When you’re really, really broke, suddenly everyone has an opinion on what you should be doing to make your situation better. If I listened to all the money advice I’ve received from people, I’d have “invested” in the Studiotraffic scam, allocated a monthly budget for Toto and 4D and finally become a filthy rich corporate climber anyway.
Sure, there’s lots of conventional wisdom that makes sense for most people, like being smart about your buying choices, eating more meals at home and investing. But if you’re struggling with a low income, there’s some advice that you should realise really shouldn’t apply to you.
Stay at home to save money
When you’re so broke that oversleeping on the bus means your girlfriend doesn’t get any presents for her birthday, you probably hide out at home in order to save up enough money so you can actually make it to work on Monday without taking out a loan for your bus fare. And sure, partying every night is definitely going to put you on the road to self-destruction if your salary is low enough such that no amount of economising will let you make ends meet. In a situation like that, you need to increase your income—and if your job won’t let you do that in time, you need to find new opportunities.
Going out regularly, keeping in touch with your friends and making new ones will help you in the long run, even if you can’t see how it will now. Even if all your friends are busy looking after newborn babies at home or something, try to get out of the house and talk to people. Get in touch with friends you haven’t seen in a while and just get into the habit of not being a hermit. If you’re looking for a new job, make it public knowledge. You’ll find that people are only too happy to help or at least give moral support.
Even if opportunities don’t come immediately, getting out of the house every once in a while has another important function—keeping you sane and positive. I work from home, and I find that if I don’t force myself to get out at least twice a week or so I get really cranky. Nobody wants to work with or hire a cranky person.
Just because you’re going out more doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still ensure that whatever you do spend on offers a high return on investment. If you’re meeting a friend for a lunch that lasts only one hour, don’t go and spend $30 on a fancy meal.
Stay single until you have money
But if you’re lucky enough to have found a partner with the same financial goals as you do, moving in together can make your lives cheaper unless it involves you getting thrown out and disowned by conservative parents, in which case getting married might be the answer. Note that this will only work if you have a partner who doesn’t mind a very simple wedding or even skipping or postponing the event altogether.
People who insist that getting married costs a goldmine are the same people who would sell their organs on the black market to pay for a wedding if they could be convinced that “it’s tradition”. If you and your spouse-to-be are the kinds of people who just NEED to have the entire wedding package, including a wedding dinner big enough to accommodate your entire GRC, the overseas wedding photo shoot and an elaborate gate-crashing session, then you certainly should not get married until your financial situation improves.
Moving in together (or at least spending a lot of time at each other’s places) makes forcing yourself to stay home and cook a lot easier. Most of us eat out because we’re lazy, unprepared or because we crave social interaction. Eating at home with your partner solves all these problems. It’s also easier to cook for two than one. Being able to pool together resources and share your stuff also makes life cheaper. For instance, you now only need to own one printer, one TV set (or if you’re living in my house, none!) and one fan.
Follow your passion
This is going to make me sound like a soul-crushing grinch from Wall Street, but not all dreams should be followed indiscriminately if you’re having trouble making ends meet. If you’re on the brink of bankruptcy or are forced to subsist on instant noodles every day because you’re following your passion, you need to try to view the situation with a dispassionate eye to determine if continuing to chase your dreams is going to damage your health or put you in serious financial trouble.
Which is not to say you need to immediately put on a pinstriped suit and turn into a CBD office worker right away. Doing something you have zero interest in is the easiest way to end up one of those mediocre, unhappy workers that plague Singapore’s workforce.
Try to find something that you have a modicum of interest in, or at the very least, are good at. You’d be surprised how much happier picking a job you’re good at will make you, as opposed to struggling in a high paying job you suck at.
Have you ever been really broke? Do you have any advice that might help others in the same situation? Let us know in the comments!
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