Are You Really Broke?

"Broke" is one of those words like "fair" --- it's defined by the person defining it. Truly broke people don't have to define it. They know what it means. Truly being broke is not only financial, it is emotionally and physically draining. It is not knowing if you will be able to pay the rent or keep the electric on. It is feeding your kids and not eating yourself. It is crying yourself to sleep at night because you work your tail off every day and still have nothing to show for it. That's truly broke

So let's look at some of the comments I've seen online lately from people claiming to be "broke" and see if their definition is the same as yours.

"I want those Manolo's, but I'm so broke. Maybe I'll get them with my bonus." You get a bonus? You have a job that pays enough for you to even CONSIDER buying a $600 pair of shoes? You aren't broke. You are fiscally irresponsible.

"I'm a broke single mother of three, and organic food isn't that expensive. If you stop eating out, you can afford it."  You can afford to eat out? Then you aren't broke. Broke people never eat out. They may not eat at all sometimes. They don't even look at organic food, because they can hardly afford fruits and veggies at all.

"Oh God, I'm so broke! I'm not going to be able to go to SXSW this year."  Seriously? You think not having thousands of dollars to spend on a conference is broke? Most really broke people don't even know what SXSW is, much less would they even consider going to it.

"I'm so broke. I'm gonna have to cut back the number of channels I have on my cable and maybe cut my internet speed back too."  You are definitely not broke. Broke people don't have cable and they may not have internet. If they do have internet, they have the cheapest one available, and only have it because they have to have it for work or for their kids.

I know broke. I was so broke for two years I was on food stamps and the $5 phone service that goes with it. The only reason I had a cell phone was because the government gave out free 250 min. a month phones to people on food stamps. I paid $19.95 for my internet, because I begged Verizon not to discontinue my low price or I would have to cancel and have no way to work. At one period in time, I had to go back to dial-up for $5 a month from NetZero to have any internet at all. I stopped coloring my hair because I couldn't afford the $3 a month for the at-home coloring. I stopped wearing makeup because I couldn't afford it. I gained weight from eating processed foods, rice and potatoes because that was the only filling food I could get with my food stamps. I couldn't even afford to take vitamins, but I had a friend who was a nurse in a senior care facility who would bring me the ones that people left behind. I didn't ask if the people had died or just left, because I was grateful for whatever reason I got those vitamins. I was so broke I lost my car, my house and almost everything I owned.

Now let me tell you about a REALLY broke single mom with 3 kids. She lived across the street from me. She worked 2 jobs and couldn't make ends meet because of the high cost of day care and work expenses. I had a friend who owned a produce store, and I would go there in the afternoons and help her out. She would give me her tossaway food -- not good enough to sell, but still viable to eat. I started taking boxes of that food to that single mom. She cried when I showed up with the first box. She had run out of food stamps before the end of the month and didn't have anything but Ramen Noodles to feed her kids. I know that feeling. I've been there. Once I only had $13 to spend on food for the week and I bought macaroni and cheese, hamburger meat, cereal, milk, rice, and canned corn and beans. He ate, I nibbled, then I put my leftovers in the fridge to feed him the next day.

THAT is broke.

If you have a good job, a savings account, a retirement account, can pay your home mortgage or rent easily every month, never have had to beg a utility company to give you 3 more days before they cut your lights or water off, have a car or can afford public transportation, and especially if you wear Manolos, YOU ARE NOT BROKE! STOP WHINING!!!

Oh, and maybe when you get that bonus, instead of buying those Manolos, you could donate that money to a food bank or a homeless shelter or an abused women's service. MAYBE, JUST MAYBE you could stop thinking about yourself for awhile and stop judging everybody else and do something good.

But I doubt you will.


  1. Very good points, Deb. I have been broke, especially when I got so sick I couldn't work & couldn't pay my rent, but I'm thankful I was never truly broke, just struggling through a bad patch. My journalists' union helped pay my rent for a few weeks, & I was fortunate that (a) I was single & had no children to feed & clothe, & (b) so sick that government gave me a disability pension & the housing department put me into emergency housing in an amazingly short time.

    I've had other bad patches in my life where I've struggled to pay the rent & utilities, but I'm grateful I've never truly been broke. Good on you for helping the single mother when you were barely surviving, & for posting this discussion.

  2. Sue, that qualifies as broke. I remember when you were going through all that and was SO THANKFUL that you live in a country where help is available and you don't have to beg for it. The social safety net in this country sucks. We are so into blaming the poor for things that are beyond their control.


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