To be honest, most of us have been there. We’re in a new place, trying to get some independence, and suddenly the financial reality of not living with your parents hits you like a ton of bricks. Decisions have to be made. What expenses are on the chopping block? What extra cash in hand jobs can you get on the side to make your rent this month? How can you go on dates and be a feminist about it when you can’t afford your student loans? The struggles are real. I’ve been there, and girl it’s not fun. Here are the 21 signs that you’re probably poor and the not-so-fun decisions you make while you’re there.
*Obviously take this with a pinch of salt and in the jokey fashion it’s intended. This is based on my experience being broke and y’know if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry…
1. If it becomes a choice between paying for alcohol or food, the decision isn’t that difficult.
Especially when you’re in your twenties and hangovers don’t require the world’s amount of carbs the next day, it’s a no-brainer decision. Booze is normally a lot cheaper than going out and buying groceries, and normally you’re out being social while you’re drinking. Tequila with friends often seems a lot more appealing than making bland pasta alone in your apartment.
2. You start dating in the community to cut down on traveling costs.
Literally, if I put your address or the date location into Google Maps and it’s suggesting I drive, get an Uber, or have to take public transport, it’s game over. Bring that Tinder radius right down. Transportation costs for non-essentais like dating are one of those first things to go. Either you’ve got to come to my neighborhood or you need to be based like around the corner from where I am. That’s it. Case closed.
I’m broke so it needs to be a case of “just a sec, I’ll power walk right over.” $30 on Uber is not an expense I am going to be able to justify right now. Public transport? Depending on the city, it can take ages and still cost a small fortune over time. Oh you’re not within walking distance? I’m not really into long distance relationships. Sorry, no. Date local.
Just a sec, I’ll power walk right over.
3. Or you just stop dating altogether. #foreveraloneANDbroke.
Look, dating is expensive. The eating out, the drinks, the movie tickets, the outfits, the make up – it’s a lot. And you have to do this over and over again, because let’s be honest, the chance of finding a great person on the first try is a massive longshot. Maybe give all the apps a miss until you can afford to go out properly. Online dating only works for so long until you actually need to meet up with someone, and meeting up at your place on the first date is a recipe for a Dateline special.
Oh you’re not within walking distance? I’m not really into long distance relationships.
4. Because you can’t go out anymore, DIY projects begin to occupy the empty space inside your soul that money once filled.
Anthropologie copycat? #nailedit Honestly, Pinterest and DIY TikTok are going to be very close personal friends. The upside is that you’re going to have a ton of useful skills from having to fashion together bookcases, decor pieces, and other storage solutions to make you tiny, but expensive, apartment liveable and bring you some semblance of joy.
Being resourceful is a massive part of having no money. I still want to have nice things, so I’ve got to work out how to make the more expensive items on a dime. Whether that’s hunting Craigslist for a run down bit of furniture and buying some cheap paint or borrowing it from a friend to make something cool, or working out another use for cheap plastic boxes other than packing away shoes, it’s a skill that you get very good at very quickly.
5. Whenever you HAVE to spend money, you think of all the things you could have bought instead of this one thing.
Some expenses are unavoidable and sometimes you have to make Sophie’s Choice. When this happens your mind instantly goes to all the things you could’ve bought. I could have not-avoided my landlord for a few more days instead of paying my loans. I could’ve bought like three kilos of pasta instead of getting the bus to the bar rather than walking a mile and a half. Would not buying my sister a birthday present be such a big deal? I could use that money for heating after all. It’s a fun mental cycle where you work out the cost of living based on the equivalent price in heating per day, basic food items, and public transport.
I could have not-avoided my landlord for a few more days instead of paying my loans.
6. You are no longer above using your body to hustle.
Now this does not need to mean what you think, although your body, your choice – girl’s gotta eat. Suddenly those medical trial adverts on Instagram start looking real friendly. What do you mean I get $2,000 and get to stay in a facility with heating and food for a week? That’s a paid vacation, right?
I know people who donate plasma, blood, and semen as often as they’re allowed to so that they can get some extra cash. After all, it all replenishes and you’re doing good, right? Definitely haven’t Googled the pros and cons of becoming a surrogate when those bills hit my inbox…
7. You’ve done some “questionable” things to pay your bills on time.
Okay, so being half-naked in a Santa Suit in public for money still isn’t as bad as being fully naked in public for money. If you can get extra tips by wearing a specific shirt or get a good day’s amount of money by dressing up as a hot dog and handing out coupons, I’m all for it. When you’ve got bills to pay, your shamelessness kind of goes out of the window. Honestly feet pics are fine as long as you can’t see my face in the background, right?
Being half-naked in a Santa Suit in public for money still isn’t as bad as being fully naked in public for money.
8. You spend more money on your pet’s food than your own.
You might be poor but goddamn your pet eats like an absolute King. Despite being an absolute wallet sapping parasite, your pet is also one of your only sources of serotonin in your whole apartment. If my dog is having lamb chops in gravy, guess it’s water for me tonight. That’s how it goes. It’s my pet’s apartment and I’m just subletting the tiny space that isn’t filled with bowls, toys, and litter trays.
Guess it’s water for me tonight.
9. You said you were ready for the “real world,” but you FREQUENTLY daydream about how to convince your parents to donate money to your “food fund.”
My dad said that websites ending in “.org” are normally charities… Well welcome to the Vanessa Charity Food Fund. Is it wrong to send my mom a JustGiving link for supporting my poor, innocent cat? When you’re broke, you can’t wait to go back home and see if your grandma will try and sneakily give you $20 to “treat yourself”. That’s going straight on water bills, but every little helps. What do I want for Christmas? A lower cost of living, but cash will do just fine, thanks guys!
My Dad said that websites ending in “.org” are normally charities… Well welcome to the Vanessa Charity Food Fund.
10. You wish you could go back in time and tell your kid self that being an adult isn’t as awesome as you were once told.
In yet another series of lies that we were told when we were younger, being an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yes you can drink, but the good stuff is expensive. You can drive, but can you afford gas and a car parking space in the city? Absolutely not. Stay where you are kid and keep sneaking food out of your parent’s fridge when they’re not looking. I definitely will be doing the same at the next family get together. Bills are an unended nightmare and don’t get me started on student loans, younger me. You’ve been warned.
11. You play the “More Poor/Less Poor” game frequently. Will this make me more poor or less poor?…
Ah, the classic game of is this an investment or will I inevitably be back to square one in a couple of weeks. Will I be inebriated while playing this game? Almost certainly, but we get our joy and internal warmth where we can. If I buy this nice suit will it actually get me a better job rather than going to GoodWill? Yes, it looks amazing and makes me feel like a successful boss, but is it actually going to make me less poor? Probably not.
Will I be inebriated during the process?
12. You start searching for “free social activities.”
Free activities in my area is a common Google search when you’re broke. Just because I have no money doesn’t mean that I don’t want to have fun and meet new people. Whether it’s a free workout in the park or a sustainable clothes swap in the city, it’s always worth going and getting what you can. The best things is life are free, after all. If you’re stuck for free social activities go dancing at a bar or club without a cover charge. Dancing is free, right? Just pregame before you go…
Dancing. Dancing is free right?
13. Pay day is no longer exciting to you because your bills are immediately due the next day.
Nothing makes you understand what “the cycle of poverty” means more than seeing your bank balance like two days after pay day. When you are literally living paycheck to paycheck, nothing feels worse than getting that bank notification for your wages hitting your account and knowing that you’re not going to get to spend or save any of it on what you actually want to.
Make sure you line up your bills, rent, and utilities for the day or two after your pay hits so you’re not tempted to spend any of on other things along the way. Thank me later!
Now I understand what “the cycle of poverty” means…
14. You rather take off or put on more clothes than pay for air or heating.
Unless I am snowed in or in danger of passing out from the heat, there is no way I am putting on the air or heating in my apartment. That is way too expensive. No air con? No pants. No problem. In the privacy of my own home I will walk around in my underwear no problem at all. I’ll also wear all the layers I own and walk around in a blanket burrito in the winter if I have to.
A lot of the time, it’s cheaper to buy a coffee at the cafe around the corner and warm up using their heating than it is to turn on your heating. Likewise for air-con. Browsing a local mall is going to feel like an icy heaven. Weigh up how much it costs to put on your heating or air versus how long you can feasible stay in a coffee shop or bar nursing one cheap bar, or how long you can stand to window shop, knowing that you can’t buy anything. It’s a balancing act that you need to work out for yourself.
No air con? No pants. No problem.
15. You start reminding people about the money they owe you… and how it could potentially get ugly if it’s not returned.
Remember that $2.50 you owe me? Yeah I’m gonna need that back. It might feel petty at the time but you know exactly where that money is going to go and which bills, grocery lists, or other expenses it’s going to be used for. All of your friends and family have your Venmo details, it’s not hard. Pay your debts so I can pay mine!
Don’t get me started on meals out with friends. On the rare occurrence that you do go out for someone’s birthday, we are not splitting everything down the middle. I didn’t eat a side of garlic bread as a main and have the cheapest glass of wine on the menu to have to pay for half your steak and cocktails, Stacy. Pay for what you had – I’ll do the maths.
Remember that $2.50 you owe me? Yeah I’m gonna need that back.
16. You start cutting bills that you deem unnecessary.
How important could water really be? Do I need renter’s insurance really? The Amish don’t use electricity, how hard could it be? It essentially comes dow to anything but the WiFi. Say goodbye to gyms, Netflix, regular beauty treatments, and more. That is unless the price of the gym is cheaper than running your shower at home.
It might be inconvenient to shower outside your house, but if it saves you money overall, it’s well worth it. Charge you phone at work on their dime too. If they paid you better, you wouldn’t have to go to extremes… There are plenty of public places with free outlets that you can use. If you’re on a bus or train anyway, bring your cable and a powerbank – there are normally free charging points in the seats, so you can stock up.
How important could water really be? ANYTHING BUT THE WIFI!
17. You try to go “Vegetarian” to cut food costs.
Okay, so meat and fish are expensive, and really, how expensive could a carrot be? Pizza’s basically a vegetable right? Oven fries are potatoes aren’t they? Unless you go down a super fancy health food route, going vegetarian is normally a lot cheaper. You can batch cook a load of different dishes just using cheap tin tomatoes as a base. The bonus point is it’s pretty hard to give yourself food poisoning with a veggie lifestyle, so if you’re not the best cook, that’s also a plus
Remember to shop in season and look for deals like buying on the day fresh produce is due to go out of date. Those reduced stickers are like an amazing beacon. Most stores start discounting things at the same time each day, so work out when this is for your local store and start grocery shopping around that time to snag the best deals. If you’re craving a more omnivore life, you can always treat yourself to a meaty meal when you’re out with your parents and they’re paying…
How expensive could a carrot be? Pizza’s basically a vegetable right?
18. You start “borrowing” clothing from friends instead of shopping for new clothes.
Clothes swapping is such a great idea if you have friends or family members who are the same size and have similar tastes in fashion. It’s basically like buying new clothes, after all, it’s NEW to your closet, except you don’t have to pay for it! Pay special attention for when someone you know decides to have a clearout or is moving apartments and doesn’t want to take everything – go and help her pack and have a rummage through the stuff before it hits GoodWill.
There are also plenty of sustainable clothes swaps happening in cities around the world, especially on college campuses. You take a bag of stuff with you and get to take someone else’s stuff back with you. You can find some really cute pieces, meet new people, and enjoy a free social day out all in one go!
19. To make yourself feel better, you internet creep on people who are more broke than you.
Comparison culture on social media can be pretty awful, but sometimes it can really work in your favor when you need that all important self-esteem boost. There are also people who are in worse situations and normally they’ll put it on Instagram or TikTok. It can be strangely therapeutic to see. It’s like when you’d watch shows like Jerry Springer because at least you’re not as bad as people who get in weird pregnancy love triangles with your sister’s ex-husband and your hairdresser. It’s trashy, but it can help you realize it could always be worse – the poor suckers.
20. You talk about being broke ALL THE TIME. Every second you get. Because the world needs to know.
Just in case people don’t realize how much of a struggle your life is, you need to point it out all the time. What do you mean the price of a subway ticket has gone up to $15?! That’s outrageous and a blatant ploy to keep us poor people poor. I never exaggerate, I swear…
For real though, you do end up relating to a lot of socialist messaging and getting a bit preachy about landlords being tyrants, how everywhere is too expensive, and all the good dive bars are gone. I swear if I see another hipster alchemy bar in a former warehouse district, I’m gonna lose it. We’re being priced out people!
21. Most of your friends are broke too.
They say misery loves company and y’know at least we have each other. It’s always good to have someone to call and be like do you want to buy $3 wine and sit in a cold, dark apartment and gossip about people who are living Instagram fantasy life in Dubai? It’s soothing for the soul. Having people that understand that when you say you have no money, you’re not joking, and you genuinely cannot afford to go out for birthday drinks or promotion meals is really reassuring. It can be a stressful way of living, and having friends who are in the same boat can make all the difference. Besides, they’ll be the first person to message you if they see a ridiculous coupon, money saving scheme, or find free social activities to do at the weekend.
So, moving out on your own and realizing just how expensive living can be is tough. You have to prioritize bills, activities, and even when you go home for holidays and when you have to say no. It’s a lot of saying no to things. By taking up side hustles and passive income streams you can start to get out living paycheck to paycheck. Honestly, it’s not easy and it’s a lot turning down social events and making your own DIY items to get by, but it is possible. So many of us have been in the poor sinking boat, you’re not on your own, I promise!
Friday 13th of June 2014
Well, im broke :D