The Secrets to Staying Positive in Poverty

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It’s no secret that entering adulthood at this time is not easy, or cheap. Millennials, students especially, have been faced with a difficult progression into financial stability. It often feels like the system is built against you, especially if you belong to a marginalized community. Women are more consistently victims of poverty due to a global wage gap of approximately 23%. It’s an even greater challenge for women of colour, women in underdeveloped countries, and young women just beginning to enter the workforce.

Beyond that, living in poverty is a tough topic to cover. It’s obviously upsetting, but also many people experiencing financial hardship feel embarrassed and unable to talk about it. Even writing this post was a big step for me – but the fact of the matter is a shocking 4.9 million Canadians live below the poverty line (1 in 7 Canadians!). Although this is a testament to how much we need to improve, it also shows those of us making up that 4.9 million that we are not alone.

I’ve admittedly been through a bit of a rollercoaster recently, which has led me to be especially strapped for cash. But I simultaneously am probably at the best point of my life right now. That sounds like a lie, I know! But I genuinely am having so much fun, have been embracing my passions, and have high hopes for the future. Yes, I would be much happier if I had any sort of financial stability. But I am living proof that it’s possible (although difficult) to stay positive in the midst of financial hardship.

Standing in solidarity

Perhaps the most important thing is to remember that almost everyone you know is either in the same place as you or has been there in the past. The stigma around talking money shouldn’t be as intense as it is (again, 1 in 7 Canadians live in poverty!). Yes, it’s important to be sensitive when talking about finances with others. However, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to share your own experiences, especially if they’re weighing on your mind. Being able to talk freely about finances is essential in order to lessen the weight it holds on all of us.

So seriously, speak up! Especially around good friends. In my experiences, peer pressure almost exclusively happens when I don’t want to spend money. If you’re invited out, you’re allowed to say, “You know what? I’m actually trying to save money right now.” More often than not, friends not only understand, but will offer a cheaper social option. For example, a cheap wine and movie night, which I’ve mentioned is my all-time favourite activity.

Educate Yourself!

Working for MAG has really changed my perspective as it forced me to focus on my money. It’s taken some time for me to realize that it’s not about reflecting on how broke you are; it’s about learning techniques to help you out of that. The more you educate yourself in the world of personal finance, the more tools you have in your toolbox. It’s as simple as that. And there is endless information on how to cut expenses in your day-to-day life, while sacrificing as little of your lifestyle as possible.

Not only have I started to educate myself on how to save or make money, but I’ve also come to realize that I’m not alone in this fight. The personal finance community is such a fantastic example of solidarity, which can be very comforting. As you gain a sense of community, you also come across success stories of people working their way out of financial hardship, which is so motivating! It helps you remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel (I promise!).

Invest even small dollars in your future

I know it’s hard to imagine investing money when you’re just scraping by, but it’s actually been really motivational for me. It’s a frequent topic of conversation with my colleagues as they’re pretty convinced I’m making a huge mistake.

I understand where they’re coming from, though, because the truth is investing while broke can be life-changing in either direction. Ensure you’re only giving what you can! It’s one thing to try to secure your financial future, but you can’t go too far. Investing will be useless if you just end up draining your savings account. I don’t give a ton of money to my investment profiles. I’ve shared in my budget, usually investing about $55/month. I’ve had to make some sacrifices in order to do this, but since it’s things like cutting back on Starbucks, it seems like the best decision!

One of the things I love the most about sticking with my investments is for the motivation. Wealthsimple (which is what I use) and most other investing services will show you a graph of the predicted growth within your account based on your current rate. Sometimes I’ll just sit and stare at this graph! Taking a look at where I could be in X amount of years reassures me in my decision, and can be really comforting.

Treat yourself in small ways

Surviving within your means can be degrading and, frankly, depressing. Trust me, I know. Although you should be realistic about how far your money can stretch, it’s also important to take care of yourself. I support making splurging a part of your routine, but be realistic about what splurging means within your budget. For example, I buy Starbucks twice a month, and I eat out twice a month as well. Yes, they’re small rewards, but if I didn’t schedule these into my budget I know I would end up splurging on something far more expensive at some point!

Although larger purchases can be healing, treating yourself should mainly be about focusing on your mental health when you need to. Financial hardship can really take a toll, so it’s important to indulge in things that make you feel better. This can cost nothing! For me, I need to schedule time to sketch or read poetry in order to center myself. These are pretty cost-effective hobbies, and they make a world of difference. It’s more about the mindset than the money – be sure to schedule some time for yourself!

Keep Your Eye on the Future

I’ll be honest: I repeat “one day I’ll have my own apartment” in my head probably about 40 times a day. You may be forced into an especially tight budget right now, but it doesn’t last forever. I know the way you pictured adulthood as a kid was probably a lot different than what you’re living right now. It sucks!

But the worst thing to see for me is when my colleagues are so overwhelmed with their finances that they seem to give up entirely. In reality, this is just digging yourself a deeper hole. In short – please don’t give up! Keep looking at that graph in your Wealthsimple app and keep your heart set on the future.

I am sending love out to any of you who are experiencing financial hardship. It’s a tough topic to cover, but I’m there with you. I hope these tips can help you find some peace!


About Author

A professional writing student at York University, Toronto. A newbie in the world of personal finance, but writing with MAG I've got the perfect teacher! Literary nerd, writer, and coffee enthusiast.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing! Another suggestion is to find a like minded community. The instrgram #debtfree community is really active and for some it might be easier to connect virtually rather than talk to friends.