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10 Reasons you're always asking yourself why am I brokeAre you one of those people always asking yourself, “Why am I poor?”

Payday just came and went and you’re already broke. The cycle repeats itself ad nauseum and it seems like you can never get ahead.

Well, you’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with this exact same problem. In fact, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account to cover an emergency expense.

To make things worse, 44.5% of us don’t even have a savings account. (If you don’t have a savings account yet, do yourself a favor and open one. Online banks are worth considering since they offer high interest rates on savings.)

But not everyone has the same reasons for being in this situation. Often, we ourselves are the cause of the financial straight jacket, whether we recognize it or not.

If you’re tired of struggling financially, see if an item on this list applies to you, and make a commitment to addressing the problem head on.

10 Tips to Help You Break the “Why Am I Poor” Cycle

If you’re asking yourself “why am I poor?” then you’re probably falling into one of the 10 pitfalls on the list below.

1. You make the B.I.G. mistakes

If you can focus on avoiding the B.I.G. mistakes, you’re taking the most important step to fix your money problems.

B: You Don’t Have a Budget

66% of Americans don’t have a budget.

Even a basic budget helps guide your spending decisions. If you have no idea where to begin, start with the 50/20/30 rule.

  • 50% of your net income on housing, food, transportation costs, and utility bills.
  • 20% into savings/paying off debt.
  • 30% for you.

This rule is based on your net income. Don’t make budgeting decisions on your gross pay or your taxes will cut into your plans.

I: You Ignore Your Money Problems

Stop asking yourself “why am I poor” and do something about it. Money problems can lead to immense stress, relationship strain, anxiety, and even depression. Tackle the problem head-on rather than ignore it.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. Take the time to educate yourself. It’s relieving to know that you took that first positive step in the right direction.

G: You Go Out Too Much

The 50/20/30 rule is especially helpful to people in this category. Those proportions start to look like 50/0/60 where you max out your spending on essentials, save nothing, and drive yourself into debt.

Whether it’s eating out, shopping, or the lottery, it doesn’t matter. It takes discipline/lifestyle changes to correct the root of your overspending problems.

Tip: If you’re looking to get ahead, focus on your spending in this category; it can make a huge difference as it is the easiest to change.

2. You are worried what others think of you

Everyone struggles with self-image.

Society exerts pressure to buy unnecessary things under the guise that you won’t fit in without them. It’s okay to treat yourself once in a while but don’t make a habit of it if you’re struggling to save money.

If someone audits your expenses each month, would results embarrass you?

3. You have expensive habits

If only the ATF dealt with gambling they’d be regulating the quadfecta of things that often deal a devastating blow to your take-home pay (pun intended).

Alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and gambling…they’re all addicting to various degrees.

See these figures:

  • The average smoker spends over $2,000/year ($5,000+ in NY)
  • The average adult spends over $500/year on alcohol
  • US households spend $162 yearly on lotteries on average; for low-income households, the figure is $289 and for those who make less than $10,000 it’s $597, or around 6% of their yearly income

If you’re working a full-time job and wonder where your money is going, you can probably figure it out.

4. You dropped out of school

Perhaps not literally, but maybe you fell short of your doctoral degree. That’s no big deal, but studies confirm that the more schooling you complete, the higher your income.

According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, over a 40-year career, a worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn $1 million more than a worker with just a high school diploma. That’s $2.42 million versus $1.37 million…a master’s degree bumps up that figure to $2.83 million.

A degree in certain fields isn’t always worth its weight in paper.

Do your homework and find something you enjoy that will provide value (and a positive return on your higher education investment).

5. You ignore the painful power of interest

It’s not uncommon for young people to max out on a credit card out of desperation. But that singular decision can have a lasting impact. Missing a payment lowers your credit score making it harder to get a car loan or that mortgage you’ve been hoping for.

But that’s not the only problem. It’s the crushing interest payments that result. If you only pay the monthly minimum (2% of the balance) on a credit card with a $5,000 balance and 15% interest rate, it will take 32 years to get rid the debt, and you will pay nearly $8,000 in interest on the original $5,000 balance.

Stop making minimum payments on things. You’re making it all but certain you stay in the “why am I poor” all the time cycle.

6. You spend too much time watching TV and surfing the Internet

Everyone needs some downtime to regroup, relax and refocus. But there is a difference between that and being lazy.

According to Thomas Corley (a Business Insider featured Author), 77% of people who struggle financially are spending an hour or more per day watching TV. On top of that, 74% are spending an hour or more surfing the Web. That’s two (or more) hours every day that you’re wasting time.

Conversely, wealthy individuals spend their time pursuing activities that promote self-improvement, volunteering, working a freelance job, or chasing a dream that might otherwise lead to more financial reward.

Stop asking yourself “why am I poor?” and do something about it.

You don’t have to make it your life’s work to get rich. But if you’re falling behind, stop wasting time on useless activities.

7. You think you can afford your house or car but you cant

Remember the 50/20/30 rule? Yes, it’s a guideline, and if you’re slightly tweaking it, that’s okay. But if you’re forgetting it completely, you’re digging yourself into a hole.

Consider this example:

Imagine you gross $60,000 per year and net somewhere around $42,000 after taxes.

50% of your monthly net income for essentials equates to ~$1,750/month.

If you assume your housing should be no more than 25-30% of your monthly net income (general rule); you can afford up to a $1,050/month mortgage.

Here is an example breakdown:

  • Housing: $1,050/month
  • Vehicles + Insurance: $400/month
  • Utilities: $200/month
  • Groceries: $300/month
  • Health + Dental Insurance: $150/month

Total: ~$1550/month.

Your basic essentials should cost $1,600-$1,750/month.

If you’re exceeding 60% on the essentials, you likely can’t afford your house and/or your car.

It may be time to look into selling one of them rather than driving yourself further into debt.

8. You buy only what you need at the time

The concept of buying things in bulk seems like the easiest thing to do – yet most people don’t do it.

Why?

Because people are afraid of sticker shock. Or receipt shock. Or whatever you want to call it.

Instead of getting sick over it, be proud of yourself. Buying in bulk saves a ton of money in the long run, as long as you’re not stretching yourself too thin during any particular month.

If it isn’t perishable, buy it in bulk.

9. You can’t ever seem to say “no” to a good sale

For some reason those little, red, flashy signs announcing that this item is 25% off! triggers something in your mind that goes something along the lines of “Wow! What a great deal. I simply must have this now.”

You saved $10.00 on a nice pair of paints. You also wasted $30.

Falling into this sales trap is something many people struggle with. Learn to say no.

When you’re at the store next time and are tempted to make that same type of purchase, do yourself a favor and move on.

10. You don’t have a side hustle

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you need a side-hustle. Here are some ideas to help you earn more money.

Drive with Uber: If you own a reliable vehicle and have some available nights and weekends, then sign up as a Uber driver. You can earn money for driving people to appointments, work, and errands.

Complete paid surveys: Earn money in your spare time by filling out paid online surveys. It’s a nearly mindless activity that you can do while watching TV or surfing the internet.

Become an Airbnb Host: Rent out a spare room in your home for some extra cash. It takes little work on your part but could help you stop the cycle that’s making you poor.

If you’re tired of struggling financially, there are literally hundreds of ways to make money.

If You’re Tired of Struggling Financially, Stop Asking “Why am I Poor”

Everyone has vices but don’t let them continually dictate your spending or savings decisions. Part of getting out of the “why am I poor” rut is to learn to make mature decisions about money.

Before you make that next big purchase, step back for 10 extra seconds and ask yourself is it something you need or something you simply want – then go from there.

Related: How to Start Managing Your Money Like an Adult

Author

Hi! I'm Ben. A personal finance nerd on a mission to help DollarSprout readers make and manage financial decisions. A quoted contributor for Business News Daily, Business.com, Discover Bank, Moneyish, Student Loan Hero, Policygenius, TechRepublic, and more, I work to help others live their financial best life.

9 comments
Lewis Perry

I don’t go out a lot and I don’t have any expensive habits. But I’m still poor. lol

Haha, I feel like that sometimes too. If you’re spending habits are good then you need to look into #10 more. Find a way to increase your income!

Ashley

My husband and I set up a budget this past September, hands down best decision we ever made. While our budget is still a work in progress and we don’t have a lot of wiggle room yet it’s getting better and we have some plans for expanding the wiggle room. The best part is the terrifying moments of not knowing when we could pay something or robbing Peter to pay Paul have mostly disappeared. We still have to work on staying within the budget sometimes but millions of times better than before.

That’s a huge first step. I think people are shocked at how much money they spend in certain areas and creating a budget is the easiest way to visualize how much $$$ you need just to get by each month. It’s such an eye opener. Congrats on getting one setup!

Karen

Interesting read, although most of it doesn’t apply to me. I’m not sure how much of this applies to those who live in Hawaii.

I’m not sure what you mean Karen? Most, if not all, of these items are universal in nature and shouldn’t really vary from state to state. Let me know if you have questions about any of them and I’ll be happy to help 🙂

Karen

Sorry, I stand corrected. I was referring to only #7, the 50/20/30 rule. Housing costs in Hawaii are outrageous. I would love to have a house payment like yours, even up to your 50% cap of $1050. Rent alone can be $1800 for a 2 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath townhouse. Over $2000 in some areas.

Sarah

In what category of the budget would you put daycare expenses for children?

Hey Sarah!

Childcare definitely falls under the essentials category (the 50 part of the 50/20/30 rule). I know that childcare can be expensive so try and be objective and treat it as any other mandatory utility you have to pay each month. Hope this helps!

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