DontDebt Email List | Squeaks | SpendersDA Email List
Get Out of Debt
©2000-20013 Diane Conlinn, all rights reserved.

Living Like a Pauper

by Diane Conlinn, November 6, 2000

I have received several comments stating that if we all learn to squeeze that nickel harder that we will be able to live within our means. I commend those of us who enjoy frugal living and find it personally satisfying and rewarding. However, I differ in that I do not believe that living within one’s means necessarily follows frugality.

Today, I want to talk about a syndrome I call pauperism. I have and still do at times suffer from pauperism syndrome. What is this? Well, for me the symptoms are displayed in the following manner, I wear my underwear until it’s holey and frayed, I don’t take care of minor medical problems until they threaten to become major medical problems. Instead of waiting and buying new clothing, I rush to a used store, or to a sale to buy something, that isn’t quite what I wanted. It’s saving every last piece of plastic, aluminum foil, egg carton, in the house until my closet bursts at the seams because I might be able to think of something useful to do with it or I’ll be able to donate it somewhere.

Meanwhile, because I’ve been doing this saving, I can’t find that pair of scissors I need, and I end up buying another pair. Or finding that I have 5 lint removers, because I bought a new one every time I needed one recently, because I couldn’t find the original one amidst the clutter.

It almost always involved me buying a new skirt every chance I get because I was afraid to spend enough money to buy the skirt that would exactly meet my needs.

Other signs of pauperism, are refusing an opportunity to make an extra $200 because of some vague sense of worry. Then instead of making that money, going to the store, and buying a huge load of groceries, and letting half of it rot in my refrigerator.

What is pauperism? It is believing we do not have enough. Enough food, enough money, enough clothes. It is a deep feeling of insecurity that can display itself in a number of ways. By not purchasing needed necessities, by squirreling things away for so long that we forget the reason we saved them. It’s refusing opportunities to make more money, because of some vague sense that the pursuit of monetary gain is somehow impure and evil. 

Doing things that enforce our living from one month to the next, one step away being unable to pay our rent is not nobler or more right. It isn’t wrong to live comfortably either. It isn’t wrong to have a decent car, decent clothing, money for food, and entertainment, a retirement plan, a contingency fund, and money for vacations. 

Not only that it isn’t wrong to have all these things without owing any unsecured debt, i.e. debt that is not secured by houses, cars, or other property. I am convinced that this feeling of pauperism is what kept me in debt, and in financial straits for so long. Somewhere deep inside myself I believed it was wrong to be financially sound. Perhaps it was my parents insistence on the value of every single gift they ever gave me. Or the gift comparisions at birthday parties. Or maybe some deep personal feelings of inadequacy. Nevertheless I had these.

A few years ago when I found myself once again deep in debt after having retrieved myself from debt for the second time, I realized that I must be doing something fundamentally wrong. It was at this time that I heard of Debtors Anonymous. I joined this organization’s online group through, and in the beginning and sometimes even now I find myself sabotaging my efforts. By working on my action program a day at a time, I’ve slowly begun to change my personal attitudes. How I’ve personally combatted pauperism within myself is by doing the following:

#1 I buy things at full price now

#2 I track my spending

#3 I plan my purchases

#4 I insure that I have enough money to last till the end of the month for necessities.

#5 I try to keep my home clutter free.

#6 I throw one thing away each week, that I don’t need (either by donating it, or if I find I don’t have time to go to a donation point, I literally have put it in the trash).

#7 I don’t go to the store hungry.

#8 I try to eat one decent meal every day

#9 I insure that my clothes are clean, pressed, and that all my clothing is free of holes and wear.

#10 I don’t save clothes. If I buy something new, I get rid of something old.

#11 I explore new opportunities.

Very small rules, and perhaps you can think of others. I believe this is a self developing type of system, and each person has to see what applies to them personally. Good to you, if you find this article applies to you.


I am not a lawyer, thus, if you have questions, about this please check with your attorney. Thanks.