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How to Upgrade Your Life When You’re Broke

How to Upgrade Your Life When You’re Broke

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

A common theme I hear is how difficult it is to improve your life when you’re broke.

Most things we think of as upgrades cost money, right?

So how is it possible to change careers, get healthier, spend more time with the family, travel, renovate the house/get a new house or car or whatever it is you want, if you have no money?

I’ve been a broke, homeless single mother of 2 neurodivergent kids and turned that around to become a multiple international award-winning CEO, speaker, author and charity ambassador.

Then later, I sold the company, changed my life again and travelled with my kids while making money remotely.

I’m now a mother of 4, living by the beach, working remotely and continuously upgrading our life.

That’s not to say we didn’t face any struggles (read about bushfires, lockdowns, repatriation etc and how to handle emergencies for more on that).

With my life experience, I can share a variety of ways to upgrade your life when you’re broke.

If you like freebies and discounts, check out how to get a $100 cash bonus from ING, $14 from Up Bank or have a look at the full list of freebies, offers and discounts for every state.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

Disclosure, this post may contain affiliate links for products or services I personally use or have used.

What Do You Want?

You can’t make a plan to upgrade your life if you don’t know what that looks like for you or what matters to you.

Take some time to work out your core values, review your life and things you enjoy or want more of.

Think about how you want to be remembered and the lifestyle you want to have.

When you know all of this, it is much easier to be clear on what you want or what you would view as life upgrades.

Take yourself away from social media, friends, family etc and think about it for yourself only.

You don’t need to actually go anyway, simply get a block of time away from everyone and everything to think.

It could be within your home but everyone is out or you might prefer to get out in nature such as a hike or the beach, go to the library for quiet or something else.

Too often we think we want something when in reality it is others pushing us in a specific direction.

What do you want?

How Can You Make It Happen?

Now you know what you want, how can you make it happen?

Knowing is the first step, creating a plan is the next and then you need to take action.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

A few examples from my life:

I thought I wanted to be a millionaire but really it was financial freedom and to escape my abusive marriage that I wanted.

To do that, I set a goal to be a millionaire by 30 and started blogging.

That action completely changed my life.

Blogging gave me an income, a book contract, public speaking, more blogs and business plus international awards.

Through it, I was able to leave my abusive marriage, be there for my kids and secure custody.

At the same time, I was able to use my platforms to raise awareness and money for charities working on homelessness and domestic violence.

Find out more about me and my life on my other site,

I knew what I wanted, I didn’t exactly know how I would do it but I created a plan, took action and then it worked out far better than I ever could have imagined.

Another example, I knew I wanted to travel, as did my kids.

I started tourism marketing, freelance writing and doing what I could in those areas well before my kids were allowed to leave Australia.

We did what we could in Australia, I made a lot of connections then when I secured custody and we were free to leave, we travelled.

For years we’ve been paid to travel and have amazing experiences because I knew what I wanted, made a plan and took action.

Tips to Make It Happen

You’re probably thinking that is all well and good for me, but how can you make it happen?

Whether it is going back to school for themselves or supporting their kids with their schooling, education can be expensive.

Here I am going to list common areas of life readers have said they want to improve or upgrade but can’t because they are broke.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

1. Education

I wrote about how to afford education and schooling expenses on a budget.

As a mother of 4, the eldest being 16 and the youngest 2, dealing with autism, ADHD, PTSD and other matters over the years, I have some thoughts on education.

Ask yourself: Why do you want the specific education/qualification? Why do you need it and how can you source it for free or cheap?

You can use numerous free resources to educate yourself or your kids in some areas.

If you need a specific qualification, look into scholarships or free TAFE courses. They might get you recognition of prior learning for degrees if you want a degree later).

For some careers, experience matters more than the qualification (except for specific professions) or you might be able to learn on the job.

Apprenticeships, traineeships and online courses are options, depending on the education or qualification you want.

When we travelled, my kids did world schooling with free apps on their iPads and we got involved with the community wherever we were.

Free museums, festivals, historical sites, libraries and numerous events were available and provided an extensive education that wasn’t matched when they returned to school.

After repatriating in 2020, my kids wanted to try school again and they were years ahead of their peers.

The schools were shocked and regularly told me they had never met kids as intelligent, emotionally aware, compassionate and conscious of world issues as mine.

What do you need to learn, what skills or qualifications are required and how can you obtain them?

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

How We Upgraded My Kids Education

With my kids, they used Khan Academy, Prodigy, DuoLingo, Adobe Suite, Udemyicon and a few other apps.

They also researched whatever they were interested in learning about or available e.g. researching then snorkelling WWII wrecks when we were in the Solomon Islands.

When they returned to school, they spoke with teachers to see if there were any options available to further their experiences, skills or qualifications.

As a result, my eldest had the opportunity to do some Tafe qualifications while in high school and go to some university courses.

They also got to be part of a robotics team, did the Duke of Edinburgh Award and a few other things.

My second child got to do similar and is looking at doing a school-based apprenticeship when she turns 15.

They already found the job and started working last year where they want to do an apprenticeship, so when they are old enough they have the option to do a school-based apprenticeship with that business.

The workers and owner love her and she did similar work when we lived in Noosa so she knows she wants to do it.

Speak with your schools, research apps and look at what is available in your area such as festivals, exhibits and special programs.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

How We Upgraded My Education

For myself, most of mine was self-taught as I dropped out of high school.

I worked in the government for a while at 16 but hated office work so I got a hairdressing apprenticeship.

Through that, I learned more about business (as well as from my family) and had my own at 19.

Later, I went into blogging, writing, editing, speaking and other things.

Each time, I’d seek out a mentor and mastermind group, network, attend conferences, read books, listen to podcasts etc.

I did everything I could to learn as much as possible about whatever it was I needed.

Check out 23 books that will change your life and I have lots of resources from books to habit trackers available here.

There’s no age limit on education. I have siblings who went to university immediately after high school and others doing it now in their 30s.

It’s your life, you get to decide what works for you.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

2. Career

Changing careers can be a big upgrade in terms of mental health, time with family, benefits, enjoyment and income.

Review your previous roles, experience, skills and talents.

How can they transfer to the new career you’d like? What aspects of your career or life so far have you enjoyed?

Often we can’t see how they can transfer or don’t realise they can but if you can, update everything and show how those skills transfer.

Speak with people in the career you want to change to and ask their advice about being successful in that career, what is required and tips to transition.

Use that, combined with your current skills to update your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, everything.

Having a fantastic resume, LinkedIn profile, Seek profile etc can all be beneficial when seeking a career change.

This is where a professional can be useful but since this article is for doing it when you are broke, I’ll focus on free options.

As mentioned, speak to those in the career already.

A mentor who can guide you through the process can be extremely valuable and many people are happy to share their advice.

You can seek advice in Facebook groups or from people doing what you want to do and get their advice.

If you need a specific qualification, check out the education section above for some tips on that and how to make it happen.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

How I Went From Homeless Single Mother to Multiple International Award-Winning CEO etc.

Obviously, going from homeless to CEO is a huge career and life change but it wasn’t my first.

Woolworths was my first job, but I had been babysitting and doing side hustles since I was 11.

I dropped out of high school (year 11, just after I turned 16), worked in a government office job briefly, got a hairdressing apprenticeship and worked in a dentist’s office on my day off.

Once I finished my apprenticeship and had a beauty qualification, I started my own hairdressing business.

Then I moved to another state, had babies and started blogging.

Blogging opened up various options with a book contract, freelance writing, consulting, travel and more.

It was during this time I won numerous awards, left my abusive marriage and ended up homeless.

Using my platforms to raise money and awareness about homelessness and domestic violence, while launching a marketing company was how I changed my life.

But to do it required a lot of inner work, healing, knowing what mattered to me and working towards it.

If you want to know the techniques, routines, habits, and everything I did and have done over the years to change my life, check out the blog section of my other site, Kylie Travers.

Read how to double your income to give you some ideas and tips on upgrading your career.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

3. Health

Weight loss does not always equal health and I don’t want to focus on that for this section.

Upgrading your health is about feeling good, reducing symptoms of anything you might have (or curing it if possible), getting stronger, more flexible etc.

Both mental and physical health matter and need to be considered with anything you do.

How to Upgrade Your Physical Health When You’re Broke

Rather than looking at weight loss, what goals do you have for your physical health?

Is it to be able to go for a 5km run, do yoga daily, be able to do specific things with the kids, heal your core after babies etc?

Get specific then research ways to make it happen.

A lot of exercise can be done at home without equipment if you use YouTube videos and a mirror to ensure you do things correctly.

We love yoga (especially Yopa With Adrienne), you can do reformer pilates with a towel, heal diastasis recti after pregnancy with physio and specific routines etc.

Read how to get fit for free or super cheap for more tips.

As for food, eating healthily does not need to be expensive.

Read these tips to reduce the cost of groceries, these 13 tips to reduce the cost of meat and how to reduce food waste for all the tips we use for food.

Use these tips to quit energy drinks (the tips can be applied to other addictions too).

And read how to afford medical expenses on a budget along with how to make and save money on health and beauty.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

How to Upgrade Your Mental Health When You’re Broke

From personal experience, I can say that being broke added to my mental health struggles and made things much harder.

If you can afford therapy for whatever you need it can help. Professional help is essential when it comes to our health, especially our mental health.

You might be eligible for a mental health plan or other free/cheap assistance, depending on your circumstances.

Support groups, either in person or on Facebook, might be useful for you.

Podcasts, YouTube, learning more about your conditions and trialling the suggestions of others.

For us, there is a direct connection between our mental health and life, hobbies, diet, exercise and overall lifestyle.

Know what you need or find out what you need to be mentally healthy and do what you can to support it.

Read how to manage your money when you struggle with mental health for some tips.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

How We Upgraded Our Health

Since my kids and I are neurodivergent (ADHD and Autism), plus there are some other conditions we live with, health is a priority in our house.

We eat mainly fresh produce, gluten and dairy free plus focus on nutrient-dense food.

Having a breakfast of granola, Greek yoghurt or similar with in-season fruit e.g. bananas, a few berries or similar keeps us full for longer and helps us focus.

Alternatively, we do a smoothie with similar ingredients or sometimes eggs.

Lunch is often leftovers and for dinners we rotate the meal kit discounts, shop the markets, my 14 year old works at a butcher (her choice) and we go fishing etc.

Exercise includes having an active lifestyle, walking or biking everywhere, hiking, swimming and similar on weekends.

Yoga of an evening, along with the teens doing sports such as wrestling, Taekwondo and anything else they want.

We also take some supplements, prioritise sleep and regularly check in with each other to see all our needs are fulfilled.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

4. Home

Whether it’s buying a home, moving to a bigger, home, renting or renovating, where we live has a significant impact on our life and is something most of us want to upgrade at some point.

I’ve owned as well as rented, lived in extremely wealthy areas as well as one of the least developed countries in the world.

For tips on buying a home, read how to buy a home when the average home costs over $600,000 (it was written before 2020 but the tips still apply).

Also, check out how to make your home pay for itself and how to save for a house deposit.

If you want to renovate the home, get quotes, research how to do what you want cheaper and see how you will be able to afford it.

Upgrading your home can be tricky with no money but not impossible.

When it comes to renting, follow these tips to create a fantastic rental application and look at ways to increase your income to be more appealing.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

5. Car

Upgrading a car when you’re broke can be tricky.

Often the upgrade is needed due to either having more kids or the car completely dying.

In both circumstances, you don’t have thousands available to get a new car.

If you need to buy a car, take a look on Facebook Marketplace, Car Sales and similar sites to find what you want.

Research the specific car you are interested in by Googling if it has common issues or recalls etc.

Check on to see the actual value of the car.

In recent years, the cost of cars increased drastically due to supply issues but that is settling again so it will be easier to get a car now.

When dealing with your old car, the lowest price you will get is the wreckers and car dealerships.

Selling privately can be stressful but you can make a lot more money with it.

Read how to live without a car, 10 top tips for your car and how to reduce the cost of transport.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

6. Technology

Phones are essential for many aspects of life now but they can range in price from under $100 for an extremely basic phone to thousands for the latest and greatest.

Laptops or tablets are essential for most schoolkids now and in some occupations.

So how can you afford to upgrade any technology if you’re broke?

To afford a phone, some prefer to go on plans. If you do that, research the best option for you, look for cash back, and extra perks and always read the fine print.

In our experience, buying a phone outright and using prepaid has always worked out significantly cheaper.

Buying the phone outright can be the tricky part though.

Read reviews and compare the phones you’re considering before buying.

Some phones might seem great but have massive issues you’ll only discover through reviews or after you buy it.

My preference is to avoid second-hand as there are too many scams and too much that can go wrong.

Read how to reduce the cost of phone and internet.

With laptops and similar, see if the school has a program to either lend out laptops or other devices.

Or see if they get a special discount for certain stores.

When we upgrade the kids devices, it’s been in Black Friday sales with discounted gift cards, cash back options and getting it on clearance.

By doing that, we secured a $3,000 setup for just over $1,000 once.

Read how to combine discounts, how to get discounts on everything and my 9 frugal habits to save thousands.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

7. Relationships

Upgrading your relationships includes friends, family, a romantic partner, even your relationship with colleagues.

Every relationship in your life can be reviewed and potentially upgraded.

It doesn’t mean getting rid of what you have and ‘upgrading’ to new people.

Although if they are toxic or abusive, getting them out of your life would be better, I have tips to get the money to leave an abusive relationship if you need to.

Having better relationships makes life easier and more meaningful.

Read how to be close to your kids without spending a fortune.

What to do when your partner is hopeless with money and how to get your family on board with saving money.

Learn what you can about yourself, your attachment style, trauma, negotiation etc and you will be able to improve all your relationships.

By healing yourself, you will naturally ‘upgrade’ the people and connections around you, although sometimes it can be difficult if they are no longer aligned with you.

Knowing more about yourself and how to relate to people can strengthen relationships and show you where you want to maintain connections vs which relationships are not good for you.

A few books I recommend for this can be found in 23 books that will change your life.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

8. Wardrobe/Clothing/Style

Some of us simply want a makeover, others feel we never found our style or we have neglected ourselves for so long we own nothing without stains or holes.

Many mothers I know have been rocking the same style (or same outfits) for years and feel frumpy, burnt out and neglected.

They always get their kids new clothes but neglect themselves.

How To Upgrade Your Style and Wardrobe When You’re Broke

Before buying anything, get some styling tips as they will help you shop smarter.

Know what colours look best on you, along with the cuts, fabrics and styles.

Your body shape, skin tone, lifestyle and similar all play into what will work for you.

Once you know that, it is easy to buy clothes and you will likely own less because you love everything you own.

A session with a personal stylist is not cheap but it can be worth it.

Learning tips from stylists on YouTube is free though and can also help.

Taking a brutally honest friend with you to the shops to try on things, take photos and see what suits you, what doesn’t can be beneficial too.

When it comes to buying things to upgrade your wardrobe you can use second-hand stores, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or go to a clothing swap.

I’ve done all of those options, as well as shopping clearance sections of my favourite stores.

Read 9 ways to get free clothes for ideas on how you can upgrade your wardrobe with no budget.

A makeover and clothing you love does not need to be expensive.

I am regularly complimented on my clothing because I know what looks good on me and where to source it frugally.

Read how to look expensive on a budget for a few more tips.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

9. Skincare/Haircare/Makeup

As an ex-hairdresser, skincare, haircare and makeup matter to me.

Throughout my life, my skin and hair have required different things.

Knowing what my skin and hair needed helped me do it on a budget.

Taking care of your skin and hair matters because despite what people might say, we do judge others based on appearances, even if only for the first split second.

As sad as it is to say, how we look can impact what we are offered in terms of jobs, discounts and even when it comes to how nice people are when doing things for us.

Learn about your skin and hair, and what they need then research natural or frugal options for different conditions.

If you are taking care of your health, eating well, drinking a lot of water, being careful with the sun etc your skin and hair will be better than someone who is not taking care of those things.

Read 7 tips for beauty on a budget as well as how to make and save money with health and beauty.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Life on a Budget

How Have You Upgraded Your Life When You’re Broke?

You might also like 10 tips to upgrade your life on a budget and how to have a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.

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