Confessions Of Someone Who’s 36, Single, & Broke
“I spent 20 years wondering why I always felt broke…”
For as long as I can remember I struggled with money management. My toxic habits of telling myself that my money problems would figure themselves out was a recurring play in my life. When my debit card would go into overdraft or my credit card would reach its limit, I would lie to myself that I would make up for it on my next payday. But then the next payday would come and I would find my bank account in the positive and happily swipe my debit card like it was a gift card or click checkout for an online purchase and think life was good.
Well,it wasn’t. It was a rollercoaster of emotions of crying one day because I was broke and then the next day feeling as though I was on a high when that direct deposit hit. I had zero clue as to how to manage money and spent 20 years wondering why I always felt so broke while working a full-time job along with a side hustle.
“I was crying one day because I was broke, and then the next day, feeling I was on a high when that direct deposit hit…”
During my early money mismanagement days, I was fortunate to buy a home with a partner whose parents gifted us a generous downpayment. However, a few years later when the relationship failed and we parted ways, he kept the house and I walked away with a substantial equity cheque and a new opportunity to start over. It was the first time in my life I had ever had such a large sum of money. I was smart enough to use some of it to pay off small debts (credit card, lines of credit that I racked up during my time as a new and inexperienced homeowner). As a reward for my fresh start to life, I promptly booked myself a solo trip to Europe and proceeded to blow almost all of it living what I imagine was as close to an Emily in Paris lifestyle.
When I returned home and saw what was left of my new windfall, I decided it was time to take out a student loan and obtain a second degree in the hope that I’d land a better job with a higher salary. After all, if I made more money, then all my money problems would disappear, right?
Fast forward to 2020, and I found myself facing what I’m pretty sure some call a mid-life crisis. I was working full time (making a very decent salary), as well as working a successful side hustle, yet my credit card was once again maxed, my line of credit is maxed, my overdraft was in constant use, all of my investments were going to cash rather than actual investments. I had zero financial literacy, zero investments and zero savings. I was 36, single, and broke.
Then the pandemic hit and for the first time in my life, I was living alone. No partner and no roommate, I was now paying rent and bills on my own. With the weight of my poor financial decisions bearing down on me as well as the personal dread that I would be a lifelong renter, I realized this was it. I needed to get my life together. Out of fate, a friend posted on her Instagram that she was proudly “debt-free.” Curiosity got to me and I reached out asking for more information. Turns out, being terrible with money and poor money decisions, in general, wasn’t something only I struggled with. She connected me with what is known on Instagram as the “debt-free” community. Hundreds of accounts run by people who, like myself, struggled with money management. From that day everything changed – my finances, my journey to financial literacy and my life.
That same friend introduced me to zero-based budgeting. After trial and error (and many tears) I realized that for the first time in my life, I did have money. In fact, I had quite a bit of it – I just never knew how to manage it. I started slow; I decided to completely focus on snowballing my credit card debt. Every single penny that wasn’t allocated towards bills, groceries and essential living expenses, went towards my credit card debt.
“I realized, for the first time in my life, I did have money. In fact, I had quite a bit of it; I just never knew how to manage it.”
In just two months, I paid off nearly half of it, with a goal to have the remainder paid off within the next two months. The next debt to tackle was my line of credit. I also revisited all my bills: needless monthly subscriptions, high internet costs, expensive grocery stores, the constant ordering in. I literally had to review all my spending habits over the past year and sit with the fact that I blew thousands of dollars and had nothing to show for it.
Everything had a budget line; Groceries, misc. expenses, hair and skin products, alcohol, gas, new clothing etc. If it was coming out of my bank account, it needed to have a budget line allocated to it. If I didn’t have the money for it, well better start saving. I also had to sit with the fact that for the first time in twenty years I had to pick and choose which social invites I really wanted to attend (pandemic aside). I purged my entire closet and sold clothes on consignment. Any extra cash from that went right to my credit card debt. If I saved an extra $5 on fuel, it went right towards my debt.
My budgeting also came with a new set of financial goals such as finding the right financial advisor who took the time to help me understand what I could invest my money in without losing every penny. My biggest achievement in all of this was canceling my overdraft on my bank account. For anyone who has lived in overdraft hell, this was a huge milestone.
“I felt like I was a failure with my money. I felt like I was behind on life with nowhere to turn and no one to bail me out. Turns out I needed to save myself…”
Not only was I making better financial decisions, I was also no longer living in fear of my finances. For anyone who is in their 30s, single and, well, broke, you may understand how scary it feels to live in constant worry about money. Especially as a female. I realized that a lot of the fear and worries came from the fact that I felt like I was a failure with my money. I felt like I was behind on life with nowhere to turn and no one to bail me out. Turns out I needed to save myself.
So while I am still 36 and single, I am no longer broke. With hitting my milestone goal of paying off huge sums of credit card debt, continuous financial growth and constant attention to budgeting, I feel richer every day.
Breanne Rae is a cat-loving fitness enthusiast from Canada who spends her days supporting post-secondary students as an Academic Advisor and her evenings leading sweaty cycle classes or zenned out yoga sessions. When she isn’t looking for ways to stretch a penny or helping others find love through movement, you can find her cooking up new recipes, hiking beautiful trails or dreaming of her next warm vacation.
Images via Unsplash