There’s something to be said about growing up poor. Your experiences are different from most people (unless they also grew up poor). Most people won’t understand why you couldn’t ask them for help.
Some kids grew up to develop good, unwasteful habits. Unfortunately, some of them also grew up with guilt, embarrassment, and fear.
Can you relate to these scenarios?
1. No field trips
“You never brought the field trip permission slips home because you knew better than to make your mom feel guilty she couldn’t pay the $5-20 fee to let you go.”
It definitely takes a lot in a young child to put others first over what could have been a fun time. We hope they were able to go to some field trips though.
2. Stand proud
“My dad grew up very, very poor (we were poor to lower middle class in my childhood), and we would get an earful for mumbling or slouching. It was like the cardinal sin. I got a Christmas present taken away one time because I didn’t speak up enough when I told him how much I liked it.”
We love how their dad always taught them to always fight for themselves and to always speak up. Wish all dads were like him!
3. Hide yo’ money
“Hide money or it will be “borrowed.” Also, don’t get attached to anything because if it’s any good it’ll be sold in a yard sale, and if it has any value it will be pawned. I got the same CD player for three Christmases and birthdays in a row…out of pawn for birthday, pawned again a month later, out of pawn for Christmas, pawned again by March, etc.”
It’s definitely heartbreaking when you’re given an awesome gift, taken from you, given back, and then taken again. You learn to live with awful things just so they won’t be taken from you.
4. What is yours is mine
“”The second you become working age, 10+. You will help with bills. You have no choice. Your money is everyone’s money.” Which is fine, until you realize the new tattoo mom has and dads new tv.”
5. Keep the oven on
“If you use the oven during winter, when you’re done, leave it cracked so that the heat warms up the rest of the house more.”
When you’re poor, you learn to multitask. You learn to look at how your things can serve you in multiple ways.
6. Only survive
“Keep your aspirations to yourself. Telling anyone in your household/social strata about your plans to get out and do better may be met with bitterness and downright ridicule. People will call you uppity for wanting to go to school or stupid for having a career goal that isn’t modest and local and vaguely dead-end. People will tell you that you have no common sense simply because you refuse to see the world in terms of pure survival.”
Having dreams is not an option. Learning to get yourself out of your poor situation is not an option.
7. PlayStation art
“I drew all over my PlayStation after getting it out of pawn for the second time. My parents had pawned it the first time after asking me if they could. They promised me all sorts of stuff, like new games and treats when they got it out. That didn’t happen. The second time they pawned it, they did it while I was at school. They didn’t even tell me. They just waited for me to go into my room and see that it was gone. So when I got it back that time, I grabbed a sharpie and drew gross pictures on it and swear words. Same with all my games. I mean, I only had FF7 and Tekken 3, but I didn’t want to take any chances.”
You didn’t want to take any chances. They can take everything away, just not this one thing.
8. Still behind on bills though
“I had a girlfriend my sophomore year who’s mom couldn’t pay the bills on time, had a bunch of credit card debt, and when her daughter (my girlfriend at the time) got hit by a drunk driver, she used the money they got to buy a new TV. And then she bought a pool table. Still 3 behind on bills, though.”
Priorities, you know. The TV is always entertaining. And pool! Everyone needs to have a good time. Overdue bills and debt are just not fun.
9. No blood, no pain.
“You’re not hurt unless you’re bleeding. If you are bleeding, don’t bleed on the carpet.”
Just gotta suck it up. Pain builds character anyway.
10. Wait to the last minute
“Going to the doctor isn’t an option until your fever is sustained at 104, a bone is broken, or the tooth rotted and won’t fall out on it’s own.”
If it’s not an emergency, it’s not worth it. Bring out the Vicks Vaporub!
11. Keep quiet
“Never tell your friends that you couldn’t afford food or give them any clue about what it’s like at home. My mother used to ask me if I told anyone how we live and that’s when I started questioning our situation.”
It’s really hard to be with friends when you can’t always be honest with them. But it’s hard when they don’t understand.
12. Growing mushrooms
“I once told some friends we had mushrooms growing in our house. I thought it was cool. My mom was angry and told me to never tell anyone again. I realized as I got older why she was angry. The floor of our house was rotting…thus the mushrooms. But she couldn’t afford to get it fixed. She was worried CPS would take me away for unsafe living conditions.”
We can admire the innocence of children. They always find the good in different things, even when it actually means something rotten.
13. Already ate
“‘I already ate my lunch’ said to so many peers and teachers over the years.”
They said that fasting builds discipline. But it would still be good to have something to warm your belly, no?
14. Undesirable home address
“I grew up in a trailer. In fourth grade, a girl was having a birthday party and needed addresses for invitations. The next day she told me her parents uninvited me because I lived in the trailer. That was a new thing I learned I was supposed to be embarrassed about.”
They say when you tell the truth, you’ll know who your real friends are. Or maybe in this case, you’ll know whose parents you’ll have to avoid from now on.
15. Just a few hours
“Not eating lunch because it you either “just ate breakfast” or “dinners only a few hours away you’ll be fine”
It’s only been a few hours. You can think that hunger away.
16. It’s school or home
“We weren’t allowed to do any kind of extra curricular activities. So, no instruments, no joining any kind of sports or girl scouts or anything that required an upfront investment for uniforms or the season. Walmart shoes. My dad once said I wasn’t really in need of glasses, that I just wanted to look like all my four eyed friends? lol (spoiler alert, totally needed them) Off brand everything.”
It does make sense though. Sometimes those extra-curricular activities can get so expensive. But which activity doesn’t have some kind of expense? Better to just go home, study, and read.
17. Just let go
“Apparently when I was younger, I was content with playing with toys in the store then just letting it go when my parents took it away before check out.”
They were trained early on to learn to let go. It’s just their way of life.
18. Sandwich party
“We were very poor growing up. You never ate the last of anything without asking first. Portions were small and limited. When I was 11 I was invited over to a then friend’s house. I was floored by their house and furnishings. Very opulent compared to mine. Lunch time came. Her mom had set the table for sandwiches. Everything laid out, 3 different breads, all sorts of meats, condiments and fruit. At my house lunch was a sandwich with white day old bread with peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes we would have those land o frost thin sliced meats. We were only allowed 2 slices of the meat per sandwich. So, at this friends house, I make my sandwich with one slice of ham because it was way thicker then the stuff at home. The mom kinda freaks out…”what kind of sandwich is that? You need to put more on it, thats not enough.” I explain that’s what we do at home. They were horrified. Ended up sending me home with a “care package” of food. My parents never let me go to her house again because they were embarrassed I told them we were poor.”
It was a simple sandwich but it meant so much. Who knew bread and deli can change a person’s life?
19. Sweat fest
“A/C was only for company. I lived in S. Florida and didn’t know I could use the air conditioner without having someone over until I moved out of my parents home.”
They didn’t need to workout to sweat out. They’re inside a literal daily sweat fest.
20. Lifelong habits
“Leave the TV on when you leave the house. When someone calls, your parents are “in the shower” and you’re able to take a message. You are perpetually young. Going to a movie? Only during matinee showings AND you are 12 years old until you’re 16. At a restaurant, you’re also 9 forever. Going to fast food (with any adult), you only order off of the dollar menu.”
When you’re worried daily, especially with money, you develop habits. And these habits stay with you for a long time, even forever!
21. The cheapest one
“If someone buys you food at a restaurant order as cheaply as possible even if they tell you order whatever you want. Used to get death glares from parents if I ordered something 10 bucks or over at a place where average prices was 10 bucks. If you can get a burger and fries for 8 you better be eating a burger.”
You’ll learn to scan menus fast. Just look at the price first.
22. The other parents
“The oldest kids babysit the youngest kids.”
Yeah, the younger kids don’t even recognize their parents. They only know their older siblings.
23. A FULL machine
“Not being able to wash your clothes until you could do a full, and I mean FULL machine. Getting a stain on a fresh shirt meant scrubbing it with soap over the sink.”
Well, it does make sense. Water is expensive and the washing machine uses a lot of electricity. You’ll just need to be more careful with stains. Or don’t wear light clothes.
“Never fill up the gas tank. You don’t want to be in a situation where you have gas in your car but no groceries.”
It’s all about priorities. A car, you may be able to live without. But a life without groceries? No way!
25. Small hacks
“Eating stale or close to sell by date, food. No brand-name anything. Adding water to shampoo to get it to last longer. Reuse everything. Make-do or do without. Free samples count as a meal. To name a few.”
When money is always tight, you learn to develop habits to make your things last longer. And these are habits that you carry even when you get older.
26. Winter is coming
“Not have enough blankets at bed time in the winter. No central heating, used to wake up with ice on the inside of the windows and on the windowsills. I was shocked to be in a hot house in winter when I went round friends.”
Winter is coming so brace yourself. Brace yourself for sleepless or freezing nights.
27. Monthly checks for the future
“Education is the only way out of the horrible situation. This was made very clear to me right from a young age. I remember everyone in my family checking in on my grades and plans for the future. Almost on a monthly basis! Helped my extensively in the long run.”
Unlike others, their parents want them to have a better future. Work on it now so you can have it later.
28. Grow up earlier
“You cook, clean, and pitch in before you are asked. If you’re waiting for an adult to make dinner, you’re going hungry. Also, poor doesn’t mean dirty. You keep what you have nice, clean, and well cared for.”
You learn to be independent earlier and younger. We love what they learned though, to always take the time to take care of yourself.
29. The way things are done
“If the phone rings and mom doesn’t answer it, it’s probably the bill collectors. Same with the front door and why the curtains aren’t open.”
You learn to walk silently in the dark. You learn to do your own thing.
30. So yummy!
“I remember my dad always getting really excited about very cheap, mundane foods like puffed rice cereal( plain), bologna sandwiches and unflavored steel cut oats. He would get us all amped up about it and we would want to eat it instead of the more expensive stiff we really wanted because of how much he talked it up. Now that I am older(and as a father myself) I don’t think he actually loved all these things that much, but instead my parents just didn’t have the money to buy all that expensive food to feed three growing boys. Sure made the best of it, though.”
We don’t always need to eat the expensive food anyway. Sometimes, the best-tasting food are the ones that you don’t expect.
31. What’s a movie theater?
“We went to the movies so infrequently (about 5 times by age 16) that I didn’t know James Bond films were shown there before they were on TV. I was probably 15 before I found out.”
It’s a good thing these movies are eventually shown on TV. Few people have to miss out!
32. The annual budget
“The thing that I remember was the clothing budget: we had ~$100/yr each for clothes. It wasn’t a hard and fast thing, but that’s basically all the family could afford in terms of clothing, and each of the 5 kids had a large percentage of hand-downs in their wardrobe. I remember thinking that shoes were expensive, because they were one of the only clothing items which regularly wore out, and were like 20% of the annual budget to buy a new pair.
I also remember getting my first non-parent haircut when I went to college, and that was strange, both in the experience, and in spending ~$10 of my own money on it.”
Thank goodness for hand-me-downs. Just have to figure out how to make them last longer.
33. No friends over
“Don’t invite people over unless they are also poor”
It just makes sense. Not everyone will be able to understand your situation.
34. Always ask
“Ask before you get ANYTHING to eat”
Because you never know what your mom needs it for. And maybe that’s the dinner for the entire family. So always ask first.
35. Turn off the lights and be quick
“Turn off all lights behind you. Take as quick of showers as you can. Recycle pop cans. Drive slower because it conserves gas. Plan your trip so that you don’t have to drive unnecessary routes and waste gas. Be ok with the heat always at 68 or below (use a blanket if you’re cold).”
Be mindful of every action that you make. And each step has to have purpose.
36. Homemade everything
“Homemade birthday cakes, homemade pizza, we NEVER went out to eat. Fast food/restaurants were a waste of money. Soda was a treat, as was sugared cereal. You got sox and undies as stocking stuffers at Christmas. You wore your clothes 2-3 times before washing them unless they were obviously dirty or smelly. You washed and dried zipper bags to reuse. We never used paper towels to clean.”
Well, homemade is always better. And they’ve always been zero waste while other people are only doing it now.
37. Fine dining
“My wife really had a laugh when I told her I grew up thinking Denny’s was a “fancy restaurant”.”
Every person has a different interpretation of the word “fancy.” At least you’re satisfied after eating at Denny’s. That’s what’s important.
38. Count inside
“Never count your money where someone else can see, even if it’s like 5 bucks.”
Hide that money! People who want it will smell it instantly.
39. Teen worker
“You get a job when you’re 15 and it becomes more important than high school”
Survival is always the priority. And long-term is not a desirable option