The Benefits of Being Broke

Like everyone else, we’re broke. We juggle bills and live paycheck to paycheck and just when we catch up, something like dental work or a trip to the emergency room always happens. Once, when I was having a little pity party for myself and my bad teeth, someone once told me that it’s not bad luck, it’s just life. There isn’t one person on this planet who is having a great time 100% of the time.

Things can always get worse. We have a lot going for us. We’re employed and have health insurance. We’re mostly healthy and in one piece. We have great families and friends. We live in a really cute house, in a great neighborhood. We actually like our jobs and even have time for recreational activities. I have to remind myself that happiness lies in what you have, not what you don’t.

Budgeting is like swimming upstream. The more you do it, the better you get at it but it will always be a challenge. Like all challenges, you need a strategy for dealing with the inevitable gloomies so you can get back on track after a bad day. I call ours, the silver lining strategy.

Problem – sometimes you need/want new furniture.

Strategy — buy second hand. Two of our favorite places are Uhuru and the Philly Aids Thrift Shop. Sure, everything has a lived-in look, but it goes with our nice lived-in house. The silver lining is that both places are charitable businesses and we’re keeping things out of the dump and giving them a second life.

Problem – sometimes you want fresh food.

Strategy — buy local. We save between $20 and $40 a week just by shopping at the Italian Market. The silver lining bonus is that it’s helping the local economy and typically things come in very little packaging, which means less garbage. I don’t want to gross anyone out, but it’s really fresh too. Like just mooing yesterday fresh.

Problem – sometimes you need/want new clothes.

Strategy — buy second hand. Green Street Consignment is one of my favorites. I’ve gotten things that still had the tags attached. The silver lining is that when you spill spaghetti sauce on it, or it turns out to be a trendy purchase, it isn’t as bad.

Problem – you really can’t have it all and fit it into your house.

Strategy — focus, focus, focus. Even if you have all the money in the world, you need to be mindful of all the effects each item you buy is going to have on the environment. Buy the best quality you can. Buy for the long term. Don’t buy it unless it’s the most perfect thing ever. The silver lining is that budgeting forces you to enhance, not dilute, your life with your things. Character over quantity and excess.

Anyone else out there have any positive experiences from having to cut back or do without?

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