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Jeruba's avatar

How broke were you?

Asked by Jeruba (47743points) January 7th, 2011

Some of us have never been broke. But many of us do know what it’s like when your purse is empty, the cupboard is bare, nothing’s coming in, and you owe everybody.

I was so broke that I went to the store with a scatter of change that I found in an old coat pocket and bought one potato for seven cents.

How broke were you?

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35 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It wasn’t that long a period. I did mustard sandwiches for a week or so… until the mustard ran out. Then just bread for a half-week, and finally some income resumed, got a job, etc.

The funny thing was that all through that time (and it was a time lasting for a couple of years, overall), I very much understood and ‘lived’ the difference between ‘being poor’ and ‘being broke’. I had no steady income (and not much to speak of when I had any), no assets, no money in the bank, but I was never ‘poor’, just ‘broke’.

wundayatta's avatar

Broke enough to call people I didn’t even know—people who went to college with me but I didn’t know—to ask them for a place to stay for a few nights. And they weren’t the only ones that I prevailed upon to lend me a bed.

Finally got a very low-paying job doing door to door fundraising, and found a three room apt with two other guys I didn’t know and went on from there. I started with nothing, except my parents did stake me an education, and that was worth every penny they spent on it.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I was so broke once that I lived on free samples and crackers for two weeks. I walked wherever I could, and I put my car in neutral when going downhill to let gravity do its work whenever I had to drive since I couldn’t buy gas. While my wife and I are fairly poor, we usually don’t end up in any trouble. There were just some timing issues regarding money in and money out one month that forced us to take some fairly extreme measures so that we could pay all of the necessities (rent, electrical bill). And it wasn’t so bad. I went a little overboard so that my wife wouldn’t have to give up as much.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

In some of our worst times, when my first daughter was just a baby, my hubby was between jobs. There were a lot of trips to the grocery store when I bought just enough formula and baby food for my daughter to stretch for a week, and I bought bread, peanut butter and jelly and ramen noodles for my hubby and I.

downtide's avatar

Broke enough that I had to borrow from a friend to buy food for a week and a half before I got paid. We had a few rough months but thankfully not long-term.

Austinlad's avatar

Many years ago I was so broke I had to sell a collection of coins and bills that I’d been savings for years. That hurt, but what killed me was having also to sell a limited edition Rolex and Leica camera that had been my dad’s. Oy, I’m still sick about that. But the years since have been good to me, and I’ve made provisions to avoid a repeat of that experience.

Jeruba's avatar

We were so broke once between contracts that we went to a potluck empty-handed, came home with two leftover heads of lettuce, and lived for a week on lettuce sandwiches. My husband could bake two loaves of bread in those days from ingredients that cost 52 cents.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I was so broke that I stole my flat-mate’s block of cheese so I would not starve, once things got worse, I was so broke that me and my brother slept in fishing chairs next to a river for 4 nights.

Money has always been a challenge for me, not so much getting it, just managing it properly. I will be 28 years old soon, and it’s only just now that I have really learned to save for rainy days.

ETpro's avatar

Does selling blood for groceries count? At my lowest ebb, they were offering a free lunch in town, but I couldn’t scrape up the down payment for it.

chyna's avatar

I made a can of ravioli last me 3 days. I had swiped it from my mom’s pantry. I didn’t want her to know I was broke.

nikipedia's avatar

There was the time I had to borrow $1,300 from a friend to get home from Berlin.

There was the time my then-boyfriend’s card was declined, and strangers bought us breakfast because he was in uniform.

There was the time my card was declined, and the old Korean man at the bakery gave us breakfast anyway.

There was the time I had to use the $4.00 left on a gift card that I got with credit card points to buy enough gas to get home from work.

Axemusica's avatar

What? You mean there’s money out there?

cookieman's avatar

I drove a 1982 Buick Skylark (in 1994) that was literally held together with duct tape. The driver’s side door was fused shut, windshield wipers didn’t work and you had to jump it to start it as the ignition was broken. I kept a postcard over the looong expired inspection sticker.

In college, we figured a way to remove the glass from the vending machine and replace it intact (after removing some candy bars). Lived off of stolen candy for a week.

I slept in my studio in college many times and washed and changed in public bathrooms.

YARNLADY's avatar

I was a street person with my first husband for a few months. We would go to stores and ask for food, which kept us fed each day, and sometimes stay with relatives for a few days. We sometimes slept under the bushes. The local shelter had a shower we could use once a week, and we washed our clothes in the shower, as well. When he got a job, we rented a room in someone’s house.

shego's avatar

A couple years ago I lived in my car in an area I was unfamiliar with.
It all happened when I met a boy. He had lost his job, and I was working two to make sure I didn’t lose my apartment. Well it did. It was a tough time for me in general. I lost my mother my boyfriend left me, I lost my jobs and my apartment.
I could no longer afford my car and yet it was my home I had the repo guys following me and I had to keep hiding my car.
There was a time when I was trying to contact my dad for help and I had no money I walked into a store and asked to use a phone. One lady said I couldn’t and then the owner said I could and while I was talking to my dad and started crying telling him everything, that happened a guest in the store left $100 for me to eat and get gas so I could start heading home. If it wasn’t for the kindness of those people I don’t know what would’ve happened.

Not_the_CIA's avatar

I sucked dick for cocaine. <—Movie reference.

I had a place. But the electricity was off. I made fried potatoes over candlelight. Protip: you can sleep and they still won’t need to be flipped. 24 hours later I stole ketchup packets from Taco Bell. It wasn’t very good but I had food.

nikipedia's avatar

Man, I feel like the moral of this thread is that we should all look for opportunities to pay it forward.

Jeruba's avatar

We were so broke once that I borrowed $600 from a relative to buy groceries and pay the mortgage before my next freelance check came in. When I was down to $120 my babysitter came to me crying (I had a babysitter so I could work to earn money to pay the babysitter) and asked if she could borrow $100 so she could feed her family. I lent it to her because I didn’t want to tell her that was just about all I had.

funkdaddy's avatar

My family originally came to Texas because this is where we ran out of money while traveling with a carnival, my dad got a job as a laborer and we lived in our travel trailer for the first 2–3 years here.

The first Christmas that I can remember we ran out of propane to heat the trailer, we used a lantern to heat one room and just kept the door shut. KOA (campgrounds) was the only place open that had propane to sell and we only had enough for half a tank, my dad says they gave us a full tank anyway since it was Christmas.

I remember asking my parents one night why they were eating lettuce and not understanding why they were upset.

We bought our first TV with silver dollars and 50 cent pieces that my parents had saved from the carnival, I just remember being really happy I got to see The Dukes of Hazzard.

I was young and didn’t know anything was different from normal, I felt I had a great childhood. Everything since then has seemed kind of minor by comparison, the only time I stress about money now is when running out affects someone I love.

@Not_the_CIA – ya’ll want some burgers?

Not_the_CIA's avatar

@nikipedia – I’m a bit lucky that I always have family to count on if things get very bad. I had a 40 hour a week job and was sleeping in the park for months. First, last, and security can be a bitch. Shitty credit doesn’t help.

Aster's avatar

Broke and pregnant, we’d tear coupons off of a can to get cafe sandwiches at a discount. 1964.
Sandwiches never tasted so good. In college during summerschool, we had live mice in the oven and they ran across the bed which scared me to death.
I’ve never lacked a real bed with a roof over my head and it was never someone else’s.

SavoirFaire's avatar

So are we a really depressing bunch, or a really resilient bunch? Both?

chyna's avatar

@SavoirFaire Resilient. My first apartment had ice an inch thick on the walls one memorable winter. My mom took my dog so she wouldn’t freeze. But not me.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Young, first place of my own and too stubborn to ask anyone for money. After eating up all canned, dried, fresh and frozen stuffs I made franken-canneloni. I took a broken last strip of lasagne noodle from the box, filled it with a last egg (scrambled), a thumb sized chunk of cheese and then made a sauce from ketchup, water, pepper and an open partially used up packet of powdered spaghetti sauce. I had a few packets of sprinkle parmesean cheese, the kind you get complimentary with take out pizza and I used that as a topper when my creation came out of the oven. It was so cute, baked on a dessert plate and I ate it as slow as I could. I think it tasted good to me at that time.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@chyna See, now you’re just being funny and depressing. I’ve been snowed in for a few days with a landlord who couldn’t be bothered to free his tenants, but never have I had an inch of ice on my walls. An inch of mold in my first basement apartment, perhaps, but not an inch of ice.

Aster's avatar

@chyna you had ice INSIDE the apartment?? How did you keep warm? Or did you just freeze.

chyna's avatar

I had one teeny tiny heater that only warmed up the foot and a half in front of it. The walls were damp so they froze. I had to move to a friends house for 2 weeks until it got above freezing.
Funny, but I remember that was the week the airplane crashed into the Potomac river. I remember watching them air lift a stewardess out of the freezing water and feeling bad that I thought I was freezing, that had to have been so much worse.

Aster's avatar

I agree it must have been worse but at least it wasn’t her living quarters that froze. She was taken to her warm home.

downtide's avatar

@SavoirFaire I think we must all be resilient, because none of us are so broke any more that we can’t afford the internet. :)

SavoirFaire's avatar

@downtide Agreed!

Assuming no one here is “borrowing” wi-fi from a neighbor.

Bellatrix's avatar

When I was younger, I was made redundant and didn’t want to go on the dole (unemployment benefits) So I found this commission-only sales job where I earned a whole $30 over six months. Eventually I had spent all my savings and although I also had a Saturday job that kept me going, it pretty much paid for my bus fare and for cat food. I was living on porridge and custard because that was all that was in the cupboard. I lost a lot of weight but I wouldn’t recommend the porridge and custard diet! I had also always managed to scrape together enough to buy cat food and one day, my cat came in carrying a whole roast chicken. She had stolen it from someone’s house .. I didn’t but I tell you… I was very, very tempted. After that I realised things were just ridiculous and I had to do something. I went to my dad and asked him for $10 and having to do that was the end for me. I knew I had to get a real job and within a week I had another paying job that actually paid more than the job I had been made redundant from. It was a big learning curve.

anartist's avatar

I was so broke after the Lawsuit From Hell that I finally learned how to make ketchup soup, replace elastic in worn-out clothes, darn socks, and wash clothes in a sink.

Strauss's avatar

I was so broke, my home was a brand-new Cadillac, out of gas and not going anywhere, for about thee days.

anartist's avatar

@Yetanotheruser wow the real Welfare Cadillac of Johnny Cash fame, here sung by Guy Drake.

How did you end up with the new Caddy?

Strauss's avatar

This was 1978. I had just returned to town from a year in the oil fields, where I had been told I could make BIG BUCKS!!!. Made ‘em, and spent ‘em on housing and cost of living in the oil boom town…but that’s another story…

I came home to my parents’ house in Illinois, around Thanksgiving 1978, out of work, down to my last $150, and no prospects in sight, thinking an extended visit for the holidays would disguise my real reason for showing up broke. When my dad asked me, I told him I was just visiting, and I would leave after the holidays. What I didn’t tell him is that I did not know where I would be leaving to, or for what.

Then I found out that my friend, K was in town. K was also a musician, and we had jammed and had a few gigs together in years past. He told me he “knew some people” in LA and could probably get us some studio work there. Neither of us had any income, but he had some land in Mississippi that he would be able to use as collateral for a loan. Neither of us had a car, either, so we contracted to deliver this Cadillac to California. All that was required was a $150 deposit, and we would be responsible for gas, and for driving the car from Illinois to California. We had a 3-week window to do so. We had enough between us to get to Mississippi to his farm, and we would stay at the farm for the 2 or 3 days it might take to secure the loan.

So around the 4th of January, we took off, with everything we could load up in the Caddy, including our guitars. No amps, no other equipment, only our clothes and our guitars. We were riding in style (the first day)!

It was a nice enough winter day driving southward through Illinois, not much in the way of precipitation, until we got to West Memphis, Arkansas. It started to rain, then to sleet. We agreed that it would be time to stop for dinner, and see what the weather did. The weather got worse, so we got a room for the night.We did not want to risk the Caddy in any kind of ice storm! The next day the weather was even worse, so we stayed another night…and another night. The third morning, we decided to drive the 4 or 5 hours it would take to get to his farm. So we topped off the tank and headed south.

When we got to Mississippi, the bank in the town declined the loan. Something about not being able to make a loan on the pulpwood until the timber was cleared, or something like that.

So he borrowed some cash from a cousin, and we headed on down to New Orleans. It was there that we really ran out of cash, parked on Royal Street in the French Quarter. We couldn’t even put gas in the car to run the engine to charge the battery, that’s how broke we were. But that’s also when I found out I could make money singing on the street. K eventually turned the car in and forfeited the deposit, and left New Orleans for who knows where. I stayed in New Orleans for two more years.

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