Life when you’re well-off and when you’re incredibly poor is like night and day. The difference in your family’s income doesn’t just affect the quality of your food and how you spend your free time—not having enough money impacts nearly every aspect of your life. In ways that you couldn’t imagine.
One redditor, user Jicta, asked their fellow site users who grew up poor to share the “unwritten social expectations of your world growing up,” besides practical and widely-known money-saving measures. The responses have been heartrending. Have a read through them below, dear Pandas, and let us know what you think. Have you ever had to do anything like this while growing up? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section, dear Pandas.
The creator of the Financial Samurai blog, financial expert Sam Dogen, went into detail with Bored Panda about climbing out of poverty. "One of my main reasons for writing 3X a week on Financial Samurai since 2009 is so that I can help people for free reach financial independence sooner, rather than later. Not only is my blog free, but so is my newsletter," he said. We also reached out to the original poster of the question, Redditor Jicta. Read on for both of their insights.
Not really a societal expectation, but more of a familial one. I never once knew how closely my family toed the poverty line, thanks to how my parents ran things. My dad, though, he would volunteer me all the time to help friends, family, coworkers in need, if I was able to at all. Never let me ask for a single dollar from them, unless it was explicitly "a job" and for, say, a friend of a friend. I helped his coworker move a handful of times. I cut my elderly neighbor's grass. I helped so-and-so connect their internet, or a friend of his to replace their carpet.
I had no idea what my old man was fostering in both me and them. When I moved out on my own, his coworker called, offered to help. Showed up with antiques from his late mother as a housewarming gift for my wife and I. The man who's grass I cut? He passed away, and left me his piano, since he knew I liked to play. The friend with the carpet? Hooked me up with a decent paying job right out of college. The internet-illiterate ones? Solid mechanics, and know my vehicle inside and out.
He was teaching me something so much more than just an exchange of goods and services. These weren't I.O.U.s coming due. The man knew the value of community and friendship, and just how far people would go for someone else if they just cared, even an ounce.
It bleeds over in my day to day, now, too. I may see someone at the grocery store struggling to find a product, so I take the time to help them out. It costs me only a few minutes, and I may never see them again. Or, I find out the person I helped is the very same one standing behind the counter at the DMV, and makes my time just a little bit shorter as a thanks.
TL;DR, my pops taught me the value of kindness.
If your neighbors were in need—you helped them. Like, Mary’s car broke down again, so my brother would go work on her car for free on his day off, and I’d get up extra early all week to drop Mary off at work and get her kids to school. Swing by in my lunch break to grab the kids after school, too. Basically, when folks are in need—you help them, and the same is done in return.
Keep your hair brushed, your clothes clean, and be articulate and polite in all circumstances. We were not going to be 'trash' just because we were poor. Also, no wearing ripped jeans, even if it's the style. We're not spending money on new pants that look like old worn-out pants.
Sam, the founder of Financial Samurai, agreed with us that climbing out of poverty is incredibly difficult. However, there are ways to go about this and, in his opinion, anyone stuck in a difficult financial situation should focus on one thing: financial education.
"The most important thing one can do is gain as much financial education as possible to get out of poverty. If there is no internet access at home or mobile data plan, perhaps there is free internet access at the local library, pandemic-willing. We can now learn anything and everything for free on the internet," he explained, sharing that there are always ways to go around obstacles like lacking internet access.
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.
Always return anything you borrow in better condition. People will be eager to loan you things.
Overall, independence at a young age. But also responsibility. 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.
Seriously, I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything in the world.
Bored Panda also wanted to get Sam's take on what people who are exhausted and live in poverty should prioritize when they're forced between buying food, paying for rent, getting gas, and other important decisions.
"Paying for food is obviously the #1 necessity to spend money on. Fortunately for renters, there is an eviction moratorium in many parts of the world during the pandemic. Many renters don't have to pay their mortgage if they've faced COVID-19 hardship. However, the moratorium will eventually end given landlords have bills to pay as well. Therefore, the second focus is on shelter. Try to either work out an agreement with the landlord or make contingency plans with friends and relatives once the moratorium is over," he advised.
People actually order take-out food like every night. I still think that's mad.
Literally once or twice a year for us growing up.
My parents where great at hiding that we where poor. They made sure we always had christmas presents and a birthday present. And we would order pizza at christmas. All our clothing came from other relatives or charity shops. But when i started working full time and went to live on my own? Just then i realized truth that we poor. But still looking back i have never had the feeling of being left out when it came too other childeren. And i still thank them for it.
And now all the kids have moved out? There the most generous and loving grandparents you could wish for a kid.
But the biggest lessen i have learned is help others out. So every time i have something that i don't use or want? I give it away for free. Every time my daughter go's up a size in clothes? I give the old clothes to a charity that helps people with childeren who can't afford it. And it gives me a great feeling ever single time i do it.
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.
I guess just expecting to have to deal with other people's sh**ty parents sometimes.
Redditor Jicta, the author of the thread who is based in the United States, told Bored Panda that they grew up in a middle-class family but have known people who were both wealthier and poorer than they were. "I was reflecting recently on some of the social expectations of my own background and realized probably everyone experiences variants of that. So I just thought I'd ask," they told us what inspired them to create the thread in the first place.
The responses to the question they posed affected them emotionally more than they thought they would. "The embarrassment people felt as children when they couldn't afford what their classmates or other peers did was really sad to me. It made me think about how many people I interact with every day are probably facing things that they'd be so embarrassed for anyone else to know. That's not limited to financial pressures, but that's definitely one big area," redditor Jicta explained.
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.
Being raised by a single mother, she instilled the belief that school went elementary, middle, high, then college. There wasn’t a question as to whether or not college was optional. She did everything in her power to raise two boys to live more successful lives.
My brother and I both graduated college and graduate studies (MA) and our starting jobs were both with salaries that were over double what my mom made. Growing up I wish things where different but as an adult, I cherish the values and experiences instilled by my mom.
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.
In Jicta's opinion, we can all fight child poverty on all fronts. From providing direct financial support to investing in how we educate teachers. "I really like the bailout's large child credit being proposed, and hope it stays this year and in the future. Also things like educating our teachers on how to ask questions in a way that doesn't highlight the differences between kids' experiences based on their parents' financial situations."
They continued: "And lastly if we can normalize getting sustainable financial help and learning basic financial literacy for adults, that would benefit kids. I noticed how many kids were in that predicament because their parents had such poor money management skills. But basically, we just have to be able to talk about money as a society, not pretend like it's not a thing."
It doesn't matter of you don't like the (food, clothes, shoes, toys etc) take it, say thank you and be appreciative
Turn off all lights behind you. Take as quick 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).
If someone was nice enough to cook you a meal you better help(or at least offer to) clear the table and wash the dishes after.
The number of people living below the poverty line in the United States was a whopping 33.98 million in 2019, according to Statista. The number really is huge and speaks volumes about the daily suffering endured by Americans. However, the situation in the country has been getting much better recently, year by year.
Back in 2014, the number of Americans living in absolute poverty peaked at 46.66 million. So for nearly 13 million people, their living situation has improved at least a bit. Unfortunately, these are pre-Covid19 pandemic numbers. We’ll need to wait a year or more to get the full picture of how the lockdowns and massive changes to how society functions have affected the poor. Odds are, the situation might’ve gotten worse.
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.
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.
The fight against poverty is multifaceted and complex. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple and clear-cut solution to the problem (if only printing more money didn’t result in greater inflation…). But it boils down to society providing support and opportunities for families that aren’t well off, as well as those same families doing everything in their power to get out of the so-called cycle of poverty.
Focusing on financial literacy, improving your education, aiming for a better job, finding a home closer to work and for less rent, reaching out to the community for help, getting rid of credit card debt bit by bit—all of these are small steps that can help move a family out of absolute poverty and into the working, middle, and even upper classes. This is, of course, far easier said than done. When you’re exhausted, hungry, and beaten down, it’s hard to find the energy and willpower to make even small changes—all you want is sleep, food, and a moment of peace.
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.
You're not hurt unless you're bleeding.
If you are bleeding, don't bleed on the carpet.
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.
I am in my late 30's with full insurance and still have a hangup about going for medical care.
Poverty, real poverty, can have massive negative consequences on children as they’re growing up. Lacking access to proper food can lead to malnutrition. What’s more, poverty leads to inadequate health care and means that kids don’t have the same access to education (and later on, employment) as others.
Jicta’s thread got over 56.5k upvotes and over 17.2k comments which just goes to show that the topic is incredibly important to lots of redditors. And it’s a thread full of life lessons for all of us, no matter our background.
Not eating lunch because it you either "just ate breakfast" or "dinners only a few hours away you'll be fine"
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.
Museum, amusement park, skiing,and skating? That’s for rich people.
Reading through the thread and all of the responses can hit you like a truck. Some of us remember being in those exact same situations. While others (who had the luck of living a comfortable middle or even upper-class life) realized just how emotionally tough you have to be when you’re poor. There’s no room for whining or weakness when you’ve no money, have piling debts, and aren’t sure where your next meal will be coming from or if you’ll end being evicted.
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.
Number one rule of growing up poor. Avoid buying anything nice for yourself and feel absolutely guilty if you do.
In the UK- do not answer the door. Do not answer the phone. When the man is looking through the window, make sure you can't be seen. Do not tell anyone who knocks on the door where the parents work.
This turned out to be doorstep lenders like Provident- no idea how they are still around these days.
You get a job when you’re 15, and it becomes more important than high school.
Keep your hair brushed, your clothes clean, and be articulate and polite in all circumstances. We were not going to be "trash" just because we were poor.
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.
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.
Generous borrowing and “burning” culture. Everything you own is available to be borrowed by other poor people. My family had an extensive movie collection (especially when we could record movies from cable to VHS tapes), and our neighborhood friends were welcome to borrow what they needed. Games, movies, CDs. We swapped and borrowed a lot. Often times, it was only long enough to burn a copy to have for oneself.
Most meals were "experiments" made from the food we got from the food pantry.
Going to fast food (with any adult), you only order off of the dollar menu.
Its funny now seeing my leftovers as a bonus snack and not part of the next days meal.
Had some weird lunches packed for me. Like cream cheese and olives in a burrito wrap.
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