Broke or Poor? There is a Difference

Jason Weiland

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Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Do you spend the two weeks before you get your check eating cheap ramen noodles and canned beans, digging change out of the couch cushions to buy a morning coffee on the way to work?

Are you poor or just broke?

You might think there’s not a difference between the two, but there is. If you are poor, you don’t expect more money coming in, ever. What you have is what you’ve got. You may be almost homeless or homeless. You struggle to feed and clothe yourself.

If you’re broke, you may not have money, but at least you know there is more coming eventually, little as it is. You may get a social security check or pay biweekly, but the week or so before the money hits your bank account is torture.

At different times in my life, I’ve been both. I’ve been jobless, homeless, and unable to feed myself and my family. The only way I survived was because of the kindness of others.

For most of my life, though, I’ve just been plain broke. There is always too much month left at the end of the money. You start the first few days after your check, hopeful and confident that you can make it through the month, only to find you have a zero bank balance after paying bills and getting groceries.

There’s been only one period of my life where I made enough that I should have been comfortable. I was making over six figures. At the time, I was sick and didn’t have control of my life or finances. We were always broke. The money was always gone before I knew what happened to it, but I was too sick to figure out where it went.

I was just surviving.

How often are you struggling to make ends meet? Are you going through the same situation month after month, hoping your situation will somehow change for the better?

This is Life as We Know It

If you’re broke, you are in good company. Most of the rest of the world is broke as well. The only place I’ve heard the middle class is growing is in China, but they are killing themselves to get there.

Okay, so maybe I’m a bit facetious. Plenty of people are making enough where they don’t worry about where the next meal is coming from. Perhaps they don’t run out of food before their next check. But, some of us do and will until we can figure out a way to make more money or manage the money we have.

We are sick and tired of cutting everything out of our lives. Our budget is so strict, some of us are considering washing and reusing toilet paper.

😉 Gross right?

The middle class in America isn’t coming back anytime soon. The rich will continue to get richer, and we will remain broke, fighting for whatever falls out of the deep pockets. While the rich do whatever they can to avoid paying their fair share, the world’s working people will pay our taxes.

This is life! After you pay your rent, insurance, utilities, cellphone, and buy groceries, you may or may not have enough left to pay for another month of Netflix. Money comes in; the money goes out. If you’re lucky, you can take a selfie for Instagram of you holding your small wad of cash, so everybody thinks you’re living large.

We try not to focus on the money. We know that money isn’t “everything.” We also notice most people who say that money isn’t essential have more than enough to go around and can afford not to care.

Take me, for instance. I’m a simple man. I have a few very nice things because I need them to earn more money. I have a Samsung A71 phone, a Dell laptop with a faulty battery, and a small house. My wife and I rarely go out to eat. We never travel. We don’t buy things for ourselves because we don’t have the money. I had an anxiety attack yesterday because I needed to buy a new shirt. My wife hasn’t gotten a pedicure in ages, and she needs one. Her feet are like a Yeti's.

People wonder why we never leave our house and at least now we can tell them it’s because of the pandemic and now because we don’t even have a few dollars for ice cream at McDonald's.

When Will Things Change?

One thing about the broke is that we are always hatching a plan to pull ourselves out of the mire. We see the commercials on TV too and want the new iPhone. We want designer clothes and a 60” curved screen television. We want to eat at Red Lobster and fly to Bora-Bora on a whim.

We want to go from broke to comfortable as soon as possible. We all have a secret. We all have the same dreams when we are sitting on the toilet. We all have the will to pull ourselves out of the mire.

But, the thing is — most people will never move from dreams and schemes to reality. Most people will flounder around being broke because they don’t want to put in the work it takes to make more money and take steps to get the money we do have under control.

  • “I hate budgeting!”
  • “It would make my life complicated if I had a side hustle!”
  • “I won’t be happy if I can’t binge-watch Netflix every night!”
  • “I can’t take the chance that I’ll lose my job or disability. I have bills to pay!”

Some people will go through their lives broke, hoping for overtime so they can have Christmas. Some people will give up what could be, for right now.

Are you willing to give up the hope that things could be better in the future for you and your family? If not, are you ready to put in the hard work it will take to pull yourself out of the mud and make something of your financial life?

If you are, I applaud you. Here are four things you can do right now to get started:

1. Create a budget and find out where your money goes every month. Even if you only get a small check every month, you may be surprised where your money goes.

2. Start a side hustle. There are so many easy ways to make a little extra money online that it just doesn’t make sense wasting all your free time binge-watching. Even an additional $100 a month would help, wouldn’t it?

3. Save money in an emergency fund. Your first order of business would be to save enough money so that you could live for three months on your savings. You never know what may happen, and it’s better to be prepared.

4. Start paying down debt. If you have high-interest credit cards or personal loans, you should try hard to pay them off as soon as possible. That extra money you are paying in interest is a waste.

Good luck on your journey to financial independence!

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA
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