Have You Ever Been Completely Broke?

Updated on October 14, 2013
L.A. asks from Kyle, TX
28 answers

The question about the husband having to share a hotel room with a couple, brought up memories of being completely broke.

Broke meaning $5. to last 5 days until payday.
NO credit cards to fall back on and worried about being able to even get to work.

I recall these days. We did our best to not spend a dime. We could not borrow money, we had no credit. I was worried about the Toilet paper situatuation.

Thank goodness we had jobs, even thought we were barely making it. We had a place to live.
Our bills were slightly late, but once we were paid, we would be fine. This time.
We did not have a child. We had health insurance. We had rice, beans, half a loaf of bread, peanut butter and popcorn (the real kind, not microwave) and tea bags.

I was relieved to know I was not about to start my period, because the products were so expensive.

So yes, I understand what it means to be tight or out of money. We make tough choices and decisions to get through these times.
I know so many people that say they do not have any money, When in reality, they may not have MONEY, but they still have ways to get by in an emergency.

But if an accident happened, we would have been screwed.

Have you all been in these situations? What hard choices did you all have to make?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for sharing your experiences.

I get frustrated by people that have no idea what it is like to work so hard, to be so careful with money, but because of circumstances, we end up barely making it.

When my husband and i were getting married, ,my inlaws told us they would not support us. We were fine with this, so we never asked them.. At one point when they realized we were struggling with an old car, but did not qualify for a loan, they said "Why didn't you ask us for money to help you?"

We reminded them of what they had said AND how they were all ways saying they "did not have any money."
MIL laughed and said, "well we mean we do not have money to throw around, we have savings, credit cards and of course we always have SOME cash money." We could GET cash if we really needed it."
We explained when WE say we do not have any money, we mean, we do not have any of the above.

There are so many people barely making it. Not because they are not careful with money, but because even though they are full time workers, They are paid a small wage, and it is expensive to find a place to live, electricity, to feed a family, to dress a family and to keep them healthy. Throw in transportation, health insurance and it just is not enough.

I have not been able to explain this to some people. They honestly think if a person has a full time job, they should be able to raise a family. I have told them, even when my husband and I worked full time, there really were times when we were barely making ends meet.

We were not willy nilly wasting what we made. We were very frugal.

I know we always hear about people wasting the money they earn or get, or not being careful, but there really are people living one paycheck away from homelessness.

We can assume, we can guess about how they just do not know how to budget, but over all, I really do believe most people are like me and you and are working as hard as we can to support ourselves and our families.

I just could not listen to one more person who has Never actually been homeless or totally broke, while working, stand in judgement of something they could never understand.

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answers from Houston on

ETA: So what if she changed her question. A bully mom here has done the same. Look it up. She puts .... In most of her former questions yet NO one has called her out on it.


Original answer: I try to live life frugally so that when or if times get tight, it's less of a strain. I shop thrift, have yard sales often, get books from libraries and CDs from Half Price books, I have no cable, no I phone, cook most days and take leftovers to work.

I think people look at too much tv and try to live Hollywood lives.

Usually when you know someone has the means to help you but won't, it may be because they see something that you blow money on. So, ask them not only for a hand out, but also for financial advice.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Never. I always knew my mom and dad would back me up.
That does not mean "trust fund" kind of money, lol!

I grew up my early yrs in that kind of no money, situation.
I've slept in a feather bed, before they were popular, chic.
I slept by the light of a fire in the fireplace or a coal oil stove with the kids bed in the living room because the bedroom was too cold.
Had a well on the porch. Ate lots of homemade stuff and no junk food.
There were lots of differed medical decisions.

When I quit my job to stay home with my kids, there were lots of tight moments because of streaching a dollar. But I have seen much worse.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Odessa on

Yes. We only ate out if someone else paid. We didn't have cable, telephone, cell phone, vcr, cds, etc... We ate at others' homes whenever we were invited to. I walked and took the bus. I lived in a scary neighborhood and frankly wouldn't bring kids into the situation because I could not protect them.
I do NOT miss those days, but it made me a better person and I also appreciate my husband.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Erie on

Yes. No emergency fund, no credit, no car, eating food from a food bank (I fed a family of 6 on $50/wk), canceling the landline, down to our last couple of dollars many days before the next paycheck. Borrowing from my husband's employer to cover unexpected expenses, paying himback a little out of each check. Using toilet paper/rags instead of pads for my period. I even switched to rags for toilet paper after a while, and washed them every day. That year the Salvation Army paid for my kids' school clothes AND our natural gas was turned off twice for non-payment, one time was in the winter. It's actually amazing how little we can live on if we have to. It's also what pushed me into my current career, we (legally) cooked anywhere people would eat our food and the few extra bucks I earned made all the difference. It did show us how resilient we are, and we made an effort NOT to complain too much. At least we had a roof over our heads and clean water to drink, and the kids had medicaid even if we didn't have insurance. I never stopped counting out blessings. I also still managed to have a huge thanksgiving dinner thanks to food bank food and my friends and family bringing dishes with them to share.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Oh yes, I have been in those situations.
I can totally relate.
And I made the hard choices, just like you did.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Yes! 0.28 cents in our checking account...ten days until our student loans came in...

We had a few groceries and half a tank of gas in the car...had bus passes to and from campus...so we rode over to the student union and started checking all the sofas and chair cushions for loose change, found about $8.00...so then we had $8.28.

12 ramen noodles for a dollar and we survived a week and a half. I was worried about toilet paper too...so I would use the bathroom at the laundromat, I could walk over there...

We had a few other tight times...but it was character building to figure it out and make it work....then again it was just me and hubby, no kids.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Yes and it is an eye opening experience.

I was just out of college and on my first "real" job which was in outside sales to open a brand new territory in NC introducing our products. I got a lot of rejection but being persistant paid off in the long run.

My boss who happened to be my uncle limited the amount of money I could spend at a hotel for my overnights and looking back, I stayed in some pretty shady unsafe places but I could not afford to go over the limit of $35 at the time for total cost of a room including taxes.

When I was on the road I did have a limited expense account and the girl who processed the expense reports and sent checks was very slow and it could be a 3 week wait on reimbursement which meant I was on my last penny a lot. When on the road, I would eat the cheapest thing I could find that would keep me going. I saved the soap, lotion, shampoos and conditioner and used them at home as well. At home, my pantry was peanut butter, potatoes and beans.

I learned a lot from my experience, especially about delayed gratification, and I know it helped me to this day to be where we are now.

When I met hubby, he was going to MBA school and after we knew we were going to get married, we lived together in order to save the monthly rent and expenses from my apartment. We scrounged and saved. We are very much planners and have been all along.

Now my daughter questions why I have such a stock of TP, paper towels, food etc. We could probably live 6 months on my stock of items from the freezer and pantry. She doesn't understand but now that she is on her own, she soon will. Still, when I have any extra funds or if I see a great deal on something for the pantry that won't go bad, I stock up.

We managed to get through everything and then when the stock market crashed not once but 3 times, we lost a lot of ground on our investments. We worked hard to replenish and make it grow back to higher levels than before... we did without the new swimming pool, new car, new clothes, etc in order to make sure we were financially sound first.

We were fortunate enough to have insurance through most of the hard periods. At one time we had COBRA which was ungodly expensive.. just the 2 of us for basic coverage was about $1500 a month.

Going back to the sharing the hotel room... I am on the page with Cheryl that if this is for business, then business should be funding the trip.

We chose not to try to get pregnant until we were financially sound because we knew if and when we brought a child into the world, our responsibility grew tenfold with being responsible for that child and getting that child out of college debt free.

Our daughter just started her freshman year of college this year and moved into her new condo that we purchased because we hate rent and throwing money away every month. She is going through a big learning curve with managing her house with limited money. Of course we will not let her fail financially but we feel she has to go through this process so she better appreciates what she has.

Interesting question!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Yep, I remember those times. Looking in the fridge and figuring out 'what can go with what', spending the last $5 on rice and eggs because I knew that it would last for at least 6 meals and choosing to eat the lunch the daycare offered the teachers and kids even though, when I had money, I would avoid it if possible.

Stealing a roll of TP from work if need be and feeling terrible about it. I could go on with other cringe-worthy improvisations, but suffice it to say, I would have been lost without the help of a few friends at the right time. It's humbling.

This was what was on my brain during the 'karma' question last night. Life is so full of catastrophe and chaos, we like to think we 'earn' our good fortune or cast aspersions on others whom we feel are reaping what they have sown. It's all so sadly human-- we try to make sense of what is ultimately a senseless life on this planet. I've come to the conclusion that there's not really any substance to the idea that we deserve what we get, good fortune or bad... it's all just so random.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I didn't have a credit card till I was 31, and I used cash and checks only until that time. I never made a ton of money, so I must have been pretty broke at times, but I don't recall being so broke I worried about toilet paper. I think I just learned how to budget my money.

But I didn't have kids till I was 31, and a single person with roommates can live pretty cheaply. If I had had the responsibilities of a family, I probably would have felt the lack of money more.

But now, with credit cards, I never really feel it. I just do a juggling act when it's time to pay the bills. But, I never pay interest, because I always manage to pay the cards off every month. This month just might be the first exception in years, however. I think I'm not going to be able to pay it all off this month. ;(

But I'm relatively frugal, so if I could save say, $75 by sharing a room with good friends, and had no reason, such as romance, to need my own hotel room, I would definitely share a room. I like $75.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Ha! Been there.

When I was single, each paycheck went something like this...full tan of gas, groceries, which were purchased with every coupon I could find, sale items, and no extras. Back to the paycheck, rent, utilities, lunch money for my daughter, and after school care.

The rest of the money was extra. Sometimes it was $35 and sometimes it was $5.

During the winter we liked to ski. We have a small affordable mountain near by, but the better mountain is a state away. You can make the drive and back in a day, but it is a little rough after skiing all day.

I had the really good friend that I met up with quite often. I worked with him. Everyone questioned the friendship, but we were friends. We would meet and head up to the mountain as a work group. Then one day he and I decided to head up to the other mountain and ski. Several of us went and three of so shared a room so we could split the expense. The friend and I drove up together. We even shared a room. Do see where this is going? EVERYONE thought we would come back a couple. We came back and were still just friends.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I started working when i was 16 and worked all through college, lived at home to save money during school. I got a job in my last year of college which was a managment "career" job ....it was tough working and going to school, but I made good money - most of which I saved. I built up a good nest egg and I'm very frugal. Over the years I saved even more, then got married to someone exactly like me....we have built quite a large net worth....nothing was given to us, just hard work, living below our means, and saving our money.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I loved reading all of these responses! No, I have never been broke. We were poor growing up, but we never went hungry and never had the power turned off. I took babysitting jobs starting when I was 11 years old. I never stopped working until I got married and became a SAHM.

Now, however......hubby is a federal worker. Today was our first "reduced" paycheck due to the government shutdown. We have plenty of money in savings, but I hate the thought of using it to pay for our living expenses while the President and Congress can't agree on the budget. As it stands now, we don't know if my husband will receive any back pay. He is still going into work everyday for free. There is no end in sight, so it's a little hard to know how to budget for this. So we very well might have some hard choices coming up.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

As an adult, no. As a child, yes. My parents divorced after 14 years of marriage, leaving my SAHM mom with no education or skills - read completely screwed. She had to care for two kids on nothing. My brother decamped after one year because of the stress. I made it longer out of some twisted sense of loyalty. I remember lots of awful things - eating rancid food, picking mold off food to have something to eat, wearing my brother's hand me downs, walking through the ghetto to get home from school, never having school supplies or a backpack, sleeping with roaches crawling on me (one time one flew and landed in my waist length hair), shaking out my clothes and shoes to avoid putting on something with a roach, and on and on. I made damn sure to be an educated adult with employable skills so my children will never bear those scars. It was a childhood which was humbling, humiliating, and unbearable at times.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I am very lucky that I have never been broke. I am, however, very frugal. I live simply, go without things and do things like sharing hotel rooms, so that I can live comfortably. I make choices that allow our family to live on one income, and still have money in case of emergencies, money for our children's education and money for our retirement. I don't mind having to deal with minor inconveniences (like flying stand-by or sharing hotel rooms) if it means I can travel within my budget. Even if I was rolling in money I would choose to live simply, but with less worries and more to give.

ETA: Am I misreading the original question regarding the hotel room? It says a graduate school conference trip. Doesn't that mean he is a student? I don't see where it says this is a business trip.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

My parents both grew up in rural poverty (sweeping the corn kernels from the corners of the grain bin to take to town to sell for grocery money), worked hard as farmers and luckily made a living so that we didn't experience that kind of poverty.

It remains a fear of mine, though, to be unable to support myself and be out of money. I have friends and family who would help, but I hope to never have to ask for that.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I am in this situation right now thanks to three chronic health conditions that impact my ability to work. I've been urged to apply for disability but it is 60% of my salary and I can't support my household on that. We enjoy few frills that could be trimmed. It is just ridiculously expensive in the D suburb where I live, Moving my minor daughter to a cheaper area would require my ex-husband's agreement or a court-order.
The fridge died and I threw away $100 of spoiled gluten-free foods my daughter needs. My car battery had to be replaced ($180). Luckily my landlord cashes rent checks midway through the month.
I have $6.41 to my name right now.Payday is Friday. We'll survive as long as the car doesn't break down and my daughter doesn't lose her jacket.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

ETA - she's changed her question - her husband is in Graduate School and going on a trip...the other couple are boyfriend/girlfriend....read it to my husband. He said - recipe for disaster - I tend to agree.

Had it been a business trip? Many companies are giving an advance to help employees out. Or they have a company card so no expense is from the employee...guess there aren't a lot of people familiar with business travel these days.

Here's my take on the hotel room? If I'm THAT broke? I should NOT be traveling...if it's business? then business should be paying for it.

And sharing a room to save money? Yeah. Okay. I get it. But again...if I'm THAT broke - why am I traveling and if it's business ???? why isn't the business paying for it?

Do I understand what it's like to be broke? Yes. I was living in Germany when I divorced my ex-husband. I moved from base housing and move on the economy. It was tough. And living paycheck to paycheck? Been there. Done that.

Then my husband was unemployed for 10 months. We went through all of our savings and cashed in one investment. When my husband his job? We had $105 left in checking and $5 left in savings. We were a cash only family - so no credit cards to rely on.

We've always been planners - that's why we had a savings account. I always buy more than we needed - so what helped us during that difficult time? Knowing that my freezer and storage room were filled with things we could use. I had already had a hysterectomy - so I didn't need to worry about sanitary products. But guess what? I still have a box of each - pads and tampons in the house - just in case a guest might need them....I prefer to be prepared.

What hard choices did we have to make? Well, for me living on the German economy? I had to plan my route to work carefully. Gas was on coupons and if I wanted to pay cash? It was $5 or $6 a gallon - depending upon the exchange rate - to purchase it. I made sure I brought my lunch to work every day - meals were planned out. I had a 9 year old daughter. So flipped between dad and me.

With my husband and boys during his unemployment? We paid attention to every penny spent, not just every dime - every penny. COBRA was $1500 a month. It was tough. But we worked together and got through it. And I had some WONDERFUL friends - some women from this board - who helped me out in sooo many ways - not with money - but with their time and thoughtfulness!!

Hope this helps!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Oh yes, it's been a while but when you have been dirt poor, you don't forget.

I grew up on welfare my entire life. My mother never held a job in her 44 years of life. She was a raging alcoholic and got welfare. We stood in food lines for all our needs. My mother never drove either, so we walked a lot. All my clothing were hand me downs. We lived in public housing in very bad neighborhoods in Chicago. The roaches and rats (not mice) were our fellow housemates. We didn't have any family at all and I never new my father.

As a single young adult with a child, I was at poverty level too. I could have collected welfare but I chose not to, not one single penny. I worked hard and didn't spend a penny, other than essentials. I got several promotions and saved the "extra" money.

I'm happy that that is still my past, but I do have an understanding that it could happen again; no one is immune to being poverty stricken.

I have to say that I wish my poverty stemmed from being in college.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Yes, a couple of times. When I was putting my first husband through flight school, I worked 60 hours a week packing apples for 75 cents/hour (agricultural wages then). Between tuition, rent, transportation, and DH's entertainments, there was almost no money for food. I ate an allowed apple for my 3 daily breaks at work, and then for dinner had a 4-for-a-dollar TV dinner that included two miniature tacos and a small scoop each of beans and rice. I became unappealingly thin over several months. (Husband was regularly treated by friends and their mothers – he was a charmer.)

When I was divorcing said husband 15 years later, he refused to come through for months with child support, and withheld all property settlement out of spite, and I couldn't work for 6 weeks due to surgery. We became so desperate one week I had to spend my collection of 10 mint-condition silver dollars to feed my daughter.

Since remarrying a wonderful guy and joining him in non-profit work, I've still lived on a very lean budget. I've gone without needed health care for decades now (costly health insurance with a $6000 deductible kept us even poorer), but my otherwise no-frills life contains just enough of other necessities. Now I have Medicare, and can finally address several chronic problems. No TV or smartphone or dishwasher, ancient car, no travel, no luxuries, but enough, at least. Life is good!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I had credit cards to fall back on, but yes, I had a few rough years during grad school, and then I decided to take out loans. I couldn't handle the stress, I couldn't focus on my work, I was to busy worrying about money.

It made me very frugal, and my friends laugh at my stockpile of goods.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I remember going to work at 15 to help out with the family bills. Functioning alcoholic dad had no idea how to handle money. Brothers were slackers and wouldn't step up.
I remember handing over my paycheck money each week. It sucked. And we still went more than a handful of winters without heat. Sometimes no water.
Yeah, I need to go have some happy thoughts now, too.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Yes! Long story but brother in law betrayed us & left ys homeless, hubby's restaurant was sold & closed so he was unemployed, had a 10 yr old, 7 year old & in the almost middle of a high risk expensive pregnancy. I look back & wonder how we did it. Weare religious and were faithful God would provide. Church family def helped out with cash at Thanksgiving & food & cash for bills at Christmas(went to billsno gifts). But we did get some presents for the girls through Toys for Tots.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I am there now. $1.20 in my wallet, $7.16 available on the credit card, overdrafted the checking account because I forgot about an autodraft, and three days til payday.

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answers from Washington DC on

omg, yes. it was just awful. and it wasn't for a short period, either. taking a peanut butter sandwich (skimpy on the PB) to work at a fast food restaurant, when i was 8 months pregnant. sitting out in the dining room crying, eating it with a cup of water because i wanted a chicken tender so badly and it wasn't an option, and my cheap boss wouldn't even let us have a soda on the house. reusing paper towels until they shredded. buying yet another radiator or carburetor (yes, we're old) from the junkyard, and my husband underneath the truck in the parking lot of our apartment building, in violation of the rules, trying to get it running for long enough to get him to work one more day. i walked the mile to work in my BK uniform, people gawking at my preggo enormity.
and both of us working full time.
and i think it's even harder for kids starting out today.
gah! now i have to go think happy thoughts!!!
:( khairete

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Regarding the travel for work: I travel occasionally for work, sometimes up to two weeks out of the country and my employer covers it all. Then again, I have a corporate credit card and can take a cash advance if needed, since credit cards may or may not be accepted.

I can honestly say that as an adult, I have never been in this situation of being broke. As a kid, I grew up in a single parent household and I know for a short while my mom received food stamp assistance. My mother's parents were financially comfortable - owned businesses, property, etc. and they helped out if necessary. So, there was always a possible resource if funds got tight. I think we may have been poor, but I didn't see it that way. Never went without a meal, clothes, etc.

As an adult, this is something I FEAR. I realize that anyone, at anytime could fall on hard times. No one is immune to it. I've never been without a job, with out an income, insurance, credit cards etc. In the back of my mind, I think that if I keep a good credit rating, at least I might be able to fall back on that in the event that there is a life changing event that impacts our finances. You just never know when life will throw you a curve ball. I don't know how prepared I would be for that.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We do not have a credit card to fall back on. I just called our phone company and cable company to push our bills back a couple of weeks in the hopes that they wont shut them off yet. We still owe $119 in rent from this month. I have been known to go to our apartment cabana and take a roll of toilet paper because we are out. We have gone days without one single dollar to our names.
My husband works like a dog, at least 60 hours a week. Neither of his jobs offer health insurance. He is not able to get a fancy desk job, so he is outside doing hard labor. You would think that with as much work as he is doing that we would be fine, but we are not. In fact, just last week we met with a bankrupcy attorney to find out how it would affect us.
We have 3 kids. They do not know just how bad off we are. I sell things on the internet to help pay for bills, I consign the boys clothing so that I can get clothing for my daughter. I buy things at garage sales to resell at a higher price. They have never been hungry, but they have certainly heard "no" to fun things. We do not go to friends birthday parties because I can't take that money and buy presents for their friends and I don't want them to show up with nothing. We still haven't bought pumpkins to carve. We don't go out to eat. We don't go on family vacations. We bring sack lunches with us if we know that we will be out all day for whatever reason. I cut coupons and go online and find coupons.
My underwear are so holey it's not even funny. I own two bras. They are over 5 years old. My husband's socks have holes. But those things are covered up! So no one would know. My children wear Nike, Adidas, Hannah Anderson. So people may look at them and think that we are just fine! Well, I buy those things at garage sales for $1 or we have a family friend that passes on all of her boy's clothes to us! Just because we look like we are doing great certainly doesn't mean we are. We just hide it well.
My family has stepped in a few times. Just showing up and giving us $60 or $100. It is VERY helpful.
My husband just got a new job with a $3 an hour raise. We "SHOULD" be able to get ahead in the next month or two...but then there's Christmas!! damn.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Yes, we have been completely broke...this was before kids. After college, for the 8 years we were in grad school and with me working part time jobs as well. We made enough for our little rental. This was in Alaska...what we could afford was a little cabin with NO running water. An outhouse. We showered at the university or at the laundromat showers. We could very frugally afford food...but not much. We worked very hard yet we were happy. We paid off our own college loans slowly over those years. We had great friends in the same boat and sometimes we'd all help feed each other. We got clothes from Salvation Army. We just had bikes for half that time and then got a really cheap little old car that we shared. It was hard to afford meat, but luckily I worked for Fish and Game every summer and would put away a lot of frozen salmon to last the winter. We had no health insurance and just did not go to doctors or dentists (kind of embarrassing to say that now). Our parents never offered help and we never asked. My dad and stepmom supported both my stepsisters during this time after college...paying off their college loans, buying them cars, helping them with rent on a fancy gated apartment, etc. My younger stepsister had to have designer purses, nice clothes, etc. If she could not have what she wanted she cried to our parents about it and they helped her. I hear them complain about how hard they had it and it truly makes me angry.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Never. I was lucky my parents paid for my undergraduate degree then the company I worked for paid for my graduate degree. My husband and I were able to afford a starter home when we got married and we moved to our dream home 6 years later.
The closest we came to being broke was when my husband quit his job to start his own company. Over the course of the first year we accumulated quite a bit of debt but he was always are best investment and it worked out great.

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