How Being Broke Built My Character

Having been a single mom, a college student who paid for her own college, and also not coming from a family with a trust fund, I’ve been broke at several points in my adult life.

First, I was a broke college kid. I didn’t want to take out loans to live in a dorm, so I “commuted.” I basically lived out of my car for three years. This was a great lesson in how to make do with no legitimate home base. I learned how to pack effectively, how to scrimp on basically even thing I had to pay for. I even got super fit because I had to shower at the gym at USM, so I worked out beforehand to feel like I was allowed to use the showers. The Geography-Anthropology department secretary, Maggie, walked in on me brushing my teeth in our lounge more than once.

Then I was a broke single mom, trying to graduate college. I learned how to do everything at once. I was working nights, commuting two hours to school, while juggling being a brand-new single mother taking graduate-level classes. I learned how to survive on three hours of sleep, and I also learned how to not care about showering. Or working out.

After that was a several-year period where I was doing OK financially; I had a pretty decent job, a lot of student debt, and no car. So I got a car loan. And I was also paying for daycare, food, gas, etc., etc. I was breaking even, so that was nice.

And now I am a broke post-bac student trying to get take classes to get into graduate school. But this time, I’m learning more about team work. I am getting married, I am sharing burdens and responsibilities; I am learning how to communicate about my finances, how to pinch pennies without going crazy, and how to grocery shop so that we don’t go broke, but eat healthily. I am learning how to compromise on responsibilities, both financially and at home. I’m learning about what it’s like to have someone in my corner cheering me on.

Someday I hope to be less broke than we are now. I know it will happen. It will take a long time for us to be in a financially “awesome,” place, but I know that the most character-building times in my life were the ones where I was dead broke, and forced to learn true life lessons.

Like how to live off cold canned beans, quarters for gas money, and no sleep.


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