From Being Broke To First Million

“I was so broke that countless times I skipped meals and didn’t pay Jeepney fares.”

A Tough Journey…

My story is not a bragging right to share but perhaps it will inspire those who’ve experienced and is still experiencing a financial instability in life.

I can still remember the memories a few years ago, during the times that I was enduring a tough life, I was caught off-guard! It was something I’ve never expected – I mean, I had a job, I don’t drink, I don’t go partying but at the end of each day, I was financially broke.

I was so broke even that I had to eat one meal in a day and I also skipped paying jeepney fares…we refer to it as – 1,2,3, GO! (commuters are quite aware of the colloquial term for this)


I remember feeling so lost while I was en route to my destination, I was completely empty-handed. All I could muster was to put-up my “poker-face”. I remember praying so hard for jeepney drivers to overlook the fact that I was there, for them to be complacent so I can always sneak-out unnoticed…

If I was caught that time, my life would be in total shambles. Many times I had to walk long distances to reach places and I even had to live with 10 people in one small room…

I so dread those days! Looking back, I promised myself that I would never go back to that life, NEVER AGAIN! That was like a bad dream…

Finally, I found a way out and I was able to escape! I learned that being broke does not just happen overnight! It is a process and for us to escape it, we must really change our lifestyle as we fill in the loopholes in our financial instability.

It’s also quite ironic to say that people, who are broke today, don’t even have any idea how they got there.

Here are some pointers for you to see if you are in the same path that I was.

Money Mistake #1: I Did Not Save Earlier.

Saving today is now my daily habit but a few years ago that was just an alien idea to me. Before, I hate budgeting and saving was just an elusive dream.

I thought that only moms do that, after all, I am single. I did not care to think of it. That was the exact mindset I had back then, but as fate would have it – unexpected expenses and emergencies happened, it was only then that I came to my senses.

I suddenly realized the importance of an Emergency Fund. I finally believed in what Zig Ziglar said, ”Money is not everything but it is relatively close to Oxygen”. It was a funny realization that we really do appreciate something when we needed it the most.

Action Taken:

I went back to basics. I practiced saving – baby-steps. I remember having only one thing in mind, ”Do not save what is left after spending but spend what is left after saving”.

I made it daily my mantra as I made saving my top priority. I always made sure to set aside an amount when I earned something, usually it is 30%-40%. I learned that being frugal is not a bad thing as long as you will not deprive yourself of things that are very important.

Income – Savings = Expenses… (The Right Formula)

Money Mistake #2: Unnecessary Spending.

I did not take this seriously before, but it is true that little but misguided spending could affect my finances. I wasn’t even bothered to think if what I was going to spend is a “need” or just my “want”…

A ticket in the cinema, a little amount of an expensive coffee, and a few beers can sum-up into a big amount. Personally, I was a movie person and one part of me treating myself was to always go to the cinema every weekend. I love the sound system, the screen, and the place in general! Whenever I was at the mall, the doors of the cinema always call me, “Hey Arnel, get inside”!

Little did I know that it was already a part of my destructive spending. Earning money takes 15 days but to spend it takes only a few minutes.

Action Taken:

I went on to identify “NEEDS’ VS. “WANTS” then I categorized them. ”A Need” most of the time is followed by an immense urgency and “a Want” is usually a validation of sorts and has no given timeline.

When I got into investing, the habit was orchestrated after it. I finally have something to look forward to. So the more I saved, the more opportunity to invest. That excites me to no end!

I suggest you start investing as this will gear you off into a saving habit – these two go hand in hand!

Money Mistake #3: I Was A One Day-Millionaire.

I had an attitude of a one day millionaire, my mentality before was to treat myself first and treat others (splurge).

For me treating myself equates to acquiring gadgets and the more gadgets I have, the more fulfilled I felt! I even sold our property years ago just so I can it buy some gaming gadgets and computers.

After a year, I recognized that it was a bad decision, I forcibly-sold it under a very low price because I had to pay other debts that piled-up and that did not happen just once. It became a bad habit which resulted to chain-reactions.

Action Taken:

I finally realized that “treating yourself first” and “Paying yourself first” are two very different things.

“Treating yourself means”, buying valuable things to make you happy and look good, this can also mean going to a vacation to feel good while “Paying yourself first”, on the other hand, is setting aside a small amount, to save for the future which will accumulate and grow as you do.

Money Mistake #4: I Couldn’t Refuse Borrowers.

That was my biggest struggle back then! I did not know how to refuse especially if the person asking is my relative or a friend (even though many times I knew for a fact that the money is intended for a week-budget).

I realize just now that it was just a false form of pride! My own pride that is equated to bragging because I wanted others to know that I have more than enough.

Action Taken:

I decided to start refusing, especially if I am on a tight budget this also is simultaneous with me making a commitment not to borrow if not necessary.

Now, I have learned to set aside some extra amount for people who might borrow some money (for situations like emergencies). It is nice to help someone without thinking of when he/she will return it since the amount you lent them is just an extra money.

Money Mistake#5: Poverty-Mindset.

I grew up in a working-class family and in a poor neighborhood. I was really having a hard time managing money. I did not think much of saving and investing. So when I earned something, I spent it to its last centavos.

I wasn’t brought up in a financially-aware family so I already had a negative impression on money. All I know was money is earned today to be spent tomorrow.

Action Taken:

I sought mentors and engaged myself with fellow investors. I found out through personal finance seminars that poverty starts from my very own mindset, so to me being broke was just a limitation I let myself believe.

So generally things have changed a lot since then. My entire character was transformed. I am now a firm believer that being in a very supportive small group helps change perceptions from the inside-out.

I also engaged myself in both the Financial and the Spiritual community. A special note to my Victory Christian Fellowship (VCF) family and my church-mates, who are always there to guide me and who opened the doors for me.

They have enabled me to create a harmonious growth in all aspects of my life as I’m also working on my real purpose which is to always bring back God’s glory to Him.

From Being Broke To First Million was originally published for

*** Note: The article was edited and repurposed by Mary Seng for

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Arnel Pepito

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