By in Guest Post | 11 comments

Welcome to another edition of Blog Swap a collaborative endeavor by members of the Yakezie Network, the world’s largest network of personal finance and lifestyle blogs. Each blogger writes on the same topic; “You’re homeless/poor, how would you change your situation?”. After you finish this article, stop by Narrow Bridge to read my take on the topic!

This post was written by Ashley over at Money Talks. She writes a personal finance blog to encourage you to get out of debt and start building wealth. You can subscribe to her feed or follow her on twitter. Ashley was excited to participate because she loves “what if” experiments like this one!

Ashley’s Assmumtions

  • I’m me, with all of my past experiences, talents, education, personality, etc.
  • I don’t have a family to care for, it’s just me.
  • I’m not ill, either physically or mentally.
  • I have all the necessary paperwork such as ID and birth certificate.
  • At some point I get a job, obviously in this economy this isn’t so easy, but for the purposes of the exercise it has to happen.
  • I have no assets, no money, no home, no friends, nothing. I’ve been dropped out on the streets with nothing but the clothes on my back and my wits. Ah… scary!

The Plan:

  1. Food
  2. Shelter
  3. Laundry services
  4. Job
  5. Clothing
  6. Save save save
  7. Cheap Apartment
  8. Save save save
  9. Better Transportation
  10. Save save save
  11. Better Job
  12. Repeat

First Step

So I wake up on the streets of Phoenix. My first priority would be to figure out what type of services are available for the homeless. Food would be my first concern; a place to spend the night would be next. I would start walking while keeping my eye out for those in my situation. When I saw other homeless people I would ask them where services are provided. Eventually I would make my way to these services. Food banks and homeless shelters. I know these aren’t ideal. It’s a lot easier said than done to get into a food bank and shelter. But I’d start there. Same with shower and laundry facilities. I know there are some places in Phoenix that offer this service. I would find those and make as much use of them as possible. The people that work in these places would be my best sources of information. I would spend my time getting to know the ropes of being homeless. Additionally,  I’d start the paper work needed for state health insurance, food stamps, welfare, and whatever else I qualified for.

Get a Job

Once I had free food, shelter, and clean clothes figured out I’d move on to getting a job. Any job. I would spend all day everyday looking for work. I would concentrate my efforts on food service for several reasons. First, I have plenty of experience in food service from my younger days. Second, working in a restaurant means free food. I’ve relied on this fact many times in my poorer life. So even if the pay isn’t great, the fringe benefits can be. Third, you often get paid in cash, no waiting 2 weeks for a paycheck. And fourth, restaurants will usually work you to death if you let them. There is plenty of work for those who prove to be hard workers.

I would spend my time either working, or looking for work. Assume I eventually get two part time restaurant jobs working 50 hours and bringing home a total of $400 a week.

Go Shopping

Some of the first material things I would buy would be a duffle bag, a couple of changes of clothing, and personal items such as a tooth brush, hair brush, etc. I would try to stay in shelters for as long as I could and save up as much money as possible. I’m sure they are not pleasant and I would be itching to get out of there a.s.a.p. I’d have to stay for as long as I could stand it though. I would pay for the things I could afford; trip to the laundromat and food instead of using free services.

Let’s take stock of what I have so far:

  • $1,600 a month wages.
  • Bag with all of my personal belongings; 3 or 4 outfits, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, soap, deodorant, shampoo, and conditioner.
  • Money for laundry, food when needed, and possibly some transportation to and from work.
  • Bank account that is growing by approximately $300 per week.

How Much to Rent an Apartment?

I figure I would need about $1,350 saved up to get my own apartment. This would mean I would have to live in the shelter for about a month after I found a job. Searching around online I found a couple of 1 bedroom apartments for around $400.00 per month. So let’s say I need $800.00 to get the apartment. Furniture and household goods would set me back about about $550.00; bed ($400), bedding ($50), dishes ($30), other little things like trash bags, shower curtain, etc. ($40). I would do this all for as cheap as possible and buying used when reasonable.

Now isn’t the time to be proud.

My new budget:

  • Income: $1,600
  • Rent: $400
  • Electric: $75
  • Bus pass: $55
  • Food: $200
  • Misc: $20
  • Savings: $850

More Expenses!

Since Phoenix is spread out and the public transportation system isn’t the best, I’m going to need a car to get a better job. I’d probably look to spend about $5,000 plus tax and registration which would take about seven months. If the new car costs $300 a month in gas and insurance, I’m still saving $605 a month (I no longer need the bus pass).

Another couple things I’m probably going to need in order to find another job is the internet and a phone. I could go to the library, if it was convenient, for as long as possible. But eventually, I’d buy a cheap computer ($300) and get internet ($50 a month). After snagging a prepaid cell at  $20 a month on this. This leaves me saving $535 a month.

In the meantime I would start looking for call center jobs. There are tons of call centers in Phoenix. They can pay pretty decently, offer room for growth, and I have plenty of experience. However you can’t just walk in and talk to the manager like you can in a restaurant so they are a little harder to get. But let’s say after 6 months of looking I finally get one paying a take home pay of $500 a week. I’d keep one of my part time restaurant jobs for a grand total of $650 a week take home.

My new budget:

  • Income: $2600
  • Rent: $400
  • Electric: $75
  • Car: $300
  • Food: $200
  • Internet: $50
  • Cell: $20
  • Savings: $1,555

Clearly there is room for some upgrades now. If I liked my apartment I would stay where I was. But considering I picked it only because it was cheap I’m guessing it’s not the greatest. If I moved to Tempe, which is generally a nice place, I would pay about $600 for rent in a one bedroom apartment. I would furnish my new apartment with a couch, table, chairs, TV, actual bedroom furniture. and cable.

My final budget:

  • Income: $2,600
  • Rent: $600
  • Electric: $75
  • Car: $300
  • Food; $200
  • Cable/Internet: $100
  • Cell: $60
  • Misc: $65
  • Spending Money: $200
  • Savings: $1,000

How long would this take? Well, it would take about 7 or 8 months after I found my second restaurant job. And that is assuming that nothing goes wrong. So realistically it would probably take a year or more. This plan means that I spend a year working my butt off and living a bare minimum lifestyle. But it is doable. You just have to be willing to put down your pride and pull up your sleeves.

Barb’s question; How would you handle the emotional impact of poverty?

After reading this post, stop by Yakezie.com for my guest article entitled; You Are Your Brand, Tips for Building Your Readership


  1. After a lifetime of accomplishments, I can’t think of anything worse! As soon as I was presentable, I would use my skills to get a job. Any job would help my confidence. I would live close to work so no need for transportation. Next, keep my expenses low (rent, food etc) in order to work my way out of this situation.


    April 29, 2011

  2. Can you get a stable job with no home address? Even with cash base jobs, you need some kind of recommendation to get in the door. Many homeless shelters operate on a daily basis and you can’t stay there every night. Good thoughtful steps though.


    April 29, 2011

  3. Wow! You’ve obviously given this deep thought! Most detailed in this series! I like the way how you start with assumptions and tackle each hurdle!

    Excellent post!


    April 29, 2011

  4. I’d have to say that getting a job in food service is a good way to kill two birds with one stone. And if you were able to find a restaurant that didn’t need documents (and many don’t care) you wouldn’t have to worry about needing an address.

    LaTisha @FSYAonline

    April 29, 2011

  5. Immigrants come here and are virtually homeless, but may have a network of people that may be willing to help them. There are many “under the table” jobs in every city. The key would to find one of them to start the foundation.

    Joe Edward

    April 29, 2011

  6. In theory your plan sounds solid. I don’t know much about shelters, but I’d also look into job training services. I think in the beginning, once I got a job, I’d look into renting a room before an apartment – it would mean being able to save more in the long run. As for the permanent address thing, I would think if you knew someone, you might be able to borrow an address, even from someone at the shelter – surely they’d be able to help.

    Little House

    April 30, 2011

  7. Networking with other homeless people to see what resources are available is a great idea! I also wrote about targeting the food industry as a good source of jobs – mainly for the potential to earn money in the form of tips!

  8. Wanted to say I have done all this before having to do it again. Though I have a headstart it is still daunting. Focus on one step at a time or you will be in a constant state of terror. It’s important to remember that you have many options and not to lose focus. I did it it’s hard it will make you hard because of the perspective that’s forced on you. Oh. Don’t turn to drugs I mean it, it’s another expense physically and financial
    ly. Trust me.


    May 24, 2012

  9. Pooky, You must be very brave. Thank you for your very heartfelt comment.I appreciate your words of warning about drugs. There is no quicker path to destruction than drugs and alcohol. They never make things better.


    May 25, 2012

  10. Just curious to know. How would you handle this if you had a grand theft3 (felony) against you, and not even the smallest of restaurants would give you a chance?


    November 23, 2012

  11. Tracye, I would rack my brain for some way to make money selling something, maybe at a flea market or through Craig’s list. Anything to get some cash coming in. Also, I would continue to contact employers and apply for jobs and prepare a detailed statement to explain the felony details and how I am not currently a risk. I would visit employers in person, well groomed with a resume of former work history and tell my story. I would convince employers how I could help them and why my past will not be repeated.


    November 23, 2012

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