Tax Day Memories

Tomorrow’s the last day to file your taxes! I’m a responsible adult, so mine have been done for almost a week now, but to those who are waiting until the last minute I dedicate this cautionary Tax Day tale.

tax day

A few years ago, I was working at a restaurant in Queens for $7.50 an hour (and this was after my big raise), making enough to pay rent, eat food, and maybe go out twice a month. It wasn’t great, but we were in a recession, and what was a Communications major to do?

Tax Day rolled around, and I didn’t have a laptop in those days, so I found myself struggling to do my taxes online within the half hour I was given by the local library. Disaster struck: it turned out I owed about $450 in taxes. It might as well have been a million dollars. In the IRS’s grand tradition of giving zero fucks, and because it was the last day to file, the money was pulled from my bank account immediately, leaving a cool -$300 in my bank account. The good news: I already paid my rent. The bad news: I was 14 days away from my next paycheck.

I was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that I was in a library, and tried to remain as silent as possible while I could feel my whole body flooding with panic. Shaking a little, I logged off. Once outside I began taking in huge gulps of air, trying to figure out how much food I already had in my apartment and whether I could ration it for two weeks.

I had something like 8 eggs and about half a jar of peanut butter, so I VERY MUCH COULD NOT. “You’ll be okay…” I told myself. “You work at a restaurant! That’ll be good for some meals!” This was true, but I only worked 4 days a week (two 12 hour shifts, one 8 hour shift, and one 4 hour shift because the restaurant couldn’t afford any full-time staffers), so even assuming I could sneak more than the one meal per shift I was supposed to take, I’d still need 6 full days worth of food.

I ran into my room and scrounged for change. I had a pretty decent amount, I thought. Before walking to the Coinstar machine, I figured I should break for lunch, so I grabbed 35 cents and headed to the bodega on the corner. I slapped a pack of ramen on the counter. “How much?” I asked, cockily. I’d survive the next few days, no problem. “50 cents.” “50 CENTS?!!! BUT AN 8 PACK IS A DOLLAR!!!” I screamed internally.

What I said out loud was “Oh… I uh… I’ll be back.” The man at the counter looked at me and said very kindly “Take it now. You pay me later.” I left the thirty five cents on the counter and tried to smile at him, but was also fighting back tears of gratitude/desperation, so I ended up just sort of wrinkling my face in his general direction. I think he understood.

After my delicious lunch of half a pack of ramen with a fried egg, I made my way to the Coinstar at Stop N Shop, where I discovered I had something like $19 in change. I spent about an hour and a half searching the aisles for the cheapest foods that would sustain me for the longest. I bought:

  • 1 loaf Stop N Shop Brand White Bread
  • 1 bag Stop N Shop Brand Frozen Broccoli
  • 1 container Stop N Shop Brand Margarine (but it wasn’t called margarine, it was called “Buttery Spread Sticks”)
  • 1 box Stop N Shop Brand Just-Add-Water Pancake Mix
  • 3 Bananas
  • 1 pack Stop N Shop Brand Cheese (but it wasn’t called cheese, it was called “American Sandwich Slices”)
  • 1 8-pack Beef Flavored Ramen Noodles
  • 1 tin Stop N Shop Brand Coffee
  • 1 dozen Large Eggs
Buttery Spread Sticks
Spread it and forget it.

The eggs were far and away the most expensive item, and after checking out, I still had around $4 in change. Stop N Shop rules.

For dinner that night, I had a grilled American sandwich slice sandwich. I’ll admit, the melted “cheese” tasted like pure salt and had the texture of pudding skin, but the buttery spread sticks actually made the bread a perfect golden brown. The next morning, I treated myself to banana pancakes with a big cup of coffee. The pancakes tasted like pancakes! The coffee tasted like hot dog water! Ya win some, ya lose some.

Could I have survived on the food I bought for two weeks? Probably! I’ll never truly know, because, living very close to the restaurant I was working at, I was able to swing by when my manager wasn’t around and snag free food from my co-workers pretty much every day. I’d fantasize about the manager catching me and reprimanding me so that I could dramatically yell “ARE YOU REALLY THAT SURPRISED? YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I MAKE!”, causing her to break down, thank me for being such a good employee, and offer me $10/hour (double digits baby!! Also, Jesus Christ, times really were tough if $10/hour was my FANTASY salary).

I never was caught in the act, but if that actually happened I probably would have just unconvincingly lied that I paid for whatever I was eating and the manager wouldn’t have cared enough to question it.

I know I rambled for a bit, but here’s what I want you to take away from this:

  • Stop N Shop has amazing deals
  • Stop N Shop brand coffee should not be called “coffee”, it should be called something like “Brown Hot Beverage Powder”
  • Having zero dollars does not mean the government can’t take money from you on tax day

I should clarify that I’m not anti-taxes or anti-government. I just want to share this story to point out how important it is to do your taxes in advance, so that if you DO owe money, you can at least try to figure out a payment plan.

Of course, Tax Day is tomorrow.

Good luck, procrastinators? If you get burned by your taxes this year and you’re desperate, you could probably find some of those “cheese” slices perfectly preserved in a landfill somewhere. I don’t believe in throwing food away, but throwing “food” away is gratifying.

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Broke-ish Perspective: Diapers

When I complain about being poor, I’m mostly complaining about things like having to pack a lunch every day or only being able to afford getting into an Uber if it’s a Pool. These are not real problems. Broke-ish Perspective posts explore actual problems poor people face and ways even the broke-ish can help.

brokeish perspective diapers

I spent the entirety of this beautiful spring morning mildly hungover in my bed watching clips of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. I’d never seen it before and was instantly obsessed. There’s something so magnetic about the way she jokes and smiles through gritted teeth, letting the full-bodied rage that inspired her to highlight the issue she’s covering in the first place shine through. If late night hosts were the Justice League, Samantha Bee would be Wonder Woman AND Batman AND Superman. If she were in Destiny’s Child, she would have Beyonce’d Beyonce*. She’s hilarious, smart, #goalsaf, and just an all around slam dunk of a human being.

BUT THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER TO SAMANTHA BEE. This is about a piece on her show called “Poor Babies Don’t Deserve Diapers”.  Click that link and come back when you’re done.

Didja watch it? Doesn’t Bee slay? Slaaaay, Bee! Your blazer game is FIRE!

If you’re at work and you didn’t watch it, here’s the gist. It costs (at lowest) an estimated $80/month to diaper your baby. Low income families struggle to afford diapers, and receive no help from the government because food stamps don’t cover diapers. Diapers are considered a “luxury item”, which totally makes sense. Look at this little guy, not covered in his own poop.

Diapers Brokeish
Extravagant little dipshit.

 

Seriously though, let’s call a diaper what it really is– a health necessity AND a shit catcher. It catches baby shit! How can anything that collects pee be luxurious? Did R. Kelly become a government official when we weren’t paying attention? What are people who can’t afford diapers supposed to do? How can you potty train something that doesn’t even have control over its own head?!

A hygiene assistance bill to help poor families get diapers was proposed in November and hasn’t been voted on yet, but it’s already facing opposition by people arguing it’s not the government’s role to provide diapers and people who can’t afford babies shouldn’t have had them in the first place.

Ok, fine, even if you believe that, you can’t deny that the baby is already here. Do you want their parents to just Moses them down a river? Maybe write a letter to the Jolie-Pitts asking if they’ve got room for one more? Why can’t the government help these people? Would it really be the worst thing in the world to give struggling parents a stipend for diapers? Are people worried about like, an emergence of Diaper Queens?  Do they think there will be a sudden influx of mothers milking the system for all the diapers they can get their grubby little hands on, living large in their government-sponsored diaper mansions, no longer motivated to find work because who needs a job when you can spend all day sitting on a diaper throne?

These people clearly had access to diapers as babies because they obviously have no idea that their shit stinks. BABIES NEED DIAPERS! HOW IS THIS EVEN AN ISSUE?!

Some people are idiots, and these idiots are preventing low-income families from getting diapers. The good news is, you’re not an idiot! You can totally help these people for cheap by making a donation to National Diaper Baby Network! The lowest suggested donation is $10 (which is less than a steak burrito with a side of guac at Chipotle, less than that Batman vs Superman ticket you probably regret buying, less than a month of Spotify premium…), but you can donate as much or as little as you want. You could even help for the low low price of free ninety nine by writing your governor or mayor to spread awareness of diaper need (which sounds like a whole to-do, but there’s a template here to get you started, and all you really need to do is change the dates on it).

Not being able to afford diapers is a real problem, and instead of waiting on Congress to do something (LOL Congress), the broke-ish can take action now and do their part to make the world a little less shitty.

 

*kidding Bey. We cool? We cool.

You Don’t Need to Buy That: Ivy Park

A big part of being broke-ish is talking yourself out of spending when you should be saving. Today, I’m talking myself out of buying Ivy Park.

Brokeish Ivy Park.png

God dammit Adrienne. Don’t do it. Don’t even think about going to Topshop.com. No part of you needs activewear. You haven’t been to a gym since 2012, unless you count that time last year you signed up for a Planet Fitness membership that you never actually used.

Oh what a surprise, you’re on Topshop.com. Why are you so obsessed with Beyonce? She would probably hate you in real life! You’re right, I crossed a line, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. But seriously, haven’t you given this woman enough?! You switched to Tidal. You bought the album. And the deluxe version of the same album. And whenever someone else is named People’s Most Beautiful Person you always casually bring it up in conversation just so you have a chance to yell “IF IT’S NOT BEYONCE THEY FUCKED UP!”.

Suuuuuuure, $35 isn’t too much for a sports bra. You’ll totally wear it all the time while you’re playing ALL NONE OF THE SPORTS YOU PLAY. Yes, those leggings are cool, but do you really need to drop $65 for the luxury of not wearing real pants? I know you want those joggers, but the only time you jog is when you’re meeting someone and have deluded yourself into thinking jogging a couple blocks will make up for the fact that you left your apartment a full half hour later than you should have.

Adrienne! Are you fucking kidding me with that backless hoodie?! YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT IS, DO NOT SPEND $48 PLUS SHIPPING JUST TO FIGURE IT OUT.

Backless Hoodie Ivy Park

Maybe if you invest in the clothes you’ll be motivated to go the gym again? Bitch please, that’s what you told yourself when you invested in that gym membership! At $10/month, that free tee shirt you got for signing up became really expensive didn’t it?! DIDN’T IT?!!!

Can you pay your bills? Can you pay your telephone bills? You can’t if you keep buying shit you don’t need! A sports bra is not going to turn you into Beyonce! She’s just fresher than yoooooooou. Fresher than yooooooooooou.

fresher than you

…Fine, leave everything in your online shopping cart in the hopes that you’ll be emailed if any of it goes on sale.

Side Hustle: Poshmark

Sometimes your full-time job barely covers your bills. Sometimes you want a little more cash just for funsies. Side Hustle explores ways to make extra money and determines whether or not they’re worth the effort.

I got into Poshmark about a month and a half ago because I had some clothes to get rid of and it was too cold to go to Buffalo Exchange. After I made my first sale, I developed a cultish obsession with it, spreading the gospel to my friends and spamming their text messages with links to sign up for the app. Although I was unable to convert anyone, I’m not alone in my devotion. There are currently over 700,000 Poshmark sellers with user names like @PoshQueen or @PoshyPoshPosh and they are my sisters.

WHAT IS IT

For the uninitiated, Poshmark is an app that lets you buy and sell clothes, jewelry, and makeup. You can sell whatever you want (there are guidelines, but they’re not strictly enforced– I once saw a listing for a creepy porcelain doll up there) by taking a picture of your item, setting a price, and writing a description. Your items are all listed in your “closet”, and you can add, remove, or edit items at any time.

Stingraydrienne Poshmark

People can follow your closet, but they can also search for certain brands and items. It’s unbelievably simple to use. I’m one of those people who types their text messages with only their index finger, and I had my closet set up in less than 15 minutes.

CAN YOU MAKE MONEY FROM IT

You definitely can make money from it, but unless your items are designer, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. When you log onto Poshmark, you see items from brands you’ve searched before, and items the people you’re following have shared or posted.

Poshmark Homepage

This means, if you’re not selling a branded item, people are probably not going to see it unless they’re following you or someone they follow follows you (apologies if that sentence gave you a headache). Getting followers isn’t hard work, but it is time consuming. It can also be dangerous. One way to get people to follow you is to share their items. Looking for stuff to share is basically window shopping and the opposite of what you should be doing when you’re trying to make money. I know this because I blew a decent chunk of my profits on a pair of harem pants that I have worn and will wear exactly one time.

Another warning: If your item is under $15, Poshmark takes $2.95 of your profits. If it’s over $15, Poshmark takes 20%. Shipping is around $6 (the buyer pays), so you have to take that into account when you’re selling. $8 might seem like a reasonable price for a used tee, but $14 feels a little steep. You should also be aware that even after you make a sale, profits aren’t instant. It takes up to 3 days after the product is delivered for the money to be deposited into the seller’s bank account.

Some people actually buy items to sell on Poshmark (if you sell more than 10 items, you have access to the “Retail Portal” where designers sell their items in bulk at a discount for resale). I would only recommend doing this if you have a ton of followers or if you’re in no hurry to make your money back. I used the Retail Portal to buy 5 pairs of earrings about a month ago, and have only sold one pair so far. They would probably look SO GREAT ON YOU by the way.

IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT

Yes. So far, after deducting the cost of my harem pants, I’ve made a little over $130 (18 items sold). Making sales does require effort, but the work involved is really just taking decent pictures of your stuff and looking at clothes on your phone. It’s easy. Unless you have a closet full of Louboutins (and what are you doing on a blog called “Broke-ish” if you do??) you’re probably not going to be able to immediately quit your job and live off your Poshmark profits, but if getting rid of things you don’t use anymore + playing with your phone = chance of extra money, why not give it a shot?

I’d recommend Poshmark over somewhere like Buffalo Exchange if you’re interested in selling your clothes. Even though Buffalo Exchange gives you money instantly, Poshmark lets you set the value of your items and sell whatever you want (and you don’t have to risk the shame of having some so-chic-it-hurts person tell you nothing you own is worth buying).

Oh, and if you do end up joining, please follow @Stingraydrienne and buy a pair of those earrings I told you about THEY. WOULD. LOOK. SO. GREAT. ON. YOU!

 

Adia Kibur Really Cool Earrings