I’m tired of having to explain that I’m broke. I understand that I don’t owe anyone an explanation. The fact that I feel that I do probably says more about my own boundaries than anything else. But the truth is that I’m a woman raised in this culture, and I do so often feel that I have to explain myself. Especially when I’m inundated by home sales people, fundraisers, and events- none of which I can afford.
And the things is that I probably don’t seem broke. That could be because I’m a veritable master of making a dollar stretch. I’m savvy and thrifty and able to figure out how to keep meeting my family’s needs, even when most nights will find me sitting down with a pen, paper, and calculator figuring out how much longer I have until this house of cards falls down. And the thing of it is that I didn’t entirely put myself in this situation. Trusting the wrong person- a poor choice, I know- put me deep into financial struggle, and it’s added stress when I have to explain to people that I would love to do this event or buy that piece of art in support of their work or support this fundraiser, but if I do so, I may not be able to pay my electric bill. Or the rent. Or any number of things I have to pay.
It’s humiliating in the extreme. Honestly, I try not to have to explain this. I try, in fact, to simply decline the invitation without explanation. Oftentimes, I find that I am inundated with requests that only stop when I admit that I just don’t have the available funds. That statement comes with this heavy load of shame because I feel that I should have the funds and don’t. The things I’m not able to afford to do or to buy could fill volumes.
My thriftiness lately has included consignment sales, donating plasma, and participating in paid research to keep the wolf from the door. It’s involved turning the heat down until its icy when my kids aren’t home because it doesn’t matter if I’m cold if they’re not. It involves doing whatever I can to make sure that they don’t feel just how tight things are while looking for the jobs and resources to end this constant worry about funds. This isn’t a bid for pity. I love that I’m a resourceful person and able to do what it takes to survive. But that doesn’t mean that I want it widely known.
Of course, here I am: publicly writing about it. But I do so because I know I’m not the only one to experience this struggle and the deep embarrassment that often accompanies it. The truth is that there are days I’m not successful at keeping up my optimism and find myself drowning in stress. Other times, envy creeps in when I see so many people doing just fine while I’m struggling to keep my head above water. Or I’ll hear people complain about being broke who have no idea just how good they’ve got it. In the meantime, my heart aches a little because their father can provide them with things that I simply can’t right now. And while I know my situation is temporary, the barrage of sales requests simply heightens my anxiety.
I’ve always been a resourceful person. When I filed for divorce, I had a baby, a toddler, and a home sales job that wasn’t bringing in a lot of income. I was able to relocate and start over then, and I know that I can do it now. I have pluck and grit, the two main qualities we need in a heroine in a story. It’s also quite useful in every day life when we’re required to be the heroes in our own lives. Because no one else is going to come along and save us, and once we accept that, we can get busy saving ourselves. That may mean taking on a side hustle or looking at ways to dramatically cut back our expenses. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
We all go through financial struggles. Many families live paycheck to paycheck. Many of us can’t afford the extras, and it can be stressful to continue to decline requests when we’ve already said a polite “no, thank you.” No, I can’t afford to sign up for your sales team. Or to meet for an expensive concert. My budget involves breaking open a piggy bank for gas money; it doesn’t extend to splurging on a fundraiser or donating money to a worthy cause. And while we won’t always struggle for funds, our stress is exacerbated by pushy sales people and aggressive fundraisers during these tough times.
May this be your friendly Public Service Announcement: When it comes to sales of any kind, please take the first “no” that you hear. What’s on the other side of that no may be a yawning abyss of debt, struggle, and general hardship that no one wants to have to explain. We don’t want to have to tell you about the money that was borrowed that won’t be paid back or the mounting medical bills or the job loss that caused a difficulty. We don’t want to have share our private situations in order to decline what you’re offering. Ask once, and then go about your day. You can always check back at some future time, but persistent attempts may only make someone’s struggle all the more difficult.