“I figured out where all the Food Banks are, so I go there first. Then I can figure out what I need and go get it at the Dollar Store. Then I go to Bulk Barn and get some candy.”
We had been discussing minimum wage, and volunteers and youth alike had bad jobs to talk about. Minimum wage hasn’t always been over $10, so we swapped stories about $7 jobs and under-the-table work we had been paid to do by uncles and friends. As much as it was a discussion about money it was a discussion about priorities and value.
What do I want?
What do I need?
Can I live on this?
One of the youth was sharing their experience as a clerk in a retail store. They explained how they had been taught to balance the books at the end of the night, figure out which cash was short, and count-out the safe before heading home. They were very proud of everything they had learned, and looked forward to eventually becoming a key-holder. Key-holders get paid $0.40 extra, which, as they pointed out, is a lot of money. We did some quick calculations and figured out that they would be able to buy milk more often, and other things like hot dogs.
$0.40 x 25 hours of part time = an extra $10 a week
That’s an extra $40 a month or $480 a year
When I was younger I didn’t think $10 was very much, but now I live on my own I realize just how much you can buy with $10 if you spend it wisely. Now I am always learning ways to make that little bit go just a bit farther, and some of the best teachers I have are my street-friends from OIM.
I am continually impressed with the ingenuity and thriftiness of our street-friends. Many of our street-friends may struggle with delayed gratification and addictions, but each individual is trying their hardest to make their money go its farthest.
More than anything it is a discussion about value. I had a young man explain to me what he needs to do to visit his family—how long he needs to pan-handle, where he needs to do it, and what his average earnings would be. He then explained how long that money would last, where he would need to go next to make more, and exactly what he was using it for. He didn’t need a spread sheet to understand what he had, what he needed and what he could get—he was keenly aware of his financial situation, his priorities and the value of money.
These kinds of interactions make me question my own priorities and values, and my understanding of finances. I pray we can grow a culture of stewardship focused on understanding and questioning these two ideas, living determined to understand our financial situation and not to be overwhelmed. It feels as though ‘managing’ life seems to be less about having much as much as understanding what you have.