How to Stop Being Broke—Instantly
There really isn’t anything profound to say. This is not a complex or difficult problem to solve on paper.
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It’s simple: you’re broke because of your poor financial decisions.
You need to change your behavior to fix that, which is what makes this situation so difficult.
Like so many others, I was broke for the majority of my life. Then one day, I decided it just had to stop.
There wasn’t a magic fix; I didn’t win the lottery. I didn’t suddenly receive an inheritance, and I didn’t (and still don’t) have a high-paying job.
Where I Began and Where I Went Wrong Financially
I did, however, have a reasonably lucky beginning to my life. I was born in America, I’m fairly healthy, and I’m reasonably intelligent (at least I think so). Yet despite these advantages, I screwed up the first 30 years of my financial life for no reason other than my own arrogance and vanity. Equally as humiliating was how easily I fixed it when I just stopped lying to myself.
So, if you’re in a similar position—you live in America, you’re reasonably intelligent, and you’re not bedridden—you too can fix your money problems.
Money Problems are Fixable
This is all you have to do:
- Take your finances seriously
- Stop indulging in endless irresponsible consumerism
- Stop rationalizing poor decisions
I’m not trying to make this post all about me, but I’m going to use a bit of my story. Hey, I can relate to anyone who isn’t doing so well financially. I was once the epitome of bad decisions!
Ever avoided checking your bank account because you know it will make you feel guilty? You’re not alone.
When I finally got sick of being broke, I realized I was hiding from the problem rather than confronting it. I had to change. So, I went online and used a net worth calculator to assess the disaster I had gotten myself into.
I found out I was about $40,000 in the red with only $400 in cash. I had a fancy car, nice clothes, and the typical ego of someone who appears to be doing well. But like many, I had spent all my resources on appearance and zero on actually acquiring anything of value.
The fact is LOTS of people are living paycheck to paycheck, while their lifestyle screams Instagram famous. It’s not a problem of the few, and part of the problem is exactly that!
We look around at our peers, thinking they’re killing it. Then, we try to keep up. All the while, it’s realistically the broke leading the broke.
My entire career has been spent in auto lending, retail banking, and commercial lending. I’ve been looking at personal financials and credit for well over a decade. I came across so many people with the same story as my own: the overwhelming majority of those who are broke arrived there by their own hand.
Lifestyle Inflation, Rampant Consumerism Are Your Enemies
Did you know that if you make approximately $30,000 (USD) per year, you’re among the top 1 percent of global earners?
Now, to be fair, it’s kind of a nonsense statistic. It doesn’t take into account cost of living and myriad other factors. But it is a good exercise in understanding how many resources you really have in comparison to the rest of the planet.
So for those who are broke, it’s most likely that you’re squandering a really good opportunity. The truth is most people in America are far from it—many just think they are entitled to live a life that happens to be beyond their means.
I mean, who would let a little thing like “not having enough money” prevent them from buying expensive things?
Americans can declare bankruptcy and keep their car and car loan. Is there anything that screams egregious entitlement more than that?
You’re Not Actually Broke, You’re Spending Money Irresponsibly
We complain about money and the stress of not having enough of it, while holding a car payment, watching our big screen TV, living in a nice house, wearing nice clothes, and grabbing Starbucks on the regular. Let me tell you, truly broke people can’t live that life.
Everyone needs to realize material goods don’t produce true happiness. In many cases, material possessions actually create more stress (notoriously referred to as mo’ money, mo’ problems).
If you have all this stuff, you’re far from broke. You just blew all your money on things you don’t really care about and need to correct the way you spend.
Don’t feel too bad about it. You’re not the only one.
My intent here is not to berate anyone in this situation. I just know how rampant this problem is—even though the fix is really simple.
You need to truly understand that your lousy financial situation is directly related to your lousy financial choices. Once you acknowledge this and are angry enough about the position you’re in, everything will become clear.
From here on out, make good financial choices, which will directly result in a good financial situation. Easy enough, right?!
Sacrifice Is Necessary—But Doable
The thing is, it’s not easy to stop being broke. However, it is 100 percent doable.
If you want to turn things around, change is necessary. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to fix this problem?
I find this to be a quite useful exercise in identifying self-created hurdles to success.
When I finally decided to stop living week to week, the first thing I did was reduce overhead. I wrestled with myself about my fancy car. Was I actually willing to give it up?
If I sold my expensive car, I could save the $500/month payment and $200/month insurance I was spending. Plus, lower overhead would free me from a job I hated—I wouldn’t be so worried about being able to pay the bills. So, I sold it.
I financed the negative equity on a small personal loan from a bank, and I bought an old, disgusting, terrible beater of a car off Craigslist for $1,200. This thing was ROUGH.
I drove it for five years. Yes, sometimes it broke down, and it was always embarrassing. But saving that money allowed me to buy a house hack two years later!
Does anyone reading this thinks less of me because I drove that P.O.S. for so long? Or does the accomplishment of fixing the money problem forever outweigh that short-term embarrassment?
As with most things, sucking it up and reeling in your spending is easier said than done. And that’s why this exercise works so well. Ask yourself, what are your current self-created barriers to reaching your goals?
Will you cancel cable television, bring your lunch to work, cancel all those little subscription-based expenses that add up, or sell your car and buy a beater?
Be honest about what you’re willing to give up. What’s possible for you? A lot of people are simply not willing to drive a dumpy car or buy clothes at Target.
It’s easy to make excuses why you need or deserve the lifestyle you have. It’s precisely the mindset of everyone who gets themselves in this situation.
They rationalize and justify their decisions, but then they live with frustration resulting from a constant lack of resources, lack of freedom, and ongoing financial stress.
You can pick one or the other: sacrifice unnecessary costs and spend those dollars investing in yourself and your business, or spend all of today’s and tomorrow’s money (debt) on non-essentials that the false god of consumerism has told you will make you happy.
No More Blame Game, Take Responsibility
I know all people’s circumstances are not the same, and I’m well aware the world isn’t a fair place. And to some, I probably sound overly harsh.
For many though, I’m probably saying what they already know to be true.
Unfortunately, no matter what type of situation you’ve found yourself in, the solution to this problem remains constant: make different choices.
Nobody deserves anything in this life—good or bad. So, while it might be someone else’s fault your economic situation is dire, assigning blame is assuredly not going to help improve your finances.
Taking responsibility and making some sacrifices will be required if you don’t want to be broke. Banking on luck rarely works out.
As they say, “You can’t change your life without changing your life.”
The good news is that it only seems monumentally hard. Realistically, sacrificing things in order to turn your finances around is only annoying at first. Take it one small step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself on the path toward success.
Also, many people don’t realize that making money is far more satisfying than spending money. I’ve received lots of pushback against that phrase—almost always from someone who has been more of a spender than a maker in life.
So, how would they know?
Spend time learning about personal finance. The whole “being broke” problem is entirely fixable—and it can be done rather quickly.
Plus, with the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) being so popular at this point, it’s never been easier to find resources to guide you.
Start taking your finances seriously. Stop participating in unnecessary consumerism, and stop justifying poor financial decisions.
The only person who is making you broke is you. It’s an observation that should be encouraging—because it means you can fix it.
What are you wasting money on? Have you acknowledged it’s standing in the way of your success? Are you willing to give it up?
Let’s discuss in the comments.