There is no such thing as partial payments. When you make minimum wage, you can’t afford all the necessities. Don’t even think about medical care, that’s thousands of dollars at the cheapest without insurance. Just prioritizing food, electricity, gas, and rent was difficult because we could only afford one at a time, if at all. If we bought food and had no electricity, then food would spoil and we’d have no way to cook it. If we didn’t have gas, we would freeze in the winter (we lived in Ohio at the time), or couldn’t cook (depending on if we had a gas stove). Companies wouldn’t take partial payments either. When you’re poor, there is no saving money. If you can’t pay for electricity, why starve? We’d use that money for food. When you’re that poor, your money is a reaction. You pay for the things you need right now and can’t afford to think about tomorrow.
When there was payment plans it was after you were in dept. Those plans weren’t to prevent you from owing, it was to help you after you were in debt and couldn’t get out of it. If the boyfriend works a 40hr job for $5.75 /hr, he’d bring home around $130 a paycheck after taxes. A cheap one bed apartment would cost more than that a month, let’s say $300. You get paid bi weekly, so that’s around $260 a month (after taxes). Deduct $300 from $260 and you get -$40. Try paying rent, let alone buy food or pay for electricity.
Remember, I was very sick at that time. When I did work, it was still difficult getting by. So even if we were both working minimum wage full time, that’s about $520 a month between the two of us. If we paid rent, that brought us down to $220. Deduct an electric bill of $100, that’s $120 left. Then a $60 gas bill leaves us with $60 to eat off of. Now this is assuming we aren’t in debt and I was well enough to work the full 40hrs. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. We typically had between $100 and $300 to work with and no matter if we spent all our money on bills, the bills racked up and we were drowning in debt and/or starving. We used to pretend to not be home to dodge the landlord. Even when we were evicted, we’d hide and draw out our stay as long as we could. It was the price of food, health, and attempts at medical care.
Luckily, although a double edged sword, it was a illegal to shut off power during the winter in Ohio. So during the winter, we racked up the most debt. By the time spring popped up, we were without electricity. We usually owed over $1000 dollars and had until next winter to get it turned back on. We suffered the heat in order to not freeze to death in the winter. However, it wasn’t illegal to turn off gas during the winter, so even though we had electricity, we were still cold.
We used to do dangerous things to survive. We blocked off all the doors to the kitchen, moved the bed into the dining room, and lived in this one small space. We turned on the oven and left the door open. It was dangerous, but we were freezing. You can layer on clothing and pile on blankets, but when it’s the dead of winter in Ohio, you are going to still freeze if you don’t have heating in your home. Another trick was to run the dryer and use the hose in the back to pump the warmth into the room. There were times that we’d go to the mall just to loiter in the warmth. Have you ever tried to sleep while cold? It’s impossible! The cold makes you alert and you’re wide awake. We once had a small electric heater that we huddled up next to. We felt devastated the day it broke.
Food used to be our first priority, but after freezing in the winter, we changed our minds. Food took a back seat to warmth.