Zero money in the bank account, and not that big of an income: what are the things to do when you’re broke to reverse your situation? Find out on this post, and change your financial life!
I know that suffocating feeling of dread that comes when you’re down to the last dollars on your bank account and all you can seem to think is I don’t have any money. The anxiety can be paralyzing. However, doing nothing will not help the situation, and will only make it worse.
Here are 9 things to do when you’re broke to take control of your financial situation and improve it.
1. Change the way you think
Mindset is everything. Well, maybe not everything, but having the wrong money mindset can lead to self-sabotage and to never get to a better financial situation.
If you’re constantly broke and want to change your situation, the first thing you need to do is analyze if you have money blocks that are hindering your growth.
Money blocks are simply some subconscious beliefs about money that you might have incorporated while growing up. Our experiences with money during our childhood have an impact on how we behave with money as adults.
Some of the most common negative money beliefs are:
- Having money is bad and rich people are greedy;
- I don’t deserve money;
- If I were rich, I would be happy;
- People will like me more if I’m richer.
It’s important to identify and write down your limiting beliefs to start questioning them. The next step will be to create new beliefs and affirmations that are positive beliefs about money. Whenever you find yourself slipping back to the old negative beliefs, reaffirm the new ones.
However, for some people it might be harder to change beliefs, especially if they stem from traumatic experiences. If this is your case, I suggest talking to a therapist – it might seem an extra expense, but you need to unblock your mind before you can go forward and be financially successful.
2. Acknowledge the reasons why you’re broke
Once you’ve identified your money blocks, the next step is to take responsibility and stop blaming others for the situation you’re in. Acknowledge the reasons why you’re broke.
It’s so easy to blame our financial problems on something or someone else, isn’t it? I’m broke because my car broke down and my boss fired me for not showing up. I’m broke because my friend invited me for dinner to a fancy restaurant and it would have been rude to say no. That is the victim mentality, and it does nothing to help you get out of your current situation.
Taking responsibility and acknowledging that you and only you are in charge of your money is essential to gain control and improve your financial situation: one of the most important things to do when broke.
You need to acknowledge that you didn’t need that new dress or the new iPhone, and by doing that you need to go through your bank accounts and look at your credit card statements.
It can be scary to open your bank accounts and go through the numbers when you’re in a bad financial spot. If you’re receiving bills by mail, it can be tempting not to open them and hide them somewhere you can’t see them. It can make you feel better for a little bit, but all it does in the long run is make things worse and increase your level of anxiety.
So set aside some time and go through this painful but necessary process, so that you’re ready for the next steps.
Track your expenses
Do you know where your money goes? One of the things you need to do if you have no money is to track your expenses on a daily basis, the only way to know where your money is actually going, and how you’ll be able to cut unnecessary expenses.
We tend to forget those $5-10 expenses or those monthly subscriptions that get taken out of our accounts automatically, but at the end of the month they can really add up!
Tracking your expenses will not only help you identify the “problem areas” and see where you’re spending too much. Knowing that you have to write down each and every expense, small or big, will keep you accountable and you’ll end up being more responsible with your money.
Finally, tracking your spending will help you come up with a budget (we’ll talk about this later) that is realistic and sustainable long-term.
4. Set realistic money goals
It’s now time to write down some financial goals and put them somewhere you can see them on a daily basis, for example on your fridge.
Whenever you are setting goals, be them financial goals or any other kind of goals, you want to make sure they are
goals (SMART financial goals).
The ideal would be to set a few money goals divided into three categories: short-term, mid-term, and long-term. An example of short-term financial goals could be saving for a vacation or paying off a certain amount of debt. Mid-term financial goals would be saving for a bigger purchase, like a new car. Long-term financial goals would be something bigger like buying a home or building a retirement fund.
Don’t just make up any numbers – now that you’ve tracked your expenses and you know your income, take your time to set some goals that are achievable. As the months go by, you can always re-evaluate and change your goals. It’s one of the important things to do while broke to get in control of your finances again.
5. Make a budget and stick to it
Now that you have a clearer understanding of where your money goes, and you have set some realistic money goals, it’s time to make a budget.
Having a budget will help you get out of debt, build an emergency fund, and save money for the long run, one of the things to do when you have no money that will help you make some.
It might sound complicated, but all that budgeting really means is deciding how much money you need to allocate for your needs (such as food, rent, and transportation), how much money you can realistically commit to saving, and how much money you can allocate for personal expenses (basically, everything that’s a want and not a need).
Once you have your budget figured out, you’ll have to track your progress and over time revisit your budget and budget categories when necessary (needs and priorities might change).
You could do it with a simple spreadsheet, but if you’re just starting out I highly recommend using a budgeting app such as Mint or Wally. These free or freemium apps will not only track your cash flow, but allow you to create custom budgets based on your lifestyle and track your progress.
It’s not just about making a budget and writing it down, though. You actually need to stick to it.
A few ways to make sure you don’t forget about your budget are:
- Divide your monthly budget in weekly/daily portions. So if you have budgeted $600 a month for food, your weekly budget is approximately $150. Thinking this way will make it easier to stick to the budget when you go to the grocery store or to a restaurant.
- If something doesn’t fit in your budget, learn to say no. It’s sad having to give up a night out with friends, but necessary at this time of your life.
- Plan your meals, make a grocery list and don’t buy anything else that’s not on the list when you go grocery shopping.
6. Cut Unnecessary Expenses & Save Money
One of the things to do when you feel like you don’t have money is to cut all unnecessary expenses – they add up more than you think.
Look at your daily life and understand what is necessary and what is not based on your lifestyle. A few basic things you can do include:
- Avoid eating out – it’s tempting and fun, but you can save so much money by cooking yourself and bringing a packed lunch to work/school.
- Cut your cable – it’s extremely expensive and who needs it anyway when you can just subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime?
- Cut your monthly subscriptions – as I was saying just now, you can keep one monthly subscription for entertainment, but you definitely don’t need to have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ at the same time!
- When grocery shopping, go for generic brands products. On top of this, there are so many other ways to save on groceries!
- Change your meetings with friends at restaurants or bars for cheaper options, like dining at someone’s house or doing free activities. There are tons of things to do without money that can give you a fun time.
With the money you’ll save by cutting these expenses, I always recommend building an emergency fund and putting it in a high-yield savings account. Your emergency fund should amount to 3 to 6 months of living expenses, but you can start saving for one month of living expenses and grow it as you can.
Having an emergency fund is so important because you never know what can happen – your car might break down, your pet might get sick, you might have some unexpected medical expenses, or you might suddenly lose your job (unfortunately a sad but really common reality during this pandemic).
Not having any savings set apart for this kind of emergency can have devastating consequences as you might not have any other choice but to take on credit card debt, which will take years to pay off.
However, if you have any type of consumer or credit card debt (basically any debt with a high-interest rate) focus on paying off debt as fast as you can. Let’s talk about that in the next paragraph.
7. Pay off debt as fast as you can
In the last decades, it’s become so easy in the US to ask for a loan or get a credit card, that having debt is something considered normal by most people. But it certainly doesn’t have to be this way.
Just to put things into perspective – did you know that the average American has a credit card balance of $5,315 and 1 out of 4 American adults have a personal loan debt (which averages a whopping $16,458)?
The interest rate of this type of debt is usually very high (it can be as high as 14%), and most credit cards charge you compounding interest, which means interest on the interest you accrue.
It makes it so hard to get out of debt, but you can! Don’t just make the minimum payments on your credit card balances, pay as much as you can afford every month – ideally pay it fully.
Make sacrifices now and think how you’ll feel when it’s finally in the past. You can also try and talk to your credit card or loan provider and see if you can increase your monthly payments or they can lower your interest rates.
8. Find someone to keep you accountable
It’s hard to change our money habits from one day to another. It’s hard to change any habit, that is. That’s why if you’re trying to improve your financial situation, you need a financial accountability partner who will cheer for you and will help you stay on track.
It can be your partner, a relative, or a close friend – of course, it should be someone you trust as you’ll talk about personal topics, and you ideally want to find someone who’s assertive and will actually help you stick to your financial plans. It should be someone who will encourage you but won’t be afraid to tell you the hard truth.
You can start by going through your finances with your accountability partner, and tell them what your financial goals are and how you plan on achieving them. After that, you can plan a monthly call or date where you’ll go through the expenses and savings of the month.
Just the simple fact of having to justify your financial decisions regularly will help you be more responsible with your money.
9. Find ways to make more money
Budgeting and saving money is great, and that’s why I focus so much about it on this blog. But let’s be real: you can only realistically cut so much.
The good thing is that saving money isn’t the only way to build wealth. Saving money and cutting unnecessary expenses is always a good idea no matter your level of income, but increasing your income ultimately is the most straightforward way to accomplish your money goals. After all, you might not have to give up your beloved daily latte…
How can you make money when you’re broke, then? These days there are infinite ways to grow your income. To make money fast, you can look for a side hustle such as driving for Uber / Lyft, sell unused furniture and clothes online, or babysit / dogsit in your neighborhood. These are just a few ways that you could be making $100 a day or more – not bad for a side hustle, uh?
If you’re willing to put more effort long-term, look at ways to make money online. You could start a blog and write about any of your passions or a YouTube channel, or you could offer services as a virtual assistant, a copywriter, or a social media manager. These are just a few of the hundreds of side hustles you can look into.
There you go. As you can see, there are quite a few things you can do when you’re broke. The key is to take action, even if it’s scary or hurtful. Taking control of your money is the only way to improve your financial situation.