Let's Talk About The Traumatic Experiences Of Being Broke


I grew up in a working poor household. Much of my life consisted of my family living paycheck to paycheck struggling to make ends meet.

We would used impoverished language to express our broke ass state of living.  Hearing things like "we got one mo day", "...if they could just give me my money sooner", the regular I. NEED. MY. MONEY. BY. YESTERDAY. MOOD. was common.

We were consistent with stretching money and sticking to the same behaviors in our "off week".

If you don't know what I mean by  "off week" I am referring to the week in which we don't have income coming in. The Friday in which we don't have a paycheck.  Let's not even get into passive income. Forget about it! It didn't exist!

And the struggle was so real, when it hit, it hit hard.

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I've been best friends with Ramen Noodles, Beefaroni (because it was the perfect balance of noodles and sauce), and 25 cent corner store chips (when they existed). That's because in my worse moments of the struggle this was all I had to survive on. Can you imagine making 25 cent corner store chips your dinner?

Food coverages were a real source of comfort and a resource we as a family depended on heavily, that is until we ran that resource thin. My only source of financial literacy as a child was being told to "save my money" but at the same time taking on the role as an "adult" in my family when I obtained a line of work.

I watched Biz Kids, the show that helped me understand business and money. I tried to grapple with understanding the importance of building credit and ruining it. I tried to assess how in the hell a family of 4 could go broke every week.

Now, in Black households it's common to say "what happens in this household stays in this household".  Which is another way to address that it's no one else is to know the struggles that happen in your home. #PROBLEMATICGROWINGUPBLACKQUOTES
But, like they also say "what happens in the dark, comes to the light". In particular- for my childhood and being Black in poverty, I was hungry all the damn time. I was one of those students who gladly enjoyed my public school lunch. I loved to go over my aunt's house especially when she was cooking because unbeknownst to her, she was allowing her hungry ass niece to dabble in the latest recipes, temporarily sealing my hunger.

Our poverty was so quiet and in house that many of our extended family members thought we were "living large". They were very much poor too, but as I got older I realized there are hierarchies even in the struggle.

So, when I decided that my only way out of the poverty I lived for 18 years of my life was to further my education in college. I thought I could escape brokeassness, but, even then, I was wrong. Somehow, I managed to again, take a lead financial role in my family, this time while being a full-time student, collecting a small but decent amount of credit card debt and extending my sanity to the point of no return.

I met folks like me throughout my undergrad career who were in the same damn sinking boat. That boat consisted of:

  1. Talking about the everyday struggle, everyday

  2. Adapting similar financial habits to the households we derived

  3. Using the credit card for emergencies and also like it was our own money we had in our pocket

  4. Always talking about how we're tired of being broke

  5. Allowing brokeassness to affect our mental wellness

  6. Not allowing ourselves to be selfish in our next chapters so we can break free of the cycle

  7. Holding resentment towards family members

And the beat goes on...

When I graduated from undergrad I was depressed as hell because I knew after graduation day I had to walk into that same house that symbolized the struggle. Now as a young adult soon to turn 23 I am cleaning up my credit and learning the importance of financial literacy as a determinant for the future I want to live. I am also understanding that in my traumatic experiences of being broke, I don't want to immerse myself in impoverished language or in a mindset that is damaging to my personal and financial growth. I don’t want to be the person that never has “it” (speaking in terms of money), and when they do, they don’t know how to manage it.

Revisiting my experiences of being broke and a low income college student is traumatic.

When we talk about the struggle it is not to glorify but to discuss that the experiences of Brokeness exist and can be a temporary state of being. Brokeness is a testament to where we’ve been, what we have been born into (for some of us) and where we’re headed out of.

But, is there a such thing that talking about Brokeness can prevent us from actually breaking free?  

Reflecting on every time I wanted to do something whether it be go to movie, try a new restaurant, or go to an event, the excuse was always “you gotta have money”.  

“I ain’t got it.”

“One more pay check.”

“No. I don’t have it.”

The lack of money or lack of management of money has led to a consistent rhetoric and boxing in of being Broke.

Being broke, talking about our Brokeness, living in our brokeassness has become motivation for us to set ourselves free. And In some ways, our experiences of Brokeness have hindered our progression of moving past the stage of struggle.

It’s like YES. YOU’RE ARE BROKE. BUT, WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO TO CHANGE THAT? Sometimes it’s systemic, it’s a cycle of Black poverty because being Black and Broke is a whole different conversation. Sometimes it takes a little more effort to budget and actually become one with what’s in your pockets.  

What I do know is that a continuous state of Brokeness is unacceptable.


What does your spending habits and saving habits look like? How do you manage your money? How do you manage being broke?

Some people are able to manage brokeassness better than others.

If you’re broke but purchasing jordans and sh*t you really can’t afford...baby you’re still broke.

If you’re broke and you’re purchasing an item you cannot afford to purchase twice or three times for that matter and it’s a want not a NEED...do better.

If you’re broke and you’re financially aware of your circumstances and you are conscious of the next steps to take and how to get back on track then maybe you are managing being broke well.

Being broke is traumatic because it places us in a position where we are dying to live and living to survive. We normalize the experiences of Brokeness as an expectation and right to passage. Or perhaps, we become content with Brokeness as some sort of final destination.

Although humbling, and yet it does build character BEING BROKE IS NOT A PERMANENT STATE OF BEING. It affects your mental and physical wellness, nutrition, and sleep.

Your state of Brokeness can prevent and cause strain in relationships, create a barrier, and leave you in a stage of depression.

I can remember how many times I dodged someone with an excuse to not hang out simply because I did not have the means to go out. Sometimes, in being broke I didn’t want to find new friends or begin new relationships because my financial house was not in order. A cushion is important to me. Now, you may say that “girl, you’re only 22, a grad student, you’re supposed to be broke”. Well, I was thinking NOT.

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Lately, I’ve been tapping into how to better manage my finances as well as not allowing the temporary struggles of being tight on cash to define me. As a college student once again, I am pursuing my masters anand outlet to better manage and create a financial goal for where I want to be.

It helped me to discover that BROKE IS NOT A PERMANENT STATE OF BEING.


  1. I read you article and I promise you, I identified with most of it! I even laughed out, especially at the memes (lol). But that statement at the end, "broke is not a permanent state of being," made me smile!

    1. Thanks so much Sapphire for reading! I truly appreciate it.

  2. Brokeness is definitely one of those generational cycles that we have to break. I was talking to a friend last week about how I dont have any positive references when it comes to money. That makes me feel like I need to be the first in my family to create generational wealth and that is a lot of stress and pressure.

    1. I definitely agree. It's like how do we re-route and engage in a conversation
      and behavior that allows us to not be BROKE. Sis, I'm in the same boat and it's beyond scary because I have this fear of going without, not having money, and not breaking this curse. At times I feel brokeness is a generational curse.

  3. I agree that "broke is not a permanent state of being". It is a generational mindset. We have to teach others financial stability but not also that about financial wealth. You could put money back in college on stocks and bonds and by the time you graduate you could have already paid back the government and started an IRA from your bank.

    1. I definitely agree! Most often we get a credit card and do not understand what it means to be financially smart. Unfortunately, we end up on the wrong side of the playing field.

  4. I resonante with this so much. Our financial situation shifted a few times. I would say by the time I started college we were poor because my stepdad got stage 4 cancer. I was sending money back home, making sure I didn’t take up too much CC debt and stake my savings. The best financial advice I got was to create an online savings account with 1% interest and Roth IRA. Broke definitely isn’t permanent.

    1. Aitza, thank you so much for sharing your story! There's so much value in your experience. I definitely agree. How many many of us don't know what a Roth IRA is? Even if we're told to just save...it doesn't really help us in understanding our financial future. #BLESSINGQUEEN