Donna Freedman will be living on just over $1,000 a month. That doesn’t sound like much – and it isn’t.
Her annual “income,” the money she can actually count on, will be $12,084. It consists of alimony and a portion of a school grant since she went back to college last year. Her big-ticket annual costs are: rent of $6,300 and $1,200 for car insurance. Subtract these from her income and she has $382 a month for food, utilities, clothes, medical deductibles and co-pays, gasoline, renter’s and life insurance, and any help she gives her daughter, who lives on even less than Donna does.
Donna decided to increase her monthly church donation. Sure, she could use that extra money. It just about equals the university registration fee, or the money she promised her daughter toward the price of a wedding dress. It also represents almost half of her car insurance premium.
Why? Donna tells us:
“But giving that money away makes me feel rich. No matter how strained my circumstances, I can be a part of services the church provides for the homeless, the impoverished elderly and those living with AIDS. In other words, giving reminds me that there are lots of people worse off than me, people who’d love to have my so-called ‘problems.’”
More cash would allow Donna to help her daughter, to secure her future, to buy more roasts and fewer pinto beans. But she figures she won the cosmic lottery just by being born in America, a country where she can not only work on a college degree at age 48, but also find scholarships and education grants to help her pay for it. She has a roof over her head, food every day, family and friends, and occasionally even a $10 student ticket to the Seattle Symphony. “Some days I feel like the luckiest person in the world.”
Appeared in 2008 on msn.com/money