i’m spent [a homeless experiment]

Written by Crystal Rowe

Crystal has a heart for making the church and the Christian faith real and relevant to the world around her and is passionate about serving others in the name of Christ. Crystal is married to her perfect match, D and is Mommie to A and the two sweetest kitties on earth.

June 14, 2011

Over 14 million Americans are unemployed.
Now I’m one of them.
My savings are gone.
I’ve lost my house
I’m a single parent
And I’m down to my last $1,000
I’m not sure I can make it through the month…

I go to find a job, but there’s nothing available in my field. It doesn’t matter that I have a law degree, the best job I can find is through a temp agency. After I pass a short typing test, I’m hired at $9/hour. Hopefully I will be able to get 40 hours a week … but you just never know. They offer me health insurance, but the cost is $275/month. I just don’t know if I can afford to pay for it. I choose to opt-out, praying that we don’t get sick any time soon.

Now it’s time to find a place to live. The guest bedroom in my best friend’s house is too cramped for the two of us to live in permanently. And now that I have a job, we can afford something – even if it is 45 miles away and only 500 square feet. Even though I’ll spend more on transportation, it’s still cheaper than living close to the office. Maybe our good friend Joe can store all the stuff that won’t fit.

Word has gotten out. The neighbors are offering me old hand-me-downs. Are we really that pathetic? I guess we are … my winter coat has holes in it and barely keeps me warm. I take the coat and thank him for his kindness. After all, I’d do the same thing if the roles were reversed.

It’s Day 6 and I only have $230 in the bank. My best friend’s wedding is coming up, but it’ll cost me $350 to get there. I can’t imagine missing it – but there’s just no way I can make the trip. I hope she’ll understand.

Ugh – laundry day. I can’t put it off any longer. Little Timmy has no clean underwear. And I’ve been wearing the same pants for weeks. I could either go to the laundromat or beg Susie to let me use her machines. Maybe she’ll even feed us dinner while we’re there. We could use a good, healthy meal.

My favorite co-worker has just been diagnosed with cancer. Like me, she has no health insurance. And we don’t get sick days. People at the office are so wonderful – they are collecting money to help her out. It’s just $20 … I hope that if it were me they would do the same thing. I get paid in 2 days … and with $230 in the bank … I can afford it. After all, it’s the right thing to do.

I can remember when I loved grocery shopping. Whole Foods never had a better customer than me. For now, I have to think thrifty rather than healthy. Organic produce will have to take a back seat. Toilet paper, milk, bread, peanut butter, eggs, nothing but the basics this time around. Thank goodness tomorrow is pay day.

It never fails … when the paycheck comes in, there’s always something that comes due. This time it’s the car registration. It costs everything I just brought home. But if I don’t pay it, I might get caught. A ticket would cost me way more – and I just can’t afford to take the chance.

My credit card bill is due. $219. I only have $206 in the bank. If I pay it, I’m sunk. Payday doesn’t come around again for 4 more days. I could donate plasma, but that wouldn’t even give me enough money to get by. I guess I’ll ignore it for now – maybe they’ll be understanding.

Three days later, I’ve had to take an unpaid sick day because of that nasty flu, someone siphoned all the gas out of my car, and my electricity got cut off because I couldn’t pay the bill. It’ll cost me $375 to get it turned back on. Payday is tomorrow, but with that unpaid sick day I won’t be getting enough to make the payment. We can’t eat without electricity.

I can’t do this anymore…

This was my experience as I took the SPENT challenge. Take a shot at it … can you make it through the month?


  1. Ayomide Akinkugbe

    I love this Crystal! You got me engaged and saying my prayers somewhere in the middle. Great post! 🙂

    • Crystal Rowe

      Ayomide – I’m glad you were moved by it! Thanks for stopping by today 🙂

  2. journeytoepiphany

    This was incredible.  I posted both the experiment and your blog link to my facebook page.  I was a single mom, and this was as real as it gets.  Thanks for your creative take on this.

    • Crystal Rowe

      Thank you! This was a tough experiment for me … lots of emotions as I went through the challenge. As my husband took the challenge later in the evening, he became just as frustrated as me … and we stopped to pray for all those living this life. It definitely was eye opening…

  3. Paul Steinbrueck

    Hey Crystal, I appreciate the blog post. I tried the challenge a couple of times.  It was an interesting experience.  Two things that stood out to me while doing it is that it rarely allowed for the possibility that family or friends could help, and it never allowed for God to come through in unexpected ways.

    I don’t know how anyone could make it as a single parent without God or a community of people to help them, but then life wasn’t meant to be lived without God or community. 

    • @bibledude

      i’ve been thinking a lot about this comment lately, and i appreciate the perspective. however… i’ve also remembered several times being out on the street for either prayer or evangelism purposes, and talking to some homeless folks about some of this same stuff. many that i’ve talked to have gotten to the point in their lives that family and friends are either unable or unwilling to help. where that help exists, then most may not be in that situation, but the truth is that there are lots of people out there that don’t have these options available to them anymore for one reason or another. so the situation presented here is probably not all that uncommon.

      i also really appreciate the thoughts about God coming through in unexpected ways, but again… probably not the reality of many on the streets.i think the intent of the site is to get people to better understand some of the tough choices faced by homeless people everyday… especially with stuff that we easily take for granted.

      you rock paul! thank you for making me think about other perspectives related to this post!


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i’m spent [a homeless experiment]

by Crystal Rowe time to read: 4 min