7 Small Habits That Keep People Broke

Explained by someone who worked their way out of homelessness multiple times.

girl checking bank account on phone and has no money Ekateryna Zubal / Shutterstock

Recently, I had a talk with a friend of mine who we’ll call Jesse*. Jesse is a waiter at an upscale restaurant. He makes decent money, enough to support himself and his wife.

However, he openly admits he hates his job — a lot.

I don’t blame him. Restaurant patrons are cruel and the money is extremely haphazard. Sometimes it’s a great night, other times it’s not. And to make matters worse, you are working on an ageist basis.


By the time Jesse’s 40, he won’t make the tips he makes at 30. It’s a little-known fact about life as a waiter. So while the tipping’s good now, he sees what’s on the horizon.

Unfortunately, I realized that Jesse is not going to be following my advice. He’s also not going to get much further in life.


Why? Well, he, like many other people I know, partake in habits that keep them broke.

If you’re guilty of any of these, you might end up like Jesse.

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Here are 7 small habits that keep people broke:

1. You don’t listen to the advice of people who’ve been in your shoes

I can’t name how many people I’ve met who seem to be caught in a loop. They tell me how badly they are broke, and then will patently ignore every scrap of advice I offer as someone who was in their shoes.

It sounds like this:

Me: How about you try to do Ubereats? You need to get a roof over your head first.
Them: Yeah, but I don’t have a car.
Me: Postmates lets you do it by bike.
Them: Yeah, but that takes so much time and it’ll take away from my business idea.
Me: Don’t you have no roof over your head? Shouldn’t you work on that first? Have you tried social services, at least?
Them: I don’t want to call social services! But I’m so broke, I need to work on this idea.
Me: Work on the basics like shelter and food first.
Them: No, I want this idea!


Bro…It’s insane how they don’t see how this mindset harms them.

Yes, that million-dollar idea (it never is one) will work, but only if you cover your bases first!

2. You refuse to ask for help

There is nothing wrong with having pride, but you have to realize that no man is an island.

No one can do everything on their own, and realizing that you have weaknesses or are backed into a corner is important.

Hubris ends up harming your bottom line in multiple ways.

Broke people often either refuse to get help from people who can, or refuse to ask for advice from people who get the problem.

I can’t name how many people I have talked to who are facing homelessness and still refuse to ask social services for shelter. I can’t name how many people I know had no idea what they were doing and refused help from an expert.


Hint: this is a great way to torpedo your life. Ask for help from people who are willing and able to help you. Stop being prideful!

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3. You buy pricey things to impress people who don’t care about you

This is one thing that I still tend to fall victim to, primarily because I had years of being excluded — to the point that I have active trauma regarding it.

I yearn to prove to people that I have status, and that I mean something. To a point, I feel like that’s just normal human behavior. Maybe.

Either way, it’s a habit that’s made me broke a bunch of times and also remains one of my biggest hurdles.


Sadly, it’s one of the most pervasive issues that I see in society. We tend to buy so much useless, stupid crap just because it’ll make us part of the "in" crowd we want to belong to.

Real talk. Not one of my friends who stuck by me through homelessness, a freak pregnancy, addiction, and corporate life ever gave a crap about what clothes I wore, what car I drove, and what sneakers I sported.

It sucks because we all get these messages saying that luxury items matter. It’s part of marketing. I have to remind myself that I’m not here to impress snobs. (Neither are you. Snobs are not people you want in your life.)

4. You keep relying on a job for your income

We live in an economy where wages are kept artificially low. We have HR reps who turn away top candidates because of the fact that (SHOCKER!) they have lives outside of work. We have an entire political system and tax system that punishes people who work jobs.


And you’re telling me that you are expecting to climb the corporate ladder to the top?

Unless you are really cutthroat, it’s not going to happen. If I relied on other companies to make a living writing, I’d be broke and on welfare.

Don’t let others tell you what you can and cannot achieve. As long as you’re legally allowed to do it and have the expertise, go your own path and make your own business.

5. You leave opportunities on the table or actively refuse to seek them out

I remember my friend Jordan* being in dire straits. He worked at the Salvation Army for minimum wage. He had a drug problem. He was on the verge of homelessness. But, he’s the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet and he has ample skills worthy of a king’s artisan.


Our friend Bethany* is a bar owner. She saw him have a meltdown and offered him an amazing opportunity. I’m talking about the opportunity that I would have killed for back when I was in his shoes.

She said, "Come move into my summer home. Rent’s $50 a month. You can have a job cleaning the bar here and serve drinks here. Get back on your feet, then you can move when you’re ready."

He was paying $300 a month in rent. This place was a gorgeous house he would have to himself, free internet.

Do you know what he did? He said no. He kept himself in a worse position.

I don't understand this. I really don’t, yet it happens a lot more than you’d think. Usually, what I see is that the person in question expects this amazing position to fall into their laps — no work on their end is required.


Either way, leaving a good opportunity or not seeking something out will leave you in deep s***.

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6. You hang out with people who take advantage of you

When you go out, do your friends always pressure you to pick up the tab? Do you find yourself alone when you’re broke, but popular when payday rolls in? Or worse, do you find yourself on the receiving end of verbal abuse when you don’t do what people tell you to do?

Believe it or not, hanging out with people who treat you badly is one of the biggest predictors of wealth — at least in my experience. People who use you for money are not going to be there when chips are down, nor are they going to help you repay that.


On a similar note, it’s very hard to stay financially stable when you’re being abused.

In my case, any money I’d get from my abusive workplaces went to drugs and alcohol to kill the pain. It’s a cycle.

Cut people who are not lifting you up out of your life. Trust me. Even if you take an “L” now, it’ll pay off dividends in the future.

My biggest regret was continuing to work for companies that treated me like s***. Don’t be me. The pay never builds.

7. You don’t look into passive income

It’s 2022. If you are working a 9 to 5 and you don’t get any residual payments, you’re screwing yourself over. You have to make money while you sleep.


How do you get passive income? It’s simple: invest or make products that can keep getting sold.

There are so many ways to make this happen. Choose more than one.

In content creation, your content keeps earning money long after you make it. That’s passive income. In real estate, getting a house to rent out will earn you money. In the stock market, you get money by getting dividends and selling high.

Get what I mean? The more you invest in stuff that makes you money, the happier you’ll be later on in life — and that’s something you can bank on!

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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.