20 Dead Giveaways That Someone Grew up Poor

Growing up, we all had our fair share of struggles, right? Some of us, though, had a bit more struggle on our plates than others. Now, there are these little, almost invisible signs that can sometimes give away the fact that someone might have grown up with a tight budget. So, let’s spill the beans, shall we?

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

1. Free Food

person eating large sandwich
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A discerning Reddit user commented, “Always eat free food. Never, ever, ever, ever turn down free food.”

Another person shared similar thoughts and mentioned, “This one resonates with me, extra sub sandwiches from a corporate meeting, and I tell my coworker. He responds, “I don’t want to eat people’s scraps”. I’m sitting over there like, “Whatever, I’ll get two and have lunch for tomorrow”. Different perspectives.”

For them, every free snack, every office meeting with leftover sandwiches, and every event with a buffet is not just a luxury; it’s a lifeline to the days when indulging in snacks was a rare treat.

2. Enjoying the Nice Things

Beautiful young woman with shopping bags on color background.
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Someone shared, “It’s still super hard to buy nice things for myself even though I can afford them.”

Another replied, “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.”

But here’s the kicker- this fear keeps you from enjoying the very things you worked so hard to get. You end up trapped in this cycle of ‘saving for the best’, where your best stuff ends up hidden away, waiting for that perfect, mythical day when it’s worthy of being used. And guess what? That day almost never comes.

3. Hoarding Food

Woman Looking For Food In Refrigerator
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See, when you grow up counting pennies, every grocery run is a strategic operation. You buy in bulk because, hey, it’s cheaper that way.

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

Another person pitched in to say, “Bonus poor points if you store refrigerated food in yogurt containers and not Tupperware.”

4. Off-brand Items

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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 stripes.” Very creative, lol.”

And let’s talk about the off-brand clothes. You know, those jeans that don’t have a fancy designer label but fit like a dream? That hoodie that’s just as warm and cozy as the ones with the big logos? Wearing off-brand clothes isn’t a fashion faux pas; it’s a declaration of independence from the tyranny of trends.

5. Never Travelling

Summer lifestyle traveler woman in bikini and big hat joy relaxing on boat.
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Traveling, for most people, is like this rite of passage, this grand adventure that broadens your horizons and fills your Instagram with envy-inducing pictures. But for others, especially those who grew up counting pennies, it’s more of a luxury than a norm.

Someone shared, “OMG, not having traveled anywhere one is real. I tell people I’ve never left the country (except to go to Canada, I live in the 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.”

6. Using Your Toiletries to the Last Bit

woman pumping out liquid soap on blue background.
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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.”

When you’ve got just a tiny bit left in the bottle, you better believe that thing’s getting diluted until it’s practically transparent. Why? Because you learn to make do with what you have.

7. Cheapest Items

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You might think it’s a simple choice, but it’s loaded with history. Choosing the cheapest item on the menu isn’t about being indecisive; it’s about being smart and making sure that when the bill arrives, you won’t be left with a side of shock.

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.”

8. Telling Others How Much You Saved

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Have you ever met someone who has a wallet full of coupons, ready to unleash them at the grocery store? That’s not just about being organized; it’s a skill honed from years of making every cent count.

A discerning Reddit user commented, “If somebody points out that you have or are wearing a nice <insert item>, an explanation of how much you saved on it, rather than just taking the compliment. “well, it was 30% off, and I had a gift voucher, so it came down to….””

Another replied, “Omg yeah, I’ve done that. Or they compliment my cologne, and I’m like thanks it’s a fake version of XX that I got online from some sketchy Chinese site for dirt cheap!”

9. Saving, Not Investing

Greedy young man hiding money on light blue background.
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For someone who grew up on a tight budget, having a substantial savings account feels like a security blanket. That safety net keeps them warm at night, knowing that if life throws a curveball, they can handle it without going broke. It’s not just about money; it’s about peace of mind, about having control in a world that can often feel unpredictable.

Someone shared, “Keeping a large savings account instead of investing.”

Another person pitched in to say, “My father is like this. He grew up in the 30s/40s, and he will save whatever he can. Never used a credit card, or indeed any credit. Just got a new washing machine and would not allow the delivery guys to take his old one away as there are ‘valuable parts in there’. He took the old one to bits, got the parts, and took the rest to a dump.

He generously donated to charities, particularly those that support education. He could not continue past the age of 14 in school himself despite receiving some scholarship funds as he had to earn. He did very well, worked incredibly hard, and retired at 50. He will frequently do little jobs for others for free. But he needs to know that there is money there, just in case.”

10. Re-using Grocery Bags

Young hispanic girl holding paper bag with bread and groceries pointing thumb up to the side smiling happy with open mouth.
Image Credit: Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock,

Now, it’s not just about recycling. It’s a habit that comes from a time when buying actual trash bags felt like a luxury. Because why spend money on something you can get for free at the grocery store? It’s the ultimate win-win situation- you get your groceries and a free trash bag to boot.

Someone on Reddit said, “Plastic grocery bags used as trash bags hanging on the cabinet knob.”

Another person shared similar thoughts and mentioned, “It’s a poor thing for me because we couldn’t afford a box of trash bags, but the grocery bags were free when we took the food home.”

11. Poor People’s Foods

Baked mac and cheese in a cast iron pan
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When you grow up with limited resources, you learn to transform the most basic ingredients into culinary masterpieces. It’s not just about eating; it’s about surviving and thriving, even when the odds are stacked against you.

A discerning Reddit user commented, “I still eat poor people’s foods. Grew up in GA as white trailer trash and at some points in my childhood, I had to sleep with tape over my mouth because of not wanting bugs in my mouth while sleeping.

Now I’m in NYC, making 6 figures, and yet I still want Kraft M&C over some homemade or restaurant ‘from scratch’ thing. Equally, I could care less about most fancy foods and am perfectly happy with garbage like a chili cheese dog.”

Another replied, “I’m doing pretty okay now, but Mac and cheese with sliced hotdogs will always taste like home!”

12. Being Humble

Man doubting
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Ever notice how people who’ve struggled financially are often the most generous? It’s like they’ve been on the receiving end of kindness, so they pay it forward whenever they can.

Someone on Reddit said, “Usually, treating waiters well, good work ethic, they’re not entitled brats. Worked to get where they are. Humble, give, and receive criticism well. Work better with others.”

Another person pitched in to say, “Being king and humble are things that middle and working-class people do. The poorest people give the most.”

13. Tipping

The hand of the waitress takes the tip. The waiter girl receives a tip from the client at the hotel bar. A bartender woman is happy to receive a tip at work. The concept of service.
Image Credit: lunopark/Shutterstock.

Growing up with limited means often means you’ve witnessed the struggle and are determined to make it a bit easier for someone else. A generous tip isn’t just a reflection of your past; it’s a way of shaping a kinder future for those in the service industry.

Someone shared, “I swear they are the kindest people and always leave a tip.”

Another person shared similar thoughts and said, “This is so true. I used to work in a movie theater, and sometimes, people tip. It’s quite rare and for a very good reason: you absolutely don’t have to tip for popcorn. At all. I used to make maybe 3-7$ per 4-hour shifts. Where I live, people on welfare are paid the same day every month. Well, on that day, we had a lot of families coming in who didn’t look particularly well off, yet they left tips.”

14. Cars

An irritated young man driving a vehicle is expressing his road rage..
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When you grow up with a tight budget, you quickly learn that cars eventually lose their value. So, why let your hard-earned money vanish into thin air when you can invest in a used car?

Someone commented, “Always buying a very inexpensive used car.”

Another added, “A couple of years ago, I got a 2001 Blazer for $1500. It’s rusted, it rattles and shakes, and it’s got 243,000 miles on it. But that thing hasn’t left me stranded yet. People make jokes and whatnot, but I can’t imagine having a car payment. I prefer older cars that last year after year.”

15. Clean Plates

Photo portrait of mature handsome man arguing irritated face annoyed raise palm wear trendy green garment isolated on blue color background.
Image Credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.

Cleaning your plate isn’t just about being polite; it’s a survival instinct. You remember the days when there wasn’t always enough to eat, so wasting even a spoonful felt like a crime.

Someone on Reddit said, “Your plate is immaculately clean after you’ve eaten something.”

Someone else agreed, “I was gonna comment on this. My kids will eat two bites and say they are done, and while I will clean my plate even if I dislike the food. It also bleeds into my eating habits. I think I always save the best for the end, so I eat all of one thing before going to the next one and separate out my favorite parts for the very end cause that’s the flavor you get to enjoy the longest. Maybe that one is just me, though.”

16. Disposable Cups

Hispanic young adult woman smiling confidently pointing to own broad smile. take away coffee concept
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See, single-use cups might be cheap, but when you’ve got a wallet that’s barely whispering, buying a new cup every time you want a drink just doesn’t make sense. So, you become a master at the delicate art of washing and reusing.

Someone shared, “They wash single use cups and reuse them.”

Another replied, “Who wants a cabinet full of used disposable plastic cups? You’re really going to use them again? I don’t even use disposable cups at all. No plastic either, only glass and ceramic. I grew up pretty wealthy and the only time we used any disposable dishes was at children’s birthday parties.

Plastic cups were for kids only and my parents tossed them all by the time we were capable of holding a drinking glass without dropping it. I do have some poor relatives on one side of my family who only ate off paper plates and used plastic cups, so I think my dad always associated those things with being lower class and he wanted to leave them behind.”

17. Adding Water

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Adding water to a spray bottle isn’t just a practical move; it’s a survival tactic to ensure you get the most out of every cleaning product without burning a hole in your pocket.

Someone on Reddit said, “Making more of a spray by adding water. My wife looks at me like I’m a lunatic.”

Another person pitched in to say, “Someone at my work will add water to the hand soap bottles when they are nearly empty, and it drives me NUTS. Mostly because all you have to do is walk downstairs, and there are new bottles. I grew up poor for the early years of my life, but I HATE watery soap to death.”

18. Never Eating Out

Grilled salmon with mixed salad and avocado cheese burger sitting on table with white table cloth in fine dining restaurant with window light.
Image Credit: Sara Nicole Garavuso/Shutterstock.

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, and unused plastic silverware all go into the drawer.”

But here’s the beautiful part- never eating out isn’t just a financial habit; it’s a lifestyle.

19. Thanking Others for Food

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See, when you grow up on a shoestring budget, every meal feels like a blessing. You remember the times when the pantry was empty, and that single slice of bread was a feast. So, when someone hands you a plate of food, you can’t help but feel overwhelming gratitude.

Someone commented, “Genuinely thanking someone about any type of food you are being given. My friend’s 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 when 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 Wendy’s is Fancy rich people’s food.”

20. Eating Bread

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A discerning Reddit user commented, “Using regular bread for everything, like hamburger rolls, hot dogs, etc”

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.”

That bread isn’t just a carb; it’s a lifeline, a way of turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.

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If you are looking for tips for frugal living on a tight budget, this post is for you. 

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A Reddit user was curious to know the extremely frugal things people did that they didn’t tell people about. He gave an illustration that he used to collect promotional coffee sachets on top of car windows, and that saved a ton of money.  He wanted to know whether other Reddit users did extremely frugal things that they did not want other people to know. 

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It is easy to know when someone is rich. However, sometimes it is not obvious. One Reddit user wanted to know what non-obvious signs pointed out that someone was rich. We have sampled some of the best responses from other Reddit users in that conversation.

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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.