Many of us have been broke. It’s not a fun place to be. You may feel depressed and desperate, but recognizing that you won’t always be in this position is imperative. There are steps you can take to live a more comfortable life financially. Until then, here’s a primer on how to survive being broke.
How to Survive Being Broke
If you’re broke, you must take care of your immediate needs first.
Short Term Action to Take
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Many people who are broke become depressed. They don’t see any way out of their situation and can’t imagine a future where they’ll be in a better position.
To successfully beat being broke, you need a positive attitude. Research stories of people who were broke and went on to become successful and much more comfortable financially such as Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts in the movie Erin Brockovich) or Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith in the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness).
Remember that life can change quickly. You may be broke now, but you likely won’t be in the same position in five years or even two years.
Live on Beans & Rice
The next step is to trim your expenses as much as possible. Since food is often the largest monthly expense behind rent, that’s the best place to start. You may love to eat salmon and steak, but now is not the time to do so. Now is the time to eat the proverbial beans and rice. For instance, when my mom and dad were first married and broke, my mom would buy one pork chop, pound it flat, and then split it between the two of them. Once they had two kids, she would buy two pork chops and pound them flat to make four servings. Now is the time to stretch your food as much as possible and buy the least expensive food you can.
Choose Your Friends Carefully
What financial position are your friends in? You’ll want to find friends who are mindful of their money and not spendthrifts. When my husband and I were first married, we were broke.
Some of my coworkers invited us to go with them out to eat. The other two couples were both financially comfortable, and they chose a Mexican restaurant. To my dismay, there were no prices on the menu. We ended up spending too much that night, even though we tried to make frugal choices. It was just an expensive restaurant. We couldn’t go out with my coworkers again because we couldn’t afford their lifestyle.
If you try to maintain friends who are in a better financial position than you, you may never become financially comfortable.
Entertain at Home
Just because you’re broke, you don’t have to give up your social life. Instead, change the way that you socialize. Instead of going to a bar or restaurant and spending a lot of money, invite friends to your home. Have a potluck at your house or have a game night. Once a month my parents used to have their friends over in the summer for a volleyball night. Be creative. You’ll find there are plenty of ways to socialize without spending a lot of money.
Find a Hobby That Pays
Sometimes when people are broke, they have a lot of time, but not much money. If that’s your circumstance, find a hobby that pays. For instance, my uncle started a small side business for athletes at his former high school. He would comb through micro fiche to find all of the articles for a particular year about the high school football team. He’d print these out and bind them all together and sell them to the athletes. He made some money on the side, and the former athletes had a scrap book of all the old newspaper clippings from their glory days.
Other ideas might include gardening, crafting and selling the product on Etsy, doing genealogy research for someone, building web sites for others, etc. You’re only limited by your imagination in what you can do.
When you’re broke, you may immediately think just of the short-term, but you must also think of the long-term. How will you get out of this situation so you’re not broke your entire life?
There are several important steps you should take.
Earn a Degree
If a degree would help you secure a better job, than look into taking college classes. When you’re already broke, you may feel like you have you have no time or money to do so. However, if you don’t take steps to improve your situation, you’ll remain broke for much of your life.
I had a friend, Becca, who was raising her niece and nephew. Money was tight, but she prioritized her education. She took one or two classes a semester, putting in much of her study time early in the morning or at night when the kids were asleep. It took her many years to get her degree, but she did. Now, she lives a comfortable, middle class life and has a professional job.
Learn about Finance
If you don’t already have a solid background on personal finance, now is the time to learn. This doesn’t have to cost any money. You can borrow books from the library, take free finance classes online, and read blogs. Learn all you can about managing money. I’m not just talking about ways to save money, but ways to build your emergency fund and invest so you don’t end up broke again once you get out of your current situation.
How to survive being broke is a challenge for many people. However, the first step is a mental one. Realize that you’re currently broke, but you won’t be broke for the rest of your life. You can make both short-term and long-term changes to improve your life and vastly improve your financial situation. Many, many other people have done so. Learn about those people and take concrete action to improve your current situation.
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York, where she loves the natural beauty of the area.