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5 Lessons I Learned from Going Broke

Photo by Tristan Duplichain Photography
There are people who are so poor, the only thing they have is money. ~Unknown

Three years ago I quit my job as a brand manager to become a freelance writer. I spent half of the first year travelling.

For the next two years I survived on the small income I made from my fledging freelance writing business, supplemented by savings. It’s been a struggle and things did not take off the way I would have hoped. This year money finally ran out.

It’s been a strange experience – having no money (except the little I make with writing and doing house-sitting on the side). Oddly enough, I’m not as freaked out as I thought I would be.

I will admit that it is not easy. I would like to make enough money to cover my monthly expenses. Right now, I barely keep my head above water.

However, I am strangely calm about it. I do have moments where I become frustrated and feel drained by the constant financial battle. Then I give myself a pep talk and carry on.

I know that I need to make certain decisions as to how to go forward with my life. The choice between continuing to pursue freelancing, finding additional ways to supplement my income or, and this is my least favorite option, going back into the traditional workforce.

In the meantime, while I mull that over, as with everything in life, there are lessons to be taken away from every situation. I have come to the conclusion that this experience, which is seemingly a bad one, is also a good one. Having little or no money tests your character and provides some big lessons and awakenings.

Here are some of mine:

1. We Can Get By on So Much Less

When I left my job, I drastically trimmed the fat and cut down on expenses. I now need so much less money to live on than I did during my old life. The more stuff you acquire, the more money you need to pay for it and maintain it.

2. Something Always Comes Up

Just when I wonder how I’m going to get through another month, somehow something always comes along to help me get by. This has taught me to live by faith.

Trust that it will work out, and if you believe in a higher power, that He will look after you. I am constantly amazed by how this happens. It’s quite inspiring.

3. You Find Out Who Your Real Friends Are

I have been fortunate to have friends who are consistent and true. They know I am cash-strapped, but they haven’t pulled a runner. They’re still my friends, and they’re still there for me. To have friends like that is one of life’s richest blessings.

Some of them have even helped me along the way (without me ever asking for any help) by paying me to babysit, sending writing or editing work my way, paying for a nice dinner or treating me to something nice while out shopping.

I even had a friend offer me an all-expenses paid month-long trip overseas! That blew me away. Who does that?

However, in a world full of shallow people, there are many who will ditch you in your time of need. No money — no friends!

These are fair-weather friends – there when times are good. But when dark clouds appear, they’re nowhere to be found.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, be thankful. Everyone you know (including family) got dumped into a sieve, shaken around and the true ones remained behind.

The superficial ones fell through and out of your life. And that’s a good thing. Now you know you are surrounded by quality people — the ones worth having in your life.

4. Accept What Others Give

My greatest lesson throughout this period has been to learn to accept what others offer. This has been the hardest thing because as a single, independent woman I have made my own way in this world and never asked anyone for help, even during difficult times.

Call it pride or independence or both. When someone pays for me, I feel uncomfortable. I am inclined to refuse.

I’ve learnt to swallow my pride and accept. By refusing a gift, financial assistance or help, you not only deny yourself the much-needed help or lovely gift, but you deny the giver the joy that comes from the act of giving and are shunning the love and concern that they are showing you.

5. Life Goes On

Going through a bad financial patch can be devastating – loss of a job, loss of income, loss of your home, loss of possessions, the struggle to put food on the table and pay your bills is not easy. Unfortunately, life does not stop because you have no money.

There are people who lost everything and ended up moving in with relatives, or to a homeless shelter, or worst case scenario — lived in their car. The sun still rose, the day still went by and life just carried on.

It’s tough and unpleasant, make no mistake.

To get by, perhaps they received help from family, lived off welfare assistance or unemployment or survived on only one meal a day. But life went on, one way or another. Eventually they got a job, found a new apartment and got back on their feet.

Parting Words

There’s no shame in landing on hard times. It can happen to anyone. The thing to remember is that money is fluid. It’s here today and gone tomorrow.

Similarly, it can be gone today but there tomorrow. The wheel turns. Even the most devastating financial loss can be turned around because money is something you can always acquire again.

When we hit the skids financially, it may seem like the bottom of our world has dropped out, but it’s important to remember that this too shall pass. It’s a dip in the roller coaster of life and like any roller coaster will go back up again.

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About the author

Deevra Norling is a freelance writer for hire who assists clients with press releases, articles, website copy, blog articles and copywriting. She has covered topics such as CRM, health and wellness, career advice and entrepreneurship, travel writing, personal development, and freelance writing. Born in South Africa, but with a love for traveling, she more aptly considers herself a "citizen of the world" who grabs any opportunity to explore this fascinating world! She currently writes for Career Addict and is a Huffington Post blogger. Visit her website at or connect with her on Twitter @DeevraNorling.

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