I grew up poor. Like, really poor. “I shared clothes with my siblings, had one pair of shoes to last all school year, scrubbed my clothes by hand in the bath tub” poor. My mother was disabled and my father, often in between jobs. We were without a lot of things that my friends and classmates had. I remember my dad waiting for all of their tax documents to come in the mail so that he could file taxes. I remember the feeling of Taxmas, that season when people get back tax refunds and spending money more freely than any other time of year.
At Taxmas, my dad was always in a good mood. We would go out to dinner, he’d hand us a $5 bill just because. He laughed easier. Some of those life stresses melted away for my parents. Our school trips got paid, our tab at the neighborhood deli was paid. We could walk in there with CASH to buy deli meat and cheese. You couldn’t tell us anything.
The other day, I came across a friend’s Facebook post where she shared this article about the Orange Menance’s administration’s first go at replacing the Affordable Care Act. A friend of hers disclosed that she works for the Department of Human Services and agreed with Senator Chaffetz when he said that the population she served should,
“… make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.”
This piece from 2013 explains why poor people make poor decisions. I explained, in fewer words:
Poor people make poor choices because they are still going to be poor tomorrow and tomorrow is not promised.
If you can’t grasp that, sit down and shut up until you can. You have no business working with disadvantaged populations.
Poverty shaming is gross as f*ck.
I remember being really poor. I also remember having a little money to myself and shaming people who make what I considered to be bad decisions with their tax refunds. But you know what? The IRS has calculations that determine what people should owe in taxes based on their annual income. These calculations determine if someone gets $9,000 back or if they owe $2,000. People getting back $9,000 per year are probably working hard to get by every single day. Getting a lump sum of money and spending it on themselves and their family can go a long way to help people cope with poverty. And ain’t enough people mad about billionaires not paying taxes but are trying to shame poor folks.
Instead of trying to make people feel bad about spending their tax refunds, let’s get angry at companies that have full-time employees that still need subsidized childcare, housing and health benefits. I don’t want to talk about people “investing in their own healthcare” when what you’re talking about is them paying directly, out of pocket into a health savings account. That’s not investing when they are the ones footing the whole bill.
But I didn’t come here to talk about politics. I came to talk about guilt-free tax refunding spending and why it feels good to spend.
Living in poverty has been long know to adversely affect our health. People who live in poverty are less likely to be able to obtain healthy food, are more likely to smoke, and less able to seek preventative care or even emergency care for health issues. Our mental health suffers as stress levels soar and a constant state of anxiety about what tomorrow will bring keeps us in fight or flight mode. That shit is not healthy.
People who exist in a perpetual state of survival mode need breaks. They need to have things that give them a little bit of happiness. We all deserve to feel loved and we all deserve to have something nice. The thing is, its rarely the fault of the person who is struggling. Going out to get sushi when you have $20 instead of putting it on your $300 phone bill isn’t going to do much to that bill, but it’ll make you feel a little happy. And sometimes, that’s what you need to believe you can emotionally survive another day.
So here are a few things you can do with your Taxmas money to piss off people who think they know your life while getting yours:
1. Spa Day: Go get yourself a massage. Take yourself to get a mani-pedi too. Physical touch can reduce stress, as it increases the release of oxytocin, the love hormone.
2. Put a down payment on/buy a car: Do you not have a car? Does the one you have break down all the time, leaving you and your kids stranded? Invest in getting something more reliable (and figure out covering monthly payments til next tax season.) Don’t forget car insurance though. Protect yourself and your investment!
3. Go on vacation: When was the last time you went away? Put money down to go on a weekend trip. Take yourself, take your kids. Enjoy your damn self.
4. Body modification: Been waiting to get $90 to get that piercing? Get it. Get your hair colored by a professional. Get a tattoo. Get a bomb ass undercut. Buy some makeup. Buy some bundles.
5. Pay a bill or two: Paying off some debt might help you sleep at night knowing that its one less creditor that will be calling you asking you for money.
A few hundred or thousand dollars won’t change your station in life. It won’t. It won’t bring you better health, consistent health coverage, or a new job. It won’t buy you a house if you have poor or no credit. But don’t let other people make you feel bad for treating yourself or using money you have on yourself.
Remember: It’s called retail therapy when people with large amounts of disposable income do it. You deserve a little retail therapy too. Happy Taxmas!