If Robert Kiyosaki taught me one thing, it was to make a distinction between the words “broke” and “poor”. Being “broke” is a temporary situation, whereas being “poor” is an eternal mindset. That message is still golden, even if the messenger has received a critical backlash in recent years.
Like most people, I’ve been broke a few times in my life. It’s less than fun, but it can be a good learning experience just the same. I learned about–and became personally familiar with–the concepts of helplessness, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, compassion, gratitude, and insomnia. The last three are still with me. Well, OK…the last four. But I remember everything else…too well.
What’s it like to be broke, really and truly broke?
I’ll tell you, at least my version of the story…
Being broke is knowing exactly which grocery store to go to get each item.
Being broke is not bothering to clip coupons because even after the discount, the Bang For the Buck Factor is still too small.
Being broke is not being able to watch “Aladdin” because you’re envious of the treasure cave they venture into early on in the movie.
Being broke is spending a half an hour (or half a day) weighing whether or not to spend the $4 for the all-day bus pass to go downtown for its free entertainment.
Being broke is being envious of practically everyone because they all have more than you do, and they probably worry less.
Being broke is getting as little as half an hour of sleep due to the sheer anxiety produced by visions of living in the truck six months in the future.
Being broke is genuinely coming up with a contingency strategy for living out of your truck.
Being broke is seeing police cars in your apartment’s parking lot on a regular basis, but being thankful that you at least have a building to live in.
Being broke is hoping your stomach will eventually stop growling.
Being broke is not getting rid of anything for fear of having to buy it again.
Being broke is eating meat or other food that has begun to “turn”, choking down the funky taste and praying that you won’t get sick.
Being broke is driving at your vehicle’s optimum speed for the best gas mileage (after actually having made the effort to search for this information).
Being broke is eating less in terms of volume of food than the cat.
Being broke is when making Christmas presents by hand is not a choice, but a necessity.
Being broke is using the internet at the library.
Being broke is popping generic over-the-counter pain relievers instead of getting the much-needed dental work done.
Being broke is going a full year without coloring your hair (no, not even the at-home color), and really showing it.
Being broke is pirating music CDs for fresh tunes to listen to.
Being broke is making (lots of) barter arrangements.
Being broke is wearing darker clothing that doesn’t show spots or stains so that you can get by with wearing it for several days.
Being broke is making several trips daily past the recycling/trash dumpsters in hopes of finding something you can use or sell.
Being broke is almost considering entering into a Breaking Bad plot-line.
Being broke is having a doctor degree but considering waitressing.
Being broke is considering panhandling for the first time ever.
Being broke is sneaking into an unsecured neighborhood swimming pool, which is actually a bath in disguise.
Being broke is knowing where those unsecured swimming pools (and other similar resources) are.
Being broke is not wanting to watch the get-rich-quick infomercials late at night, because you know they’re a scam but you’re so desperate that you know you might start to consider getting involved, and you just plain don’t want to go there.
Being broke is actually giving in and watching one of those get-rich-quick infomercials and starting to warm up to the idea even though you know it’s probably junk.
Being broke is actually sharing one of those “share this and good luck will come your way” memes on Facebook, or forwarding an email chain letter to eight people like it commands, just in case it works after all.
Being broke is spinning your wheels and never getting anywhere.
Being broke is cringing and panicking every time a finance-related TV commercial comes on.
Being broke is scanning for–and noting the locations of–ravines, dry creeks, bar ditches, groups of bushes, off-the-beaten-path bus stops, and other similar secluded places while out and about, in case you ever find a need to make one of them into a shelter.
Being broke is imagining the scenario of making a dumpster into a place to sleep.
Being broke is seeing a bag lady, on TV or in real life, and wondering if that’s going to be you someday.
Being broke is not being able to imagine your dream because it’s too far away.
But, being broke is temporary.
Being broke is the sacrifices you make now to end up somewhere better.
Being broke is the scrimping and saving you do while you’re preparing to put your future plans into action.
Being broke is dreaming big, but starting out reasonable.
Being broke is the “starter”-life (the cheap car, the dingy apartment, etc) you have while you finish that degree, write that business plan, look for that perfect-fit job.
Being broke is the challenge you face now to emerge stronger and with greater character later.
Being broke is the memory that keeps us humble, even after we’ve achieved success later.
Being broke is never letting the dream die completely.
Being broke is never losing hope.
Being broke is never giving up.