I have to first qualify what it means to be single and broke in America. I do have a roof over my head and food to eat, so in the context of the big picture, I am much richer than most people on the planet. And I am grateful, really grateful. I also live better than most people in say, Appalachia, and I am employed.
But for my fellow single sisters and brothers, I am sure you can relate when I say my coworkers who live in two-income households have no clue about the struggle to make due on one income, and I sometimes grow weary of their logic. For instance, while recently discussing how difficult it was to keep my two dogs on expensive flea and heart worm medicine, one helpful and married coworker told me about a doggy credit card he uses to pay his pet’s veterinarian bills. It’s like he doesn’t realize that credit cards, too, are real money that must be paid back.
Suffice it to say that for those of us who live alone and must single handedly pay all of our most basic expenses, we have to make do with a lot less. The world has not become a cheaper place. In other words, there is no one to split the high costs of rent, food, or utilities, so “extras” like clothes, health care, and healthy food are a real challenge. There are the rare days when I am just fed up with being broke and you may catch me belly aching over what I don’t have, because honestly it is sometimes exhausting, but mostly its just made me a more interesting and clever person. When you are living on a limited income, by necessity you are forced to think outside the box and you become thankful for the small things.
So if you find yourself in a similar place, here are five suggestions that may make life more fun, meaningful, and interesting while you wait for “the one” or pay off your student loans.
1. Learn to Cook
Most of us on a limited income know that we can’t afford to eat out very often, so why not learn to cook, and I mean cook well. Stop eating junk and make nutritious meals. Your future mate will thank you later. There is nothing less sexy than a man or woman who can’t rattle a few pots or pans and make some magic. I have used this time to learn to bake bread, cook Thai, and meal plan like an expert. I rarely buy lunch or breakfast out so I try to come up with interesting meal plans that help me keep on track with my fitness goals and my budget. Did you know you can make your own mayonnaise? I didn’t either. You get the idea. And for you men, chicks dig a guy who can actually do something in the culinary department. Hone your grill skills or master a few signature meals.
2. Learn to Entertain Yourself
I do not subscribe to cable or satellite television, but I do watch a lot of Netflix and YouTube. However, when you are just tired of the mindlessness of it all, why not read a book and learn something new. I am a curious person and love to read books on history, science, food politics, and interesting biographies. I have learned a great deal about a lot of subjects and it is mind blowingly restorative to sit in a comfy spot with my two dogs nearby and read in silence. It really raises your peace level up and dials down the noise. A little solitude is good for the soul. And honestly, I can’t stand a man who can’t converse on something besides sports or gaming. There is nothing wrong with these hobbies, but know something about the world or a little history. Curious, smart people up the attractiveness scale.
When the weather is nice, lace up your sneakers and go for a walk. I love to walk with my dogs and just listen to the sounds of nature and feel the breeze on my face. Leave the earbuds at home. Walking gets the blood flowing and often when I get back to my house, I am more energized to tackle chores I loathe like washing my car by hand or weeding an outdoor bed. If you live in the city, even better. Take pictures of beautiful buildings and interesting people. Splurge on a coffee somewhere to people watch when you get tired. Get inspired to do what you can with what you have now.
3. Curate the Shopping Urge
When I am bored with my usual diversions and have been digesting too much media depicting beautiful home interiors and fashion I can’t afford, I go shopping. But not like the average person. I can spend an entire Saturday afternoon searching for just the right used side table, coffee table, shelf, file cabinet, curtain, you name it. Second hand shops are great places to purge your desire to spend on yourself without blowing your budget. A great find in a second hand store can also up the entertainment factor when you must bring it home and sand or paint it. I have covered bulletin boards with matching fabrics for my office, found vintage frames and made my own posters on my computer that I printed at Office Depot. I’ve made pillows, signs, and other home décor and learned some new skills. I also buy a lot of my clothes at second hand shops. Nothing beats the feeling of snagging a designer blazer or blouse for just a few dollars.
Be a person who knows how to do something. You might be stuck in that crappy apartment for a while, why not make it your home and learn a few things along the way. Men tend to think big—and that’s why I love you, but the journey is what makes the man. Crafting isn’t just for women.
4. Massage Your Network
It can be difficult to socialize on a budget, but I am learning new ways to connect with people and stay connected with loved ones far away. Unfortunately for me, I live in a very rural area so there are not many groups I can join with like minded people, but I would highly recommend Meetup for finding your tribe.
Coworkers who you actually enjoy being around can be a source to build friendships or bonds if you are willing to play host. You can plan a night of card games with appetizers and drinks. Guest can contribute or bring their own bottle or you can plan a cookout if your space allows. You supply the grill and the basic entree and let others contribute. I always enjoyed entertaining, and if the makeup of your cohorts lends itself to a get-together, show off your new cooking skills and your crafted crib.
Finally, when I am lonely for company and communication, I reconnect with family and friends the old-fashioned way—I call them. It can take the sting out of a particularly lonely Saturday between paychecks. Men tend to go into their cave and dream about how successful they will be when they emerge some day. Well no man is an island and people don’t always want to hear about your life when it is going well. Stay in touch with those who love you.
5. Accept the Present
I have been married and divorced and I have had children, friends, and lovers who have come and gone over the years. I have experienced busyness and abject loneliness and loss and here’s the best advice I can give you. Enjoy where you are. Nothing remains the same forever and life is made up of a series of lack, want, fullness, and joy. It’s a beautiful tapestry of time mixed with pain and longing and fulfillment and peace. There is an art to acceptance that can bring peace. Acceptance isn’t about giving up or burying your dreams, it’s about coming to terms with where you are at in your life and preparing for where you will be in the future. Let where you are have its full effect, including being single and broke. Reign well.