I'm glad to see all this response! It'll be great to be able point people we meet around the boards to this tribe, if we feel they might benefit from the support here.
One thing, though: I'd really like for this tribe to avoid the common pitfall of acting like people who use public assistance are "beneath" other people, in that it's okay to scrutinize our spending-choices, and condemn us for not being as frugal as someone else thinks we should be.
If you see someone with a minivan at the WIC office, that person could be me. One reason we decided to apply for WIC recently for our 3yo, is that, yeah, we made an unwise choice when our one and only car was totaled, and we went into debt on a newer vehicle.
Our decision initially seemed reasonable: When driving cars that we were able to pay cash for, repair needs tended to crop up suddenly, then if we didn't have the cash we might use a credit card, high interest -- so dh was, like, if we got a newer vehicle we'd have the monthly payment, but it would run better and last longer and save money that way ...
We didn't "need" a minivan -- but I was pregnant with #3 at the time of the crash (I later miscarried), and dh was thinking how nice it would be if there was a way for me to sit in the back next to our new baby, and nurse just like I'd nursed our first two two while they rode in their carseats, it made car-travel so much less stressful -- but with a small car, there'd only be room for the 3 children in the back. I'd have to ride up front this time around.
Of course, we could have simply avoided car-travel with New Baby for the first year or so, we really didn't need a minivan. But guess what? Now we're kind of stuck with paying for it. At this point, we'd love to trade down to a smaller car and have less expense for gas and car payment -- but we don't see a way for us to do that.
So, now dh pays our bills and has a smaller amount left for groceries than he did before, and we've started buying less meat and more beans, which helps a lot -- but I also thought, "Hey, I bet we could qualify for WIC again, and that would help us over this hump."
We had drawn it a couple of different times for our older dd -- but hadn't drawn any for the first 3 years of dd2's life, 'cause we hadn't really felt a need for it. We've also drawn food stamps before, but no longer qualify, and up until a few months ago, the only public assistance we were getting was Medicaid for our girls and hospital discounts if dh or I needed to see a doctor.
But things just started feeling pretty tight after we got the minivan, so it made sense to me to go ahead and apply. Mind you, public assistance programs don't count the cost of your car-payment, or your cable/satellite TV-payment, to determine your eligibility.
So we would have qualified for WIC regardless of whether we'd gone into debt over this vehicle -- and other people on assistance qualify, regardless of whether they have cable or satellite tv (I mean, having that extra expense doesn't "make" them qualify if they didn't qualify before).
It may be that the single mama you see driving her minivan to the WIC office, took on this debt as a married mama, then her husband turned jerko and walked out on her and the kids, and she's trying to be responsible and deal with the debt she took on back when she thought she could afford it.
While cable or satellite tv may seem like an unnecessary luxury to me, we enjoy many perks that some families may not have access to. A few years ago, we were blessed to be able to purchase our own home, and we have a nice big yard for our girls to play in.
Whereas some low-income families live in housing-projects with strict rules, such as no crayons or other art-supplies for children, we can let our girls make fun messes, with no fear of a landlord dropping in and evicting us over crayon marks we haven't cleaned off a wall yet.
We also have paints, and sometimes we run out and can't get more right away -- but our girls always have the option of digging in the dirt and making mud-sculptures in the yard (something they couldn't have done back when we rented).
Also, because my dh is blessed with technical skills, he's been able to purchase 2 computers fairly cheaply, and keep them running himself. He finds us the cheapest internet access he can, and we currently have dropped our long-distance coverage, because we don't use that as much as we use our computers.
The internet gives us access to so many awesome resources -- i.e., any time the girls are wanting to learn more about something, we can find tons of related videos on youtube. We also have tv, vcr, and dvd-player, and a huge collection of movies --
So, yeah, we're doing great without cable or satellite tv -- but I don't look down on people who feel they need them, 'cause maybe they don't have all the other cool options we do ... maybe they don't feel safe roaming their neighborhood with their kids (we feel perfectly safe roaming our neighborhood and walking to the park or pool in the daytime, though we wouldn't at night) ... maybe they're disabled and can't walk all over the place with their kids.
We'd be grounded all day if we couldn't walk places ... yeah, we have the minivan, but it's our only vehicle and dh needs it for work ... yeah, he's driving by himself
in a minivan, an hour each way, because in our area there are more good jobs out in the suburbs than in the inner-city where we live ... so, yeah, we know we've really backed ourselves into a tight place with this new purchase we've made.
Anyhow, I feel like I'm now falling into the trap of trying to "rationalize" our decisions and our situation. I honestly don't feel I should have to do this, any more than Bill Gates or anyone else. Other people make their choices, we make ours, and it's really their/our own business.
I'm only sharing this to help defuse the socially-encouraged motivation to get p!ssed because "I'm working my tail off, driving around in an old clunker -- and the lady ahead of me at the grocery-store paid with an EBT card, then I saw her load her groceries into an SUV and drive off."
Or, "I'm working my tail off, can't even afford any extras for my kids -- and I drive by the section-8 housing projects and fume over all the satellite dishes I see. If they can afford that, seems like they could pay for their own housing!
Just as Bill Gates surely enjoys some perks I don't, and I don't waste my inner-gas fuming about how unfair that is, I think people on public assistance should be able to enjoy perks (as long as we're not breaking the law or being dishonest to do it), without the general public having to get all p!ssy about it.