Lately, it seems like there is a lot of sniping between and even among generations about who is playing the “game of life” better. If you’re a Baby Boomer, Millennials are lazy, overly-educated people who wish all their debts would disappear by magic. If you’re a Millennial, people born before you (especially Baby Boomers) got free tuition and hardly had to struggle to afford a home. And if you’re a Gen Xer, you just don’t like anyone (just kidding, Gen Xers!)
While all or none of the stereotypes are true, for many Americans, one thing is common: we’ve all been broke at one point in our lives. Unless you inherited a ton of money, you’ve probably had to struggle to pay the bills – working two jobs, eating less, skimping on medication or doctors’ visits, etc. Right now, more than 50% of Americans have $1,000 or less in savings, meaning many of us are living on the edge – and might be considered “broke.”
Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget what life is like for people who are broke or struggling to afford day-to-day necessities. I don’t consider myself “broke” any longer, because money doesn’t stress me out like it used to when I was working two jobs, but being broke wasn’t that far off for me or many of my peers and friends. In an effort to remain humble and not look down on people who are struggling, here are 3 things people who are broke are tired of hearing.
1. Just Take a Sick Day
Sick leave varies depending on the industry you’re in, and depending on how much money you make. According to the Washington Post, more than 30% of Americans don’t get sick leave. And the less money you make, the less likely you are to get paid sick leave (the opposite is true for those who make more money – mo’ money, mo’ sick leave).
If you’ve ever come down with an illness, like the flu or a much-needed dental appointment, you know it can take a while to get better. If your job doesn’t offer you paid sick leave, trying to get over being sick is much more difficult. The unemployed don’t fare better either: while they may have more “time” to deal with their illness, finding a doctor that they can afford or who takes the insurance they have can eat up time and delay their recovery time.
Taking sick days is an option not afforded to many in the US, and it’s even less likely to be offered to those who make the least. So the next time you think about telling an intern “just take a sick day”, think again!
2. Replace Your Car – Repairs Cost More Than Its Worth
Some common knowledge seems to be that, if your car repairs cost more than your car is worth, you should just replace your car. However, if you’re broke, a $1,000 fix that will keep your car running for two more years might make more financial sense than taking out a car loan for $15,000.
While replacing your car before it completely breaks down and leaves you stranded does make sense, it doesn’t make sense if the following is true:
- You’ve paid off your car (no monthly car payments)
- Repairs will keep your car going for more than 6 months
- Repairs won’t put you in debt
There are, of course, times when you’re repairing your car so often that you should replace it and eat the monthly car payment costs. However, it’s not reasonable to replace a car with 150,000 miles if it’s driving fine and doesn’t cost you much in maintenance.
3. Save Money and Ride Your Bike
This is one comment I continue to hear everywhere, and I just have to laugh when I hear it. For those who can safely bike to work – that’s great! Do it! It will probably save you money.
Unfortunately, there are many places in the US where biking is unsafe or not feasible. In many of the major cities where I have lived or visited, biking is very dangerous and public transit is not convenient. In Phoenix, where I currently live, biking is very difficult, no matter what the biking aficionados would have you believe. If you live anywhere outside of the downtown “core” of Phoenix, you’re facing biking around several freeways on streets that have no marked bike lanes. And don’t even get me started on biking during the summer… you can, quite literally, die (I’m not being sarcastic – 115 degrees and biking do not mix).
While I think it’s worthy to try to become a one-car family, I think for a lot of people that’s a difficult request. Broke people have probably heard this tip before and, if they haven’t become a one-car family or bought a bike, they probably have made the reasonable decision to keep multiple cars so they can get to work.
Every generation has their own struggles (walking uphill both ways in the snow, not having the Internet, having too much Internet, etc.), but one thing a lot of people have in common is, at one point in their lives, being broke. While it’s reasonable to share advice to friends or family members who may be currently broke, there are tips they’ve probably heard that won’t really be that helpful. When my friends and I were broke, the above comments were only a small number of the things we heard that weren’t, surprise, super helpful.
What advice would you have for someone struggling to make ends meet, or what comments did you hear when you were broke that you found unhelpful or helpful?