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Why I’m Broke, Single, and Happier Than Ever (and How You Can Be Happier Too)

Portrait of a beautiful young woman laughing and wearing summer hat

“You must make your dream a priority in order for it to become your life.” ~Bob Proctor.

I am sitting in the courtyard of the little place I’ve just moved into, an old washhouse separate from a beautiful big Victorian house, by the coast in Cornwall.

The washhouse is no bigger than a shed; it consists of a living space and a wet room.

I sleep on a day bed, which doubles as my sofa. My neat, compact kitchen is approximately two steps from my bed/sofa, and the wet room houses a shower, toilet, and sink.

I’m thirty-two, and I can’t afford to buy new clothes, I can only sporadically eat out and buy coffee (my two favorite vices), I have to be mindful of how often I fill up my gas tank, and I can’t afford to rent anywhere bigger than a shoebox.

I’m single and I have no money to spare, but I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have been in a long time.

This is far from bragging or undermining the struggle of being broke.

Don’t get me wrong, I hope these things aren’t forever—that one day I can live a life that’s aligned with what makes me happy and make money from it, meet the man of my dreams, and afford to live in a big, beautiful house.

But right now, despite being on my own and poor, being true to myself is making me happier than being with the wrong guy (just so I’m not on my own) or working in the wrong job (just so I can buy things I don’t really need).

To reach this point, it’s taken a fair bit of faffing about the last couple of years—getting into relationships with the wrong guys, taking jobs that I didn’t really want, moving around and trying things out—and I’ve got plenty more to learn. But I have finally committed to not compromising on what feels 100 percent right.

If you too have decided to commit to a life that is utterly authentic, here are a few suggestions that may help you stay happy and open to possibilities.

Be thankful for what you do have—and actively work toward more.

Being poor isn’t easy, nor is worrying about how you’re going to pay the rent, especially if you have others to look out for. There is no denying this, but focusing on how tough the hard things are isn’t going to help you get out of your situation. In fact, this will only keep you stuck.

What helps us move forward is appreciating what we have and then leveraging that positive energy to actively work toward more.

I remember someone introducing me to the idea of the law of attraction a few years ago, and I thought, Great! That’s easy. Think about something I want and it will show up. Awesome. Then I wondered why, weeks later, Bradley Cooper hadn’t shown up at my door.

How naive (and kind of arrogant) to think that, through magical mind power alone, the law of attraction would deliver what I wanted. There is a real danger in thinking you deserve something and wishing for things to be different, but not actively working for it.

Sitting in a room, fantasizing about something awesome happening, wishing things were different, but not leaving that room to actively pursue those changes is as productive as staring at a spoon, wishing for it to bend.

At the beginning of this year I started to keep a gratitude list for each month. It started with vague list items—the sun shining, a kind word someone said.

But the more I learned how to pay attention—the more I practiced looking for things, inviting in opportunities and connections—the more my lists grew, and the things to be thankful for became more and more significant.

Because I was creating positive energy through my gratitude practice, and putting that positive energy into the world, I was able to get some of my articles and reviews published, I connected with inspirational public figures, and I received invitations to run workshops at festivals.

By recognizing, actively looking for, and creating experiences and opportunities to be thankful, we undoubtedly attract more awesome things into our lives. It’s like a domino effect.

So, despite being poor and single, right now I feel extremely and genuinely lucky for so much, even though it may appear, on the outside, that I have very little.

Be aware of your excuses.

When I was in my last job, I felt like the work I was doing was made up. It had no significance; it made no difference to the world. As soon as that feeling set in, that was it; I couldn’t turn it off.

I could ignore it every now and again and focus on my excuses for why I needed to stay in that job—how would I pay the rent, what would I do, what would it look like on my CV, who would I be letting down if I quit.

But each time the feeling popped up, the strength of my excuses started to dilute, until I had no excuses left… and I quit.

Life really is short and precious. No fear-based excuse under the sun is worth losing a precious day over.

If you’re not happy, change something. If you’re unfulfilled in your job, do something different. If you’re with the wrong person, don’t settle for it. If you’ve always wanted to try, be, or do something else, but it might mean a pay cut or demotion, take the risk.

Your happiness is the most important thing. Being a happy, fulfilled human being means you can contribute so much more to those around you; you can be a better partner, parent, friend, and colleague.

No one can argue that a happy person is better than a stressed out, unhappy, unfulfilled person—in all situations and for all involved, including yourself.

If you’re a parent or have others to care for, this may seem overly simplified. I understand that there are more challenges for those with more responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make some changes in your life.

Allowing yourself to be happy doesn’t have to mean being reckless, making drastic, life-altering changes, or living in a shoebox like me. For you, it might mean finally enrolling in a photography course, or asking a friend to babysit for an hour so you can take a dance class.

Whatever your unique situation, don’t let your excuses get in the way of your happiness.

Trust the process.

Right now I have to believe that if I keep moving forward on the path I am creating for myself and stay true to it, it will all work out for the best. It just feels right.

I am sure it won’t turn out as I’d planned or imagined, but I trust that if I keep going, keep letting things organically evolve, keep saying yes to the right things, keep making new connections and inviting in experiences and synchronicities, it will all work out.

No one can predict the future, but if we trust the process, we’ll be better able to stay present and focused, and to take the action steps that will help us create a favorable outcome.

I decided to strip my life back to make it simple, cheap, and basic in order to create space to pursue my dream. For the first time in my life, sitting here in this pretty, little, simple space, it feels like I am living a life that is wholly authentic—and I can’t wait for what shows up next.

Profile photo of Joanna Hulin

About Joanna Hulin

Joey is owner of Horizon Retreats, a UK-based company offering everyday hardworking people space to slow down and reconnect through Introduction to Meditation classes, events, wellbeing retreats, and her blog.

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  • I can so relate to this post. I’m not exactly broke, but I am single in my thirties and currently with no fixed income. I am freelance and I had a long term contract which I ended at the beginning of the year to learn Spanish in Spain for a few months because I was having those same feelings you describe. I too have had enough of living an inauthentic life but I am constantly plagued by the fears and what ifs – especially linked to money. However I’ve recently made the choice to move abroad to somewhere more affordable to enable to do what I really want to – freelance writing/blogging, cooking real food and spending more time at the beach. Thanks for sharing your story so authentically. It’s always to know you’re not the only one choosing to live life differently. Good luck with it all. 🙂

  • Joey Hulin

    Hi Leanne. Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing; it certainly sounds like we have a lot in common. Money fears or being ‘on your own’ seem to be a hurdle for a lot of people – they certainly were for me. But knowing now that I can live an even happier life without, that this feeling of authenticity is by far more satisfying that trying to fit a square peg in a round hole! I hope that the rest will follow in time. Best of luck with your exciting adventure – writing, real food and the beach sounds like a pretty perfect life to me 🙂 Joey x

  • This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read.

  • Joey Hulin

    Hey Jeff. Thanks so much for your comment! It was a pretty personal one to put out there, so I’m glad it resonated with you. Thanks again 🙂 Joey x

  • Joey Hulin

    Thanks so much for your thoughts, Marie. I don’t know if you agree but once I started to stay true to what feels right, the fears that held me back, I realised, were just an illusion and life just feels a little easier now, despite the inevitable challenges. Thank you again for your well wishes, it means a lot. Joey x

  • Andrea

    Fantastic post! And I couldn’t agree with you more. I wish you all the best on your journey 🙂

  • Joey Hulin

    Thanks so much, Andrea; and to you on yours 🙂 Your well wishes mean a lot – thank you for taking the time to comment. Joey x

  • Craig Collins

    This is fantastic, I’ve been preaching something similar on my Instagram dedicated to positivity

  • zee yusuf

    Joey i couldn’t agree more, I am on a journey where I am finding what truly makes me happy and letting go everything about the past and starting all over again and reading your article made me feel so much positive and that truly you can find happiness in little things. Thanks for sharing.

  • Joey Hulin

    Thanks so much, Craig. Absolutely all in 🙂 Do connect on Instagram – it would be great to follow your journey and best of luck! Joey x

  • Joey Hulin

    Thanks so much, Zee. I am so pleased you found it useful. Wishing you all the very best of luck; trust your intuition and be bold 🙂 Joey x

  • Craig Collins

    Fantastic

  • Saint Martin

    Very uplifting reading your story made realize , my life can be more rewarding if I focus on things to be thankful for and not just the goal I have set for myself. I think about the goal and not what ia really important and that is being thankful for what I do have . My goal is to help others.

  • Joey Hulin

    Thank you for commenting 🙂 I’m so pleased you found it helpful… and Yup, I completely get it. Although the goal or dream is the fuel or motivator, we mustn’t forget to pay attention to and enjoy the detail of the journey. Best of luck 🙂 Joey x

  • Great article – funny, I just blogged about “being happy for no reason” as a part of sharing my journey to creating a life I love. And you are so right, the more we focus on all the good around us, the more that shows up! <3

  • Joey Hulin

    Hey Shannon. Thanks so much for commenting and glad to hear you’re on a similar path! I’d love to read your article – where can I find it? Joey x

  • rt

    Loved your article Joanna because it resonated with me a lot. I’d like to know what advice you would have in staying strong until things start happening or changing during these challenging times. I left my marriage of nearly 30 years and am doing it alone. Doing the best to rebuild my life and health because of not being there for myself. But I do not have regrets just lessons I learned and now that I know better, I’ve made better decisions for myself. I learned how my happiness and life count and made it my number one priority for the rest of my life. But some days I find it really hard, (still living under the family home, separated, until I find a job and file for divorce) to not allow the hurt I feel because of where I am at. I am doing the best I can in updating my skills to find work as soon as possible and on getting my health back. And also in making new friends. I focus on things that I am grateful for and have, but must admit everyday I wish things would just change and happen so I can be living my own life. How did you cope until things started happening for you?

  • Joey Hulin

    Hi there. Thanks so much for getting in touch and for sharing. It sounds like quite a journey you’ve been on.

    First of all, I would say that finding the times tough is completely normal – no matter who you are, so try to relax into those feelings a little. It sounds to me like you’ve shown so much strength making some big changes and I always think that first step is the hardest. Next comes an adjustment phase; finding your new way, letting go of the past and building for a new future.

    I guess for me, I would say, allow yourself to feel, be kind to yourself and don’t punish yourself or resist any feelings you have right now; It’s completely normal and to be expected. Then I try and remember that feelings always follow thoughts – so if you’re focused on the tough bits/the haven’t got’s/the future – the chances are you’ll be feeling feelings of lack, frustration and impatience. So by focusing on what you do have and being grateful for that – even if it’s something simple or small like the sun shining, a kind word or some delicious food! You’ll not only notice so much more to be grateful for around you but you’ll feel more positive feelings from it – which helps me during change.

    Following from that, I try and take one step at a time and be mindful. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, break that negative thought state by stopping what your doing and give the space you’re in your fullest attention. Notice all the detail, the colors, the sounds, the smells. Notice the rhythm of your breath for a few months – become really aware of the present moment; what is in front of you, how you’re feeling … without judgment. I think by giving kind, curious attention to the present moment, you can lay more positive and grounded building blocks for the future.

    Then finally, I guess I always like to think, right now, our present moment, is just a snap shot of our whole life. Things will change, they always do. Sometimes the snap shot we find ourselves in is unbelievably challenging, sometimes it is bliss! But one thing is for certain, everyone experiences both and both pass; and, like you say, it is usually the most challenging ones that have taught me the most valuable lessons (…but know that there is bliss to come too 🙂 )

    I wish you all the very best of luck with your journey and don’t be afraid to ask people for help along the way.

    I hope that helps, even a little bit. Love, Joey xx

  • rt

    Extremely Joey and thank you so much for your supportive words. xo
    My apology for the late response!

  • Beth Cone Kramer

    I loved this, too. I am at the crux of creating something that I have faith will be huge in helping women and get me to the place where I am financially secure and successful.. It’s been a very long journey but life is a process, not a destination. I’ve been reading about limiting beliefs and they are truly what keep us stuck. I see myself as successful. In my personal life, I’ve always told myself I don’t need anybody to take care of me emotionally. I don’t have time. But, that’s not true. Once we let go of our limiting beliefs, we can succeed and find contentment and meaning.

  • Joey Hulin

    ‘Life is a process’ exactly! Thank you, Beth. You’ve hit the nail on the head. You’ve reminded me of a quote I came across the other day which I loved – ‘We are only ever one new thought away from a completely different experience of being alive’ 🙂 Best of luck and keep enjoying your journey! x

  • Andy Bowker

    Good luck with your pathway – I don’t know if I quite have your level of bravery yet lol but getting there. Cornwall is beautiful, would love to go there again someday 🙂

  • Joey Hulin

    Thank you so much, Andy. Once I’d taken the first step, I realised fear was just an illusion! Best of luck on your own journey and be kind to yourself. Joey 🙂