As I write this, I have exactly $3.06 in my checking account. Don’t worry about me too much — it’s just between paydays and I’ve got savings too. But there was a time when I didn’t have a back up account, or a check coming at the end of the month that I knew would cover more than just the basics. That time was not very long ago, and I continue to walk a fine line between momentarily broke and flat-out broke.
The difference between the two, in case you were wondering, is explained best by my current situation. “Temporarily broke” applies to me right now: I’m in a generally financially sound situation even though I don’t have the cash for a good burrito. “Flat-out broke” describes the time I ate nothing but pancakes for 10 days straight because all I had was a giant bag of mix. I now fondly refer to that as the “Pancake Week,” but it wasn’t much fun at the time.
There’s a lot of advice floating around for those of us who have perpetually empty wallets, but there’s very little understanding about what causes it.
Sometimes Nearly all the time, being broke isn’t a reflection of our character or our work ethic. It’s a situational thing. A class thing. A time in life when you’re hustling like crazy but just can’t seem to get that safety net down. For me, that time was when I was putting myself through college. I held down two, sometimes three, jobs simultaneously but with all the costs of my education and various bills, I was broke almost all the time. Vicious stereotypes abound, but as someone who grew up poor and is still fighting her way out of that, I can tell you they’re just stereotypes.
That being said, it can still be hard to weather the flat-out-broke state and it can be harder still to keep those stereotypes shut out. You begin to think you should be trying harder, or doing something different. You feel guilty for buying that more expensive brand of pasta sauce just because it’s tastier. You start to question your decisions from the mindset of those judgemental people who look down on you without knowing your life. You are your own best advocate and your own saboteur, and the battlefield happens mostly in your head. Trust me, I understand the plight. Here are some affirmations that have helped me (and still do) when I’m in that place.
You aren’t doing anything wrong.
No, really, you aren’t. It’s not a testament to your work ethic or your determination to succeed that you’re here now reading these words, and looking for a little encouragement. Sure, we can’t be perfect — but that’s true of anyone, no matter what the contents of their bank account. Even if there’s a line of bad decisions in your past, you are giving it so much effort now and that’s what counts. This will turn around.
This isn’t a cosmic judgement on who you are.
Being broke doesn’t mean you’ve got bad judgement or bad luck. It’s not punishment for a past life or for the mistakes you’ve made. It’s not about you, honest. Even though it can feel like the universe is punishing you for reasons unknown, that is not the truth and this is NOT a life sentence.
Taking care of yourself is important.
One of the things I had a hard time with was taking time out of my hectic life to take care of myself. I’d run so hard, between jobs and classes and side gigs, and I’d crash even harder. You’re doing a difficult thing, supporting yourself through this rough patch, and you need to remember that it’s okay to stop and take a breath. That might mean turning down a money-making opportunity so that you have time to rest, and you deserve that on occasion! Don’t let guilt get the best of you.
You’re worth everything.
You deserve to not feel like you’re drowning all the time. That’s a normal thing to want, and it’s achievable too. You deserve good things, and it sucks to feel like you don’t deserve them because of the situation you’re in. No matter what, don’t let circumstances cause you to doubt your most important currency — your self worth.
Other people’s judgements need not apply.
Seriously. There are so many things other people think about my life decisions, it’d take too long to list them all. I’ve been criticized for where I went to school, the way I paid for it, the city I moved to after I graduated, the degree I got, the field I aim to get into, and more. These have all been things people have pointed to as examples of why it’s my own fault that I’m broke. The thing is, all the decisions I’ve made have helped me become a better person. They’ve led me to a much healthier life than I had before, and I can’t let other people’s opinions become the truth I hold onto. Their judgements are just that — judgements.
All things go.
So maybe I just wanted to use the title of my latest favorite Nicki Minaj song here, but the words are also true. People have told me that there will be a day when I look back on these days of struggle with nostalgia, safe and secure thanks to the distance time and a better environment will provide. It doesn’t always feel true, but I can tell they’re right. It’ll get better for me, and for you too.
[Image via Shutterstock]