You just logged in to Bank of America and the account balance staring back at you is $21. Yikes! And that’s assuming one of your regular online purchases, such as your weekly subscription to Manhunt, doesn’t go delete even more. Dread sets in: there are a full 10 days to go before your next paycheck directly deposits. You don’t know how you got here. It just sort of happened. But here you are, again. By now you’re used to the calm, refreshing feeling of having new money splash into your account come payday. Having money again makes you sigh “aaah,” like the calm you get after taking a nice, much needed piss.
So — $21! How will you stretch those one’s over 10, long days?
When you’re down to your last few dollars, nobody needs to know you can barely afford to take the subway. Now is not the time to be a hot mess, people! That’s why I like to dress up even more than I usually do when I’m running out of cash. Being broke can really mess up your productivity, because you’re like depressed and all that, so you have to counter-act the temporary poverty by making yourself feel great! I’m broke but fabulous, baby.
There’s no worse place to be broke than New York City. Every thing costs money, and everywhere you go you’re reminded of just how rich everybody else is. So you roll your eyes at annoyingly rich people like it’s their fault you don’t have any money. “You know what, eff you and your $300 haircut, hipster!” even though you just had a $300 haircut last week. You don’t notice until you’re on your last dime that feeling human is really about having a couple zeroes in your bank account.
And speaking of last dimes, what you need to do is find all those stray coins around your apartment, any from your pocket, hidden in the couch, and any remaining coinage from the last time you did laundry. Throw it all in a giant Ziploc bag and carry that shit over to the nearest grocery store with a Coinstar machine and turn those coins into dollar bills, baby. But don’t get too excited about pouring the coins. Let’s not ruin the surprise! Put them through the machine slowly, small handful-by-small-handful, so you can be warmed up to how much the screen tells you there is at the end. $15 in coins! Wow! Keep your expectations low.
And since you’re already at the grocery store, it’s time to think about what kind of food you’re going to buy that will last. Spend the majority of what you have left on food, so at least you won’t pass out from starvation when you’re at the Bikram yoga class you already paid for. But don’t just buy ramen. That’s borrring. Ramen is the first thing we go to when we think of a tight budget, and I know you can be more creative than that! And, anyway, Ramen really tears my stomach up, so I just don’t go there. Get a couple boxes of rice — I like Zatarain’s brand Spanish Rice. Nobody said being poor means sacrificing good flavor. Or you could make a big, hearty pot of something that will last a few days — like spaghetti or chili. I love me some chili, and at one point I switched from making chili because I liked it and making chili because it was what I could afford. My roommate used to come home and go, “Girl, you waiting on your paycheck, huh?” Yep.
Let’s be real. It’s not that you’re poor… you just massively overspend, every month. It’s the American way! You can make $200k or $20k and still float from check to check. But it’s not until you’re in the red that you realize just how expensive your habits are. Normally you just fling that debit card around like it’s nothing. Do you need the $15 issue of French Vogue every month? Is that $10 artisanal honey necessary for your ability to live? Will a $300 haircut make you that much sexier?
The answer is YES, because it’s not like you’re going to change your spending patterns. You’ll just suffer through it, the masochist you are, until 12:01 a.m. the day your check hits and new money splashes over you and you do it all over again.