How not to feel poor on a fixed income

It’s no secret that more and more people, especially seniors on fixed incomes, are sinking deeper into credit card debt. Why is it? I don’t think it was because we had so many emergencies (the common reason for having credit cards, right?). It’s because we don’t want to feel poor.

At this point, I should define “feeling poor”. It’s not easy, but it’s real. And I bet you have felt it from time to time, no matter what season you are in.

It’s a sad, sorry feeling of inferiority. It’s that feeling you get when you’re invited to join all your wealthy friends for a chi-chi lunch and you have $8.43 to your name. It’s that feeling you get when you hear your friends are all going on a Caribbean cruise and you can barely raise the gas money to visit your grandkids.

The worst response when you feel poor is to do the very thing that should prove you’re not: spend money. Of course, that might make the feeling go away for a while. But as soon as you realize that you’ve gone deeper into debt and your situation has gotten worse, you’ll feel even poorer. It’s a vicious circle that doesn’t end well.

I have a better idea: Stop feeling poor in the first place. Here are three surprising steps to follow.

Commit to a clean car

No matter how old, scratched, new, rented or ugly it is, if you keep your car sparkling clean inside and out, you won’t feel poor.

Remove every coffee cup, paper, and item other than emergency equipment from the trunk each time you leave the car. Wash it weekly. Make sure the windows are always spotless, the tires scrubbed and the chrome shiny. Do this and you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Limit clutter

I don’t care how clean your house is. If you have clutter, it pulls you down. Empty your cupboards, drawers, cupboards, garage and counters of anything you don’t need or that doesn’t make your life more beautiful. Clean open spaces, tranquility and simplicity dispel feelings of poverty and open the door to joy. Clutter invites chaos, which leads to depression and feelings of deprivation.

Enter a C-Note

A C-note is a $100 bill. I want you to get one, fold it up neatly, and slip it into a secret place in your wallet. Don’t tell anyone. Just like that, you won’t feel poor. In fact, that C rating is going to make you feel prosperous and pretty smart. You certainly won’t feel broke.

Here’s the curious thing about it: you’re not likely to spend it on a whim. In fact, you’re not likely to spend it at all. I do not know why. Maybe it’s because breaking $100 is a big deal. You wouldn’t do that for a burger and fries. That would be ridiculous, right? No need to break a hundred. But if you’re caught in a real emergency, you’re covered.

If you can’t make a hundred, start with five. Soon, trade it in for a 10, then a 50. In no time, you’ll have Benjamin in your pocket, hidden where only you know it.

Feeling poor is not a financial condition. It’s a mindset, and something you can change right now.


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary”. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living”. COPYRIGHT 2022 CREATORS.COM