At times throughout my life I have been poor. I’ve been homeless, when I was married my now ex husband lost his job and for 12 months had no permanent job, we managed but sometimes we had to borrow money from my parents, we got into some debt and when I separated from him the first time I relied on the single parents pension. Over the last 2 years, while my income increased, my circumstances made it very difficult to live (read about some here) – leaving a violent home, assault, stalking, divorce, robbery, homelessness, mental health issues and more. Life was far from peachy!
Some of the reasons people end up on the streets or homeless are outside their control, in fact in Australia around half the people who are homeless are homeless because of domestic violence and almost half our homeless are under 25! I was one of them, a 24 year old single mum with 2 young children living in a garage in 2009. On daughter was 2 years old, the other 9 months old.
At that time, I relied on the pension to survive and didn’t want anyone to know how bad my situation was. It was within months of setting my goal and starting my blog Aspiring Millionaire. It was a struggle, but things worked out and for a while life was good. In 2012 that changed and I separated, which led to some of the scariest times of my life. On top of all of this, my daughters were diagnosed with learning disorders and some other issues. Parent children with extra needs is not easy and costs a whole lot more.
Throughout it all I maintained hope. I also never realised I was classed as homeless until I was no longer homeless. I never realised I was living on the poverty line. I simply lived my life, aimed higher than where I was at and focused on creating a better, stable and secure life for my daughters.
I am no longer in that situation. I live in a house we love (I moved recently and I know the landlords won’t be selling or moving back in for a very long time.), my daughters are settled in school, I have some regular work as well as the variable income from my blogs and other projects.
So how do you stop being poor?
1.) Change your mindset
Part of being poor is the mindset. I knew I was not doing well, but I refused to believe I was poor or that I was going to stay in that situation. I maintained an attitude of gratitude, I tried to look for opportunities and see the positive in situations. I had little break downs and cried at times, as my family knows, but overall I tried to maintain hope. I set goals, had a vision board and surrounded myself with visual reminders of where I was heading instead of focusing on the fact I was a single mum living in Western Sydney with half a lounge, a couple of beds and not much else.
A friend living in Tonga wrote about how to maintain an abundance mindset when living in poverty which I think really helps.
2.) Don’t be too proud to ask for help
My situation could have been much easier if I had not been too proud to ask for help. I was struggling and could have had bills paid, gone to the food banks or been given food hampers, clothes and things to help live. I did reach out for help a few times, but was turned away by my church in Sydney, by shelters because they viewed what had happened as too violent and I was a risk to others in the shelters and I gave up. I had support from a friend in Sydney and my family, but I was not really open about how bad my situation was. Instead I pretended all was ok and pushed through.
Ask for help and never be too proud to take what is offered. Don’t use it as a long term plan, but having some bills paid, food on the table and clothes certainly helps reduce the financial pressure and short term can assist you in getting back on your feet.
3.) Take action and trust in yourself
Changing your situation is up to you. You need to want to do it, take action and make the necessary changes. Unfortunately, in some places it seems once someone starts to get ahead or improve their lives, others try to cut them down. It’s called tall poppy syndrome. This makes it very difficult to change your life because you will lose friends and that hurts. However, those that truly want you to succeed and want to help will be there and encourage you.
While you do need to ask for help and get support, ultimately your life and how it turns out is up to you.
4.) Focus on saving something
As hard as it can be, try to save even $10 from your income. If you spend everything that comes in, if anything major happens such as your car breaking down, you won’t have the money to fix it. Start saving some money for the future and some money for emergencies. Check out 6 savings plans you can do for some ideas.
5.) Get out of debt
Debt is significantly easier to get into than it is to get out of. Commit to taking on no more debt and work towards clearing the debt you have. Write down all debts you have including how much you owe, repayments and interest rates. Maintain the repayments on all while focusing on clearing one debt at a time by putting any extra money you can on that debt. As each debt is cleared, put the money you were using to pay it off onto the next debt and so on until you are debt free. It may take years, but it is worth it. As you decrease your debt and life becomes more manageable, increase your savings as well. Once the debt is gone, put all the extra money you were paying in debt towards savings to really improve your financial situation.
6.) Make more money
How much you can save from the money you currently earn is limited. Get into the habit of living below your means so as your income increases you are able to save more instead of continually living beyond your means.
Look at ways you can make more money. I wrote 365 Ways To Make Money, which has ways to make money, how to do them, how to get started, free and cheap advertising tips and more. I’ve written numerous articles on ways to make money. Look at your skills, look at what you can sell, look at needs you can possibly fill then go out and make money with those things.
7.) Make necessary changes
It is one thing to know what you need to do, another to do it. Make the changes to your life, cut back on expenses where you can, make more money and take action.
8.) Help others
Helping others has been by far the most important thing for me to do. Helping others distracted me from my own issues, helped me be grateful for what I have and gave me something to do. For example, when I was doing haircuts up at The Blue Door, I looked forward to it because I knew each week I would see people I knew, hear their stories, how their week has been and I enjoyed it.
Right now I am involved in the Community Sleepout, with a fundraising goal of $5,000. It happens in November and anyone can join in. Getting involved in community events like this is a great way to meet people, contribute and give back to the community. This helps significantly with changing your mindset.
So what will you do to change your circumstances? Have you overcome hardship, poverty or gone from being what might be considered poor to well off?
You might also like:
What to do if you are or are at risk of becoming homeless
Financial help for domestic violence victims
Complete list of things you can use your Australian pension/healthcare card for