20 Behaviors People Who Grew up Really Poor Can’t Get Rid Off

Growing up in poverty can shape behaviors and habits that persist throughout life. Despite efforts to move beyond their circumstances, many individuals struggle to shake off these ingrained patterns. These behaviors often include hyper-awareness and anxiety about finances, obsession with coupons and discounts, and hoarding. If you want to learn more, read through to the end of this list of the top 20 indicators that someone grew up poor!

They Refrain from Purchasing New Goods

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People who grew up poor might not have gotten their heads wrapped around the fact that they have money to spend now. They’ve been so accustomed to shopping in thrift shops or second-hand stores that they struggle with buying something that’s 100% brand new. Some may even resort to online second-hand stores to score the cheapest possible deals, even when they have money to buy new things.

They Are Extremely Conscious of Cost and Value

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Those who grew up poor were shaped to compute how much things cost and how they’d fit into their family’s budget. So, even now, when they have some money to spare, they are still hyper-aware of the value of the things they want to purchase. Additionally, growing up poor instills a deep understanding of the value of money due to constant resource scarcity and financial strain.

They Struggle With Purchasing Luxurious, Fancy, or Expensive Things

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Many people find it challenging to buy nice things, especially luxury items, if they grew up with less than an ideal amount of money. They feel a certain guilt or discomfort associated with spending money on non-essential items. The Guardian correlates this feeling of anxiousness with money dysmorphia, wherein someone feels like they don’t have the money, even though they do.

They Are Uneasy With High-End Brands or Items

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People who grew up poor typically have a repressed desire for things they want. However, there’s this financial anxiety that continues to cripple them, even when they start earning and saving money. In fact, some people say that there’s a certain kind of PTSD that comes from being poor.

They Choose to Stockpile Funds or Save Instead of Investing Their Money

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Growing up poor can make people more likely to save money instead of invest because they feel insecure about their finances. Saving gives them a sense of security or a safety net while investing can seem risky and unfamiliar.

They Struggle With Money Management and Have Difficulty Handling Their Finances Properly

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Those who grew up in a financially struggling household wouldn’t be exposed to proper money management. All they would come to know about money is how to save it or how to allocate just enough to survive. Research from Western Michigan University explains, “Americans in general are not very educated on financial matters, and financial illiteracy may be particularly acute among the poor.”

They Work for Meager Wages or Minimal Compensation

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People who don’t struggle with money have the luxury of waiting for the “right” job or a good-paying position. However, people who grew up poor do not have the same kind of mindset. Because they are financially insecure and anxious, they fear losing an income source. These people may think they can’t pass up on an opportunity to earn money—even if it won’t earn them that much.

They Are Notorious for Grabbing Free Food for Later

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One tell-tale sign of someone growing up poor is jumping at the opportunity of taking free food with them. For example, a work event might have catering and extra food. At the end of the event, those who ask for free food they could take home might have grown up in a poor household.

They Refrain From Buying Anything “Extra” or Those They Consider Non-essential

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People who grew up poor have trouble accepting that now that they have money, they can buy things that aren’t necessities. Because of this, they usually stick to a strict shopping list.

They Take Couponing to a Whole New Level

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Extreme couponing allows people to spend hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars. So, some people’s poor upbringing may have instilled a frugal mindset, making them accustomed to using coupons or discount stubs whenever they’re out shopping.

They Don’t Pay in Full and Prefer to Pay in Installments or Opt for Payment Plans

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Those who had a hard time financially growing up may have noticed their parents paying off things paycheck to paycheck. This means a lot of things in their households might have been paid in installments; being accustomed to this, they choose this payment route even though they have more money. However, what’s bad about credit card installments is that they usually come with an interest rate or extra fees if you pay late. Time Magazine shares, “If you are unable to pay your credit card in full, you will be carrying a balance over from one billing cycle to another; that balance will start accruing interest.”

They Can’t Let Go and Resort to Hoarding

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Though hoarding manifests physically, it has more to do with the brain or one’s psychological state. Some researchers think that hoarding is directly related to one’s childhood experiences of being unable to own things, especially related to money worries or living in poverty.

They Have an Excessive Need to Save for a Rainy Day

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Individuals raised in poverty tend to save most of their belongings and money, as they are accustomed to living with limited resources. They feel more secure when they have extra items or money saved up in case of any future needs. Saving everything gives them a sense of control over their lives.

They Hate Wasting and Use Everything to the Last Drop

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Individuals who have experienced poverty in their childhood tend to hold onto their possessions until they are completely worn out because they have learned to make the most of what they have. They see things differently and may think that some items are not easily replaceable. At the same time, they might believe that they have yet to use up the full value of an item until they use it up to the very last drop. An example would be a shampoo bottle, which a person would keep even if they need to put water inside to get even a drop of what’s left inside!

They Overindulge in Food or Opt for Low-Quality Meals

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Though fast food can be enjoyed by people from all socio-economic classes, it’s more common for people with financial hardships to make this their go-to meal simply because it’s cheap. Another thing that could be observed is the high food intake of people who grew up in poverty. Independent shares, “Those who grew up in higher socio-economic households exhibited normal consumption behavior—eating when they were hungry, saying no thank you to the snacks when they were full. Those who grew up in lower socio-economic households, meanwhile, ate no matter how hungry they were.”

They Keep Stocking up and Fear Running Out of Essentials

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It’s a good thing to be prepared and have a backup plan. However, people who grew up in poverty take it to a whole other level and tend to always be ready for the worst. They might accumulate food, clothes, or household items to avoid running out. Remember, these people grew up in scarcity and fear, so they simply refuse to relive those days.

They Keep All of the Disposable Kitchenware and Utensils They Get From Restaurants

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Those who grew up in poverty are opposed to unnecessary spending. So, they tend to keep disposable kitchenware—spoons, forks, knives, plates, cups, and even chopsticks—just in case they’ll need it at some point in the future. Since they are unwilling to buy new items, safekeeping kitchenware they don’t use from restaurants is the best way to go.

They Recycle and Reuse Plastic Bags to Save Money

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Saving and reusing plastic bags is good for the environment. However, for people who grew up poor, the environment is the least of their concerns. For them, it’s just another means of saving money and minimizing expenses.

They Are Always Prepared for the Worst-Case Scenario

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Every item mentioned beforehand goes to show how people who grew up in poverty are readying themselves to be poor again. The money dysmorphia they have, the PTSD they’re suffering from, all their anxieties and saving tactics, and more are just them preparing for the worst. As long as they stick to a particular lifestyle, they won’t be as disappointed, nor would they have a tough time adjusting to things when poverty or financial struggles hit them again.

They Are Sincere, Compassionate, and Empathetic Toward the Needy

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People who grew up in poverty know how hard it is to survive. They know how painful it is to watch your family struggle to make ends meet, especially if there are kids or elderly in the picture. So, when they give, they give with all their hearts. They are genuinely empathetic and compassionate toward those suffering because they’ve been in their shoes before.

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Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.