View Full Version : One time I had so little money

6-29-11, 2:11am
that even though I was working at a pretty good job full time that I couldn't afford some prescription medications.

I look back on those days and see how much my life has changed. Little by little we put money aside, invested wisely, paid off the mortgage and life is very different now.

From those of you who feel that you have had some success, can you think back and finish that line...

One time I had so little money.....

then tell us how far you have come, and maybe how. I think this would be interesting.

6-29-11, 5:46am
One time I (we) had so little money I wondered if we'd ever get ahead and save and pay-off our mortgage. Well, with smart money management along with a frugal and simple lifestyle we've slowly been able to stow away, pay off, and establish a financial comfort level I sleep well at night over.

Even so, I have many a story I could share (some resent) where I'd raid the pantry and cupboards for as many things I could find in order to put together a few more meals in order to tide us over until payday, because we had been clothes-lined with an unexpected financial hit. Not fun. But somehow you survive and within a few short months you slowly get back on your feet again and by the same time the following year you think back on all and say, "we're no worse for the wear".

Great thread Kally!

6-29-11, 6:04am
One time we had so little money we thought living in a converted furnished garage with a mud pit for a driveway was a totally wonderful way to live. Boyfriend joked that we got married to save money on car insurance (we were 19 and 20 at the time). Now retired and enjoying it.

The garage was owned by the most wonderful landlords who were more like parents now that I look back. Their tenants took care of them and always found them the next set of tenants.

6-29-11, 9:09am
One time, when I was just out of college and got my first teaching job, I had so little money (despite being out of debt and having a fulltime job) that I got my "new" clothes for work by hauling them out of a dumpster after someone else had thrown them away. I also lost twenty pounds because I couldn't afford enough food to eat!

Fifteen years later, I found myself divorced and broke, and had so little money that I used to get my main meal of the day at midnight, when a casino would offer a midnight special of steak, eggs and hashbrowns for 99 cents! The rest of the day was supplemented with ramen noodles and oatmeal. The carbs and the fat made me GAIN twenty pounds! :( I sure wish I knew then what I know now, having read this forum for a few years, and am now debt-free except for the house! I would have been able to eat in a much healthier way for just as little money, more or less.

6-29-11, 9:15am
One time... I was at university and by the time, I paid my tuition, room etc,. I had enough money left over for a bowl of oatmeal in the morning and one hotdog at night. My parents had no money so they were never told how bad things really were. I was losing so much weight that I was called in by the supervisor of my program and had to confess my circumstances. She found me a large closet in a fancy students residence with full meals that just happened to be the same expense as my revenue and I lived in luxury that semester. I was never that hungry again.

Later, we had two children, a mortgage and both kids needed shoes as did I. Of course, the kids got the shoes and eventually so did I. Never that short of money again.

We are both retired and very comfortable financially now.

Funny but I never regretted either of the situations that I experienced as I knew that I could cope and life was on my side.

Neat thread!

6-29-11, 9:16am
For some reason, it takes a post a long while to register and then it suddenly gives a message that I must wait for 30 seconds between posts and then makes a duplicate post.

Something very odd about this!

6-29-11, 10:27am
I don't like to think about this. I had some pretty lean times. I had so little money that...

...One time my daughter's lunch money check bounced
...I had to put back a couple of things on the supermarket line because I didn't have the money (and it was like a $15 bill)
...We regularly would scour the house for change for milk or other staples
...I told my son he couldn't go on a field trip because we couldn't afford it
...We had to turn around at the Lincoln Tunnel because we could only pay the 4.00 toll in pennies and they wouldn't take pennies
...I once went to KMart to buy my two boys tube socks, and while we were standing in line, each boy was holding a 6-pack in his arms exclaiming, "Mom, thank you SO MUCH for buying us these SOCKS! I was really pretty embarrassed, but had to smile at their gratitude.
...I had to figure out how to do my son's birthday on $11.

There are a lot more, but I'll stop now. That's the kind of life addiction gives you, BTW.

In any case my DH once said, when we were discussing how we never locked our front door, "Why should we lock our door? If a robber came in he'd probably feel sorry for us and leave us a buck."

6-29-11, 10:38am
Right now I have so little money that I'm having to wash my clothes in the bathroom sink because I don't have the money to go to the laundromat and even if I did, my car is broke down. I thought for sure next month I'd be able to get my head above the water...seems like it's always something.

6-29-11, 11:00am
People often don't believe me but in the 70's with a full time job with the state, after all the bills were paid I feasted on tea and toast. And they wonder why I am frugal now, habit I guess.

6-29-11, 11:21am
My most broke time was as a college student on a work study program, and I ran out of money between paychecks--there was some white rice that was left in the kitchen cabinets of the rental apt. -- who knows how old it was and it was infested with some kind of small insects which I picked out as well as I could and boiled up the rice--and ate it. Figured the boiling would sanitize the germs and it was, after all, protein.

6-29-11, 11:46am
Shortly after graduating from college I was so broke that I raided my childhood coin collection for pennies, nickels, and dimes to make a deposit at the bank to prevent the checks I had written from bouncing.

6-29-11, 11:47am
Here's another good one:

We were so broke I cut up the souvenir sheet of currency I got at the U.S. Mint!

6-29-11, 1:56pm
I can so relate to scrounging money from every pocket and purse. If you found a nickel, dime or quarter it is a great bonus.
Now, sometimes I open an old purse and find a $20 bill I had forgotten about. But I remember those old times and really, really enjoy the found money still.

6-29-11, 3:47pm
In my first year of college I was a full-time student and worked very part-time. I went to a commuter school so there was no student housing, cafeteria, etc. I had no car, shared a one-bedroom apartment with my cousin and was so broke that most of that year breakfast was ice cubes, there was no lunch, and dinner was powdered onion soup. Ramen noodles were beyond my pocket book. Yup, you find way to get through it, but I wouldn't wish that kind of situation on anyone. I still can't look at onions with a friendly eye!

Kathy WI
6-29-11, 4:50pm
I was so broke that I once bugged out of an apartment without paying the rent because I had no money. My husband and I were once so broke that we paid for gas to get home from Michigan with a paper bag full of pennies.

6-29-11, 5:12pm
One time we had so little money that:

--I fashioned a Christmas tree out of green construction paper and stapled it to the wall because we couldn't afford to buy one
--DH ate a can of corn for dinner because that is all we had (bad idea, by the way)
--we walked to a local video store to check out a free kids movie and stopped by a gas station on the way back to buy a small bottle of soda to split. We paid in change, mostly nickels and pennies. This was date night. (this one brings back fond memories) :-)

6-29-11, 6:21pm
--Closed a bank account to get out the 'minimum deposit' amount

--Went dumpster diving for food, but only found a case of expired Naked Fruit drinks. Lived off expired Naked drinks for 2 weeks until I got paid again.

Not too bad compared to some of them on here!

7-2-11, 9:21pm
~ lived in an apartment that the landlord had not paid for heat or water and both got shut off in March. I carried 2 gallon water jugs home from work each night to flush the toilet and make coffee the next AM. Wore wool coat to bed.
~ money ran out at end of month and only food left was popcorn and peanut butter. Fed this to toddler for evening meal (he got breakfast and lunch at daycare) so he wouldn't be hungry. I ate it as only meal at dinner, skipping breakfast and lunch.
~ didn't have a car and grocery was 2 miles away. Either walked each way with toddler in red wagon and groceries with him on way back or walked 1.5 miles to where friend worked, borrowed her car, gorcery shopped, took groceries home, took car back.
~ had bad strep infection and tried to wait it out. After 4th day of 103+ temps, went to doc in box place and got IM and po penicillian. Wrote bad check to pay for it. When I got home, there was Christmas card from my brothers with gift check for exact amount of my medical care. :)
~ spent Christmas alone as did not have money to travel to see family.

Most of these occurred when I was in nursing school. It's been a long time since I was that poor. It gives me deep compassion for people who have lived through it. And I always knew that I wouldn't starve....if I had been really desperate, I could have asked my folks for money. I just never got that desperate.!Splat!

7-2-11, 9:59pm
I say this in total humility, please realize that there is not an ounce of smugness in this comment, but for all the times I've ever said I was broke, I wasn't - I clearly didn't even know what broke was. You guys are amazing! And if anyone ever hears me complain about being broke, please slap me in the head :)

7-2-11, 10:13pm
I can remember when broke didn't matter. In the late 1960s and early 70s, I would leave home to hitchhike clear across the country, in many cases with no definite destination in mind, with no money at all in my pocket. During the 1971 May Day demonstrations in Washington, D.C., I left the UP of Michigan by myself with a nickel, hitchhiked to D.C., stayed there for a couple of weeks, being arrested a couple of times, then hitchhiked home, well fed and with a few dollars in my pocket.

A time that I felt broke though, was one winter when I was hitchhiking back to Michigan from California by myself. I was dropped off on some godforsaken stretch of highway in Arizona. It was very late, probably about 2:00 in the morning, and not a single car on the road. Everything was quiet, dark, and suddenly very cold. It was as far and as lonely behind as it was ahead, so I started walking. Still no traffic at all. Finally, I found a spot in the dark where there was some pavement alongside the road. I couldn't tell what it was because it was so dark and I didn't have any source of light. I followed the paved area far enough off of the road so that I wouldn't be seen by any cars that might happen to come along, but where I could see the headlights before they got there, in the event that I was awake. I didn't have a sleeping bag with me so I pulled what clothes I had out of my backpack, laying some of them on the ground and trying to cover myself with the rest. I dozed off several times, but probably not for more than a few minutes at a time. It seemed forever before morning came, and it was a miserable, cold and sleepless night. In the light, I looked around me and found that I was in a filthy gutter, one that I wouldn't ordinarily have even wanted to walk across, and if it hadn't been so cold, who knows what might have been crawling or slithering around me. I had slept there, and I didn't feel very good about myself. I was sixteen.

7-3-11, 9:36am
One time I had so little money that after paying for my infant son's heart medication I had only $25 left groceries.
One time I had so little money that I had to tell my then 11 year old son we couldn't afford for him to go on a $5 field trip.
One time I had so little money that dh and I both wore shoes with holes in the bottoms for months before being able to replace them.

Today we are still pay check to paycheck but are debt free besides our mortgage, have a 3 month emergency fund in place and have money worked into the budget to help ds with college expenses as well as sinking funds for copayments and car repairs.

7-3-11, 10:53pm
When married to my first husband we lived overseas in Wales for a few years. Money was extremely tight, this was 30 years ago. I remember writing a bad check for a $10 nightgown the night before I was to be admitted to a hospital for surgery. I didnt even have a nightgown. We hardly had money for food, and I used to hang around my girlfriend's houses at lunchtime so I could get a free meal. I dumpster dived behind the grocers to get anything they had thrown out, things like carrot and beet tops, bruised fruit, old potatos etc.. I'd use whatever I'd find to make a pot of soup, which we'd eat for nearly a week. I remember finding a bag of flour and making pancakes for a month (with eggs I'd buy for 50 cents a dozen). No syrup. We lived near the ocean, and sometimes if I walked down by the docks the fishermen would give me a bucket of mussels or a fish too small to sell just because they liked my American accent. I hated mussels but at them anyways. We used to have a natural gas meter and we'd have to put coins in to get enough gas to heat our very drafty victorian. 50 pence was the minimum. That was probably $1. Anyways, it was a very cold winter and we didn't have enough to pay for gas. So I pawned my blue sapphire ring that my Mom had given me when I graduated to buy gas. I never went back for it, I regret that to this day. Even though bus fare was cheap, I walked everywhere because I couldn't afford it. I lost 20 pounds during that time. Even though times were tough, I remember them as good times. We had good friends and spent many happy hours talking, playing cards, and just hanging out. We didn't have money for "distractions" like going to movies, etc. When our finances improved, our marriage failed.

7-3-11, 11:00pm
Henrysmom, I felt sad reading your post, but you probably would say that it was character building. I'm sorry about your ring and your marriage, though. Hope life has improved.

7-4-11, 12:04am
Thanks, artist and henrysmom. I've felt a real shame in having no money, and you've lessened that shame for me. I remember shilling meters, henrysmom. I remember the field trip that my son couldn't go on, artist. I also sold my mother's jewelry that I inherited for reasons I look back on now and feel bad about.

I remember once, my DH and I trying to one-up each other on how bad off we were, so DH said to me, "Look!" and showed me his underwear with holes in it, so I said "Look" and I showed him that I was wearing some of HIS underwear--with holes in it. I had no underwear of my own. THAT"S poor.

That's why some people frustrate me--it's not their fault, but they don't know what it's like to truly have no money. I know we're all responsible for ourselves, but sometimes good people get caught in bad circumstances. I have been earning $150k annually for several years now, but I am the same person that I was when I was dead broke. Like any other prejudice, prejudice against poor people can be very painful and misleading.

7-4-11, 2:15am
In any case my DH once said, when we were discussing how we never locked our front door, "Why should we lock our door? If a robber came in he'd probably feel sorry for us and leave us a buck."

That actually happened to me!! Not cash, but I came back one day to find the glove box probed and a stack of Pizza Hut coupons left on the passenger's seat. I guess they felt sorry for me.

As far as my own stories go, it wasn't all that long ago. Setting my thermostat to its lowest at 55 all winter and shivering. My income priced me out of qualifying for food stamps, so I trash-picked for groceries. I split my pills like an old lady in a candidate's stump speech. And of course, I invested in a mace canister and a stun gun whenever I went out my door.

Not happy times at all. In fact, I'm still psychologically detoxing a year later.

2-18-12, 5:48pm
Bump. This is such a great thread. Would really love to hear more...

2-18-12, 6:26pm
One time I had so little money that I stayed for a few months in a shack behind the Carmelite Monastery where the nuns would hide out undocumented people from Mexico (I left when the shack was needed for more of these). There were big holes in the wall--at first I would set my milk outdoors for it to keep cold overnight, then I realized it was just as cold indoors, and sure enough, it froze on the table.

Once I had so little money for several years that I ate on $5-8 a week. One week would be OJ, bag of bread and peanut butter. The next week bag of carrots, bag of bread and peanut butter. Part of that time I lived in a basement full of theater clothes and shoes and rats that climbed over me and my mattrass on the floor. And the people I was staying with/under ate my food the first day. I got malnutrition. I was working three part-time jobs at a time for the last part of this. I finally got an apartment for $150/month and after 5 days the slum landlord locked me out. I went to court and got back in--and paid the lawyer with my car.

2-18-12, 9:30pm
One time I had so little money I called my dad and asked if he could send me a check for $35 so I could buy groceries. At the time I was a full time student, working 2 jobs, and just couldn't get ahead. I promised to send it back ASAP and I think he was shocked that I wouldn't assume it was gift - I know I cried when I got off the phone. I always knew I had my parents as an emotional back up but was too proud to ask for financial help - never hesitate to ask those who love you- I'm sure he had no idea how desperate things were. My dad and mom are no longer here but I feel them with me every day - they gave so much more than financial support.

Zoe Girl
2-18-12, 10:53pm
I remember washing cloth diapers, sometimes the ones that could be washed in the sink, and thinking it was a treat to use the dryer for clothes instead of hanging them in the apartment.

I cooked everything from scratch, a box of cereal was too much. (we had little kids and i did home daycare). Bulk rice, oatmeal and potatoes were the best.

I remember going to consumer credit counseling and he could not find anything to cut except maybe rent, but that was the cheapest rent in town where the heat worked and the ceiling didn't leak.

Now, we spent since last May washing clothes by hand and line drying (in Colorado) or taking some stuff to the laundromat. Got the washer fixed last month, who knows if ever on the dryer. This is for 3-4 of us.

I regularily check my account to see if I can get $25 or $50 of groceries.

This weekend I have about $40 in cash, actually until at least Thursday that is all, but I feel great. I have food, gas in the car and I can get to some savings that I would have loved before. My ex had problems this last week with his mother just passing away and bounced his check to me, that freezes everything in my bank for this extended process of getting the check back, etc. and with a bank holiday day too.

I am fine, I have everything I need.

2-19-12, 8:43am
My story is not as desperate as most on this thread- but I suppose everything is relative to the circumstances around you. When I was in (private) college, I was determined to never ask my folks for living expenses, as I felt that was my responsibility (they did help me some with the tuition, but I paid more than half between loans and jobs). My food budget for the week was $10. For protein, it was chicken legs and liver. I could get 4 pieces of liver for $1, and chicken legs were 39 cents a pound. Only frozen veggies. My big splurge was buying a pound of margarine: I would use it to make shortbread cookies, so I'd have something to offer friends who came for tea. I gave cookies to the people who'd let me use their oven to bake.

Was hard to hear sometimes the other kids who went on vacations during break, whose parents would wire them money, who could buy a dress for a dance, who could afford to go out for pizza or (gasp) even a real meal at a restaurant.

2-19-12, 9:20am
Mine is not as bad as some either, but when I was pregnant with my oldest kid my vehicle broke down and I didn't have money to fix it. For several months I had to walk to work at Starbucks, 3 miles, at 2AM to get there in time for my opening shift. Because I had to walk past a park that was home to a lot of homeless men DH got up every morning and walked with me. It was completely exhausting. I was so sleep deprived.

Blackdog Lin
2-19-12, 10:19am
Y'all make me feel so grateful for all the blessings throughout my life - even though "poor", we've never gone hungry or had to live in unsanitary conditions. I need to remember this more often when reading or thinking about all the truly poor around the world today. Our hardest times:

- DH losing his job in '83, we have the 1 yr. old and are living on my part-time income (which has always been a sometimes-fulltime income, it fluctuates so much). I remember switching from jarred baby food to mushed up whatever-we'd-cooked-for-our-meals and whole milk instead of formula for DS, making a pound of bacon or hamburger stretch for 4 meals, and a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. And Granny showing up when we'd invited her to supper with a bag of baby food that she'd "just happened to see on sale at the store and thought we might be able to use it". But we were always able to make the house payment, and pay the utilities (with a very hot summer for us using bare minimum air conditioning), and have food in the house. And still being able to have friends over for a poker night, using chips but no money, and serving popcorn and iced tea for refreshments. There was always money to have popcorn and tea in the house to serve to guests. Good times.
- 2004 or so, when DH became disabled but hadn't yet qualified for SS. But the house was already paid for, so we just tightened our belts and again lived off my fluctuating salary. It never got that bad, I cut a lot of non-essentials (all of which has done me good to this day: magazine subscriptions, book purchases, new clothing, turn off or down the heat or ac), and got even more creative with our home cooking. We still laugh about one of those summers, a coworker of mine became gluten-intolerant and offered me the contents of her cleaned-out kitchen pantry (I think she knew we were going through a "making do" period), and also furnished us all summer with her garden zucchini excess. We grilled zucchini, we baked zucchini, we stir-fried zucchini, we deep-fried zucchini, we shredded and pattied zucchin, we salad-ed zucchinii; a treat that summer for us was a meal that didn't have zucchini as a major component. And guests were still always able to be offered at least a bowl of popcorn and iced tea.

I've said to myself for years that I'm not afraid to go back to being poor, 'cause we've been there and I know we can relearn how to make do. But reading your stories makes me realize that I HAVEN'T ever been truly poor. I've instead been lucky.....

iris lily
2-19-12, 12:17pm
I started to share experience, but they are all of the nature of youth being without ready cash and doing some stupid things (drivng a car with questionable brakes) and taking risks that only the youthful would do.

In the grand scheme of things, I was never without roof and food and didn't have to scrimp for those. I've not been poor.

A major thing about being poor in America is the safety factor. While it can be easy enough to score a meal or free groceries, find clothing at no cost, being or living in places where crime is rampant is a huge part of being poor. That is a huge problem. People being poor enough to watch food pennies, sleep on someone's sofa for 6 months, etc--not a big deal really in the grand scheme of things. Putting yourself in physical danger--that's a big deal.

2-19-12, 12:51pm
Loving all these stories. It's amazing how much a family (with babies/young children) can save, just by opting to introduce a few simple/frugal things, like homemade baby food, cloth diapers, and expressed milk/whole milk.

Larknm. I realize people do what they have to do when faced with hard times, but the rats, OMG. Such a strong person you are.

Chrissieq. Pride, is such a strong thing isn't it. We've had to ask for money a few times (both sets of parents), and even though you know family is always there for you, it's still such a hard thing to do.

Zoe Girl. I second your comment- "bulk rice, oatmeal and potatoes", being the best.

Herbgeek. Knowing basic home-cooking is such a godsend. It really is the difference between "make it or break it".

Stella. You're such a trooper, even though I know you didn't have a choice.

Blackdog Lin. How were you diapering at the time? Cloth? Disposable?

Iris Lily. I caught your original entry and really liked it. (Wish you would have kept it).

Reading through everyone's posts, I realize how fortunate I have been, even though I know if push come to shove, I'd do whatever I had to do to keep the household/family going. But even with that said, I do question my ability as to being able to cope with some of the circumstances (and conditions) some of you had to.

2-19-12, 12:59pm
In any case my DH once said, when we were discussing how we never locked our front door, "Why should we lock our door? If a robber came in he'd probably feel sorry for us and leave us a buck."

Great quote! Thank you for the good laugh! :D

2-19-12, 1:14pm
Somewhere along the way I missed Catherine's saying. Thanks for bringing it up, Jemima!

2-19-12, 1:48pm
That's why some people frustrate me--it's not their fault, but they don't know what it's like to truly have no money. I know we're all responsible for ourselves, but sometimes good people get caught in bad circumstances. I have been earning $150k annually for several years now, but I am the same person that I was when I was dead broke. Like any other prejudice, prejudice against poor people can be very painful and misleading.

My father suffered from an inferiority complex all of his life because of that prejudice. He was born in the early 1900's, long before anyone thought of welfare, and his father, the party boy, abandoned the family for long spells, leaving for good when my father was eleven. The family ate, but not very well, and I have a photo of my father wearing hand-me-downs that would be comical had it not been for real.

People apparently thought nothing of making fun of the poor back then, and it scarred my father deeply. I try to keep a lid on my part Irish temper, but when people make snide remarks about welfare recipients it breaks out of its cage and attacks.

2-19-12, 1:58pm
I, too, have been blessed and have only experienced near-poverty once in my life. I'm ashamed to say it was self-inflicted - I got in over my head with credit cards for the second time in my life.

At the time I was working as an addictions (heroin) counselor which had a residential program and where staff were free to take meals with the residents. I was so short on money I took advantage of that at the end of one month and I felt so embarrassed, as if everyone knew I was needy. However, I did have a nice house and a decent car, so I was far better off than many.

I've never misused credit cards since then. The pain was worth it for the lesson learned.

2-19-12, 6:22pm
Some people remember the food, I most clearly remember the lack of accommodation choices that came with poverty. I remember being incredibly grateful for a dark, dank room sandwiched between an all-night brothel (with very loud movies booming through the paper-thin walls) and a butcher shop that started chopping up carcases at 4am. The place was right on a main road with trucks shaking the building 24/7. The memory of the smell of that mouldiness and greasy diesel still makes me feel queasy. But although the 8 months was torture, that room was relatively safe for me (next door had a guard, which balanced out the creepy clientele a bit) and had 4 walls. It's all relative.

2-19-12, 7:07pm
Like many I don't think I have had any truly desperate times but, when we were first married there was very, very little money
and two babies in two years...
So we did all of the usual things gladly eating at the my parents or the inlaws once a week to stretch the food budget but, I had a recipe for oatmeal cookies and
made them so often for tea, gifts and the kids...at the time I thought the dab of jam in the centre made them look fancy...lol...sure I wasn't fooling anyone as to how cheap
they were to make.
DS worked at a garage and could get deals on used cars and he would do thinks like a change the oil and spark plugs and clean the engine and we would clean it inside and out and
maybe make $50.00 or some times more, for all the work when he resold it....he had a good eye for a deal and we didn't mind the work. Of course that was back in the old days before safety checks. It kept us
going many months. We must have done this at least 20 times in the first 5 years we were married.
I washed clothes and diapers in a wringer wash and line dried...every couple of days because there wasn't enough to last us more then that.
The thing I remember that I think would still be a good idea...I would have x number of $'s for a weeks food (not much), and I would write out a menu plan and then a list with a price expect to pay beside
every item if the total was too high I would redo the menu plan.....DS would pick me up to get groceries after work (of course only one car) and we would eat after we got home (because there was so little left in the house) and it would be some really good fast food like fish sticks..lol
We bought second hand, did all our own reapairs. sewed from old clothes, grew vegetables and took anything people would give us.
I don't remember them being really bad times and we survirved and thrived..

2-23-12, 3:48pm
This is what I call a great reading thread! Truly enjoyable.