When You Are Temporarily Broke

So for most of this month due to a series of circumstances I’m abnormally broke. Well not really broke, I still have all our investments but I have spent most of my spending cash already this month. I’m currently under $2 in cash on my person and I have no further plans to get cash until the start of next month. Which to me isn’t that big of a deal. I’ve been here many times before by choice and I’ll be back here again some time in the future.

The issue is that some people don’t know how to deal with this state of being.  How exactly do you live your life if you don’t have any money to spend on a coffee out, going to a movie with some friends or getting a snack while out during errands?

The solution is actually very simple: focus on what you can do and plan ahead. You see people often get into habits with spending money so being broke for a few weeks is good reminder to myself that I can in fact have a good life without spending any money. It really isn’t that hard but it does take some adjusting.

The first adjustment of focusing on what I can do is the easiest for me to do. So this means I look at my current hobbies and purposely focus on the ones that don’t require any additional money. So for example, I previously had picked up some yeast and have some fruit in the freezer so I can make a batch of wine with what I already own. Or I can use the crafting materials that I recently picked up to make some terrain trees for my D&D game. And I can finish up a few books I’ve got borrowed from the library and also finish watching those two seasons of TV shows I’ve also borrowed from the library on DVD. Then finally I can finish off some research that I’ve been working on and start writing my sequel to Free at 45. So in short, I’m not lacking on things to do.

The second part to dealing with being low on cash is to simply plan ahead. This isn’t difficult to do but does take a moment of thought. For example, if I’m planning on being out of the house for the majority of the afternoon I need to remember to grab a snack prior to leaving the house and make sure I have a full water bottle. That way when I need a drink or get hungry I’m ready to go. Or if I want to have supper with a friend I would make sure to invite them to our house and cook with what I already have in the house. So if I have shrimp in the freezer I’ll plan the meal around that rather than chicken if I’m running low on that.

I really don’t mind being broke for a few weeks as it does help me to recall it is okay to make do with what you already own. We often get so caught up in getting the next thing on our want list we can forget to bask in what is already at hand. It almost creates a sense of gratitude for the life I already have when this happens to me.

Then finally I keep an ace in the hole: I know I can cheat if I really need something. Not want, but need. So if my shoes fall apart and I can’t make do for a few weeks I can always buy a new pair on the credit card and pay that back next month. I really avoid doing this but it does put my mind at ease that the option exists.

In summary, I don’t mind choosing to be broke for a few weeks. It helps me remember that most of life really isn’t about the money. Happiness is possible with very little and I find it good to remind myself of that periodically.

So what tricks to you use when your are short on cash for a week or two?

16 thoughts on “When You Are Temporarily Broke”

  1. I agree with Frogdancer. It’s good to go without, even though in reality, you’re not. But still, the mental stretching is good to do.

  2. Good post Tim. How often do you guys buy groceries? In my house we have to buy groceries at least twice a week, so with two more weeks to go in August I can’t imagine us not doing anymore food shopping. Or your wife will handle the grocery expenses for a couple of weeks? Good luck!

  3. If I’m short on cash within the month, I go to the bank and get some more from an ATM, like what happened in June. I build into my budget a cushion, or surplus, to cover me in case I run low on cash mid-month.

  4. @Misuchiru – We only do a major grocery run once a month. We then do a few minor trips for milk, eggs fruit or/and veggies. So there isn’t much to buy in the meantime. My wife said she will pay but the majority of the cost will be covered by PC Points so the other day she paid like $0.43.

  5. Do you ever think you pulled the plug a bit too quick on retirement? It seems like you do not have a lot of flexibility.

  6. I’m not sure if I agree with the comment above, because if you look at Tim’s family net worth he does have money to spend if he wants to, but he’s choosing not to, for reasons he stated in this post. I’ve actually done the same myself before. I felt it was sort of like a challenge for myself and a reminder for myself not to overspent too often.

  7. @Alex – I know I have less flexibility than when I worked but that is just the price of living on less. After all when I worked I was saving over double what I spent in a month. Overall I don’t think I left too early. As others have noted this is more about a choice to live on less for a few weeks. It is also the result of a bunch of spending I’ve previously done earlier in the summer. Rather than drag it out to balance that previous spending I’m eating the pain of it all at once. The choice to do this is basically artificial. I don’t have to be broke if I don’t want to, but I have chosen to push myself a bit. Alternatively I could have dragged out the spending to balance things but I choose not to so.

  8. This is my first full year retired.
    Made out a projected budget and as long as I am running within it I do not worry about money. Did more trips than I had planned for so went above the monthly budget but I am still within the yearly budget. End of the year is usually less expensive as less travelling, etc

    RICARDO

  9. I often try to go weeks without spending money. Sort of a fun game to play! My motto during this time is “Use what you have!”

  10. I just want to add another comment re: Alex’s reply on the “too early / too quick” part. IMO it’s never too early to retire if you can afford it financially. I’ve seen closed family members getting sick (cancer) in their 60’s at retirement age, just when they are about to start enjoying life and then hearing the devastating news. Now that they are finally retired, their life is not about planning trips and vacations but about how to fight the disease.
    I’m not saying everyone will get sick at retirement agw but sometimes life doesn’t go according to how you plan it and you just won’t know what’s going to happen next, so if you think you are financially ready, then go for it. Money is infinite, time is finite.

  11. Hey Tim,

    I really enjoy your blog. I wonder at what age are you going to start your CPP or would love to see you write about the advantage / disadvantages about taking it early or at 65. I was talking to my aunt who is now widowed and she was saying how she struggles month to month. When I asked her about my uncle’s CPP and OAS, she said they clawed it all back once he passed away. My uncle was only 64 when he passed. It seems terrible that someone who paid his whole life into it, didn’t hardly get to take advantage of it. That’s why I’m debating to start taking it at 55 when I plan to retire. Why wait when there are no guarantees in life? Just wondering your thoughts??

  12. Connie
    The earliest one can begin collecting CPP is 60 and nobody can collect OAS before 65 , the minimum.

  13. Yes dlharv, but even if you are retired early, some people choose to wait until 65 or 67 to collect rather than start collecting at 60. That is why I wondered when Tim would choose to collect, right at 60 and take a smaller payment or wait until later for a larger payment.

  14. Connie – It depends on how things are going but the basic plan was to collect both starting at 65. Both my wife and I have family histories of long lifespans so taking the reduced payment early isn’t that appealing.

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