“Urban Ministries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year. But you’d never need help, right?”
— Introduction to Spent
The game Spent is a clever way of understanding what it is like to be among the working poor.
It has a simple premise. You’ve lost your job. You’ve lost your house. Your down to your last $1000. You are a single parent.
Can you make it through the month?
You have to decide whether to buy health insurance ($70/week). You choose where to live. The closer to your job, the more expensive. But the farther away you live, the higher the transportation costs. (total $700-850/month). You choose what groceries to buy.
Each choice has consequences. Each choice builds on itself. The game is clever in that if you choose to ask a friend for help, it shows you what your status on Facebook might look like. It is very humbling.
In the end, I made it to the end of the month with about $75 to spare. Not enough for another month’s rent. My child did not get to bring his friend a birthday present. He was upset at being called a ‘free lunch’ kid. I lost part of my paycheck when my car broke down and it took longer to get to work on the bus. I ate burgers for a $1 instead of salad for $6. I gained weight. Food stamps will not start for another month.
For many people this is not a game.
It is real.
Took several bags of toys and clothes to Goodwill over lunch, reflecting on how I could help the working poor. I donated a few dollars to the creators of the game Spent, but felt that was inadequate.