My name is Nina and yes, I am the broke friend.
I am the one who has to bow out of a trip because of funds, leaving my besties to pay slightly more for that hotel room (but seriously, I have to pay rent this month). I am the roommate that caps our future rent lower than my roomie would like when looking at new apartments (but seriously, do you want me to be able to pay the bills every month or not?). I am the girlfriend that makes my boo dinner to celebrate his work accomplishments instead of taking him out (but seriously, in this case, I am actually a great cook…and more importantly, a home cooked meal is cheaper).
I'm that friend.
Being that friend is new to me. I have never been in this position before in my entire life. I love giving gifts and treating people. I used to be the first one to say, "This round is on me!" and with a grin because it truly was my pleasure. But that changed in the past year when I decided to chase my passion, and finally put that Creative Writing degree to use. Now, I am a freelancer and I am doing something I absolutely love.
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Oh, and by the way, I am broke AF.
I am also working harder than I ever have before; hustling as hard as I can so I can increase my income and replace my savings. Because that's the thing: My whole life, whether I was working for a corporation that employed many thousands of people or a firm that housed hundreds, I set aside 10% of my paycheck and contributed to my 401k every single month. That was what I was raised to do. That was what I thought was responsible. And I am glad that I did those things because that meant, for most of my adult life so far, I never had to worry about money. I never had to cancel plans because of my bank account balance. I never had to think about every purchase and whether it was a "need" or a "want."
But moving back from the west coast to my Midwest family and starting my own business required some cash. I had it (thanks to how I was taught to handle money) but I do not have it anymore. There is no wiggle room, which is a completely new feeling. Saving 10% of what I make? Am I laughing or crying at that concept (I can't tell)? I am perched on a very thin balance beam, walking a very thin line, but I am doing it.
I know I will get money's good graces again, but in the meantime, there are some bummers. Brunch? What brunch? I am making eggs on my stove and there is no Veuve in my orange juice (add a good mimosa with friends to the list of things I miss). For the most part, I do not mind when it is just me. But being the broke friend is a whole other animal because my lack of funds can affect other people and I am keenly aware of it.
I know that it is so lame to be my friend right now. And I am sorry. Those unique gifts tailored perfectly to you? Yeah, I am not buying them anymore. I cannot buy them anymore. Please enjoy this card I thoughtfully picked out instead (which is still a luxury for me). I am sure that my lack of dough can be a bummer for you because it does affect the things we do together. But it also does not feel great when I have to tell you that I have to skip that trip or that I can only afford X amount of rent when apartment hunting or that I will not be going to that bar with $15 cocktails. I am truly sorry, friends.
Fortunately, I think my ride or dies are as understanding as possible. That's the things about my best friends, they love me, they get it, and they want the best for me…even when it messes with their lives.
But I'm still the broke friend and there is nothing fun about that. I have found growth in my new role and teachable moments, but fun is not a word I would use. I choose to find being the broke friend humbling, but it could easily be humiliating.
All I ask is for a little grace. In return, I promise not to be jealous over your paycheck – especially since I chose this life – or envy the condo your parents gifted you on Lakeshore Drive or covet your inheritance. I want the best for you and support you just as you do me.
And someday in the future, I promise I will buy you a $15 cocktail to thank you for your understanding during this time. In the meantime, you can find me hustling.