20 Things That People Who Grew up Poor Can Relate To

Growing up with financial privilege often means overlooking the struggles others face. As such, food never being enough, living off of Kraft Dinners, being unable to go on school trips, and more are things that one can only understand if one grew up in poverty. The reality is that people from low-income households face many challenges when it comes to budgeting and making ends meet. If you want to learn more about this topic or want to be more empathetic when it comes to these social issues, read on and find the top 20 things one can only understand if one grew up poor.

Their Food Always Seems Scarce

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Food is one of the most basic necessities for human survival. However, food isn’t always easy to come by when you’re poor. As food becomes increasingly expensive, it becomes harder and harder for people in the lower class to get enough for their families. Unfortunately, food prices are still expected to rise in 2024, although the increase is projected to be slower than in 2023.

They Live off of Kraft Dinners and Canned Soup

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Because of the rising food prices, more and more people from the lower class are turning to canned soup and Kraft Dinners for their meals. However, though these are cheap and easy-to-put-together meals, they don’t have the nutrients one needs to grow healthily. Kraft Dinners are also highly associated with food-insecure households. An article published on ResearchGate shares, “When an interviewer asked a lone mother to list the foods on hand when times are tough, or money is tight, the answer was, ‘Kraft Dinner, of course.’”

They Only Use Second-Hand or Antique Furniture Pieces

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When you move into a new house, one of the first things you think about is what furniture you need to purchase to make your house a home. However, buying new furniture is not the way to go if you’re from a low-income household. Furniture is so expensive, so they usually only think about using second-hand pieces or hand-me-downs from their grandmothers or other relatives.

They Get Bullied Because of Their Lunch Tickets

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Bullying is one of the worst things that could happen to a child, and sadly, a lot of bullying happens in school. One of the most significant contributing factors to this was lunch tickets given in the 1980s. The lunch tickets were color-coded to signify regular meals and free meals, further increasing the probability of a child getting bullied. A person on Reddit shared, “The blue-colored tickets at my school were for poor families getting free lunch; I was mortified when I figured this out and would not take them or lunch because I was so embarrassed.”

They Always Wear Hand-Me-Down Clothes

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Though there are many cheap options for new clothing nowadays, they usually still can’t beat the price of a good hand-me-down. Because of this, people from the lower class would typically wear second-hand clothes to save more money. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and similar stores also offer good second-hand garments at very reasonable prices.

They Don’t Get Any Allowance From Parents

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Low-income households, more often than not, live paycheck to paycheck. So, parents in these families typically earn just enough for them to survive. It’s precisely for this reason that most kids who grew up poor did not receive any allowance from their parents. Sadly, they just don’t have enough extra money to spare.

Their Health Is Not Part of Their Top Priorities

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Substack shares, “13 million of the 28 million uninsured Americans are in low-income households earning 200% below the federal poverty line.” Sadly, though America is a high-income country, it doesn’t guarantee free health coverage for all its citizens—the poor and rich alike—unlike its foreign counterparts. Because of this, more and more kids are dying, and an increasing number of people are not able to get the care they need. Those who do try to get medical care are further pushed into poverty because of their medical bills.

They Don’t Always Notice or Recognize That They’re Poor

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When you’ve grown up seeing the same thing around you all the time, you’ll think what you’re going through is normal. However, the moment you step out into the reality of the world and get exposed to more and more people, you’ll slowly but surely realize how bad your environment was while growing up. Many people don’t always notice they’re poor until they are older or are exposed to other socio-economic classes at work and school.

Their Christmas Is Not the Same as Others’ Christmas

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Christmas is one of the holidays that almost everyone looks forward to; it’s a time of getting together with family, eating a big feast, and unwrapping many Christmas presents. Sadly, this is not the Christmas everyone grew up having. Those from low-income households grew up getting gifts that were necessities rather than wants. There was probably no big feast, as money would have been incredibly tight.

They Aren’t Able to Stock up in Case of Emergencies

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Most people stock up on pantry items and other household items for emergencies. However, low-income people don’t have enough money to spend on extras. They most probably live paycheck to paycheck, meaning they can only buy what they need at the moment they’re shopping.

They Believe Using Laundry Machines Is a Luxury

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Doing laundry is essential; everyone has to do it! However, the main difference lies in how one does it. The cost of a laundry service is $20 to $50 per load of 15 to 30 pounds; if you do it yourself at home, the price of a load of laundry will only be around $1.27. However, some people from low-income households prefer to wash what they can by hand to save on electricity.

They Wear the Same Clothes to School Almost Every Day

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When you see someone wearing the same clothes, you might think it’s their favorite. However, people in low-income households simply don’t have a choice. Since they live paycheck to paycheck, they don’t have the luxury of constantly buying new clothing, even hand-me-downs.

They Never Got to Go on Any Class Trips

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School trips are one of the things students look forward to the most. Aside from experiencing firsthand what they’ve been taught in the classroom, they also learn to be more independent and better get along with others. However, no matter how great school trips sound, there’s one big problem: they can get costly. Metro Parent explains, “School trips aren’t cheap; parents can expect to pay around $1,000 for a 4-day trip, which includes airfare, lodging, museum admissions, and other event costs.”

A Vacation Is the Last Thing on Their Minds

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Going on a vacation is great, but it’s not exactly a necessity or priority for people in low-income households. Aside from vacations costing a lot of money, parents usually use their money on “needs” rather than “wants.” For example, paying off a car loan or adding money to the emergency fund would be much more important than going on a trip to the Bahamas.

They Don’t Know How to “Treat” Themselves Because All They Ever Purchased Were Necessities

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People who grew up poor typically grow up with some anxiety when it comes to luxury purchases. Sometimes, their money anxiety gets so bad that they can’t even buy anything “extra” or those they consider non-essential.

Moms Would Not Have Dinner So Their Kids Could Eat

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Moms do whatever they can and whatever they need to do so their kids can get everything they need. When it comes to food in low-income households, they understand that sometimes, they don’t have enough to feed the entire family; instead of giving their kids less, they sacrifice themselves. The Independent shares an anecdote from a mom, saying, “A mother says she has been forced to ‘train’ herself to reduce her daily food intake to ‘leftovers at dinner’ in order to feed her three children.”

They Closely Watch the Total Amount When Shopping

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People from low-income households do their best to stick to a strict grocery list when shopping. Even so, this doesn’t guarantee that they actually have enough money saved up to purchase all they need to buy. Because of this, they anxiously and closely watch the total amount add up. Once they realize they don’t have enough money, they will return items on the shelves and pick them up on the next grocery run.

They Aren’t Able to Spend Time With Their Parents

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When families don’t have enough money, it can be challenging for parents to spend time with their children because they have to work a lot. They’d often work way beyond eight hours daily to make ends meet. Most of the time, kids are left alone, as their parents don’t have enough money to spend on sitters.

They Have to Work for a Living at an Early Age

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Sadly, children who grow up in low-income families don’t get to enjoy their childhood as much. This is because they are often asked to start work early to help their family out. This is more common in households where parents can’t get stable jobs.

They Can Never Invite Friends to Their House

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Many people can relate to worrying about having a messy home when inviting friends. However, this feeling is greatly amplified for kids who are from poor families. They fear they won’t have enough food to offer their friends, and they might be ashamed of their house’s condition. Because of this, they choose not to invite friends to avoid feeling embarrassed.

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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.