3 Life Lessons I'll Always Hold Onto From Being A Broke 23-Year-Old

by Eva Gutierrez

Being broke sucks, and you know times are really hard when you start to pick up quarters off the street without a second thought.

I always thought once I graduated from college, I was suddenly going to have all of this financial comfort.

I would have more time to work, and my degree would start paying for itself.

To say I was wrong would be an understatement.

There wasn't this sudden influx of zeros in my bank account, my wallet stayed slim and I was still bargain-hunting at the grocery store.

It was undeniably frustrating.

I spent the first few months furious over the fact I didn't have an extra $16.99 to spend on a cute sweater.

I was annoyed that going out to dinner seemed like a luxury of the rich and famous.

Most of all, I was disappointed in myself for not being grateful for everything I had, when I knew there were other people around the world who could live more than comfortably with my means.

Yes, I didn't have a job that was going to make me millions of dollars, but that didn't mean I had to whine and cry my way through life.

I decided to change my attitude about everything, and to started looking at the bigger picture.

As I was trying to make ends meet, I ended up learning all of these invaluable life lessons.

Some of them didn't have anything to do with budgeting or making sure to pay my bills on time.

Here are just a few:

1. Welcome generosity.

When somebody offered to pay for something, or refused to take my money for whatever reason, I learned to stop fighting it.

I learned to stop myself from saying, "No, you don't have to do that," and to just say, "Thank you, I really appreciate that."

That phrase has become very empowering in my life.

People want to help others, and whether that's a small help — like refusing to take your $2 for coffee — or a large help — like creating a foundation to get purified water to developing countries — it all winds down to the basic human instinct to be kind to each other.

Accept generosity, and pay it forth in due time, whether it be with money, time or just plain kindness.

2. Accept the value of experiences.

Whether the experience is going to a concert or getting the chance to eat a good meal, I realized how much more aware I was during those events when I wasn't sure when I would have another chance to repeat them.

Who knew the next time I would be able to pull off an extra $40 to go to a concert, or be able to spend $15 on a decent meal out.

Not knowing when these experiences would come again taught me to be aware, and to really appreciate the experience as it played out.

I was able to feel alive and enjoy myself in the section 500 nosebleed seats, just as much as the people in the standing room in front of the stage.

3. Do not become cheap.

Just because I was struggling to get by, it didn't mean I would tip my waitress less than 20 percent, or casually forget to pay a friend back the $10 I owed her.

This is the most important lesson of all because becoming cheap creates a negative energy around money, and the inflow of it.

If you think of karma, you know what goes around comes around.

If someone holds onto her money with all her might and refuses to give it out, then money has a hard time trying to find its way into her bank account.

The trick during hard financial times is to stay open to the idea of money coming in by allowing what you can to come out.

I'm not saying you should go and spend your life savings of $80 on helping an elephant rehabilitate in Africa, only to become malnourished because you actually can't afford groceries.

Be realistic in what you can hand out, but never create a habit of becoming cheap.

Having lived on both sides of the broke spectrum — the resentment of being broke and the acceptance of being broke — I choose to stay accepting.

The, I take it up a notch and learn something from the experience.

These are life lessons that apply to everyday life, and they have become mantras I live by.

By staying positive during a tricky financial time, I've become less egotistical, more alive and profoundly capable of not taking my financial burden out on anybody else.

These life lessons are ones I plan to take with me, no matter where my finances take me.