Let’s be honest.
 
Being broke is hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn valuable lessons from it.

You’ll find that it has a lot to teach you – if you’re willing to learn.

Because at some point in our lives, we’ve all thought:

I’m broke and I’m tired of struggling with money. But the obstacles we face in life don’t have value unless we learn the lessons behind them. 
 
So not having a lot of money can actually be a blessing in disguise, even when it doesn’t seem that way at first.
 
If nothing else, I hope that being broke brings profound changes in your life. It teaches you things you just can’t learn anywhere else.
 
So it’s time to celebrate like the hundred-aire you are. Why? Because you know you won’t stay like this forever.
 
So what do you learn from being broke in your 20s or 30s?
 
Let’s find out.
 

1. You Can Do A Lot With A Little

man writing in notebook

When you’re poor, you start using more of what you have and buying less of what you don’t need.
 
You cook more at home and save the leftovers. You become familiar with what Dave Ramsey calls the ‘beans and rice’ meal plan.
 
You realize that yard sales and secondhand stores have some great stuff.
 
The best part?
 
Nobody can tell the difference.
 
You become used to making things cheaper at home – like laundry soap  – for cheaper than you’d buy at the grocery store.
 
You start shopping around your grocery stores flyer to get the best deal. And you buy extra of things when they’re on sale instead of paying full price.
 
You start saving while you spend, by using cash back programs like Rakuten.
 
No WiFi means camping inside Starbucks until they close, then when they close…camp outside. Why not?
 
You get the picture.

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2. You Become Quick on Your Feet

couple looking at laptop

“How can I turn this into a positive?”
 
“This happened…OK.”
 
“What can I do to adjust?”
 
“I need X amount of money to cover this, where I am going to get it?”
 
Enough said.
 

3. You Become Totally in Charge of Your Money

man budgeting

…instead of letting it be in charge of you.
 
You admit to yourself:
 
I’m broke, but I can change this.
 
So you start building a game plan for your money. You create a budget and focus on your financial future.
 
As John Maxwell says, a budget is you telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
 
When you’re breaking the paycheck to paycheck cycle, you first take a hard look at where all your money is going.
 
You quickly learn the difference between a need and a want, and you simplify your expenses in every way possible.

You track every penny because you have to. If you don’t, you risk crippling your financial future.
 
Having to decide between putting gas in your car or buying food is never a good place to be. That only has to happen once or twice before your whole relationship with money changes.
 
And if you want to get your financial sh-t together once and for all, you learn to hold your money accountable.
 

4. The Importance of a Safety Net

man showing wallet full of money

You change your mindset from, “I can’t afford to save” to “I can’t afford not to.”
 
Sometimes it feels impossible to set money aside for an emergency fund.
 
In the past, I just always felt like I could find a better use for that money in the moment, rather than stashing it away.
 
That was, until, I had two major expenses pop up in the same year. They cost me $2,000. That may not sound like much to some, but when you’re broke – it’s an emergency.
 
Guess what happened to those emergencies?
 
They got put on a credit card. And it took me forever to pay it off.
 
I learned my lesson.
 
Car repairs, medical bills, and emergencies happen. And when money is tight, it only takes one unforeseen cost to derail your entire financial life.
 
Even when you can only save a little money at a time – a small emergency fund is better than no emergency fund. 
 

5. Small Sacrifices Add up to Big Rewards

woman writing in notebook while drinking coffee

You start looking for little ways to cut your spending.
 
Vacations aren’t an option. You don’t step foot into a restaurant unless you’re working there.
 
You can’t remember the last time you went shopping for something other than basic necessities.
 
It’s not about telling yourself, “I’m broke” – instead it’s about saying “I have better ways to use my money.”
 
Trust me:
 
Those sacrifices add up, and you end up saving more money than some of your non-broke friends and family.
 
And over time, you realize that those ‘sacrifices’ weren’t really even sacrifices at all.
 
You don’t need to go out to eat on Friday night to have a good time.
 
You’re fine with having one or two pairs of jeans, so there’s no need to shop for more.
 
And what’s the point of having 10 pairs of shoes?
 

6. You Assess How You Spend Your Time

woman thinking

You start having fun by doing things that are free or cheap. 
 
Sometimes you find yourself being that friend that never wants to do anything because you “don’t have the money right now.”
 
That feeling gets old quick. But, it’s a good way to find out who truly values you and who doesn’t.
 
Your real friends will understand that money is tight. They won’t try to pressure you into wasting money that you don’t have.
 
The truth is, everyone wants to be your friend when you have a full tank of gas and the “I’ll get the pizza” kind of money.
 
The people worth spending your time on, though, are the people who are down to hang out regardless of how much money you have.
 
You don’t have time for negative people, wasting time, or pointless problems/issues. You’re just trying to better your situation. Distractions must go.
 

7. Debt is a Vampire

woman stressed

And I’m not talking about the Twilight kind.
 
Debt steals your money. Making the minimum payments (because that’s all you can afford) is a great way to get nowhere fast.
 
You get sick and tired of being sick and tired and you want to break the pattern.
 
You’re tired of telling yourself:
 
I’m broke.
 
So you resolve to come up with a debt payoff plan and put every extra dime towards your debt.

That new iPhone everyone is talking about? Nope. It’s not worth going into more debt over. Say goodbye to those never ending payments.
 

8. There Are Lots of Ways to Make Money

man typing on laptop

You can only stretch your small paycheck so far. 
 
But rather than complain about the little you have – you start finding ways to improve your situation.
 
After all, one of the best things being broke teaches you is how to hustle.
 
You sacrifice all your free time (with a job that’s not even in your field) so that you can pay the bills and build an emergency fund. 
 
Plasma donations, cleaning houses, babysitting, and selling stuff you don’t need – show you that earning money is sometimes about thinking outside of the box.
 
Even if you get a second job that’s not the best – you take what you can get.

Excuses don’t cut it. Staying up late, waking up early. No stopping. You’ll get there.
 

9. The Grass is Greener

man looking out over water

…wherever you water it.
 
In every area of life – home, family, kids, marriage, work, or money – there’s someone that’s got it better.
 
But you don’t bother comparing yourself to those people. And you don’t hate them for it either.

You learn to fertilize your own grass, and one day, you’ll get there too.
 
Successful people become an inspiration instead of competition. Because if you can learn something from someone else, then why would you compete with them?
 

10. Patience

woman using laptop

Everyone loves the idea of an “overnight success.”
 
Remember what I said about learning to hustle? Sometimes the journey it takes to get you where you’re going means more than the destination itself.
 
Because when you finally reach financial freedom, you’ve learned enough to make you a better, happier, and more well-rounded person.
 
You have to remind yourself:
 
I’m broke now, but I’m developing skills that will stay with me forever.
 
Because here’s the deal:
 
The school of hard knocks is a good teacher. You’re learning a lot more than you realize. And if you ever stop to think, “Why me?” then you have to remind yourself that patience is important.
 
One day, you’ll look back on your humble beginnings and have a moment of gratitude for making it so far.
 

11. There’s Still Enough to Give

pink piggy bank

People think giving is just for the wealthy. Only the rich have extra money to give away, right?
 
Often you find that, despite being close to nothing, you still have more than enough to give. Because when the money runs out – you learn to give something more meaningful than that.
 
A listening ear can go a long way. A smile can brighten somebody’s day. A favor can help someone more than you realize. 
 
Donating old clothes, toys, and books are also great ways to clear the excess. So give to people who have less than you.
 
Because the ability to be kind doesn’t come from an excess of money but from a big heart.
 
(Hallmark moment)
 
When you realize that life is not just about you and only you, then you start to open your eyes to see that there’s a lot of people who share your same story.
 
Everyone is trying to better their life, live the best way they know how, and make ends meet. 
 

12. Money Can Buy Happiness

dollars growing out of ground

Sometimes you’ll hear someone say:
 
Being poor is a choice and poor people shouldn’t spend money on certain things because they’re already poor.
 
Of course, you shouldn’t rack up debt to your eyeballs. And you should focus on becoming debt free rather than going on vacation. We know this.
 
But even when you’ve admitted to yourself, “I’m broke” – you still need to spend a little on yourself.
 
Why?
 
Because you shouldn’t feel deprived or prevent yourself from enjoying special moments.
 
And when you’re able to have a special moment or spend a little extra money for something you want – it feels great.
 
And as you dig yourself out of your hole slowly but surely, you start feeling better.
 
You build momentum to continue through your financial journey and you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
 
So to a certain extent, money does buy happiness. And not in the I-got-a-brand-new-car type of way, but in the peace of mind type of way.
 
Nothing feels better than having enough money saved up to cover the cost of an emergency. Or not having to worry about incurring overdraft fees.
 
You can finally afford to buy avocados without batting an eye. Peace of mind and security are two of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family.
 
So in that sense, money definitely buys happiness.
 
Thanks for reading.

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Jessica Campbell obtained her Bachelor’s of Accounting from Northwood University. She’s been a Certified Public Accountant with Collins P.C. Financial Group for over 7 years, and serves as a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. After paying off over $75,000 worth of debt, she became focused on helping others navigate their financial lives and become debt free. Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn.

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2 thoughts on “12 Powerful Lessons You Learn From Being Broke”

  1. Great post! I especially love the point number 9. I have found that the grass is rarely greener on the other side. I believe that the secret to watering your own grass lies with finding contentment in current circumstances. It’s easy to overlook what we have (family, health, food, shelter, etc.) while we are consumed with the never-ending quest for more.

    • I very much agree Christine! Gratitude and appreciating what you already have goes a long way. Thanks for commenting.

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