Can You Make It Through the Month?

From Urban Ministries of Durham, North Carolina comes a game meant to drive home the plight of the working poor, and encourage support of their relief efforts: Spent.  It’s a lot like the game of “Oregon Trail”.  As time passes in the game, there will be events that occur that put spending pressure on you.  The goal is to make it to the end of the month, with money in the bank.

I have a couple nits to pick with his game.  First, it seems that the game is a little outrageous in that it has to be the worst possible month that could be conceived of.  Here’s what happened to me in that month:  started renting, had a major car breakdown, then repossession, lost menial job,couldn’t pay both electricity and gas (despite having enough money for both), had a car accident (despite not having a car!?), missed both a funeral and a wedding, had a persistent toothache, and so on.  It’s not a very good game for illustrating a real month in the life of a normal person.  Maybe a year in the life of a very unlucky person, but not a month.

I think the game also makes it look like people in this plight make bad decisions, or at least can’t drive.  For example, when the grocery shopping option comes up, the choices don’t include the foodstuff of poverty, rice and beans.  But they do include ramen noodles and potato chips.  It makes it look like poor people couldn’t figure out that rice and beans are a good option for maximum calories and nutrition per dollar spent.  Also, if you’re making $9 an hour as a warehouse worker, lose the $75 per month cell phone payment.  I don’t even pay that much for a cell phone, and I have an unlimited data plan!

In the end, the game presents unreasonable responses to normal problems, but it also shows how a couple of unlucky events can really send someone without savings spinning.

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