Do You Worry About Meeting Basic Needs?

Sometimes I really believe I should stay off the internet.

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted an article about the top financial concerns among Americans. Of those surveyed, 41% reported meeting basic needs as their primary concern. I found this interesting, and tweeted the article in hopes of engaging in some good discussion. Instead, between the two social media sites, I was disgusted by the attitudes of some of those who commented.

“If people are worrying about meeting basic needs, they need to learn how to manage money.”

“Oh please. They probably went to a homeless shelter to do the survey.”

“I don’t have to worry about meeting my needs. It’s called a J-O-B!”

“Who comes up with this crap that no one cares about?”

You guys know how I feel about people who talk smack about those in poverty. Combine that with the fact that you don’t have to be poor to worry about meeting basic needs, and I was ready to have a stroke. I had to take to my bed like an old lady who just found out her grandkids listen to secular music. But I’m feeling better today, and I’m pretty sure I can write about this without collapsing or stabbing anyone.

Let’s Talk About Basic Needs

Basic needs include food, clothing, and shelter. I’m very lucky to have all of those things, and I hope that all of you do as well. But does that mean we can ignore the fact that many people aren’t able to meet the most basic of needs?

When I think about people who can’t provide food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their families, my mind automatically goes to people who are homeless, out of work, disabled, and/or dealing with mental illness and addiction. However, my conscious brain realizes that those aren’t the only people who might have that problem.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been unable to meet one or more of your basic needs as an adult. *raises hand*

There have been plenty of times that I needed food or clothing (luckily I’ve been good on shelter) and didn’t have the money to pay for it at that exact moment. And really, if you count rent/mortgage and utilities toward shelter, there have been times I was iffy on that front as well. I’ve had the shameful experience of borrowing money from my parents, using credit cards, and even taking out payday loans to pay for the essentials.

What Does it Say About You if You Can’t Meet Your Needs?

Contrary to what people on Facebook and Twitter may think, there are many reasons why a person may have difficulty meeting his/her needs. They do NOT automatically equate to laziness, stupidity, or (my pet peeve) “making bad choices.” Even people who work 40 or more hours a week struggle sometimes. It doesn’t always mean they spend too much on lattes (or whatever the trend is this week).

I’m able to meet mine and my son’s needs right now, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about being able to do so in the near future. See that income progress bar in my upper right sidebar? It’s not progressing too fast this month, and that’s not likely to improve unless one of you is secretly plotting to send me millions of dollars. (By all means, plot away!)

As much as I hate it, I’m looking for jobs. And I’m not even being too picky. I have applied for over 200 jobs, from blogging and social media to answering phones for minimum wage, and guess how many HR reps have contacted me? Zero. And since my emergency fund is not bottomless, this is cause for concern. More specifically, alarm.

And I know someone is going, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have quit your job.” You know why that’s funny? Because my former employer just cut the workforce nearly in half based on seniority, meaning I would have been laid off last month. And based on the money I was making there (or lack thereof), my unemployment would be a whopping $172 a week (I used an unemployment calculator). And while that’s $688 per month that I don’t have coming in at this moment, is that enough to meet our basic needs? Nope. So I’d still be freaking out.

I’m not lazy. I’m not mentally ill (not seriously, anyway) or addicted to cocaine or suffering from my poor choices. Debt or lack of budgeting are NOT the reasons I’m concerned about meeting basic needs right now. Also, you don’t have to be unable to meet your needs to be concerned about it. I have a feeling that far more than 41% of us have the same worries in our lives right now. And maybe it’s wrong, but I resent people whose lives have always been so perfect that they can’t comprehend that.

Confession time: Have you ever worried about your ability to provide food, clothing, or shelter for yourself and/or your family? What were the circumstances? Do you judge people who have trouble making ends meet?


Do You Worry About Meeting Basic Needs?33 Comments

  1. Yes I've definitely worried before. Back when I was an undergrad and providing everything for myself, life was tough.

  2. I worry about it all the time. I am starting a new job soon but I am still concerned about that. We are going to have a higher income but with any big change there is an unstable period of fluctuation with money and resources. I get tired of people angry at “class warfare” when the lower classes critize the rich, but it’s sad when those who are fortunate enough to not have the same concerns do the bashing.

  3. I don't worry about it…now. But I have worried about all 3 in the past. Really, seriously and hardcore worried about it. And this was when both my husband and I were working full-time. With benefits! Due to some creative budgeting and serious sacrifice, we made it through without ever starving, being naked or inappropriately dressed or losing our house but I had bi-weekly anxiety attacks when I sat down to pay the bills.

    People who make those kinds of statements are fortunate that, most likely, they've never been in that situation. I'm over the moon happy for them and I certainly never wish upon them what I went through (or what that 41% is currently going through). But I do wonder if they'd be so quick to judge if they had an understanding of that uncertainty. Or maybe they do and pulled themselves out and now sit in judgment of those who haven't been able to (for whatever reason).

    In any event, I try not to pay too much attention to those kinds of statements. It's not worth it.

  4. I have been blessed so far in my life to have never had to worry about meeting basic needs; and that is what you call it when your basic needs are met. A blessing; and you should be thankful.

    They are a lot of people living in poverty and sometimes, it isn't their fault in any way, it is just circumstances.

    It is hard for a lot of people out there and no one should look down on them, sometimes a lot of the people in poverty are trying their hardest to get by. They are by no means lazy or stupid. If you are one of the people who don't have to worry about your basic needs then be grateful. Be thankful you have a job and can provide for you and your family, the few basic things that a lot of people consider a luxury and can not afford, and the next time you complain you can't get that shiny new toy, think of the person who would love a jacket even if it had a hole in it.

  5. I can honestly say that I have not worried about it. I moved out of my parents home at 18 into a basement suite with my boyfriend. I have always paid half the rent which is manageable even on my retail salary, but it's tight. Plus I've always had credit cards to fall back on if I didn't have any money for groceries. I'm incredibly fortunate. But I understand that some people do, for whatever reason, and it's nobody's place to guess WHY!

  6. My basic needs are taken care of with my current income. I am able to chip away at my debt, save a little, and have a few small luxuries like going out to dinner or the movies occasionally. *But* I'm not in a secure enough position that one medium-to-big financial setback couldn't blow it all to pieces - if I was out of work, if an automotive or medical emergency happened, etc. - things would get really tight really fast.

  7. I think my driving force to cover my basic needs is my pride. I will do ANYTHING not to ask my parents for help or to borrow money from them. While my dad would be totally cool with it, my stepmom is one of those "hound dogs" that will track you down, until you pay her back. NO THANKS! Lol. For that reason I've always had a plan B, C and D in case I lose my job or get into a major financial emergency. Thankfully, I've never been to "down and out" when it comes to money.

  8. I've never had to worry about meeting my basic needs, and I feel damn lucky that that's the case. Things aren't easy, and with debt and unemployment the way they are, it's no wonder to me that so many people are having trouble keeping up. For every person out there that's sitting on a couch being lazy, living off the government's dime, I'd be willing to bet there are ten more out there hitting the pavement looking for work, working four jobs, cutting expenses down to the bone, just to survive.

  9. I'm definitely fortunate to have had the motivation, strength and resulting opportunities to make sure I have enough coming in to cover basic needs and have a bit left over to cover some of our wants. In fact that's my main motivation for wanting to succeed - to "never" have to worry about whether the light bill gets paid or food is on the table.

  10. Even with a college degree and a job, many salaries are not enough to meet needs. Especially for those who have student loan debt or any kind of debt. You can make the "right" choice as far as education is concerned, work your tail off to get that degree, and still not land the job that will support you at a comfortable level, if you can find a one at all. Welcome to the "new" state of America.

  11. I worry about meeting my basic needs all the time since most of my income goes to debt. The past few months were better since I was working two jobs. But one of them ended and now my current employer is closing my store in a month. I may have to cut all debt payments to minimums, defer some loans, and be even more frugal until my new employment works out.

  12. yeah.. we've all been there. i have had to go to my parents with my tail between my legs once or twice saying "we had some things crop up and are completely broke until my next paycheck.. can we borrow a couple hundred bucks for gas/food to get us through the rough patch?".. it isn't crazy.. it is a part of living paycheck-to-paycheck.. and many Americans live that way.

    if you have 200 applications out.. i would think you would hear something soon, Andrea. just be patient and persistent.

  13. I have worried about all three in the past. Multiple times in my adult life. When my kids were younger, there were lots of times when I really didn't know where we were going to find the money for groceries. This is one big reason why I have credit card debt that is in my moms name. My credit was shot so I couldn't get a credit card and she had one, so we bought groceries several times using her card. And groceries were the least of my worries, as I oftentimes wondered where the mortgage payment was going to come from.

    I'm not in a position now where I have to worry about those things, but I don't ever want to take anything for granted. I also want to think that I would never look down on someone who had to worry about those things. I've been there, so who am I to judge, right?

  14. I'm a worry bug by nature (yes one of those annoying people). No matter if my budget is in tack, with emergency fund put away to cover me for X amount of months, I will always worry about being able to provide for my family in the future.

    I will never judge someone if they couldn't provide for basic needs unless they give me a reason to. IE. going on a shopping spree, buying new cars and fancy jewelry, then coming to me for food money for their kids.

  15. I have been there too many times (like MommaStar, even if everything is more than fine), it helps me to keep my priorities straight, however, I really should tone it down a bit lol.

    Jeremiah Brown…

  16. From the AICPA article:
    The results come as 94 percent of American adults said they have financial concerns of one sort or another. Four in 10 adults, 41 percent, identified basic living expenses—including the cost of gas, uninsured medical expenses and lack of emergency savings—as their top financial concern. A quarter, 27 percent, said their main concerns are related to long-term goals, such as paying for education and saving for retirement. Worries about jobs, homes and caring for aging parents rounded out the list.

    Um, those all seems like reasonable concerns to me. Who drives a car and DOESN'T complain/worry about the cost of gas? And health insurance? Even with a job that has full benefits, medical expenses add up so quickly. Without coverage, that would be my primary concern of the basic living expenses. In general, I have mine reduced as far as possible, and as long as I'm employed (or get a new job within 6 months) I can pay them. That doesn't mean I don't worry! I mean, the reason I have such low expenses (voluntarily) is because I put that as a major concern.

  17. Ummm….yes, yes and YES!

    My entire Confessions of a PF Blogger series was inspired by my past struggles to provide basic necessities vs. where I am today. I spent time homeless, jobless, and penniless, so I definitely know how it feels to be on the short end of the proverbial stick in life.

    I'd never judge anyone who's making an honest effort to keep afloat, make things better, or educate themselves. However, after having the experiences I've had, I'll admit that it is hard for me to feel sorry for those who make zero effort on behalf of themselves & rely solely on the assistance of others to get by (mostly talking about food stamp/welfare fraud here but it could extend to a few other arenas).

  18. When I was poor, I had lost my job after they had cut my hours anyways, lived 15 miles away from a nearest bus station, had figured out that I could make a box of cheerios last me for about 3 weeks (no milk and that was all the food I had) and wasn't getting any incoming money. I had a "savings" I was blowing through with the basic needs of rent/utility bills. I recieved a job offer after months of applying for anything. I was so excited until my roomate told me that he was moving and I wouldn't have a place after a few weeks. I had to make the choice to move to a different state with no money and accept living on a couch from friends. A few weeks later, I recieved one at a fast food place and things got slowly better.

  19. Yes. I don't want to go into it because the internet is just a bit to public, but it was very scary and I'm glad that it's over, and frankly it's probably the reason I'm so insistent on putting money into savings every month and not putting everything towards debt repayment. You never know when or how much you'll need, and I want to give myself the fattest cushion I can just in case.

  20. I spent about a year and a quarter as a single mom who did all the laundry (including diapers) by hand because the laundromat was too expensive and I did not want to apply for food stamps. Although we didn't eat a terribly interesting and exotic diet, I knew we wouldn't starve as long as I could keep us in beans, cornmeal, vegetables, fruits and milk.
    That said, I *did* worry. What if my hours were cut? (I was "permanent part-time," usually getting 35 hours a week but sometimes only 25.) What if I or the baby got sick and needed medicine? What if my shoes wore out before I'd set aside enough money for new ones? Etc. etc.
    I try not to judge others because I don't know what's going on in their lives. That person using an EBT card might have been laid off after 20 years and be too "old" to get hired again easily. Or she might be working full-time and still unable to meet expenses due to the illness or disability of a family member.
    Here's an example. I went back to school in my late 40s to obtain (finally!) a college degree. One of my classmates had two kids, one with a serious health condition. She worked 30 hours a week as a pharmacy tech and was a part-time college student in an attempt to get a career that paid a living wage. Her ex-husband was dragging his heels on child support. This young woman was perpetually exhausted (late nights with a sick child will do that), perpetually worried about money and perpetually struggling to find time to study for exams.
    Imagine being her — trying to be the best mom she could be, trying to better herself, trying to support her kids with no help from their dad — and having someone at the checkout counter make some snide comment about benefits. How would that make YOU feel, to have some stranger decide he knows everything he needs to know about you because you were currently on food stamps?
    (I have no idea whether she was using food stamps, by the way.)

  21. A year and a half ago I was about to be homeless, jobless, hopeless and also had to face my credit card and car debt. I starting loosing hair I was so upset by my impending doom. Now, I will say that my situation was my fault because I made careless mistakes and did not save money when I had the chance to. I was able to change that situation around completely and I am cc debt and car loan debt free. I was lucky enough to find a good paying job, I was blessed that my aunt and uncle offered me a place to live and I found the strength to pull myself together.

    Not everyone who faces loosing a home or a car is in that situation because they made dumb mistakes like I did. Many were laid-off, or facing circumstances like you listed. For people to judge ALL people who cannot make basic needs is so out of line and wrong it makes me sick to my stomach. Yea, I was an idiot and screwed up, but what about my brother-in-law who, literally, had brain surgery in January only to find out his wife has MS in February and now they may face medical bankruptcy? These people have health insurance and jobs and may now face loosing everything. Are they pathetic, dumb, and unworthy of compassion? And really, a lot of us may make our own mess with the decisions we've made in life, but does that merit extreme judgement? I have a friend who is making dumb mistakes, like I did, she makes me roll my eyes, but does that mean she deserves to be homeless or called an idiot by people who don't even know her?

    I know this comment is getting too long, but I just cannot stomach how people treat others who are less fortunate. We tend to think everyone who is poor or unable to make provide basic needs for themselves deserves it. sigh. end rant.

  22. We are a lot better off today, but shortly after we got married, money was so tight that peanut butter was dinner. That was the year that we only had Thanksgiving dinner because there are generous people on Craigslist who will donate the food for Thanksgiving to needy families. Of course, I count myself fortunate. When our hours got cut down to 8 per week (or less) this winter, one of my coworkers was reduced to eating free condiment packets while he slowly sold off almost everything he owned to pay for rent.

  23. I walked out on my abusive boyfriend with literally the clothes on my back and my computer. I had been looking for a job for a solid four months before I left (this was in 2008) but I couldn't stand the abuse any longer.

    Did I need a lesson on how to manage my money? And I was desperately trying to get a j.o.b. but not even McDonald's or Home Depot were hiring. I was signed up with three different temp agencies and didn't get a single gig with any of them. And because I was basically curled up in a depressed ball on a friend's couch and not paying rent I couldn't get on public assistance, either.

    And then things got worse.

    Once I FINALLY got a job, I heard Dave Ramsey explaining the concept of "paying the four walls" first and it was a HUGE relief to me. The idea that it was ok to pay food (the budget item most people make cuts first because it's not a fixed amount) before debt (because credit card companies scream the loudest but are really the least important) made it emotionally easier to keep on paying my bills one teeny-tiny little shovel full at a time.

    So I don't judge the general population if they can't make ends meet because most of the time I don't know their story. But I admit I DO judge my friends when I hear them complain about having the power company threatening to turn off their electricity and yet they have iPhones (I downgraded to a $30/month Tracfone) and I see them checking into restaurants on Foursquare.

  24. I am very lucky to never have had to REALLY worry about meeting my basic needs. Yes, at times things have been SUPER tight and paying for groceries and rent were a stretch, but I'm lucky to come from a semi-wealthy family (wow, I've never said that before - hope it's not TMI) so I know that I would have *some* way to pay my bills/food needs if I was really struggling. Again, I'm lucky that I never had to ask, but in the case that I did, the money would come.

    The thing I don't get about people who think that those who can't meet basic needs are "lazy" or "not trying hard enough" is that low-income people are often VERY hard working. Many work 2-3 jobs just to attempt to put food on the table and pay for housing. How can you possibly say that's lazy?!

    I actually wrote a post a few months ago where I examined my privilege; it's one of the pieces of writing I'm most proud of.

  25. The reason I started writing about money is because I believe if you are working full-time in this great country, you should be able to meet the basic needs of your family: which includes food, shelter, clothing and some form of transportation (whether that's a bus pass or a private vehicle). It's not the home of your dreams or designer clothing, but the home you can afford and clothes that serve general purposes. It is simply not the case that people who are working full-time at minimum wage or lower (like a cash-based job) can meet all of their basic needs every month. A health emergency should not bankrupt a family. And this can easily happen with or without insurance coverage. So 41% of people worrying about basic needs makes perfect sense, and at least 94% having some sort of financial concern also makes sense. Everyone worries about money at some point or another, and for some people that is a constant, regular worry. Yeah, I worry about money a lot but I am grateful and thankful for having a background, education and experience that allows me to pay all of my bills each month. But I want to be mindful of the people who live right down the street who can't meet those needs.

  26. I am an engineer and have a high paying job but I can not deny the fact that I have seem times when I didn't have money to buy a proper dinner. I remember the days when I was bent to my knees under the load of immense debt. During those days I was not an average earner; I was one of the highest but debt took a toll. What I mean to say that almost anyone can be a victim of such times.

  27. I never judge people who can't make their basic needs and I never worry about meeting mine. You can't get angry at the ignorant ones for not understanding poverty is a real thing. Most people only look at things from how they were treated, their environment or experiences. If people have never been through poverty or know someone who goes through it, it may be hard for them to understand "meeting basic needs" is a big deal.

  28. My son will graduate from college in a few weeks. He has $15,000 in debt (not bad, I know), needs to buy a new (old) care - he totaled his old beater a month ago - will have to remain on our health insurance as long as possible (he takes several medications that cost hundreds a month w/o insurance) - and he's stepping right into a full time job. He'll be working at a residential treatment facility for children and adolescents with mental and emotional health issues. His annual pay? Not even $22,000 a year. There is no way he could make ends meet if he couldn't live at home - at least until his debt is paid. It's so frustrating to me how unkind and ready others are to judge.

  29. I've done my fair share about worrying about meeting basic needs, never shelter though. I don't judge people who can't do it; I wish everybody would be able to meet their basic needs. Some people have odd concepts about basics needs though, like considering cellphones, internet, fancy cars, designer clothes, etc. as basic needs.


  30. What a wonderful post Andrea, we never know what someone else may be going through, and we all have struggles in life whether they are financial, emotional, or physical. I know many hardworking people with degrees and talent that can't find a job, even part time. We definitely live in uncertain times.

  31. Amen sister - I hate the fact that people judge others when they don't really know the other person's situation. I think everyone has struggled to make ends meet at one point in their lives and it will hopefully stay with them when they get themselves on steady ground again. I spend every day with clients who are on the brink of foreclosure, bankruptcy, tax liens etc and its hard not to be like "how did you get yourself here?" I hate to say it, but its not my clients who are happily making $30K a year and barely getting by… its the arrogant, entitled, elite of the upperclass that have a hard time paying for their wishful "lifestyle." They are the (insert professional) that makes high six figures a year that cannot afford the half a million dollar house they bought on the outskirts of Manhattan. Meeting their "needs" are constantly on their mind, they are just too proud to admit it and racking up more and more plastic debt. In the end, they are just like everyone else - trying to make ends meet!!

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