How to Survive Being Broke

Hands opening an empty wallet.
Hands opening an empty wallet. (Image: mikeinlondon/iStock/Getty Images)

Many people are broke at some point in their lives. Whether you are surviving on noodles in college or getting through a rough financial period later in life, the challenges of living without much money are similar. Although being broke isn't fun, you can change your behaviors and habits to make the most of the money you have. With some planning and personal restraint, you can survive without sacrificing your health or your financial future.

Prioritize your costs. When you don't have much money, it's more important to pay rent and buy food than it is to redecorate your house. List the things you absolutely must pay for each month, like groceries, food and utilities. Pare down your budget to those items. Use any extra to save or pay down debt that keeps you broke, such as credit card debt or a car loan.

Eliminate extra activities that cost money, such as exercise classes, professional memberships, going to the movies and eating out. Replace them with free activities to avoid sitting at home stressing about your finances. Instead of taking a kickboxing class, rent a DVD from the library or go for a run outside. Let your friends and family know about your money-saving outlook so they can pitch in by planning to do free things instead of expensive dinners or concerts.

Buy low-cost, high-energy foods. Look for cheap foods that pack a big caloric punch, like eggs, pasta, potatoes and brown rice. Instead of fresh vegetables, buy large bags of flash-frozen vegetables, which are cheaper but still nutritious. Use beans and tuna for protein. Experiment with spices and new recipes; being broke doesn't have to mean eating tasteless foods.

Look for free and bartered goods. has a "Free" section where people give away everything from furniture to building materials. If you have a valuable skill, try to barter it in exchange for a good or service.

Cut out driving as much as possible to reduce gas and car maintenance costs. Ride your bike, walk, take public transportation or carpool instead of driving. Invite friends or coworkers along to make it a social event and add an element of fun.

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