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How to Tell When You're Completely Broke

Updated on August 28, 2012

We've All Been There...

It's the only downfall of living in a first world country. We have everything we could ever want right freaking there, but more often than not, it's out of our reach. Why? Probably because we can't afford it. Meanwhile, even if we can't afford it, we'll buy that Sea-Doo anyway. It's okay because we had some money stashed away from when we helped that buddy move. Wait... We used that for our first month of a gym membership. Shit, that's due in a week, isn't it. Well, it looks like oatmeal and ramen noodles for the next few weeks.

If this sounds familiar, it's because you're more than likely normal. We've all been through the soul-bargaining budget crisis before. I work at a restaurant for a living, and the exclamations I hear near the end of every month always go the same way: "Fifty, sixty, sixty-five, seventy, seventy-five, seventy-six, seventy-seven... HELL YES! I MADE RENT!" Those of us struggling to get by but still enjoying the ride have several things in common. Upon further inspection, these things are pretty mind-numbingly bizarre.


We Have a Surplus of Random Things

Throughout this article, you will probably learn more about my personal life than you care to. I choose to give you a heads-up because you seem nice enough to not have to go through that. For those of you still with me (Hi Mom!), I have to tell you that I have an ungodly amount of toilet paper. If the apocalypse were to happen tomorrow, my only salvation would be that TP become the currency of our new dystopian wasteland. Armed solely with the toilet paper in my bathroom closet, I'm pretty sure that I could teepee every building in Myanmar. The point is that I have way too much.

The thing is, it's strange to notice that you virtually have nothing in your apartment, but there are some random things you have far too much of. When you have no money to get things you need, you tend to notice things that you have but don't necessarily need (at that very moment). Let's put this into perspective. I had this very conversation with a friend of mine a few days ago, and he noted that he has roughly seven bottles of shampoo. It's different for everyone, but the fact remains that if you're working from paycheck to paycheck, you have a ridiculous amount of something while having none of everything else.

We Start Bargaining

Utility bills suck. It's just one of those things that is always going to suck, like discount coffee and the Chicago Cubs. Gurus are always putting out ways to save nickels and dimes on these bills by limiting TV use, using energy-saving light bulbs, or un-plugging unused power cords. Now, I can't criticize any of these ideas because they do, in fact, help conserve energy and, therefore, lower your utility bill... slightly. What if I told you that the thing that is costing the most on your bill every month is - duh duh DUH - your air conditioner. Do you, kind sir or madam, have the brass balls needed to cut off the all-powerful AC? What if I told you that in Watt-hours per one hour of continuous use, air conditioning uses about ten-times more energy than the fridge... if the door was left open.


Even with that information, I'll venture to guess that not one of you left your couch to turn off the AC. Either A) you're lazy, or B) you thought, "Screw that, I need my AC." That's the problem with bargaining with the things we spend our money on. We know the things we need to spend our money on: rent, cable/internet, and utilities (add hookers, too, if you're into that, I guess). Intuitively, we estimate the money we're saving by attempting to rough things out, but we're often sorely disappointed when the savings aren't what we hoped. Meanwhile, we choose to spend our money on other things (possibly, a Sea-Doo).

Now, I'm not discouraging attempts to save money and energy. I'm all about earth-saving and whatnot, but when you're living in an 85 degree apartment to save twenty bucks for gas money, things just balance themselves out.


We Put Emphasis on Nonsensical Things

This one kind of goes with the above topic, but I believe it deserves its own little section. Also, no one likes long, drawn-out blocks of text.

My favorite hobbies, reading and writing, are pretty much free (except for the $35 late fee the library dropped on me yesterday), but I must admit that I enjoy the night life with all of my good friends. We'll drink some beer (bourbon/scotch, in my case), play some pool, point and laugh at hipsters... you know normal, young people stuff. Meanwhile for some reason, I always wake up with absolutely no money for menial daily things. For instance, I just got my hair cut for the first time in about eight months today, not because I wanted to grow my hair out, but because I didn't want to spend the fifteen bucks on one when I could pay the same amount for a few games of pool and drinks at my bar. Honestly, it feels completely insane to type that sentence, but it's completely logical in my demented mind.

Before you all start to judge me (because I'm awesome, of course), just examine the things you spend your hard-earned cash on. It's pretty astounding to notice the things that we think as essential are more important than the things we know are essential.

We Start Pondering Life

"What am I doing with my life?"

"Will this job lead to anything?"

"How will I ever make something of myself?"

"My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

These are just some of the thoughts I hear from my fellow broke friends on occasion. Apparently, if you aren't embedded in a job that you can't stand before the age of 30, you have gone wrong somewhere. Isn't that where we're supposed to be by now?

"I thought I was going to be married and at least planning children by the age of 25!"

Calm down, I say to the imaginary person I just quoted. I, in fact, am 25 years of age and am single, semi-employed, and completely broke (ladies?). Why am I telling you to calm down? This is because I am completely content with my state. I have a job that I enjoy that pays the bills. I have side projects that are leading to the life I want to lead (thank you, Hubpages and WKU). Finally, I have a couple of things to throw at you people who believe you are in some kind of "rut."


You realize what you are doing to get by right now. Also, you know what you want to do. What is stopping you from doing what you want to do? Obviously, an incredibly small portion of us will strike it big with some kind of world changing invention (sorry inventors). Meanwhile, I'm sure that a drastic number of you have much to offer to the world that you aren't putting any effort into offering right now. A bit of advice: offer it.

It's tough being broke at this moment in your life (believe me, I know), but we all know you're not worthless, regardless of what your bank account says.


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    • Joseph Howard profile imageAUTHOR

      Joseph Howard 

      6 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      @ Dad

      Oh dear father, your A/C units go to the fat cats with big fancy business buildings!


      I'm happy you enjoyed it. Oooooooh, these are the days one remembers forever! As long as we enjoy what we have (even if it's not much right now), I think we'll all be just fine! And yes, hitting it big with the lottery wouldn't be a bad deal at all!


      It's so true that these little tricks we learn go on to help further down the road. For instance, I've also learned how to prepare little TV dinners with random household herbs and spices to make it seem like I'm eating like a king!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Dear dear Son - Why pick on the A/C industry? Do you not realize that is what put a roof over your head for oh so many pre-adult years? Yes, I understand the point you are making but also want your millions of readers to see the irony of it also... (you are welcome)...

      By the way - quit using hubpages to say hello to your Mom. She would enjoy an occassional call/text...



    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Very funny commentary and well-written. You obviously don't have to buy yourself a sense-of-humor! This hub reminded me of my own "ramen noodle" budget days....And I wouldn't trade those times for anything (well, except maybe if I had won the lottery at an early age--I'd have traded for that).

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 

      6 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I've found that the skills learned while completely broke stand you in good stand even when you're not. For example, I just used my sink-laundering know-how to wash my clothes in Botswana, allowing me to avoid taking checked luggage around the world. Living without a car has made me a highly-conditioned walker, and depending on public transportation improved my punctuality (due to the need to plan ahead in case a bus breaks down/is late). Doesn't make it any more fun in the meantime, of course.

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Michelle Dee 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Yes I remember those days (pre-college and college days) when I had to wash my clothes in the bathtub because I didn't have enough money to go to the laundry mat to use regular washing machine and dryer. I had to either walk everywhere I went or try to bum a ride because I didn't have a car, nor money to buy a car. Yuck. Hope I never have to do that again.


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