Have you ever been in the situation where you’re swapping ‘I’m broke’ stories with your mates, only to go on and see them drop £135 on a new pair of trainers the next day?
Or see on their Instagram Stories that they had a big night out? Or book a holiday? Or put a deposit down on a house?
This is because everyone has a different version of ‘skint’. £100, depending on who you ask and when, can be both all the money in the world and absolutely nothing at the same time.
The definition or benchmark of being broke bends and flexes with every context, character and calendar. People have different budgeting plans, different financial goals and different saving strategies.
In the name of research, we asked 8 millennials living in London to tell us what ‘being skint’ means to them to try and get a perspective on what is the norm.
What Does Being ‘Skint’ Mean To You?
Sam 31: “I’ve got no cash, broke as a joke, ignoring calls from your friends because you’ve got no money to go out.”
Dani 32: “Skint for me is having £700 in my bank with about a week to go and a bill on my credit card of about £1000, but it never really gets that bad because I know my limits. I also live within my means so I’ll just not spend or put myself in a situation to spend if I know it’s a tight month. I rarely go shopping these days and if I do it’s a treat.”
Rich 29: “Skint for me is not having enough money to pay rent.”
Alex 25: “I have two different versions of skint. I have the skint where there’s still a little money in the pot but the anxiety of running out starts to creep in. It doesn’t stop me from buying a round in the pub. I’ll probably moan about being skint too but make it into a joke.
The second version is when there’s absolutely nothing. Worse than nothing - over the overdraft. Hope that your colleague doesn’t ask to do rounds because you can only squeeze one drink out of your account type of skint. That one I’m less inclined to moan about out loud because it’s not funny anymore, it’s embarrassing.”
Hannah 25: “My definition of skint would be running out of money before the end of the month.”
Matt 23: “Skint, I think, means living off of credit.”
Ben 27: “I can’t say I know what it’s like to be properly skint. There’s been times where I’ve been at the end of my overdraft, with not a penny to my name, but I was always certain of a safety net around me – be that parents, extended family, university, etc. So my definition of skint is a little bit skewed. I panic if I have less than £100 in my current account, 3 days before pay-day. I think it’s literally going to be my financial ruin.
While I’m fully aware that there are millions of people far less secure than I am, my idea of being skint is simply just being able to cover the basics. If you’re working your arse off and just being able to cover bills, food shop, petrol, and whatever else drains your wallet, with nothing left over for you, that’s a pretty sorry state. Unfortunately, it’s one that far too many people are in!”
Travis 26: “Up until 6 months ago I’d always considered myself skint, the amount of money I brought in each month was all spoken for in the first few days after payday.”
So, What Is The Definition Of Broke?
According to the Collins dictionary to go broke means if a company or person goes broke, they lose money and are unable to continue in business or to pay their debts. But as you can see from the results, everyone's experience of being broke is different.
One of the only commonalities in the answers was whether you could stretch your money through to payday or not. Not being able to make it through to the next paycheck appears to benchmark for whether you’re broke or not. This makes sense if you consider that two-thirds of millennials claim they live paycheck to paycheck.
Ultimately, everyone is different.
Every definition of being broke is different. And because of this, there’s no one solution or one-size-fits-all way of handling your finances.
Budgeting and financial planning has to be entirely personalised for it to work.
The strategy that works for your friend or your brother or your neighbour probably won’t work for you. The best thing you can do is round-up all of the advice and the tips and tricks and find the parts that fit together to work for you in your journey to financial freedom.
What Can We Take From This?
It might be difficult to swallow the jealousy when your friend books a week in Ibiza when they were complaining about not being able to afford coffee the week before - but remember to focus on your situation and more importantly your own goals, rather than someone else’s spending.
Find a budget solution that works for you - whether that’s an app to track all your spending or a good old-fashioned pen and paper situation.
Create a variety of small financial goals you can start working towards. Don’t set yourself up for failure with lofty expectations of being a millionaire and owning a house next year when you can’t afford a round at the pub this month. Slow and steady wins the race.
Then, just maybe, you’ll have a new definition of broke soon enough.