How To Be Happy (Even When You’re Dirt Poor)
Are you feeling miserable because you’ve got no money, can’t make your loan payments and are suffocating under the debts piled up on top of you?
Or maybe the situation has progressed to the point where you’re now in depression. Financial problems are affecting your state of mind, your motivation and your overall mood.
You’re overwhelmed by negative thoughts. And it’s seriously affecting your life – your family, your work, your health and everything around you.
You think there’s no hope for anything because you’re in financial hardship. No way to enjoy life. No way to feel happy. But you’re wrong!
Read on to discover how you can be happy even when you’ve lost everything and are dirt poor.
There are definitely many ways to feel better than you do right now. So let’s get to it!
#1 Poor means different things to different people
If you think you’re poor, you’re more likely to feel unhappy, even when you’re significantly better off than most people.
Unless you’re homeless or really living below the poverty line, you may not be as poor as you feel. Relative to how much money you used to have/make, you may be in a poorer state. But that doesn’t mean you are in such financial hardship to the point that you’re unable to be happy.
So, get this clear in your head – if you realize that despite having a lot less than before, you can still live a blessed life that’s comfortable, then you already have the foundations to live a good life.
#2 Sit Back n Have a realistic review of your situation
A great deal of avoidable suffering is caused by an inaccurate interpretation of reality that makes things out to be worse than it actually is.
We have a tendency to make faulty assumptions, jump to wrong conclusions and end up suffering because of these misunderstandings. Try to have clarity of mind when thinking through what’s going on in your life.
A good strategy is to go to bed early, get some quality sleep and then wake up before your normal day starts to get some peaceful time to get in touch with your thoughts. You’ll be amazed how your outlook may change as you do some thinking while watching the sun rise or being in touch with nature.
#3 What is causing the financial strain n hardship
Money problems tend to affect many areas of life which make it seem like your whole world is collapsing. It can be overwhelming.
To be happier when you’ve become poorer, you need to come to terms with what’s happened. To do that effectively, it helps to know what caused it exactly and to accept the outcome.
It may have been your doing or brought about by something beyond your control. Either way, what matters is to acknowledge it fully, and move on.
#4 Sudden income hit / savings depletion / job loss
Everyone gets used to their monthly income and continually strives for more. It’s never enough, unless we can manage our expectations to want more, buy more, be more.
The system makes us consume endlessly and even lends us money to buy what we can’t afford. We are given loans we can’t pay back. And when the income that this is all shakily built upon is affected, it can all come tumbling down very quickly.
You could have been – and should have been – more financially responsible. But be aware that you’ve also been played. You didn’t end up where you are now by chance. It was by design.
There are hundreds of millions of people who fell into the same mess that you’re in. Many adapted to a new path towards happiness while others let the mishap rule their lives.
The choice is yours.
#5 Sudden expenditures ie medical or other
Large unforeseen expenditures are one of the main causes of bankruptcies. Even if they don’t wipe you out completely, you’re left in a much poorer state.
These events are normally not your fault directly, but you have to live with the consequences.
The natural response may be to have a victim mindset, which isn’t productive at all. In fact, this approach may have long term negative effects as you resort to a life of misery.
To be happy, you should have a larger view that this has happened to millions of others, you’re nothing special and this is just a fact of life.
You need to accept it and move on. Even better, is for you to learn from the experience and take positive steps. For example, if it was a medical emergency that caused the big expenditure, then you can lead a healthier lifestyle going forwards to avoid a similar health crisis happening in the future.
#6 Were you happy when finances were better
Finding the root cause of your unhappiness can be a lot harder than you think. Very often, the thing that you think is the cause, is only a superficial effect.
It is common for people to believe that they’ll be happy when they’re rich.
While it’s true that a lot of personal suffering can be avoided without having to worry about money, you won’t automatically be happy.
If you’re feeling unhappy now, ask yourself if you were really happy when your finances were better. Think clearly to identify why you’re unhappy now. Go deep and be critical, rather than accepting the superficial reasons that jump to mind.
Keep asking ‘why’ to explore how a particular issue can cause you so much misery and whether it truly is the main cause of your unhappiness.
As you sift through your thoughts, you must be honest with yourself. People normally blame their inability to be happy on the financial difficulties they’re going through, but the real problem is often rooted much deeper and has little to do with money.
You may find that even during the times when you were richer, you had underlying issues that kept you from living a contented and joyful life. But back then, you simply had money to buy plenty of distractions that numbed – or covered up – the pain.
Without any artificial support, you now need to face your demons. So, take on the challenge to free yourself from whatever has been holding you back all these years.
If you want to be happy, regardless of whether you’re rich or poor, you have to address the unresolved conflicts from your inner self.
#7 Why or how were you happy previously
Money problems can cloud your mind and make it seem impossible to be happy.
A good way to rediscover joy is to reflect back on the bright periods in your life and figure out what made you happy. Was it meaningful relationships, exciting adventures, personal enlightenments, or just the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
There will be many things and people that can’t be replicated today, but you should be able to get lots of ideas on how to reconnect with things you enjoy.
For example – you may not be able to take that luxury cruise again, but maybe it was the adventure that was the real spark, and you may be able to get a similar uplift by exploring a national park nearby.
Focus on the positives of what you can do, rather than having a defeatist attitude. Being happy is much more about your mindset and not dictated by your wallet.
If you were a cheerful person before, you should be able to reignite your jovial self.
Life has a way sidelining the fun inner child in us. The seriousness of being an adult doesn’t have to take over every aspect of your life.
Be responsible and be wiser, but don’t forget to be silly, be adventurous and be curious too. As you know, life was happier and more fun as a kid, so take a few pages from your childhood to revive the lifelessness you may be feeling.
#8 Was your past happiness because of material things
A lot of people who have had a downturn in their personal finances struggle to be happy because they can no longer have the material things they are used to.
While it’s normal to be affected by the impact of having less money, it doesn’t mean you can’t be happy anymore.
If your happiness was previously propped up by constant shopping sprees, fancy dinners, decadent getaways and a life that revolved around spending money, then a change in fortunes may force you to explore your true self underneath the layer of artificial uplifts.
For many, this may be a sobering experience, especially if you’ve let material wealth define who you are and what makes you happy.
There’s no choice but to face reality and accept your life has taken a turn. You can view the future to be a different adventure or an unbearable thought. It’s your choice.
It’s up to you to decide what sort of life you choose to have going forward. Those with a positive mindset will make the most of the situation and appreciate what they still have rather than wallow in what’s lost.
It’s a chance to find true happiness without needing luxuries to give life meaning. It’s a chance to have real friends who value you for who you are more than what you are. It’s a chance to build meaningful relationships with those around you, and more importantly, with yourself.
#9 You still have what it takes to be happy
if you didn’t care much for the extravagant lifestyle when you were well to do, then being poorer should not affect you as much.
The slide from rich to average, or middle income to poor will definitely still be a major blow. But your foundations for happiness should still be intact.
You are probably one of the lucky few who didn’t let the wealth get to your head, which makes it much easier to let go. You were defined by your character, your values, your actions, and your mindset. Not by your material belongings, social status and acquaintances.
For some, turning a new leaf may be a breath of fresh air. With such a positive attitude, even if all the money’s gone, the heart and soul is still rich, and that has all the makings of a happy person.
#10 Reconsider restructuring financial setup
All things being equal, two people can have very different levels of stress in their lives because of their financial planning (or lack of).
Even if you’re poor – and maybe even more so if you’re poor – it is essential to be well organized and disciplined when managing your personal finances.
By living paycheck to paycheck, and/or mismanaging high interest credit card debt, you will be making the situation worse and increasing your anxiety by being out of control.
Without a clear picture of your income (regardless of amount) and fixed monthly commitments, you won’t know how much you have or don’t have to spare. And you won’t know what you have to cut back on, or what major changes that are critical to make.
All too often, people hide from the ugly truth and use their credit cards to defer the problem. This may postpone the inevitable, but it is a sure way to keep you tense and worried. Because deep down, you know you’ve got a huge life changing problem that isn’t going to go away.
So unless you confront the financial predicament you’re in, it is unlikely that you will be truly happy.
#11 Are certain expenditures really necessary or can they be exchanged for greater happiness
When you’re unhappy because you’re poor, one way to ease the tension is to cut back on your spending.
You may still be poor, but by taking action to save more, you can be less poor or prevent yourself from becoming even poorer.
You may not think it makes a difference – after all, you’re already so deep in debt anyway – but you’ll be surprised by how small positive moves in the right direction can help you regain control of your finances and emotional well-being at the same time.
Spending money is easy, but cutting back on expenses you’ve become used to is tough. You need to do some soul searching to reassess what’s meaningful to you and what matters more.
There’s always something you can cut back on when you analyze your monthly outgoings. It will feel like an impossible task to forego anything. But if you can, the immediate financial emergency that’s totally stressing you may be alleviated.
Ask yourself if you can trade that particular item for less stress and more happiness. This may mean letting go of the second family car to use public transport more, or doing away with the annual vacation, or maybe downgrading certain things rather than cutting it out completely.
Or, it may mean eating out less, drastically reducing the amount spent on alcohol/smoking, or giving up unnecessary online shopping/gaming.
Let’s be clear – you can definitely find plenty of reasons to justify all of these expenditures, so don’t approach them from a ‘do I need it or not’ angle.
When unhappy, our minds will find all sorts of excuses to get us to spend on things to numb the pain. Instead, focus on your determination to solve the financial problems in your life, and how any cut back is a step closer to that all important goal.
#12 Spend less for less suffering and more happiness
Critically examining the things you spend money on can reveal a lot about your mindset and values.
You may be shocked to discover how some expenses are just a force of habit, some are from silly beliefs that are no longer relevant, and some that can be sacrificed for the sake of less stress and more happiness.
You can save money – to be less poor – by taking on tough questions like:
- Do I need to pay so much rent to live somewhere above average just for status/convenience?
- Does it make sense to pay such a large chunk of each month’s paycheck on the unaffordable car loan?
- Should our family have hardship/unhappiness just to keep the kids in a private school?
- Why do I need to spend so much more on branded clothes, upgrading gadgets unnecessarily, and accumulating stuff that feel like a must-have initially, but end up being another shiny object that just makes my financial problems worse?
There’s an inevitable link between our quality of life, our mindset, our financial standing and the way we spend money.
In our overwhelmingly consumerist and material world, we have been conditioned to feed our egos and focus on our external image/status. The endless rat race and constant ‘Keeping Up with the Jones’ catches up with most people eventually.
Unless you’re one of the fortunate few, you will be spending more than you can afford to prop up your lifestyle. When this blows up, you will be forced to face reality and question the beliefs you once held so tightly.
When you don’t have money to buy the glitzy happiness anymore, the path towards a joyful life means finding inner meaning and contentment.
To do that, you’ll need to let the limiting beliefs that characterized your old self go. By doing so, you’ll establish new foundations for happiness and be richer in many ways.
#13 Have lower & more realistic expectations
From young we’re conditioned to always strive for more, which is a good thing to improve ourselves. But it needs to be done in a healthy way, or it may be counterproductive and become a deep rooted cause of unhappiness.
There’s a big difference between wanting to do the best you can as an achiever, and constantly wanting more in order to be happy. The latter is a slippery slope that almost always prevents a person from being content.
It’s a dangerous situation where happiness – or perceived happiness – is dictated by external inputs that you continually need more of to feel the same pleasure. It sounds like being a drug addict doesn’t it?
That’s because the more-more-more mindset is something that’s been psychologically drummed into us. To be happy, homes need to be larger, cars need to be flashier, muscles need to be bigger, holidays more luxurious, meals supersized, careers more successful, partners more attractive. Everything more.
Unless you’re some trust fund kid born into wealth, these goals may not be realistically achievable in a sustainable way.
It’s an illusion that keeps the hamster peddling on the wheel and the donkey blinkered as she chases the swinging carrot. As we’ve heard before – even the few who are lucky enough to win the lottery find that having everything isn’t all it’s made out to be.
So if you’re unhappy because you don’t have the money to buy all those things you think will make you fulfilled, you’re in luck! There’s a simpler way to be happy.
Just go direct from where you are now, straight to happiness. You don’t need money to buy happiness, it’s already in you.
#14 You don’t need money to be happy
True happiness comes from within, from your inner peace, inner contentment, inner joy. A big home and a big car may be more comfortable but they are not the essential ingredients to be happy.
The want for those things you can’t get keeps you from being happy because you’ve told yourself you’ll be happy only when you get those things. But many have trodden that path before you and they have shared how getting that end goal didn’t make them so much happier in the way they thought it would.
It’s a mistake to forego the joy you can get right now by thinking you can only be happy when you’re rich. The secret is realizing money and material wealth isn’t the key to happiness.
On the contrary, the ongoing unhealthy yearning for more usually leads to misery.
So break free from the mindset that’s keeping you unhappy, and have a good think about what you want, what you need, what’s meaningful, what’s not worth it, what’s unrealistic, what’s achievable and most of all, what is happiness to you.
Go back to basics to redefine a simple life where you don’t need a lot to be content.
Design a life where it’s easy for you to find joy and be grateful for what you have. That normally means having realistic expectations about your goals, the people around you and yourself.
#15 Have a partner who shares similar values
With a big change in your finances, it is critical that your partner’s emotions and expectations are balanced for you to be happy.
In other words, he/she has to be able to accept the situation and be at peace with it too. Or else, even if you can adapt to a more modest lifestyle, it will be hard to find happiness if your spouse or significant other is suffering from the effects of being poorer.
Financial problems often result in divorces and breakups. Quite often, to be happy after suddenly becoming poorer, you will have to deal with the impact on your partner as much as yourself. Any misery on their side has to be resolved for you to be truly happy.
#16 Change environments that make you feel poor
It could be an expensive girlfriend, rich friends you used to party with, fine dining restaurants, high end malls, and anywhere or anyone that’s part of your previous life.
This doesn’t mean changing everything about your past. Just the parts that are closely tied to having/spending money.
You need to distance yourself intelligently and face the reality that you can’t live the way you used to. Failing to do this will result in you feeling poor and unhappy, or you’ll spend what you can’t afford to temporarily be in denial, and ultimately end up poorer and unhappier.
#17 Immerse yourself in surroundings that make you feel rich
As the saying goes, “it’s all relative”. Just as tempting yourself with things you can’t afford may make you feel poor, you can feel very lucky and grateful for whatever you have by being among people who don’t have much.
In short – you’ll feel poor handing out with the super-rich, and well-off in the company of people who are struggling to get by.
And it’s not just financially. To get a better perspective on how lucky you are (even if your personal finances are in a bad state), you should spend time getting in touch with the despair and suffering that’s everywhere.
From domestic abuse and mental health issues that affect ordinary people, to social injustices, human rights violations and innumerable ways where the innocent are at the mercy of tyrants and circumstances.
If you can, give back to society and engage in some charitable activities locally. This may help you be more grateful about your life when you discover how fortunate you are compared to many others.
#18 Accept you can’t do some things you like because of your financial limitations
A key part of living a happy life when your financial situation gets worse is to acknowledge and accept it. You have to avoid being in denial of what has happened.
By facing up to the fact that going forward, your life will be different in many ways, you will rationalize and mentally prepare yourself to deal with the inevitable lifestyle changes.
By doing this, you will address the issue once and hopefully be done with it. If you don’t make peace with reality (however harsh it may be) – and choose to hide from the truth – then you’ll simply be prolonging your suffering.
The sooner you come to terms with your new life, the sooner you will be able to build the foundations of your new happiness.
By accepting that you don’t need luxury hotels to have a good holiday, don’t need designer clothes to define who you are, don’t need your kids to be in private schools to keep up with your neighbors, don’t need to eat out often to be happy, don’t need a fancy car to get attention, then you will set yourself up to be able to live a happier life.
#19 Focus on (and discover new) affordable things that make you happy
Rather than dwelling on the exuberant life you used to have, find new hobbies and interests that don’t cost a lot.
Switch from golfing to fishing, nights out at the theater to movies at the cinema, extravagant dinners to wholesome meals, decadent parties to fun get togethers.
It may take some time to make the adjustment, so take your time. What’s important is to have an open mind and a positive attitude to give the new things a chance.
You have a choice to embrace the new life – and make the most out of what you’ve got – or to be miserable by focusing on what you can’t have anymore. It’s your choice.
To be happy, you need to choose to be happy.
#20 Appreciate simple things in life and be grateful for what you have
People often let their financial status dictate their happiness without much regard for the essential elements of life that truly matter. Like health, family, and the simple pleasures of life.
A key ingredient to be happy is gratefulness. That is why some families are joyful with an average income while others are uncontented even when they have anything money can buy.
The ability to appreciate the small, non- material aspects of your daily life will open the doors to a new world of joy and contentment.
It may be a big change to go from needing to buy the latest iPhone (or BMW) in order to feel happy, to finding bliss as you smell the morning dew while watching the sunrise on a morning walk on the beach. But give it a shot.
To succeed in the transformation to be happy when you don’t have money to splurge on luxuries, you have to go back to basics, and redefine what is meaningful to you and to recalibrate your happiness meter.
#21 Surround yourself with pleasant people who value you for who you are
Although we shouldn’t let it affect us so much, the truth is we are greatly influenced by the people around us. Their values, their mindset, their path to happiness.
It is unfortunate that the society we live in now normally views and treats us for what we are, rather than who we are. What job we have, what car, what home, what connections, what lifestyle. These things are usually related to money.
Ideally you want to be valued for who you are rather than what you have (materially). You want genuine friends who will be there with you through good times and bad. Friends who accept all of you and will be your pillars of strength during tough times.
If you don’t have such friends and family at the moment then you should consider expanding the circle of people around you to find authentic characters who could be true friends.
You will be amazed at how much happier you’ll be by having a few really good friends, when you’ve previously had acquaintances who just hung around because of the benefits of being around you.
#22 Develop deep, meaningful and genuine relationships (that are not based on money/lifestyle)
Your life can be much more fulfilled when you have a mix of good relationships with different friends and family. To build strong bonds, you should start by assessing yourself and what you have to give.
All too often, we focus on the other person and their character traits. But the fact is, you can’t control or change the other person. You can with yourself though.
Ask yourself what you offer to those around you. Are you kind, compassionate, giving? Do you go out of your way for others, can you make time for someone you don’t know, are you able to have empathy for those who have messed up?
Healthy/sustainable relationships have to be a two-way give and take. As you search for people who can be beneficial to you, make sure you have the qualities to be a good friend too.
#23 Understand you don’t need luxuries to be happy
Everyday we are bombarded by ads, movies and social media that make us want more. We are manipulated to think we feel happier when we get the new shiny object, when we follow what’s trending, and keep up with the latest must haves.
It’s an endless cycle and we’re the exhausted hamster running on the wheel and getting nowhere.
Being poorer is a great opportunity to break free from the addicting consumerism which may be a cause of your financial problems. Now that you can’t have that 5-star luxury vacation to show off on Instagram, you can either feel depressed about it or realize you don’t need it to be happy.
Once you reflect on how you’ve been tricked by the big businesses to constantly be buying what they’re selling, you’ll wake up to the fact that all those ‘things’ didn’t make you feel happy deep inside.
Once the holiday was over, once the novelty of a new gadget had worn off, once the supposedly most amazing experience was tried, all that was left was a yearning for the next better thing. At the end of the day, all you felt was the want for more.
#24 Understand some of best things in life are free
One secret to being happy when you’re flat out broke is to know that you don’t need money for some of the most gratifying things in life. Money simply isn’t the key to long term happiness.
This may be hard to accept if you’ve come from a privileged lifestyle, but you should know that millions of ordinary people lead very happy lives without the need for expensive coffees, fancy clothes, costly hobbies, or the extra creature comforts everywhere.
If they can do it, why can’t you? That’s a very important question to answer if you want to be happy when you’re poor.
Discover how people in a similar situation find joy in their life. Think about why a spoilt rich kid who has everything can be unhappy, while a poor single mother can be cheerful and grateful for her simple life.
What’s the difference between these extremes? Why can someone have money but still be miserable? How can a person who is struggling to pay off debt be happy and charitable?
As you learn about the various types of happiness, you will open your eyes to their effects and what you need to feel that way.
#25 Have a positive mental attitude / growth mindset
Being a positive person is the key to being happy. When you can see the bright side of things, you’ll be able to handle the hardships life throws at you.
As you probably know, there are plenty of rich people who aren’t happy with their lives, while millions who live a meager existence are content with their life.
To be happy when you’re poor, the most important thing is to have a growth mindset that is optimistic, values the good side of people, appreciates the positive elements in things/situations, and sees the glass to be half full (instead of half empty).
Kind and jovial people who cherish the wonders of what they’re blessed with, and lead a charitable, giving, life are normally much happier than those who are self-centered and feel the world owes them something.
If your financial circumstances have recently gotten worse and you’re feeling unhappy, the best way to deal with the despair is to come to terms with how you think, and the way your mind is affected by the inevitable lifestyle changes you need to accept.
You can choose to be poor and happy, or poor and miserable. Your thoughts and attitude have the power to determine your happiness in the road ahead. So, make sure you’re in control of them.