, and my grandma really struggled to raise my dad and his brother on her own. She was lucky enough that when she was working and going to school to get her Masters (so she could get a better job), my dad was old enough (and mature enough) to babysit his brother. When he was old enough, my dad worked in a slaughterhouse to help make ends meet. My grandma tells this story to EVERYONE she meets- about the time when they were out of toothpaste, and she didn’t have any money to buy more, but she couldn’t send her kids to school with unbrushed teeth (and the boys refused to use baking soda), and then a sample of toothpaste came in the mail and it made her cry.

    I don’t know why I’m telling you this story. I guess because you’re in a sucky situation, and the only person I’ve known who has been in a truly similar situation had the advantage of having a 16 year old son who could also bring in a bit of income. Maybe the moral of the story is that you should sign up for some free samples online? lol
    Seriously, though, I don’t have any advice, but I hope things get better soon.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That’s a great story; I appreciate you sharing it. Maybe I’m supposed to make Jayden get a job. At 13, he should be contributing! /kidding

      My sister and I used to entertain ourselves as kids by calling the 1-800 number for Always pads and having samples sent to our enemies. Sometimes our friends as well! I’ve always wondered how their parents reacted when the little Always box came in the mail.

      • Insomniac Lab Rat

        Hahaha I love that idea, sending pads to unsuspecting people. One of my roommates in college got some flavored condom samples sent to the parents of a girl she didn’t like (with the daughter’s name on the package)…I never heard what the reaction was, though.

  • JT

    I guess that means I’m from “the big city?”

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Pretty much! I can find plenty of social work jobs up there…. Wish I could justify the drive.

      • JT

        Yeah, well, I happen to…er, know someone who works for a company that has like…50 on staff, so, if you ever justify it, drop me a line.

  • Janice

    I totally get it! Grew up in a small town of 8,000 and we were the ‘Big City’ for all the neighboring little towns. Now live in suburbs of Las Vegas and people do not get what it is like. I go back every summer for a month. This past summer I stopped for bottled water and some snacks at a ‘grocery’ store that added up my purchases with a calculator!

    It’s like the country song Everybody Dies Famous In a Small Town’.

    Hope things start to turn around for you. I enjoy your blog and humor.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Thanks for visiting and commenting, Janice. Glad to know I’m not alone. I have to say, though, it’s been a long time since my total was added up on a calculator!

  • Kay

    I live in a small town (1800) in New England so I can relate to a lot of this…..and yes, just some LISTENING and understandig go a long way!! I hate it when folks immediately throw a bunch of solutions. Sometimes you just want to be able to speak about how crappy, hard or difficult a situation is AND let people know you are doing all of those things and more….and it’s just hard. A good listener is hard to find I say and I rarely share my “issues” with other people. Good luck to you and your son.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Exactly! I try to give advice only when a person says, “What do you think I should do?” And even then, I frame it more like, “Here are the options I see. What do you think?” I find that most people just want someone to listen.

  • Alltid Blakk

    I liked your post. Put things into perspective. Thank you, and keep on fighting, I believe in you

  • Fabulouslyfrugirl

    I know you are doing the best you can with what you have for yourself and your son.
    There are so many things we take for granted living in a city/sub urb. I hope that things start getting better for you sooner than later. *hugs*

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  • TeacHer

    I understand what you’re getting at here, but I think a lot of what you’re describing is very similar to a lot of America, not necessarily just the rural portions of the country. Like, for most Americans, unless they live in REALLY big cities, going without a car isn’t reasonable. I live in the DC metro area - with the second biggest subway system in the country - and it would be really hard for me to go without a car.

    It’s also funny because I think the opposite about a lot of financial advice, that because I live in a VERY expensive urban area a lot of financial advice doesn’t really work for people in my situation. I agree with the commenter who made the point about housing - there’s no way I could get my housing costs to 25% of my monthly salary. It just goes to show that a lot of financial advice is totally unrealistic. We all have to do what works for us.

    This is a personal question, but I couldn’t tell from your post for sure: do you like living in a rural are?

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      To be honest, I don’t know how to answer that question. I’ve lived in this town my entire life, so I don’t know what it would be like to live anywhere else. The only thing I truly dislike is the lack of jobs, but I’m not sure the tradeoff would be worth it.

  • OneFamily

    Thanks for sharing how things are from your perspective. I don’t usually try to give others advice because everyone has different situations I do think, though, that cost of living from one place to another is really all relevant. I’d love to live in a small town, where housing is cheap,etc, but I also know that I most likely could never find a job making what I make in the city, so it’s all comparable, I guess. It wouldn’t do my family much good to move to a small town, where there are so few jobs, as I probably couldn’t afford to live their either, if I’m making so little. I hope your pay situation turns around soon.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Thanks for commenting! It’s definitely harder to find jobs in small towns, especially if you’re in a specialized field. And the lower wages are no fun. Though the lower cost of living helps a lot - my prior budget (when I had normal income) was $2150 a month that included gas, groceries, retirement savings, health insurance, and all my bills. For a family of two. Not bad!

      • Lepuspilosus

        THat seems high to me. I live in a high cost of living area (Boston) and my budget is 1800/month for my son and me. And you don’t pay rent, right? How much of that is commuting?

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          That budget was based on (trying to remember off the top of my head) $750 a month for fixed expenses (car payment, car insurance, phone, etc.), $400 a month to savings and my IRA, $200 a month for utilities, $250 for gas, $250 for groceries and household supplies, $150 for restaurants, and $150 for miscellaneous stuff.

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  • SP

    Love this. I’m not from that small of a town, but I’ve definitely been to towns and met a lot of people in college from towns like that (rural state). I get it. Even in my hometown, which was a legit city (~90k people!), it wasn’t the type of city that you could get rid of your car and still get around in. Especially in the winter!

    Some people are just trying to be helpful (some are just feeling superior, I’m sure), but it does feel insulting to be given such obvious advice, as if you never considered getting a job!

  • Jackie

    I want to say something that I hope doesn’t offend you…

    You say:
    “Right now, I am completely stuck. Life won’t be this way forever, but there aren’t many ways out at the moment. And before you open your mouth, moving isn’t an option either. My son has two sets of grandparents and three sets of great-grandparents in this county, and I’m not going to rip him away from his family. (Plus I don’t want to give up the free babysitting.)”

    But moving IS an option. It’s just not an option you want to take. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to move, and I’m not trying to nitpick about semantics, but saying something is “not an option” can make you FEEL stuck when you do in fact have choices. I know I felt a lot better about stuff that was going on with me once I realized that.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Actually, it’s not an option. I rent my house from my parents. Because I can’t pass the credit check to get a mortgage or even rent an apartment. So unless my parents are going to buy homes in other cities, I can’t move. Sorry, I didn’t make that clear.

  • Frugal Toad

    Andrea - I grew up in a small town as well but have lived in large cities most of my life. I won’t pretend to know what it is like for you but I am sorry that you are struggling. No advice… I hope your blogging opens a door for you!

  • Paula Pant

    This is slightly off-topic, but — your son has 3 sets of GREAT-grandparents?!?! That’s incredible. I never met any of my great-grandparents. Heck, I never even met 3 out of 4 of my grandparents … only 1 was still alive by the time I was born. How amazing that you son gets to know his great-grandparents. I hope he knows how special that is.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      When he was born, he also had 3 great great grandmothers and 1 great great grandfather still alive. Now the only one left is my great grandmother (his great great), who is 91 and sharp as a tack. He’s very lucky to have SO many generations of family to learn from!

  • Bridget

    Well said! I just hope things improve for you and your son soon. I am in a mid-sized city but am also being affected greatly by the recession. It’s gotta get better eventually…

  • Sunny

    Living in a small town does limit your opitons. But I don’t believe your situation is completely impossible. I wouldn’t recommend moving as family support is priceless.
    At the risk of being e-slapped I offer ideas … from a city dweller …
    Do you have any creative skills? Baking? Sewing? Jewellry making? Knitting? etc?
    Have you considered/looked into at home call centre work? As far as I know they just require you to have a working landline, internet connection and a quiet room.
    You are a great writer. I am sure someone would pay you to write for them. I can see you writing a column in your weekly paper about how to save money.
    Other than creating iPhone apps in your spare time I am out of suggestions for now.
    P.S. If you are going to e-slap me, please try to avoid the face … I have to go out in public you know!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      No e-slaps here, because all of those things are possible in my area. Except for the part where I have no talent whatsoever. I’ve looked into call center stuff, but I haven’t managed to find anything that isn’t a scam. Also, I’d have to have a landline phone put in since there are no phone jacks in my house.
      I can only dream of the day someone pays me to write! Unfortunately the local paper doesn’t pay people to write columns - its supposed to be some kind of honor I guess. :/ There are only 5 or 6 staff members and I think they make minimum wage. Frustrating!

  • Deena Dollars

    I have been meaning to comment on this post. I grew up in a town and county exactly like you describe, and I totally understand the different points you make about financial advice not all being applicable. This is the same reason why studying poverty makes me crazy because one poverty measure cannot be used to assess everyone’s situation across the country. But I digress…

    I wanted to point out that from the other side, being a city dweller does not mean that financial advice is always aimed directly at me, either. Yes, I can do the sell-my-car-and-take-the-train thing, but I cannot shop sales and use coupons to stock up at grocery stores, because my refrigerator does not fit a whole gallon of milk. (Trivial example, but there are many.)

    I think it’s a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of financial advice — irrelevant articles must stick out to each one of us, because I feel the same way you describe. Or maybe we just hate suburbanites, because all the advice applies to them? (I kid, I kid).

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