Being poor costs more.
Some Mid-Southerners gave Fox 13 a look at how being financially strapped affects you in ways many people may not have thought of.
"Very stressed because you know you don't have the money at the end of the month. Like they say, "it's too much month at the end of the money." Way too much," Chris Rowell said.
Meet the Rowell's. Chris and Amanda Rowell call themselves a family fighting to stay afloat. Chris said he makes $7.25 an hour at a local fast food restaurant, just hoping to make ends meet. "I'm trying to help my family. Just be able to help my babies survive and stuff. Get food everyday. It's a struggle for all of us."
Amanda does not have a job. She said it's much cheaper for her to stay home with their three kids. "For them to go to daycare-- I looked into it at one point. It would be $700 dollars a month for them to go to daycare. That's our house mortgage," Amanda said.
Clearpoint Credit Counselor Garry Patterson points out the irony of how expensive it is to be poor. "You may think 'Why?' It's because of this, if you're poor, you're going to pay the very highest price that anybody is going to pay. Because if you've got good credit and plenty of money, you can afford to shop around," Patterson said.
He said he sees this problem all over Memphis. "You see folks waiting at the bus stop. You may see businesses where people can sell items that they don't necessarily want to sell just to get money to buy food," Patterson said. Many times that food is not cheap. "Convenience stores, they're there for convenience, if you need to pick up an item or two. But, if you go to buy your entire bill of groceries, you're going to pay premium prices," he said.
One local mother of two knows all about that. "If you go to Walmart and get a loaf of bread, you're paying $1.09. If you go to a little convenience store, you're paying like 3 bucks," Tiffany Durdin said.
Durdin told Fox 13 she's forced to go to the corner store for groceries many times because she doesn't have the gas money to get across town to the larger chain stores, where the food is much cheaper.
"You gotta fill up your car so it's going to last you. And hope and pray that no emergencies come up and you have to use the gas or you won't make it till the end of the month," Durdin said.
Gas is just half the battle. Getting and keeping a car in the first place is hard enough for some. Many cheaper cars come with serious pay back plans. Depending on where you get it, your car also could come with an ignition device attached. That means if you miss a payment, the switch gets activated and the car won't start. Once that happens, you may not be able to get to work. But if the car gets repossessed, it's often re-sold for thousands less than it's worth. Leaving the original owner stuck making up the slack.
"So what they have is this a car payment and no car," Patterson said.
The Rowells finally have a new truck but say they're struggling to keep it.
"We went to a dealership to get a used vehicle. Dodge truck, you know something I could work out of, they were going to charge us up front, 2500 (dollars). To get in it," Chris Rowell said.
He told Fox 13 he did not have that kind of money up front, so he had to leave the truck behind. Eventually he and his wife were able to find a zero down situation. But they are now paying more than $230 dollars a month just for interest, on top of their car payment.
Then there's the issue of them not being able to make the payment on time. Chris said he spends close to one thousand dollars a month in late fees. Of course, not everyone misses their due dates, but Patterson says some of that comes with a cost too.
"They have to wait until the last minute to pay their bills. So, rather than paying for a postage stamp, they go to a business that says, 'sure we'll pay that bill for you, for 3 dollars.' And it just escalates and they're paying all kinds of fees just to get their bills paid," Patterson said.
Higher interest rates, late fees, bank over-draft penalties are a big issue for the poor, but this issue doesn't only crush your wallet. Being in a situation like this can actually mess with your health.
"It's not easy for us. At all. The more we think about it, I've been on blood pressure medicine for like 6 months and there's no way I can come off of it because I'm trying to help my family," Chris Rowell said.
He's not the only one having this problem. According to Dr. Susan Murrmann, the repeated stress adds up and leaving many poorer people with permanent health problem.
"You're looking at more cancer rates, heart disease, strokes. All sorts of complications that go along with poor health," Dr. Murrmann said.
People all around us here in the Mid-South face these issues every day. Tiffany Durdin and Amanda Rowell both say they smile through it themselves. They can handle that. It's seeing what this does to their children that puts them over the edge.
"It's bad to tell a 5 and 7 year old, 'you cant have that today because momma don't got that,'" Durdin said. "It's very stressful. It's very stressful but you hold the Lord close, you pray, you keep that faith and you keep pushin. You keep pushin'," Amanda Rowell said.
We know many of you are dealing with these same issues. So Garry Patterson, a local credit counselor has some tips to help:
- Don't skip bill payments.
Patterson said that starts a vicious cycle that will come back to haunt you.
- Make sure you and your family are insured.
Not just your car. Patterson said medical and life insurance are vital.
- Only deal with businesses you seek.
He said it's important for your financial stability that you don't fall for pre-approved credit offers or 'we can help you' loan pitches. Just stay away.