20 Things You Do That Prove You Grew Up Poor (Even If You Don’t Realize It)

In our complex society, how we present ourselves often speaks volumes about our background and upbringing. While it is important not to judge others based solely on appearances, certain subtle cues can give away how they were brought up.

One Redditor asked, “What’s a dead giveaway you grew up poor?” Now, this thread received thousands of comments, and we have listed the most interesting ones for you!

1. Hoarding Food

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When you open the fridge of someone who’s been through a financial struggle, you’ll likely find it filled to the max. It’s not because they’re lazy or forgetful; it’s because wasting food is like a cardinal sin to us. We’ll surely squeeze every last drop of life out of that ketchup bottle!

A discerning Reddit user commented, “Food hoarding. All the people I know who grew up poor have too much food expiring in their pantries, myself included.”

Another replied, “Bonus poor points if you store refrigerated food in yogurt containers and not Tupperware.”

2. Enjoying the Nice Things

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Do you ever flinch when you see the price tag on something? Maybe it’s a fancy gadget or a luxury vacation package. That knee-jerk reaction is a surefire sign that you’ve had a modest upbringing!

One said, “You’re always afraid to use your nice things because you might ruin them, and then you never get to really enjoy what you do have.”

Someone else added, “Every time I friggin buy something, I just feel like I don’t deserve anything nice because it’s just gonna break on me anyways .”

3. Money Over Time

Senior grey-haired man wearing suit holding dollars and using smartphone
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Ever met someone who’s always working, working, working? Chances are, they’ve got a background that involves pinching pennies. When you grow up poor, you start valuing money over time.

A Reddit user wrote, “Disproportionately wasting a ton of time to save up a few dollars. It’s going to cost $2 less if I go to this grocery store, even though it will take 30 minutes longer to walk there. Sign me up.”

Another added, “At my poorest, grocery shopping took me all afternoon. Big Lots first, then bread outlet, then whichever supermarket had the best sales, plus the coupons I’d spent hours clipping and matching to sales. Drove all over the city. What I’d have given for an ALDI. Or, you know, a spouse who wasn’t an addict who spent all our money.”

4. Chewing Gum

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A Reddit user wrote, “Only using part of a stick of chewing gum at one time. Mom would make us share. We each got 1/4 stick.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “I used to put my chewed gum in the freezer so I could chew it again later.”

When you grow up poor, buying a pack of gum is an investment that needs to last, so we become experts at rationing!

5. Using Parts Over Whole

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One Redditor stated, “My mom taught us to do this with hot chocolate packets. Just use half or 1/3 of the packet per cup. I didn’t realize this was abnormal until I made hot chocolate for a friend, and she was confused I didn’t give her the whole packet. I was kind of embarrassed. So I gave her the whole packet and hoped I wouldn’t get in trouble from my mom.”

Someone else replied, “Saving a milk jug to mix powdered milk in. My brother wouldn’t eat syrup unless it was Mrs Butterworth so mom would refill a glass Butterworth with generic syrup, fooled him for about 20 years.”

Using parts of food over the whole becomes a way of life when you grow up poor. That wilted carrot or leftover chicken? We see potential!

6. Sharing With Your Siblings

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Someone commented, “Sharing with other siblings? Yeah, that stuff was mandatory growing up. I wasn’t allowed to have anything just for myself until I had my own money.”

Growing up poor often means limited food options and sticking to basic staples. But instead of squabbling over who gets what, these people have learned to share and divide their food. That way, everyone gets a little bit of everything!

7. Off-brand Items

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When you grow up poor, finding cheaper alternatives becomes a skill. Off-brand items become our secret weapon, allowing us to save a buck while still rocking the style!

Someone on Reddit said, “You look for off-brand everything.”

Another responded, “I was bullied as a kid because my Payless “Adidas” had four stripes. Called me “four stripe.” Very creative, lol.”

8. Missing Out on School Work

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Missing out on school projects because of expensive supplies becomes a brutal reminder of our financial constraints!

One said, “Elementary school teacher told each of us to bring in a bar of soap for some carving art project. Me: Mom, I need a bar of soap for school tomorrow! Mom: For what?! Me: Art project in Ms. Davis’s class. Mom: Does she not know how expensive a bar of soap is? NO. Take the zero!”

Another person added, “I remember my dad losing his ever-loving mind about having to pay $15 for a scientific calculator for my high school algebra class my freshman year, 1989. It was a TI-35X. I used it all the way through high school (including physics, where everyone else had the fancy programmable TI-85 graphing calculators) and college. I actually still have it, it still works, and I use it on occasion. I’d say that $15 was well spent!”

9. Eating Out

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Skipping restaurant meals isn’t just about the love of home-cooked food; it’s a money-saving superpower. Let’s face it – eating out can drain your bank account much faster than you’d expect!

One wrote, “Never eating out and saving all leftovers. Always having peanut butter and bread and pasta just in case.”

A user responded, “Saving the extra things for eating out. Condiment packets, napkins, unused plastic silverware all go into the drawer.”

10. Never Travelling

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Picture this: everyone around you is posting breathtaking photos from exotic destinations, their tans glowing, and their smiles wide. Meanwhile, you’re scrolling through the same old feed, wishing you could experience the thrill of travel. Never jetting off to faraway lands becomes a dead giveaway that you grew up poor.

Someone shared, “OMG the not having traveled anywhere one is real. I tell people I’ve never left the country (except to go to Canada, I live in U.S. on the border) and get looked at like an alien.”

Another person added, “Yeah, that not traveling anywhere hit hard. Remember during an internship when I was graduating there was an icebreaker question of what was your favorite out-of-country trip. Awkward.”

11. Soap

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When you grow up poor, using soap becomes an Olympic sport. Every shower becomes a strategic mission to squeeze out every last drop of it, right?

One wrote, “Another soap-related one I do. If I can’t get the last of the shampoo/dish soap out, I put in a little water and mix it around to get the edge soap.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “Stacking the old bottle on top of the new bottle for that little bit of soap to run into the new bottle. Cutting the gold bond diabetic lotion bottle open to get to the 1/2 inch of lotion at the bottom because it’s so thick it will not run into the new bottle.”

12. No Toothy Smile

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One Reddit user wrote, “Never showing teeth when smiling. I grew up dirt poor and never received dental care until I was well into my twenties. I’m now forty, only recently (after many dental procedures) have I began to feel comfortable showing my teeth.”

Another commented, “Aye, but I’ll do you one better. I’ve conditioned myself to not move my mouth/lips while speaking so teeth don’t show. I’m like a d**n ventriloquist without a dummy; it would be impressive if it wasn’t so sad. That was honestly the best part of masking up throughout the pandemic; I have been able to smile and speak freely for the first time in like 30 years. I’m about to inherit a tidy sum of money, and the first thing I’m spending it on is dental procedures.”

The struggle of never smiling in pictures becomes a dead giveaway that you grew up poor. It’s not that you’re unhappy; it’s just that you’re self-conscious about your dental situation!

13. Free Food

Lunch box meatloaf, bulgur, nuts, cucumber and berry.
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One wrote, “Never, ever, ever, ever turn down free food.”

Someone else agreed and said, “Amen. You can always tell who has and has not starved in their life by how they clean their plate.”

A Redditor wrote, “This! I used to work for a restaurant that would sample food to passing foot traffic. The number of people who said no was CONFOUNDING to me.”

When you grow up poor, our noses detect free food from miles away, and we pounce on the opportunity without hesitation.

14. Cheapest Items

Homemade Chinese Wonton Soup with Bok Choy.
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Fancy restaurants with hefty price tags? Nah, that’s not our scene. We’re the champions of cheap food, for sure!

Someone said, “Always ordering the cheapest thing on the menu, even if you could now literally afford to buy the whole restaurant.”

Another person shared similar thoughts and mentioned, “This. My family rarely ate out, but my friends’ families sometimes invited me- and I always ordered the cheapest thing on the menu because I felt guilty they were buying me food.”

15. Collecting Soda Cans

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One user said, “Collecting pop/soda cans from random places, even pulling them out of the trash because 10 cents, man. Edit: biggest score ever was cleaning out a rich dude’s garage on an island near my house. He would have epic parties and just stick the cans in the garage. It was filled floor to ceiling, and he gave them to me and my sister just over $600 worth in 1984 money, so we lived pretty good that summer.”

Someone else added, “Lol, I went on a field trip in middle school. It was a “wilderness” kind of thing where everyone was to pack a lunch. When everyone was done, they were throwing away soda cans. I was sitting close enough to the trash can to see it taking place, so I was telling my classmates to put them next to the trash, and I’d make sure they were recycled.

Truth of the matter is that my entrepreneurial side wouldn’t have let all that money go to waste. A teacher provided a trash bag, and I toted about $5 worth of aluminum home in the back of the bus. I didn’t feel like the poor kid; I thought it was just making some easy money. I was most definitely the poor kid.”

When you grow up poor, every penny counts, and collecting soda cans becomes our noble mission!

16. Genuine Thanks for Food

Woman eating pasta
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Someone commented, “Genuinely thanking someone about any type of food you are being given. My friends parents pointed it out to me when we got older; they always made sure my brother and I were well-fed and looked after with them. 💜”

Another replied, “OMG This reminds me. There are times where I buy my own food, like at the grocery store, and struggle to eat it. But if someone is willing to buy me food at like McDonalds, I ALWAYS eat all of it, and I want to eat it too. Like someone sacrificed some of their money for me to eat a good-tasting meal. I hate how I still think stuff like Mcdonalds, Taco Bell, and Wendys is Fancy rich people’s food.”

When you grow up poor, every meal becomes a precious gift. We’ve learned to appreciate the value of food, and our gratitude has become second nature. That’s a genuine expression of appreciation that can’t be faked.

17. Help Moving Your Stuff

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One dead giveaway of growing up poor is our frugal champion mindset. We’ve learned to prioritize saving money and finding creative solutions. Hiring movers can be expensive, so we turn to our trusted circle of friends instead!

Someone said, “This is an odd one… I realized the only people who will offer to help you with moving, or even moving furniture around your house, are people who grew up poor. Everyone else seems to think it’s normal to hire movers.”

Another responded, “When I first heard that you could hire people to move your things and even PACK for you, I thought that was fake. Guess we were just poor, lol.”

18. Regular Bread

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When you grow up poor, regular bread becomes your trusty sidekick. It’s the ultimate budget staple that lets us stretch our dollars. A discerning Reddit user commented, “Using regular bread for everything, like hamburger rolls, hot dogs, etc.”

Another replied, “Or envelope sandwiches, as my family called them. Pb and/or j on one piece of bread, folded in half.”

Another person pitched in to say, “Even just eating bread with every meal, like a filler. I was told recently that was odd by someone who grew up wealthy.”

19. Painting With Nail Polish

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A Redditor wrote, “Painting the runs in your hose with clear nail polish to make them last longer.”

Someone commented, “Clear nail polish is the duct tape of tiny holes. Small hole in the T-shirt because the fabric is wearing out? Dab of clear nail polish on the inside! Lightweight sweater fraying? Clear nail polish! Small cut? Bandaids are expensive; slap some clear nail polish on that stuff!”

Our stockings may not be brand new, but with some polish magic, they’re ready to strut their stuff for another day.

20. The Moldy Parts

Close-up of woman hand holding Moldy bread on wooden table
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One Redditor stated, “My grandfather grew up during the Depression. If something was moldy, you would just take out the moldy parts and eat the rest.”

Another responded, “My grandma did the same. I also remember not wanting to eat a frozen pizza. I asked her to make me because it was brownish, and when I looked, it was expired. She was like, “Don’t waste that!!” And ate it herself. Looking back, it’s so sad my grandma cared more about saving the pizza than potentially getting herself sick 🙁 “

Not throwing away moldy food is a dead giveaway that someone grew up poor!

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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.

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