If you’re reading this then you know exactly what it’s like to be broke: turning down multiple invitations to enjoy a night out with friends; eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner; needing hours to build the courage to check your bank balance; developing elaborate ways to stretch $17.38 until your next paycheck; knowing you can’t have a girlfriend because you’re in a very committed relationship with Sallie Mae. You’re life is a constant struggle between an extreme surplus of expenses and a debilitating lack of funds. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, fear not, fellow Caveman, for you are amongst brothers.
Being broke is one of the most trying times of your life. You have to be creative, make sacrifices, learn to say “no,” and learn to appreciate what so many people take for granted. Though the struggle may seem overwhelming at times, the following steps will get you through your financial depression without forcing you to sell your tears, your hair, or any other parts of your body.
- Acknowledge. You need to come to terms with the fact that you’re broke. You must accept that you can no longer spend every single weekend out drinking with your employed friends. Admit that you can no longer afford to go out for meals during the week, especially after 7pm. Recognizing that you will have to make some lifestyle changes will make you better equipped for surviving these tough times.
- Budget. If you have some sort of income, whether it’s the tips from your part-time barista job or your night-shift at the drive-thru, then you can surely make things work. The important thing is to budget carefully. First off, set aside money to cover your essential expenses: cereal, rent, utilities, toilet paper and drinking water (milk and bacon if you managed to get some extra shifts). Take what’s left after that and split it in two. The first half goes into your stash of secure, untouchable, unseen cash. The second half is for gasoline and entertainment. Simple.
- Learn Math. Math skills are vital to surviving your period of brokeness. Being able to mentally calculate the total cost of your night out – three $1 beers plus a $5 appetizer plus $5 fries that you split with three friends plus tax and tip – before you even get to the bar can potentially save you from the dreaded overdraft zone. Withdraw enough cash to get you through the night and leave your card at home.
- Strategize. Careful planning will show you that there are plenty of ways to enjoy life on a budget. If you want something fun to do with your Cavelady, look for cheaper alternatives to the usual dinner and drinks: discount days at your local movie theater; museums with a “suggested” general admission fee (MoMA has free admission on Fridays and the lines aren’t as long as you’d think); National Parks with long hiking trails that will keep you out in the totally inexpensive wilderness for a few hours. Or, you know, stay home and pay $0.00 to binge-watch everything you’ve added to your roommate’s Netflix queue.
- Downgrade. A slice of $1 pizza packs all of the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs to get through the day – and there’s no shame in wolfing down three slices while standing next to a homeless person. Taco Bell can still be considered “ethnic food” if you’re looking to eat something a little more exotic than your usual Cup Noodles. Budweiser does get the job done, even if it’s essentially water from the Hudson River. Take-out food places usually provide condiments, utensils, and napkins that you can save for later use – always ask for extra.
- Shut up about it. The final step to being broke and surviving is to man up and stop complaining about it. Stop telling your friends and relatives how broke you are and how hard life is for you. If your friends invite you out, spare them the drama of your negative bank balance and just tell them that you want to spend the night in. If your parents ask why you sold your car, just tell them you’re trying to save the environment. If your Cavelady wants to go on a romantic date, take her on an evening stroll through the park and split a hot chocolate instead of complaining to her about how the Applebee’s 2 for $20 isn’t really $20 when you factor in extra lemon for the water plus taxes and tip. Keep these problems to yourself and work on fixing them on your own.
By following this survival guide, you too can make it through your temporary slump. And when you finally find a job worthy of your hard earned degree or when you finally manage to sell your screenplay, you’ll be able to stand as a symbol of success for all the Cavemen who are working hard to survive being broke.