Things I've Learned From Being Broke

I should have these things down by now. I've been broke so long, I can't remember what financial security even feels like. I think the last time I experienced it was back in 1970 when I moved back in with my parents after my husband died. Sheesh. I was 18. You do the math. But you know, I have learned a few things. If you're having a bad time of it right now (as I know a lot of people are, including us), I hope these pointers help. Don't think for a moment that I live up to these every day that I have to wake up wondering what my family's going to eat. I'm still learning, and I'm writing these down for myself more than anyone else...

  • Get up, take a shower and get dressed. Nothing feeds depression quicker than not taking care of yourself. I know. It's all too easy for me to stay in my jim-jams when there's no money. I mean, what's the point of going to all that trouble? Who's cares? Well, you do, or you should. Just the act of grooming yourself can give you a lift and help you see the situation a little more positively.
  • Clean your damned house. It's bad enough being hungry, but it's worse if you live in a pig sty. It's about self respect, and money is not a prerequisite for that. It can help, but it's not required.
  • The Dollar Tree is an awesome place. We hit it before we go to the supermarket because we can get little luxuries and not bust the budget. Soft drinks, cookies, cleansers, even toiletries cost only a dollar each. What's not to love? Why spend four or five dollars for something when you can get the same thing for a buck?
  • Creditors and other @$$holes have no souls. They don't care that there's only one can of tuna in the pantry and a slice of cheese in the fridge that has to get you through the week. They want their money now. Screw 'em. You can live without credit (it's not easy, but it can be done) and once you realize that, they have no power over you. If anyone else is demanding money from you and being a prick about it, tell them to go stuff themselves. Anyone that has never gone to bed hungry has no idea what it does to you psychologically. If they've never gone hungry so that their kids could eat, they can't know the mind f*** it is. Screw 'em. If they keep abusing you, they have no soul. Take comfort in the fact that karma is a bitch for those who act like bitches.
  • Always pay your house payment/rent first, then your utilities. Don't stop at the pub after getting your paycheck. Don't buy cigarettes, beer, wine, or alcohol. Don't even buy food. Pay the rent first, then the utilities, and then budget the rest. It's easier to be hungry if you have lights, heat and air, and water, but those things will be meaningless if you have no place to sleep at night. Shelter always comes first, comfort second, sustenance third, and everything else after.
  • Don't get grumpy, bitchy, mean, or in any other way take it out on your family. It's not their fault. You've hit hard times, that's all. Don't let it affect your family's overall emotional well-being. In fact, bring everyone together and talk about it. Ask if anyone has any suggestions. And be sure to emphasize that the situation is only temporary.
  • Keep your spirits up. Sure, you're scared. There's no food in the house; how could you not be scared? But try to keep a sense of humor and optimism. When popcorn is all there is for dinner, put a disk in the player and call it a family movie night. Remind yourself that you're a good person, not a reflection of your wallet's condition. This is a hard one, I know. I deal with it every day of my life, but sometimes I just look at Lynette and say, "F*** this f***in' shit! What the f***!?" We laugh, get a little silly for a moment, and it feels better somehow.
  • Know that you're not alone. There are a lot of people who are hurting right now. Don't dare tell me this is only a recession. Where I live it's an all-out depression. In fact, I know my dad ate better during the Great Depression than we do now. There are some times that beans and cornbreadwhat he called Depression foodlook like a gourmet 5-star meal around here! I don't like that others are in the same boat, but it helps knowing we're not alone.
  • Lastly, don't give in to the poverty mentality. You are not poor. You are not trash. You are a human being who has fallen on hard times. Hell, maybe you were born into them. But things can get better if you see yourself as a worthy individual with something to contribute. Lift your sight a little higher and look beyond the current situation. Make sure your reach always extends beyond your grasp and never quit believing in yourself and your ability to better your life.


  1. Wonderful stuff here.   It's hard enough taking care of myself.  I can't imagine if I had children, too.   I'm going to e-mail this to my God-daughter who's having a tough time of it now.  

  2. This only re -affirms that experiences make us richer. You should submit this to local is a positive guide of how to cope written by someone who is doing just it is not patronising. Most people who offer advice are just that, patronising,  because they have never experienced what it is like to manage on a tight budget. So many people moan today about the state of their finances but they have no grasp on reality...they are bemoaning investments going down or not accruing....this is not the same at all. Keep writing steph...when it comes from the heart, from experience, it has that truth that rings out loud and clear.

  3. Well written, well said.  A very clear-sighted, positive look at what it is like to live through being broke. Sadly, more and more people are going to need this wisdom if things don't turn around soon.  Good luck.

  4. Fantastic, Steph. I love your attitude...and your humor.  And when there's nothing else, attitude and humor help.  I only wish there were better means of making sure you--and others--didn't *have* to rely on attitude and humor alone!

  5. Thanks. It still astounds (and nauseates) me that Americans are living like this when there is so much wealth and so many resources. This isn't the America that I grew up in and I'm actually glad that my parents aren't here to witness it. They'd be appalled. We all should be.


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