Post-Christmas Resolution, Day 276 – You’d Never Need Help, Right?

“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.

After reading this background article, try playing the game.

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.

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About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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