Surviving my 20's: Being Broke Does Not Make You Broken

When I tell people I can't afford to do something they often don't know how to respond to me.

Last week was a rough one financially for me. This summer has already been tight thanks to one of the schools I teach for canceling one of my classes the day before it was supposed to start. So, that cut my already lower Summer income by 1/3 until September. When I planned the trip to Savannah it was under the assumption I'd be teaching 3 classes versus 2 so I knew that was going to put me into the red for July. Well, when it rains it pours! In the span of two weeks I had the following expenses come up:

  • I found out my internet bill will be double now since the lower rate my Mom negotiated was going back to normal
  • My thyroid perscription went up in cost
  • I had to go to the clinic for this mysterious shingles/unknown rash issue
  • One of my paychecks was half of what it normally is due to weird pay dates
  • I had to reorder contacts, and EVERYTHING expensive I use ran out at the same time so that was a $75 Target trip
  • Salem had to go to the Vets, which cost $125

Needless to say I'm extremely thankful I have a small amount put away in savings so I'll be okay, but it's getting tight. I have no problem saying I can't afford things as I don't tie monetary success or stability with self-worth. I think that's why there is such a stigma to being 'broke'. Broke is another term I try not to use because I find it offensive. I'm not broken, I just don't have a lot of money!

I'm pretty good with money now and I owe it all to my parents for teaching me financial literacy from a very early age. I remember in elementary school when we got our allowance we divided it up into three jars; long term savings, short term savings and spending money. What 10 year old kid does that? It was a very cool way to see money 'grow' in our savings jar, and I don't think we stuck to doing that for very long but it clearly made an impression on me.

When I was fresh out of college I lived alone and was making $14.50 an hour (with a Masters degree and the debt that goes alone with it.) One of the best bits of financial advice my Mom gave me then was 'buy the best you can afford.' Implied in that statement is to only buy things you can pay for on the spot (credit cards are evil if not used correctly) and after years of buying the cheapest option available, only to have to continually replace it, I finally wised up and listened to her.

My parents struggled financially when I was younger. My Dad was a graduate student when my brother and I were born and Mom stayed at home with us. Mom's told me stories about how bad it was for a few years when we were very young. Of course I don't remember any of the stress and all I have are wonderful memories of my childhood! Since Mom stayed at home with us we were always doing fun arts and crafts, or playing outside. We made weekly trips to the library and I lived for the weekend when we would go to the movie rental store and I could pick out a $1 rental. When we lived in Kentucky we went camping all the time and once we moved to Florida almost every weekend was spent at the beach. You don't need a lot of money to have a great time!

First snow

Being goofy

An inflatable mattress acted as my bed for a while, and as you can see my room was pretty sparse!

My BedAfter putting up with grad school poverty for a while my parents made the unfortunate decision to start using credit cards. I remember Mom charging all of our back-to-school clothing shopping trips, and over the years they ended up in pretty bad credit card debt. Around high school Mom decided enough was enough and began paying off the cards and Dad's student loan payments finally ended.

Over time Mom became pretty hard core about money. She's also kind of obsessed with the 1940's and her laundry room is decorated with old War posters that say things like "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." My parents had such a rough time with money when they were younger I knew she wanted me to try and avoid the same struggles. I texted her yesterday as I was writing this and asked her for her #1 piece of financial advice. All she wrote back was one word.


I'm able to live pretty comfortably off of my sporadic teacher & blog income because I adhere to the financial principles I was raised with. I only buy things I need, not things I want. I buy the best I can afford. I try to save some of every paycheck. I only pay people to do things I can't do myself (hence never having a pedicure in my life and having my car washed by someone else once.) Basically, I live within my means and I don't use hard work/stress/bad days as an excuse to 'treat' myself to something that I'll just have guilt over later if I can't pay it off.

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Even though I can be a bit of a tightwad I save so that I can spend on what really matters to me. I love traveling, eating healthy food is a huge part of my monthly budget, and I have an obscene amount of books. I still spend but I try to invest my money in experiences over things. I figure when the time comes to look back over my life that's one investment I'll always be happy I made.

 State-Farm-Logo (1)Like a good neighbor State Farm is there.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by State Farm via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of State Farm.

What are your favorite financial tips? Did your parents teach you about saving or spending wisely?