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How Broke Have You Been?

How broke have you been? Like many people, my college years were some of my leanest financial times.

A person looking inside of an empty wallet.

I remember going to the gas station and putting 50 cents worth of gas in the tank once just to get by for one more day.

“There were times my pants were so thin I could sit on a dime and tell if it was heads or tails. ” โ€” Spencer Tracy

Another time my roommate and I were completely out of food when the Welcome Wagon lady stopped by our rat-hole apartment and gave us coupons for a free quart of milk, a loaf of bread and a half gallon of ice cream at the local grocery store.

We redeemed the coupons but didn’t buy a single other thing, and the cashier turned out to be a fellow student who gave us a hard time whenever he saw us on campus.

At the time it’s no fun being broke, although in retrospect the experience can provide great motivation to make better financial decisions.

I asked some of my fellow bloggers to answer the question “How broke have you been?” and I think you’ll enjoy their responses:

“I was so broke I re-used coffee grounds!” ~ Family Money Values

“I was so broke I got used to the taste of Keystone Light. (The good and bad of being a broke college kid!)” ~ Narrow Bridge

“I was so broke I did my grocery shopping at the $1 store. I discovered that a one dollar chicken equals $50 in medical costs! ~ Todd’s Wanderings

“I was so broke I had to use my credit card to buy a $1 drink at McDonald’s after my debit card was declined. The sad thing was, I wasn’t sure if I had $1 available on the credit card either!” ~ So Over Debt

“I was so broke that I used duct tape to fix the holes in my fake Keds from Target.” ~ Money Crush

“I was so broke that on lunch break, I would go to the local 7/11, buy a bag of Fritos (BBQ were my favorite), open the bag and load it up with their free nacho cheese and chili. It was filling, and only cost 59 cents!” ~ Wealth Artisan

“I was so broke while studying abroad in Japan that I brown-bagged (even in a foreign country!) canned tuna fish sandwiches most lunches instead of enjoying the cuisine.” ~ Frugal Confessions

“I’ve been so broke that I now have a habit of checking the return change slot at the toll booths.” ~ Financial Success for Young Adults

“I am STILL so broke that I reuse aluminum foil.” ~ Freelance PF

The beauty of the lean times is that they help us really appreciate the good times. If you’re in a good season of life now, you might enjoy our fun money experiment related to sowing and reaping.

How about you – how broke have you been? You know we’d love to hear your stories, so drop a comment below!

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is the author of 17 books, including Small Bites and 101 Things To Do With Bacon. She shares ideas to simplify cooking, gardening, time and money. She is also the owner of Cross Media, Inc. and founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society.

22 thoughts on “How Broke Have You Been?”

  1. Funny to hear you mention the Welcome Wagon lady – that company was founded by my husband’s grandfather a long time ago and I’m not sure many people even remember it!

  2. In my early and mid 20s, I was often so broke that I wouldn’t have enough money for gas to get to and from work. I would write a check at my place of work for cash to to buy gas, knowing they probably wouldn’t put the check through right away. This would give me a few days leeway until I could deposit a paycheck. I don’t know if that’s actually illegal or not, but it was definitely wrong. Glad I now have not only more money, but much better skills in managing it.

  3. Probably not a good thing either, but I’ve never been so broke that I’ve never had access to credit. :p

    When I was younger though, my family went through a rough patch where we all slept on one giant mattress in the living room because we didn’t have beds.

  4. Haha, great article! Fortunately I have never been too broke (more than a “student” broke I mean). Unfortunately, that made me not realize the value of savings. I was never broke, but I never saved either.

    On an entirely different note, I come from a developing country. So a lot of “broke” things were the way of life there. I didn’t even think about them as broke. For example, I lived in a joint family with my grandparents and parents. There were 8 of us living in a 1 bed room home. We always slept on the floor on the living room. Do I think we were broke? Hell no! So my “broke” is a lot different than what other people see as broke ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hi HSL,

    Thanks for including mine. I highly suggest my method if you’re hungry and don’t have too much money. It’ll probably cost you about 99 cents now. Great job, this was definitely a fun article to participate in and read!


  6. I actually re-use aluminum foil also lol. And put water in the squirt soap when it’s almost gone. And cut open my lotion bottle when it won’t pump any more. (Gosh when did I become so frugal?) lol

  7. My wife and I got married right after college. We had $30 between us to start our life together. In some of the additional education that followed, I would unfortunately have to grab some extra sheets of toilet paper from the public restroom to be used at home.

  8. After college, my friend and I moved into an apartment and looked for work in Denver. We were so broke that we lived on popcorn and Wheat Thins. After we found jobs, we were still pretty broke and a big splurge was a pizza with a six pack of Miller High Life! It’s crazy, but since those days, whenever I order a pizza delivered it still feels like a treat!

  9. I love these quotes! Years ago, I was so broke I had to make due eating Bisquick biscuits for dinner b/c all I could afford was water and Bisquick!

  10. I was so broke I used salt in the washing machine instead of laundry detergent. I had read you could do that (in reality it doesn’t work very well) and it had been many months of no child support, so I gave it a try. I hung all our clothes on the line outside to save money too, but because of the part of town my kids and I were in, a bunch of our clothes got stolen.

    Well, less to wash, right?

  11. I am still so broke that I drink 1 full glass of water before eating only 3 pieces of biscuits every lunch while staring at my co-workers eating a real meal and wishing and hoping I was eating that and whenever I they asked me why I dont buy a meal for myself, I always tell them I AM ON A DIET, when I am dying to eat whatever they are eating. ARGGH life..

    • I feel you, some days I dont even eat lunch. Ppl always say “this to shall pass” but I always wonder when? Life is frustrating at times!!!

  12. I’m so broke I scheduled an appointment at meps(military) for en excuse to call off work because I drove home with my gass tank riding the E bar and my card declined when I went to prepay for more. Also been taking the tobacco out of my old cigarette butts for the last two weeks and rolling it in notebook paper.

  13. I am so bloody broke, I try to visit as many friends as possible in a day, so that they would offer me something to eat or drink and I count calories until I reach 1000 for one day and then I stop.


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