10 Things Some Poor People Do Every Day

10 Things Some Poor People Do Every Day

So apparently rich people are all nutrition experts and fitness gurus . . . while the poor, God bless ’em, are lazy couch potatoes who spend their days munching salty chips in front of reality TV shows.

I got home from work a few days ago and discovered Dave Ramsey’s article 20 Things the Rich do that the Poor Don’t, reposted from Tom Corley. I also noticed a little bit of backlash going on around the web about poor. Good summary here, a great response by Rachel Held Evans and a heartwarming article by Caryn Rivadeneria  called Things Broke People Do.

Poor people can make fun of themselves (thank you Jeff Foxworthy), or insult themselves, but rich people can get into serious trouble for trying.

“People are poor for a lot of reasons, and choice is certainly a factor, but categorically blaming poverty on lack of faith or lack of initiative is not only uninformed, it’s unbiblical”. Rachel Held Evans, What Dave Ramsey Gets Wrong About Poverty

Rachel is right. And there is a growing number of people, including myself and my family, who have become downwardly mobile to the point of voluntary poverty in order to make a difference among the global poor from the inside out. We live mostly in the first world but we live in solidarity with the one billion people on the planet who struggle like we do to make a living. We could go back anytime to our middle class existence – me as a Christian pastor and my wife as a Registered Nurse, but we would rather be missionaries who live incarnationally among the poor and are part of the solution for one of our world’s greatest challenges. There is a wonderful blessing that we have the privilege of taking from “Brother Poverty” and a theology that arises from it. But more about that another time.

Back to Dave Ramsey’s posting. Actually, we read it out aloud and our kids thought it was funny also. We are still chuckling over it.

Some thoughts:

1. Aerobic Exercise.

When I discovered Ramsey’s article, I had just completed a typical day working in the vineyard for minimum wage. I had I spent the whole day lifting taunt wires which I believe, and my aching back agrees, is serious aerobic exercise. And not only this but my pedometer told me I had walked a total of 17.5 kilometres, or 11 miles that day. My body was aching and even if I could afford to go to a gym to walk on a treadmill, I would rather sit on my ass and rest. Now my rich friends exercise at the gym but they get to do it every second day, giving their body time to recuperate. Me? I am back into it the next day and every day.

2. Junk Food.

Ok I do like a packet of potato chips but I usually only do this on Sunday afternoons with a beer and some sour cream to dip it into. Junk food is a bit too expensive for our budget so we limit it and celebrate it when those times come around. Coke or other fizzy soft drink is something we have only on Fridays with our movie. We call it “Fizzy Friday’s”. Although since our daughters brewed their own ginger beer a few weeks ago, we have not actually bought any. I do eat chocolate and like the occasion cookie/biscuit at work because it gives me energy for my labor intensive work. However, since we cannot afford to go to restaurants, our food is home-cooked and preservative-free. I bet it’s healthier than what my rich friends eat.

3. Gambling.

Apparently, the poor gamble and the rich speculate. One impoverishes families and the other crashes economies. I don’t do either. My pay check last week, due to 2 days of rain, was about US$200. I cannot afford to buy lottery tickets but I also choose not to because gambling creates a false mental future, which in turn generates an element of dissatisfaction with the present. And the Bible tells us that “contentment with godliness is great gain.” Contentment rules, and this is also why I avoid books by Christian financial advisors from the USA.

95% of Christian financial advisors who get paid large amounts to speak at megachurches do NOT mention that tithing has often been considered a heresy. The other 5% mentioned it once and were never invited back. Tallskinnykiwi

4. Rising early.

Ramsey’s list says that the wealthy get up 3 hours before work. I start work at 7:30am. Should I really get up at 4:30am? What will I gain? I am no genius but I think it is possible that the rich get up earlier because they live in exclusive gated communities which are far away from where they work and they have a long commute, giving them time to listen to audio books in their BMW’s. I walk to work because I live in a van down by the river, or more accuratey, a truck parked by the river, next to my vinegard. Yes, we SQUAT. Which is pretty common practise for other migrant workers in the orchards and vineyards around the world.

As it stands, I get up at 6am. Call me lazy if you like.

5. Audiobooks.

Unlike my comrades working retail, I am allowed to wear earphones so both my wife and I have listened to audio books while we work. We are very lucky. In the last month, she has listened to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Hugo’s Les Miserables, and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. In the last month, I took audio courses in Spanish, German, French, Czech and Chinese. I also listened to Anna Karinina which, btw, is a very LOOOOONG book; something that you don’t realize when you cannot see the physical version. Interestingly, both Anna Karinina and Les Miserables are about people who discover that happiness is not to be found in riches and actually adopt, as in the case of Tolstoys character Constanine Dmitrich Levin, a downwardly mobile lifestyle that embraces the joy of poverty and manual labor in the fields. Hmmmmm.

6. To do lists

Actually, I just deleted this. If it works for you, keep doing it.

7. Reality TV

I have no idea about reality TV shows. We have many episodes of Dr Who on our computer and a lot of movies, but we have not had a TV for 5 years.  Our awesome flat screen TV was purchased for our kids with a Christmas gift from their grandmother in Portland, Oregon. But one day someone in church told us about a need for a flat screen TV in Burundi at a micro-credit bank called the HOPE FUND. At our children’s request, our dear TV was shipped to Africa. We do not miss it.

27% pull statistics out of their ass” Rucky, Democratic Underground

8. Speaking our Minds

Ramsay’s numbers say that 69% of the poor speak their minds and only 6% of the wealthy. Well . . . . it depends on HOW they speak their mind. Bloggers are generally wealthier than non-bloggers. But Christian book writers and publishers? I tend to think they are wealthy rather than poor. I might be wrong. But when you go to the next Christian booksellers convention, see many old trucks with gun racks are parked outside. I bet there are not many.

63% of rich people who recommend poor people read audio books are getting rich by selling audio books to poor people. Tallskinnykiwi

9. Networking

“79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.” Number 12, 20 Things the Rich do Every Day

This is ludicrous. Poor people don’t live in gated communities. Poor people don’t have security systems installed to keep people away. Poor people don’t join exclusive clubs. And if you study mission history you will notice that most people group movements towards God happen among the poor,  precisely because they network. Except the poor never use that word. For them, socialising and being friends is just part of their struggle and their joy.

10. Teaching our Kids

Apparently, “only 1% of the poor teach success habits to their children”. I don’t know about that but we poor teach survival skills to our children: how to defend themselves, how to live on less money, how to cook, how to hunt, how to speak in other languages, how to make and mend their clothes. Essentially, how to be independent, resilient, and able to thrive in any culture that God calls them into. We don’t use the ‘success’ language. Jesus is the model. We want our kids to fulfil their calling, to walk their path, to carry their cross, to find what God has for them and to lean into it.

“Train a child in the way he should go.” (Prov. 22.6) Who knows what way they should go? It might be the way of a yuppie but then, it might just NOT!

My concern is not that Dave Ramsey does not understand the plight of the poor, but that Dave Ramsey does not understand the call to the poor.

What do you think?


Previous posts on poverty:

5 things I am learning about social justice.

Poor and Poorer

Choosing to be homeless and poor

Hanging with Catholic Workers

About The Author

Andrew Jones
As a wandering mystic and storyteller who has been blogging since 1997, I am discovering that the simple and mundane things in life are often more blogworthy. I hope this new season of blogging will invigorate me and will not bore you too much. Thanks for hanging in there.


  • Jonathan Blundell on December 4, 2013

    Wonderful! Thank you for continuing to serve and share the stories of the under-resourced.

  • Jennifer on December 4, 2013

    My husband & I so relate to this article & appreciate you sharing the reality of walking out a calling. People don’t know the sacrifice that it takes when saying yes to God in this way. We often don’t know ourselves until we’re in the midst of it. Thank you for living contentedly & thankful.

  • Gina on December 5, 2013

    Ok. I am rich. Well, not by 1st World Standards, but by real world standards.
    I have struggled with “Rich vs Poor for God’s Kingdom” since I realized I had more than 98% of the world.
    I own a very successful business. I have been freed from the slavery of debit. I take home less than my highest paid employee, I drive a car with 100,000 miles on it, I don’t live in a gated community. I do have nice things, I have two flat screens, everyone in my family has a computer or smartphone and I travel a lot! I do a lot of the things in the “rich people list” but I also do a lot I things in the “poor people list” (that’s what has made me rich) I tithe from my paycheck and from the total sales of my business. I have asked God to enlarge my territories so I may bless others and show them Christ’s love. In a sense I am rich but I have chosen to live somewhat below my means so I may do the work God has put before me. I believe there is a place for both rich and poor in God’s Kingdom. Grace covers all. Don’t think more highly of yourself than you think of others. You have no idea how God has planned for them to carry out the great commission.

    • tallskinnykiwi on December 5, 2013

      Thanks Gina. Some of the thriftiest people I know are very wealthy. Many of my friends are rich but break the stereotype of greedy yuppies. We all have sacrifices to make and a cross to carry. The cross of the poor is not always lighter.

  • Chrisitne Pechstein on December 5, 2013

    THANK YOU for your post. Ironically, I didn’t know about the Dave Ramsey article until just yesterday, but I had written a blog post about how people in general have this “idea” that poor people are stupid. As a single parent and sometimes very poor person, I dedicated a radio show to it and wrote the following blog post about my thoughts (and laughter) over how stupid I must be. As a poor person, my success is related not to what I get, but moreso as to what I can give. I hope I’m always in the red, because I give more than I get. Probably a very poor mentality to have, but it’s one I’m most blessed to have. 🙂 If you’d like to give the show a listen and read the post you’ll find it here: The Gift of Gab: Episode #17: Poor Doesn’t Equal Dumb http://www.moveintoaction.com/christines-blog-get-all-episodes/

    • tallskinnykiwi on December 5, 2013

      Thanks Christine. I will take a look.

  • Karl on December 5, 2013

    Thanks for these words. I wish we were friends.
    Gina, it sounds like you’ve got a heart for God and are seeking in every way to live that out to the benefit of others. There is a difference between you and those who have what you have (or more) but don’t do anything to live intentionally for the benefit of others. I have several friends who support God’s work through my life who are “wealthy” but who in no way set their hearts on their wealth (See Ps. 66). Keep it up in your life! People like me, whose only call is to make disciples, need people like you who take seriously their call to make disciples and make money! God’s Blessings.

    • John on December 5, 2013

      right on! CORRECTION – I love the generous rich!

  • Kirk Stephens on December 5, 2013

    Thank you. Larry Burkett has definitely repented, Dave Ramsey will eventually. What did Solomon say? Vanity, vanity, vanity? And he was very rich.

    • tallskinnykiwi on December 5, 2013

      I actually liked Larry’s videos and I would say both men had a strong anti-debt message which was timely and greatly beneficial to the American church. It still is. A lot of what they say is great. U heard Dave Ramsay speak at Joel Osteens church a few years ago and although I didn’t agree with everything, he gave an excellent message with good bible teaching.

  • Nathan on December 5, 2013


    You linked to the Ramsey article (which he himself on re-posted from another), then piled on like many other critics. Did you even bother to see that he responded and clarified right below the article?

    His response is thorough and excellent – you may not have written the article as you did if you’d have read that first.

    Or were you just looking for a straw man to knock over?

  • Sharon Autenrieth on December 5, 2013

    Really? Ramsey’s “response” is just as bad as the list. He attacks the character and intelligence of those who objected to the list and essentially doubles down on the idea that if you do the “right” things, you’ll accumulate wealth. I’ve taken Financial Peace, and I don’t have any particular axe to grind with him – but in this instance he was wrong and refuses to even consider that a possibility.
    Thanks for this post!

  • John on December 5, 2013

    don’t know who dave ramsay is, dont care, i read books though. this is a good list. i once had a book called The Book of Lists – i loaned it to a guy called Perenara who was in hospital after a car accident, and he never gave it back. i dont care though. i pity the rich. thank you.

  • Dennis on December 5, 2013

    Great article. My only comment however is that you are an exception to the norm when it comes to the poor. By far the majority of poor so not have Christian principles or spend wisely as you do. Many of the poor with whom I work do indeed waste money on things like junk food, lotto tickets, and electronics. If all poor people lived as wisely as you espouse, then Ramsey’s article would be invalidated. Sadly what he writes does appear to be validated by the majority. May God continue to richly bless you as he has done already.

    • tallskinnykiwi on December 5, 2013

      Thanks Denis. I see your point. Maybe the language should have revolved around ‘dysfunctional middle class’ rather than lumping all the people without assets into the same heap. Strawberry pickers in California, for example, are generally poor but they are functional, and often saving many for their families overseas, maybe not speaking much English, they do not register in your circle of friends. God bless u also.

  • Clae on December 5, 2013

    This is so ill-informed as to be hilarious. Good to know how much better than him you are.

  • John on December 5, 2013

    Don’t flatter yourself and think that you are like real poor folks.

    • tallskinnykiwi on December 6, 2013

      And don’t confuse the poor for the dysfunctional middle class. Read my next post

  • Joey on December 6, 2013

    TSK, very interesting angle and I hope God richly blesses your families work.
    1. Careful on judging the heart and intent of others
    2. You are electively poor. Very different than those you minister to
    3. You have education,

  • Joey on December 6, 2013

    TSK, very interesting angle and I hope God richly blesses your families work.
    1. Careful on judging the heart and intent of others
    2. You are electively poor. Very different than those you minister to
    3. You have education, resources and an alternative to where you have chosen to be…you have hope (in the world’s sense)
    The ministry you are called to is noble but be careful of over valuing the novelty of your choices. You derive satisfaction from your place in life presumably, rightly so when doing what you are called to do, but I’d bet a lot of your economic equivalents would say you are crazy. You are not impoverished, simply living without…have you considered your potential impact of incorporating some DR type teachings for the poor? Sounds like you’ve figured out efficient frugality + generous love = good life. Share that!
    I appreciate you and your ministry, God bless you and your family.

  • AJ on December 6, 2013

    The initial “study” is RIDICULOUS and obviously just a bunch of made-up numbers as opposed to anything scientific or peer-reviewed or otherwise even vaguely factually legitimate. As much as anything it troubles me that so many have such a poor grasp of statistics that they can look at that load of nonsense and think it holds any water.