I have a close friend who’s been pretty broke for the last five years. Why is she broke? Some of it is circumstance (a divorce and a kid who may have special needs). But a lot of it is a result of her own choices: She blows a ton of money on stuff she doesn’t need and knows she can’t afford, she never actually looks for work, she has a lot of bad habits, and she married someone else who’s even more broke than she is without getting a prenup. Bad situation all around. Here are a few suggestions I offered to her on how to not be broke. Chances are she won’t listen, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you might.
1. Smoke cigarettes. Whether or not you’re broke, you can’t afford to smoke. Cigarettes are expensive in and of themselves, and the health consequences are even more dire. Seriously, stop. Sure, it’ll suck for a little while, but that’s better than literally setting your money on fire and inhaling the smoke while it burns—followed by dying young.
2. Smoke anything else. Guys, I don’t care whether you smoke weed in general. It’s your business. But know that if you’re looking for a job, you’re probably going to face a drug test and a background check before you get hired. Also know that the smell is stronger than you think, no matter how much incense you burn to cover it up. Wash the odor out of your hair and save your money until at least after you sign a contract for a new job.
3. Get a tattoo. Tattoos cost money. Tattoos are are unnecessary. Add to that the potential (though admittedly small) risk of infection involved, and there’s no justifying it. Once you have enough money to have a disposable income? Go nuts. It’s your body, not mine. But don’t complain about not having money for rent when you go under the needle once a month.
4. Go to bridal showers or weddings. Being a woman with a social life is expensive. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy anyone a new toaster if you can’t even afford bread for yours. Send a card and stay home.
5. Blow a ton of money on cosmetics. If you’re broke, you can be beautiful without breaking the bank. We already have a few tips on how to look awesome for less money (and more on the way!). You don’t need NARS when you can’t even afford to keep the lights on. Need to get your hair cut for an interview? Go to a beauty school and get it done for free (just remember to tip).
6. Start a direct marketing business. The fact is, most people never make a profit from direct sales businesses, whether it’s makeup, nail wraps, knives, or anything else that smells like a pyramid scheme with a loophole. You’re better off working retail. Seriously. On that note…
7. Join a gym. Work out for free at home. Go for a run in your neighborhood. Do pushups. Get a hula hoop. Walk dogs (bonus: extra money and puppy kisses). The point is, you can exercise for free. Don’t spend money when you don’t have to.
8. Play the lottery. Spoiler alert: You’re going to lose.
9. Look down on any legal, ethical job. If you’re broke, you’re not above waiting tables. You’re not above serving coffee. You’re not above yard work. You’re not above cleaning houses. You’re not above answering phones. You’re not above folding T-shirts. You’re not above sweeping floors at a salon. You’re not above babysitting. You’re not above being a line cook. You’re not above anything. No one is. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you can’t turn your nose up at any opportunity offered to you. It may not be your dream job, but it’s something to pay the bills until you can find your dream job.
10. Make excuses. It’s tragic to see people in debt or broke because of medical expenses or caring for a sick family member. It’s heartbreaking. Unless you’re in one of those circumstances, in which case your only option is just to make the most of what you’ve got, look at your life choices. Did you move to an expensive area without a plan? Did you marry a bum? Do you blow your money on things you don’t need? Do you live outside your means? Take responsibility, take accountability, and take action to fix things you can control. Whining is wasted time, and time is money. Now get on LinkedIn and get to work on finding a damn job.