What It’s Really Like to Grow Up Poor

What It’s Really Like to Grow Up Poor

My family doesn’t come from a lot of money. And I don’t say that as someone who actually does and who is just trying to be humble. Free summer lunches, ramen noodles (hello, 5/$1) and hand-me-downs were a part of my daily reality.

That being said, I never truly struggled. I know because I had friends who did. While my family moved solidly into a middle class existence (thanks to some seriously hardworking parents and a mom who got a nursing degree with two small kiddos to take care of), and while I enjoyed nutritious meals and presents for birthdays and Christmas and everything else that seemed “normal”, I saw families in my poor neighborhood take drastic measures to get food on the table. And by food, I mean cereal or bread or fast food – anything that was cheap or could stretch through a couple of meals. (The poverty rate of my town is around 23.9 percent – far above the average rate of families living in poverty.)

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Did you know that in 2015, more than half of all students qualify for free or reduced priced lunches in public schools across the U.S.? That around 15% of Americans live at or below the poverty line? That the poverty rate for children under 18 hovers around 20%?

In a new Reddit thread, users shared their experiences of being truly poor. And some of the things they shared are things that in my everyday life I never even consider. It’s a sad reality: 45.3 million people live in poverty in the United States. How many of these are your neighbors, your friends, your kids’ classmates?

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Read some of the entries below:

“My office only has a unisex bathroom so it has the facilities for men and women. Naturally there's a tampon machine, and tampons are only 5 cents. Once a month I'll work late, get a roll of nickels and fill up a grocery sack with tampons for my wife.”

“Growing up my family had it's moments of struggle. Our public transport system at the time had tickets which were simply hole-punched with the date and month, not the year. So we'd save them and store them neatly in envelopes marked by month and concession or full fare. After a few years of saving tickets we pretty much had free train and bus travel for the next 10 years... until they changed the ticketing system to electronically stamped tickets with bar codes.”

“When I was child, Burger King ran a special kids meal where it was two mini Burgers that were attached to each other like a weird conjoined burger experiment. Sometimes we would go. My dinner was 1.5 of the mini burgers, my moms dinner was the half I didn't eat and she would fill up on the free refills of soda.”

“The generic version of Spam is called Treet. You learn that sorta thing as a kid.”

“Stuff on layaway. My mom would always go to this store that sold heavily discounted irregulars and put it on layaway for our new school clothes.”

Tell us: Did you ever have moments of struggle? What was the thing you did that saved your family money? Share in the comments.