The Benefits of Being Broke for a Decade

by wc1048

It’s interesting to me how spending a decade being broke and really struggling has been one of the biggest blessings in my life.

At the time it definitely didn’t feel like that. Although these were generally happy times in my life, there’s a lot of stress that can come from being broke.

I don’t think I’ve ever been below the poverty level, but for about 5-6 years out of college I was earning 300/wk waiting tables and later working at a pizza place. Started my own biz, made slightly more but not by much after that. Lived cheaper than I did in college while the biz was building up.

Here I am maybe 3-4 years removed from being super broke and doing pretty good. I’ve bought a few properties, got some money in the bank, hopefully some big things on the horizon, and an optimism about my financial life.

Some things I’ve noticed that have stayed with me from my broke decade:

-Going out to eat is still a huge treat to me.

-I became a pretty decent cook because I ate at home basically 34 meals a week.

-I was driving a 3k car and am in a position to buy new, but I spent a little less than 9k and it felt like a HUGE upgrade.

-I met my fiancé when I was broke. She loved me then and still loves me now.

-I learned to budget like a champ because there wasn’t much room for error.

-I learned I could still save money (pay myself first), and now I’m saving at a high rate because I got in the habit when I was broke.

-I learned that when I started GIVING a percentage of my pay (started at 1% and have worked up to 10%), I started making more and more.

-I learned I was wrong to care so much about what people thought of me. I mean, I care now- but I want to be thought of as having high integrity, being reliable, being a good friend, partner, etc. I don’t care if someone is impressed with the things I own or a job title.

-I learned that spending money on books is a good investment. It’s the learning that’s taken place after school that’s served me best from a financial standpoint.

-Being forced to be frugal is very helpful if you’re ever going to start a business. You’ll know how to run things lean and mean instinctively.

-my fixed living expenses have bumped up considerably. Maybe nearly 100%. 900-1000/mo to 1800-2000/mo. So, I feel like I’m living pretty comfortably. Still, IMO that’s living fairly lean and allowing me to save. I guess I’m saying I learned to make intermediate jumps and not max out spending to the top of my budget with more money.

-I think the most important part of spending a decade being broke was looking back on it and realizing I could go back to living on that $1,200/mo if needed. Hopefully it won’t happen because I have some goals that require money, but that is a really freeing feeling to know I can survive when things are lean. It gives me the confidence to push and take some risks- which has (so far) led to making more money.

If you spent a good amount of time being broke and are now on the upswing, what would you add to my list? What have you learned from looking back on that time?

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