While the United States is considered to be one of the richest countries in the world, it has a huge wealth gap—more than 34M of its residents live in poverty. Many of them are facing financial struggles every single day and can easily see the privileges others are lucky to have.
So when a couple of users asked people who grew up in low-income families to share things that the rich would never understand, it sparked quite a conversation on the r/AskReddit sub. Whether it’s talking about household items, chores, or food on the table, commenters quickly started telling the unwritten rules they had to live by.
Take a look below at some of the most illuminating answers we collected from the thread. And after you’re done, don’t forget to check out our previous posts about the subtle signs that show a person is rich here and right here.
That it never goes away. I want from homeless growing up to having a very comfy six figure job. I still find myself acting as if I am always living on the edge of homelessness again. Thinking I can’t try new foods because it I don’t like it then I won’t get dinner. That I’m a bad person for throwing out things instead of trying to reuse them. I get serious panic attacks I think I did bad at work because my brain still tells me I’m one paycheck from the street.
Image credits: AsexualAccountant
True hunger. I don’t mean that casual “I guess I should eat…” feeling, I mean that hollow, cramping pain deep in your stomach, the hunger that feels like your own body is eating itself from the inside out and that drives you crazy to the point you’ll eat anything you can chew through just to try and keep the pain away.
Nobody should have to feel that, poor or not, especially a child.
Image credits: korbah
Bored Panda reached out to the Redditor Leroy_Spankinz whose question “What’s something you’d find in a lower class home that rich people wouldn’t understand?” amassed more than 15.5K upvotes and 9.6K comments. The user was kind enough to discuss the idea behind this thread and the conversation that it sparked.
Leroy_Spankinz told us that they post on r/AskReddit a lot and are always interested to hear others’ thoughts and experiences. “I think a lot of people, the majority even, grow up in financially strained households,” they said.
“I wanted to hear about all of the different ways poorer families learned to adapt, and what they have in common with each other. Wealthier households just don’t have that same kind of creativity, and that was the basis for the question.”
It’s expensive being poor.
Image credits: saltierthancats
A lifetime of clutter because it’s so hard to throw anything away even when you’re no longer poor.
Image credits: HermitWilson
They shared with us that one of their parents was very poor while they were growing up, and the other was financially secure. “I asked that question just because I’ve seen the differences between those households myself and I wanted to understand how other people viewed those differences as well,” Leroy_Spankinz explained.
The user also mentioned some examples that come to mind when discussing the differences between low and high-income households. In the former ones, you could find “a drawer full of condiment packets, a pile of old napkins from various fast food restaurants, old Slurpee/BigGulp cups used as normal kitchen cups, stuff like that.”
Meanwhile, wealthier households just buy the “proper” version of such items “and are even disgusted when they see other people living with these.”
“You didn’t make good choices, you HAD good choices.”
They seemingly always try to downplay the headstart they get, and how it boosts them throughout their life, versus someone who didn’t have that.
Seeing your mother wear 20+ year old worn out clothing and what amount to rags she collected from hospital visits, all so her child could have the best. Then the sadness of not being able to spoil her when you finally have your own money because she passed away too young.
Well… I just made myself sad lol
Image credits: Nivasha
I’ve got one: not having vacations.
I’m in my thirties now. Work in tech. Work thing they had some trivia game and one of the questions was both “(senior leaders) A and B went to this same ski lodge last so and so”.
Had been functioning as the team ‘ace’ with the more brainy questions- for that I just leaned back and went “Welp, no help to us here; I don’t know any ski lodges”
My whole team, baffled prodded me going “wait, you don’t know any? Just guess the one you went to as a kid with your family”
So . . . explained to like 3 other adults that poor families don’t do that. I had never had a family vacation. Winter meant hauling firewood.
Image credits: Sekret_One
Leroy_Spankinz was truly impressed by how respectful and constructive the comments were: “It was so cool to provide a space for people to learn and laugh together over all the little things they didn’t know they had in common.”
We also contacted the author of another thread, Bobtheglob71, who was curious to ask people from low-income homes about things “that ‘rich kids’ will never understand.” They told Bored Panda that they came up with this post after spending a lot of time browsing the r/AntiWork subreddit, a community dedicated to discussing job-related struggles.
This actually is painful to type, but, here goes.
Sometimes, only being able to see your mother for fifteen minutes a day when she picks you up or drops you off at school, because she has to work 18 hours a day just to support you. Having to wear shoes from Pay-Less because your mom can’t afford anything better. Having to borrow food from other kids at school because your mom can’t afford food, and the school lunches aren’t free. Having to sometimes go a day or two without eating at all because you lost your food stamp card. Only having 12 channels of TV, and that TV is 30 years old, and only 14 inches. Having to watch other kids get everything they wanted for their birthdays, just so you can kind of pretend its your birthday party.
Image credits: Damionstjames
Watching your mom have to put items back as there is it not enough money to pay for everything.
Image credits: Poenkel
Having dinner and knowing that your Mum isn’t eating, not because she isn’t hungry, but because she’s making sure her kids have food first.
Image credits: DragonsLoveBoxes
Bobtheglob71 noticed that there were quite a few posts expressing hatred towards people who were born into wealth and “was curious to see what everyone else thought.”
The user disclosed that they didn’t grow up poor: “This question was also partly made so that I could see others’ views on life based on what family they were born into. I’ve learned that the ‘rich kid’ doesn’t experience just about any of those things that people answered.”
When I went to school (in the ’70s). At lunch time we had to stand in line in the hall before going into the cafeteria. they made those of us on ‘free lunches’ stand in the back of the line. It was quite humiliating.
Image credits: BirdGuy64
A lot of poor addicts are addicts because they need the escapism of it. Lifting people out of poverty is the biggest mental help you can give someone
My ex was wealthy and never understood why I don’t answer phone numbers I don’t recognize. We just never did that at my house, and now I understand it was probably to avoid debt collectors.
Image credits: cmconnor2
Even though I am years beyond it and have a good job. I have gotten past most of it except for 2 things.
Guilt over spending anything on myself even if I need it (work clothes for example)
Food waste. I am more like,y to eat the oldest leftovers in the fridge so the don’t go bad or overeat if there is just a bit left than to throw it out. I know this is detrimental to my health but haven’t stopped because throwing something out makes me stressed.
Sleep for dinner.
Image credits: Leeono
Back in the Dominican Republic, my mom would lean a chair against each exit door at night and put metal cups on top of the chairs. If someone tried forcing the door open, the metal cups would fall — alarming us of the danger. That was our ‘security’ system for years.
Image credits: JohnnyEdwrd
What a luxury laundry is. Those kids i went to.school with will never understand I was so poor my family couldn’t afford to use the laundry machines in our building, so often times my dad would just get a big cheap bottle of dish soap or some bars of Irish Spring, and that soap was for laundry, dishes and bathing. Also that those tv dinners were a god send. Getting 20 banquet tv dinners for 10 bucks meant eating good for a few days.
Image credits: WanderingGenesis
All my gifts for Christmas and Birthdays were something I needed or would need and had to be bought anyway. Like clothes, shoes, or school supplies. Never, never anything fun or just because I wanted it. I also had to steal my first real bra because I’d outgrown my training bra. I’d even snipped the elastic all around to provide more stretch but it wasn’t working anymore and people were commenting on it.
Image credits: freckledjezebel
Clothes. You wear what you have, and you wear it out. Yes, this is the same bathing suit as last year, you judgemental b****.
I have a steady job, savings, and a closet full of clothes. I still wear everything like I did when I was 7. You wear it until it is visibly stained, or noticeably smells. And you don’t ever throw anything away, because you might need it again.
Or if you do give clothes away, you give them to another neighborhood child. Every single one of your neighbors is as bad off as you, they will not turn away clothes that fit.
A lot of people are mentioning being deprived of food and clothes, so I’ll mention other things. People who grew up umm not poor often don’t understand how come I’ve never been ice skating. Or roller skating. I don’t know how to swim, because I didn’t have any means to pay for swimming classes or pool entry (no swimming pool at my school). I could never participate in any after school activities, because even if they were funded by a nearby town, I had no way to get there. My hobbies were writing awful poems and drawing with s**tty crayons, because it was free. I didn’t have any video games, except of pirated The Sims. We’ve never been on vacation as a family. I never went to a summer camp. If you are rich, these things are a given. They are normal. Also, so many knock offs. Knock off toys, knock off cereal, Tesco Value everything. Also, toilet paper was a luxury.
‘There’s a trick to it’ is a phrase to indicate something is messed up, but not enough to fix it. See also: ‘Ya gotta jiggle the handle.’
Image credits: ModernSwampWitch
Cold hot dog on piece of bread. Turning off every light in the house except the room you’re in. Window unit ACs. Space heaters. Little storage space. Little freezer/fridge space. Microwave as only way to cook food. Saving all extra napkins/utensils/condiments. No working bath/shower in home. No washer/dryer. Leaky roof. Makeshift insulation made of bubble wrap and tin foil for windows. Blankets over windows instead of curtains. Sprinkler on roof to keep it cooler in the summer. Dirty laundry because you have to wait to get quarters. Rationing quarters, rationing food, rationing everything. Always have a mental list of things you can sell to get quick cash in an emergency. Torn/worn clothes/bedding. Wearing the one good bra constantly. Laundry day outfit. Spaghetti. All. The. Time. Foods with long shelf life. Chips in dishes. That one thing (or few things) that’s just literally held together with duct tape. Stuffing down the trash to make sure you get full use out of each trash bag. The sack of other sacks. The car that you’ll drive until it can’t go anymore, if you have a car. Moving a “spare” lightbulb from one room to the other so you can delay buying more. Holding on to food past it’s expiration date even though you won’t eat it in the foreseeable future but what if you NEED it? Squeezing the s**t out of the toothpaste. Adding water to the drop of shampoo in the bottle. Delaying medical care. Having to put down pets yourself because you can’t afford the vet doing it. Baking soda as carpet freshener. Febreezing everything if you don’t have money for the wash. Using paper towels as toilet paper. Using paper towels as tissues. Using paper towels as plates. Negotiating with the electric/water company so that they don’t turn off your utilities before you get paid. Lots of blankets in winter. Hanging clothes to dry. Washing clothes by hand. Washing dishes by hand. Taking a “rag bath.” F**ked up teeth, can’t afford dentist. Some long term ailment that you put off seeing a medical professional about because it’s not an emergency, just an inconvenience. Reusing ziploc bags. Buying paper folders vs. plastic ones. Cinnamon, sugar, butter tortillas for desert. Hand-me-downs.
Buying kids clothes that are too big so they last a couple of years.
Image credits: pokemontrainer-anna
I remember coming back from summer vacation and dreading going back to school for the mere fact I had nothing interesting to share about the summer. All my classmates would talk about their vacations and I would make something up so I wouldn’t sound boring.
Image credits: Scared_Difference_24
Why your parents are incredibly strict and won’t let you go anywhere or do anything.
My mom never allowed me to go with friends because she knew I wouldn’t be able to afford hanging out with them. I always thought she was just really strict, but really she just wanted to spare me the embarrassment.
Image credits: twentythreeturtles
Amount of time feeling powerless.
Yogurt and other grocery containers used as Tupperware. A bunch of basins for hand-washing clothes in the bathtub.
Image credits: madeto-stray
I think Western poor houses would tend to be more cluttered. You can’t rebuy things easily, so you end up keeping around doubles of things you already have, or extra things you aren’t using but might need sometime. You don’t know if you’ll be able to afford it in the future.
Image credits: madeto-stray
Diluted dishwashing soap that doubles as hand-washing soap.
Image credits: dawnangel89
When it’s really hot in the South, it can be hard to sleep. I keep a mister water bottle by the bed and mist the sheet before I go to sleep, and periodically cool off through the night.
Image credits: dolphinwaxer