How Being Broke Changed My Life

Written by Anna Manalastas

I never thought I’d be broke. Even after I resigned from my job at a big film company, I was sure my savings would be more than enough to last me until I found another job that I would love.

Almost immediately after sending my resignation letter, I discovered yoga and fell in love with it. Yoga fulfilled me so much that I wanted to become a teacher and share my passion with others.

However, that meant that I had to invest almost all my savings in my training. Suddenly, I regretted having had retail therapy sessions twice (thrice!) a month when I'd been working. I thought about all the money I could have saved... down the drain.

Oh, well.

I decided to take the plunge and follow my heart. And so, about two months after resigning, I was broke.. and I continue to be until I finally graduate from my training. But I’ve found that being broke for most of this year is not all that bad.

Here are some of the ways it has changed my life and my thinking:

1. I prioritize what truly matters to me. 

With no stable job to replace my old one, I seriously needed to cut some losses to survive. I scratched off quite a number of things from my monthly Must-Have expenses, but one thing I can’t take out was the educational sponsorship I pledged to a 9-year old impoverished girl.

Before, I barely glanced at that monthly charge because the payment was so minimal but now, it makes a big difference. When I reviewed my recent bill, a voice came into my head: I could just save that money for myself - for future emergencies. 

But that didn't sit well with me. As much as I am responsible for myself, I am also responsible for this kid. She relied on me to get her through school and I couldn't bring myself to let her down. Looking at my scratched-off items, I realized I can afford – and will afford – to spend for her schooling, even if it means sacrificing more of my needs. After all, it was a more valuable investment than simply buying clothes or expensive toiletries for myself.

2. The simple things are more blissful and inclusive than outlandish adventures and activities.

Another thing I had to do away with is the weekly dates/parties I had with some of my friends. I remember the first few times I had to say no, I made up excuses like I was tired or busy, but in reality, I was just broke and stuck at home.

However, in those weekends where I disconnected from everyone, I eventually made precious connections with my family members. Lunches and dinners would turn into long, deep, and fun conversations. We talked about our philosophies, life plans, and the problems we were facing. We shared interests, watched movies, and started playing board games together.

Ultimately, my weekends started filling up with much laughter and regular game nights at home that outweighed the fun I had when I was going out. Our activities and adventures are pretty simple and low-key but they didn’t cost a cent and included anyone who wants to join.

3. I realized I still have enough to give.

People think philanthropy was something that could only be afforded by the rich. Well, it makes sense – only the rich have an excess amount of money to give away. But these past few months have made me realize that, despite being close to nothing, I still have more than enough to give.

I’ve found that a sincere smile can light up another’s face. Acknowledging someone else when they’re feeling downtrodden and invisible can make them feel a little bit more alive and can reassure them that they’re important. Donating old clothes, toys, and books is a way to remove clutter from your life and give to those who don’t have anything at all. Helping someone carry their bags or opening the door for the elderly relieves them of the excess weight they have to carry. Even just being a shoulder to cry on, lending an ear to listen, or giving advice allow other people to feel less alone and included in life.

The ability to be generous doesn’t come from an excess of money, but from a big heart. When you start to realize that this life is not meant only for you, then you start to expand your vision and see that this world is full of other people who are just like you – trying to make ends meet, chasing after their dreams, living life the best way they know how. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone help you too when you most need it?

4. Having excess creates drama. Having nothing creates peace.

Looking back, I’ve realized that when I was surrounded by show business and money, I had so many reasons (and catalysts) to be dramatic and none now that I have nothing. The drama and “flair” of it all made people competitive, spiteful, and greedy.

We spent the excess that we have to have more – excess jewelry, excess drunk party pictures, excess problems and excess longings. Indulging in these desires didn’t produce peace or fulfillment. It only metastasized into more grandiose yearnings that I fear could never be satiated. In coming out of that and stepping into emptiness, I’ve learned that having nothing gives you no reason to combust.

At first, I went a little crazy because I missed the old life I'd had, but I realized I was only drowning myself in the past and demanding anxiously to know what the future holds. But if you can stay in the present and realize that everything here is for you, even if it’s nothing, then you can find the peace you’ve been searching for all this time.

Having nothing strips you of needing to plump yourself to impress and compete with others’ attention, love, and admiration. It simply lets you be who you are because you’re all you have right now.

5. Being broke is just a phase.

So embrace this phase and squeeze it for all it’s worth so you won’t have to go through it again in the future.

Famous psychologists have said that we go through developmental phases in life. In each stage, we learn fundamental skills that will equip us for the succeeding stages of our lives. But they warn that if we skip a step, we’re bound to have a hard time coping in the future until we repeat the stage again and learn what we had to learn then.

Likewise, real life is also comprised of steps that help us towards the fulfillment of our dreams. And as there’s a time-frame corresponding to every human developmental stage, the phases we go through in life are merely that – phases with a limited period of time.

Being broke isn’t going to be your whole life. Being depressed, experiencing a break-up, mourning a death, being sick are only moments in the grand scheme of things that are meant to teach you a lesson, to help you acquire a skill, or to help you mature into a better person.

Stage by stage, we add layers of strength and pages of wisdom in our personal journey and it’s up to us to decide how to end our memoir – strong and complete or tattered, with a few missing chapters.

Today, I live on a day-to-day basis and, though it's hard and mostly bleak, I accept it wholeheartedly. I made this decision and, though there were repercussions I failed to foresee, I'm still alive - and quite happy at that.

Every single day, I realize that yes, the Universe always provides for me and for you. Whether it be through material things like food, or intangible things like new experiences, new opportunities, and new lessons to learn, there is always something to take away every day.

Our lives change every second that passes, and if our eyes are open enough, then maybe we'd realize how beautiful it is right where it is, stripped of all the money and the material things we clothe it with.

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