I'm so broke! - Workin' It
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Workin' It

"Workin' It" is the blog for working parents who are committed to the frugal lifestyle. This blog addresses some of the issues working families face in keeping their lifestyle frugal, including childcare, work expenses, and the constant trade off between time and cost. The author and her husband, both law school graduates, work full-time; the author has a law firm, and dear husband a property management business. They also have an eight month old. Despite all that we have on our plates, we're still committed to living life frugally.

I'm so broke!

"I'm so broke!" seems to have become a mantra among people. Especially as the economy goes straight into the sewer, folks lose their jobs, and debt threatens to consume everything, it's ringing through the hallways and richocheting off corners: "I'm so broke!"

I wonder if it's really true, though.

Are we broke? Are we, as a nation, bankrupt? Or have we just lost all perspective?

"Broke," in the financial sense, is related to "broke" in the wrecked/ruined/destroyed sense. If something is broke, it doesn't work--if we're broke, our finances don't work. And that seems to be where it stops for most people: despite the fact that husband and I both have jobs, we're broke. Despite the fact that I work 60 hours a week,  I'm broke. Despite doing everything you're supposed to, I'm broke. Throw hands up in the air, wail in despair, dig the hole a little deeper.  "I'm so broke" becomes both a plaintive cry and a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Here's the things about "broke," though: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. So if it is broke...fix it! Once upon a time, before we stuffed our houses with mountains of Cheap Chinese Crap, if something broke...you fixed it. If a sock got a hole, you darned it. If the vacuum belt broke, you put a new one in. If Dog-dog, Baby's most beloved toy, lost his stuffing, you re-stuffed him and patched him back up.

Somewhere, in the chorus of "I'm so broke," someone should be singing a counterpuntal "So fix it!"

Now then, I realize what I propose isn't fun or easy. At all. I'm not sure most people even know what their finances look like, other than knowing there's more month than money. They don't even know what they don't know. It's like everyone's financial boat is sinking, and they're too freaked out to even bail water, much less patch the hole.

Dear Hofpapa and I are looking at nearly half a million dollars of student loans, medical, and mortgage debt; paying it off means that, after we get done with work for the day, it's off to teach, or tutor, or  edit, or babysit, or whatever brings in a few more dollars to put on the debt. But we're not broke. Being self-employed is a feast-or-famine kind of game, and it's been more famine than feast of late. But still, we're not broke. We've got way more debt than money, but we're not broke. We get dang tired of not having any money, but we're not broke. We even give up sometimes and go to McDonalds, even though it'd be cheaper to eat at home. But...we..are..not...broke.

Broke is a mindset. Broke says "My finances are insurmountably messed up. They're ruined." Broke is giving up.

And the truth is, financially, giving up just isn't an option.

Somehow, tomorrow, you've still got to eat. You've got to have a place to live. Even if you file bankruptcy, you can't just quit. Broke quits.

So let's stop being broke. Let's start fixing, one little piece at a time. You can't turn a shack into the Taj Mahal over night, but you can unstop the toilet tonight, and tomorrow you can snake the bathtub drain. You can't become financially self-sufficient after years of debt overnight, either. But you can say, "Today, I'm going to figure out how much I owe, to whom." Tomorrow, you can look at your budget, look for the leaks. The next day, you can say "Groceries are killing us. I'm going to read everything I can and come up with a plan to spend less for groceries." As my father-in-law tells me when I get frustrated because I don't know how to install a shelf in the closet or repair the bathtub: "Just give yourself the time." Broke doesn't allow us to take that time; broke flashes "Game Over!" before we've even put a quarter in the machine.

I'm done with broke. Hopefully I'm not the only one. 



juju_mommy said:

Well said!

December 21, 2008 12:23 PM

Hofmama said:

Thanks! :)

December 22, 2008 4:28 PM

Main Street Meltdown said:

The New Year is quickly approaching and many of us are taking a close look at our financial resolutions

December 27, 2008 1:37 PM

Hofmama said:

I agree, Main Street, and have found that, for me, the resolution process is as much an internal examination of goals and beliefs as it is an external commitment to change.

December 29, 2008 1:01 PM

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About Hofmama

Former family and employment law attorney; currently writer, editor, and stay-at-home mom to two amazing boys.

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