6 Lessons Being Broke Taught Me

I never cared much for money or material things, hence my contentment with years of employment in the non-profit sector. I’ve been fine to buy most of my clothes on sale at Macy’s, T.J.Maxx, and ROSS. (I’ve purchased dresses for $0.99 before.) But now that I have a “respectable” income and way more money than expenses, I find myself missing the good ‘ole days of being broke.

(Now let me qualify the word “broke” here. This isn’t the kind of broke where you can’t go on vacation where you typically go due to a shortage of funds. And this isn’t the kind of broke where you can’t get your nails done every week cause you’re cutting back.)

This is the kind or of broke where you debate if you can afford to spend a dollar at Del Taco cause your stomach is barkin at you, but you don’t typically eat at Del Taco because who knows if that’s really meat in those tacos. This is the kind of broke where you don’t drive anywhere (outside of work) because your gas has to last you until…  This is the kind of broke where your friends only invite you out if they’re footin the bill because everybody close to you knows that you ain’t got no money.

So, here’s what being broke taught me:

1. Getting more usually leads to wanting more.

Once you get one more pair of jeans or another pair of shoes, you just want another one—this one in a different fabric, or cut, or color. Desire breeds desire, and contentment is a shunned enemy.

2.

Sometimes, you have to make tough choices.

Which is worse: Going an additional $15 into debt because you are too proud to tell someone that you don’t have the money to go out with them for lunch or risking embarrassment by being honest and potentially being treated to a good meal?

3.

Just how important money is.

It isn’t everything, but everything you want to do involves it. Making it (or having access to it) is paramount. I no longer have any idealistic, youthful notions about money. In fact, I respect it a lot more now, as I do the good book’s advice: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

4.

Although it’s rare to get something for nothing, bartering is a beautiful, underutilized practice.

For more than a year, I managed to get free pictures in exchange for posing for free. I traded my smile for photos. Check out my website (

www.yougochante.com

) to see the results!

5.

Having less leads to greater appreciation for what you do have.

One of my favorite activities is finding a quiet nook at Starbucks or a local bookstore and reading or writing leisurely for hours, a cup of hot cocoa in hand. At the zenith of my broke days, however, I might be able to afford one excursion every four to six weeks. But when I did, I savored the experience. I walked into Starbucks, a smile on my face, and thanked God for the opportunity to be able to purchase a drink, and not be one of the coffeehouse “moochers” who plugged in without purchasing a single item. I would read my book, knees tucked into my chest, and feel true gratefulness. I wasn’t thinking about all the times that I couldn’t purchase a drink. I was thankful for the one that I was having in that moment.

6.

I want to live a life of continual gratefulness, even though I’m not broke any more.

Right now, I sit in my living room as I write. I was going to drive to Borders, but I didn’t want to spend three dollars on a drink. (I don’t think my frugal ways will ever leave me.) So instead I write snuggled up in a sleeping bag on my couch, grateful that I have a quiet, cozy place from which I can work. In fact, I’m grateful just to have a couch and a home.

What has being broke taught you?