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How to Survive (and possibly even thrive) When You Are the Most Broke You’ve Ever Been


Between relocating to another city for my co-op work term, a fairly expensive rental agreement, and an unfortunate pay delay at work, I have the misfortune to say that I was once so broke I could tell you off the top of my head the balance of my debit and credit accounts down to the cent. What’s worse is that this isn’t an uncommon sentiment. The hashtag #brokestudentlife exists and is alive and well. Here are some things I’ve learned from my experience and some tips in case you’ve also found yourself broke AF (though I sincerely hope not).

  • Make Shopping Lists

  • Make a list of all the things you want to buy and what you desperately need to buy. For me, this was the pack of pads that I decided to unpack at the last minute because I thought it was taking up too much space in my suitcase. Then my period came not a day later. Oh, joy. When you have limited funds to work with, you quickly realize the difference between what can wait and what can’t. This doesn’t have to be an entirely sad task either. Because you know when that sweet paycheck comes in, you’re going to be so happy buying the things you’ve waited (not so) patiently for. NYX blush palette, I am coming for you, I swear.


  • Budget

  • Write down all the money you’re expecting to get and then divide it among your needs, like bills, groceries, and your wants. Okay this can definitely be tedious, but it’s also given me some perspective. It’s helped me realize: 1) living kind-of, semi, sort-of comfortably is expensive and; 2) being smart with my money makes me feel like I am getting my sh*t together, and that makes me proud. #Adulting(kindof). Plus, when I’m all done making my budget, I get to decide what to do with the spending money I have set aside. Do I want a new lipstick or like 5 cheeseburgers? To be honest, I’d be happy with either.


  • Make Sure you are Still Taking Care of Yourself

  • Don’t you dare skip a meal, put off doing laundry, or say that you’re “fine” walking home in the dark or the rain. Forgive yourself for buying that one junior chicken when you said you wouldn’t eat out this week, it was only $2. Being broke doesn’t mean that your health gets to suffer. If anything, being broke forced me to make healthier choices. I learned that I can cook good sh*t on a budget. And while a little less convenient, walking home saved me about $50 in bus fare and has given me killer calf muscles. ;)  So buy groceries, cook, eat, stay hydrated, and exercise. Take care of you, boo.


  • Indulge Yourself — But Only Sometimes

  • I mean why shouldn’t I buy poutine for dinner even though I have fresh groceries at home? Just don’t do it. You don’t need it. Your empty wallet is screaming “no” and your stomach will probably thank you later. This goes back to deciding between what you want and what you really need. My key point is, if you have a “free” alternative, take it. But if missing out on that movie, dinner, or night out is going to give you deep #ragrets or #fomo, then go do it. Being social is important too and it is totally okay to be the friend who doesn’t order anything at the table sometimes. I mean what are friends for, if not to let you mooch off their fries.


  • Ask for and Accept Help When you Need It

  • I think this one was the hardest for me. I personally don’t like letting my friends and family see me struggle. I hate asking my mom for money, especially when she’s already given me so much. But know this: your support system is quite literally your life support. They will pick you up when you least expect it and when you need it the most. As much as you hate stressing over money, your friends and family hate watching you stress.  And if your friends are truly meant to last in your life, they will understand if you say you can’t go out tonight or they won’t mind spotting you on their late night McDonald’s runs. You’re not alone in this.


So here’s to that delayed paycheck. You taught me a lot in the days leading to your arrival. I sincerely hope this never happens to anyone, ever again. Amen.

Chelsey Pangilinan is a French and Business student at the University of Waterloo. She is very obsessed with unicorns and iced coffee drinks.
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