Being broke feels like a rite of passage in everyone’s life. It’s stressful and annoying, especially when you miss out on big opportunities because of an empty wallet. Despite how much everyone hates being broke, you can’t deny that some of the best life hacks you possess were learned because you were short on cash. Whether it be an introspective thing like learning your flaws or learning how to make a desk out of cardboard, being broke taught us too many things to count.
Here are 10 things you learn when you’re broke. Remember, the best things in life are free (or at least we’ll keep saying that until our next paycheck).
1. You become resourceful.
You may laugh now, but the sheer resourcefulness of broke college students is extremely impressive. Your shower head broke? Just stick a water bottle to it and puncture holes in the bottom. Is it Thursday yet? Go get free samples at Costco. When you’re broke you learn how to work your way around a problem with very limited resources. We’d totally be the ones to survive a zombie apocalypse.
2. You begin to keep track of every sale.
In my town, there’s a small grocery store that has a mega sale every first of the month. What once would have cost $100 now only costs $50 as long as you could grab whatever you need before someone else did. Many retail and grocery stores hold monthly sales and it doesn’t hurt to keep track of them. When you’re broke, you keep an ear out for big sales and an eye out for coupons. Your wallet will thank you.
3. You learn the difference between want and need.
Whenever I’m about to make an impulsive buy, I hear Spongebob’s mantra of “I don’t need it” over and over again. When you’re broke you either learn to curb your need for impulsive buys or you go negative in your bank account. If you find yourself struggling, take a friend or family member with you to lay out the pros and cons of a purchase. Sale or not, do you honestly need that weird lamp? Didn’t think so.
4. Humble becomes your middle name.
A touch of humility comes with being broke. It lets us appreciate the simpler things in life. Plus, being humble is great for your mental health because it helps you accept your flaws and what you can’t change about your situation. You don’t have as much pride and you’re much more open to helping others. I find broke people are a lot more giving, even if they don’t have much to offer.
5. You learn when to ask for help.
In that same vein, you know your financial situation more than anyone else. It’s impossible to do everything alone. When you’re stuck in a corner you learn when to give in and ask for help. It doesn’t make you any less of a person. Close friends and family are usually willing to help in any form possible, whether it be as a support system or to slip a couple bucks in your bank account.
6. Budgeting becomes a way of life.
When you live from paycheck to paycheck, you either learn to spend wisely or you don’t spend at all. I’ve tried budgeting books and spreadsheets, but sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the bills and expenses. Eventually I tried using this app called Mint. It lets me set a monthly budget in certain categories like food and transportation. Plus it’ll let me know if I’m over my limit. Did I forget to mention that it’s free?
7. You find cheaper forms of entertainment.
It’s easy to find a hobby. It’s not as easy to find a cheap one. There are a lot of activities you can do inexpensively or even for free. Try picking up painting or even go to the library to read some books. If the weather is nice you can go hiking at a local wildlife reservation. Don’t forget to check out Groupon for some nice deals on some otherwise pricey hobbies. Your friends will probably be the ones asking you if there are any good deals nearby.
8. Networking turns into a survival tactic.
Your car breaks down and repairs are eating through the paycheck you just got. You’re about to break down in tears until you remember that Eddie from accounting is a huge car nut and used to work as a mechanic. When you meet new people, keep their skills in mind. One time I broke my laptop a few days before I had to submit a project. Luckily most of my friends work with computers and one of them even has a family store just for computer parts. Needless to say, I barely paid for expedited repairs.
9. You learn who your real friends are.
When you’re “the broke one” in the group, there’s a definite divide when hanging out. Sometimes they’ll bring up something like snowboarding and then look at you before hurriedly changing their minds. Yes, we’ve been there. While it’s nice that they keep you in mind, it’s another thing to make hanging out awkward when your financial situation takes the stage.
Keep the friends that make you feel like you can still have fun on a budget. Keep the ones that can make light jokes about your empty wallet. Sure, there will be times when you feel like the freeloader of the group, but real friends won’t hold it against you. Just make sure you’re holding your weight and not taking advantage of anyone’s kindness.
10. You always find the silver lining.
In the words of the Koala from Sing, “You know what’s great about hitting rock bottom? There’s only one way left to go, and that’s up.” Even when you hit hard times due to a low paycheck or the bills in the mail, you know things will get better. You may not have the cushy life and you might not be able to buy everything you want, but when you’re broke you have a better outlook on what you need.