10 Realities of Being Poor that People Who Never Lived it Can’t Understand

Rich folks tend to live in an idealistic bubble. They can afford food, shelter, good schools, and anything they want, so they never learned how to survive a month without a food budget or how to stretch a paltry budget until the next paycheck. 

Working Class Survival Tips

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While scrolling through one of my favorite online communities, R/askreddit, I came across an enlightening question asking users to share the things poor people know that rich folks will never understand or have to experience. 

Some answers are great frugal hacks, while others showcase how difficult being poor really is. 

If you’ve been well off your entire life, you may not realize how much your fellow human struggles, while the items in this list are an everyday reality for the less well-off. 

How to Use it All

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Poor folks know how to prevent waste. Most consumables are too expensive to throw away when the package gets low. 

One user responded that poor folks know “How to get all the peanut butter out of the jar,” while another added that they also know how to use every last drop of toothpaste. 

“My grandma used to cut open the tube when there was almost none left to use every last drip of it,” they responded. 

Being Poor is Expensive

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One user received two awards for simply stating the truth. “How expensive it is to be poor.”

Rich people will never understand how expensive it is to be poor. The idea that you just need to try harder goes out the window when you get nickel and dimed at every turn. 

Others agreed, showcasing numerous ways it’s more expensive to be poor. Renting can be more costly than buying. Poor folks can’t afford to buy in bulk, see a doctor, or qualify for good loan terms. 

Things the wealthy take for granted, like fixing a leaking pipe immediately or buying high-quality, lasting boots, are out of reach for many of the poor. 

The Exact Price

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Poor folks are price-conscious. They must add up every item in their carts, calculate taxes, and ensure they can pay the final bill. 

Rich people don’t have to worry about it. Who cares if the cookies cost $1 or $2?

“You could probably raise the price multiple times on an everyday item, and a rich person wouldn’t even notice,” claimed one user, adding that  “a poor person would notice when something’s 5-10c more expensive than before.”

“Bill Gates thought a box of mac and cheese would cost $10,” quipped another. 

Feeling Left Out

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Rich kids never understood the struggle of feeling left out of class activities due to money. 

“The feeling of watching all your friends go on a field trip without you because your parents couldn’t afford it,” responded one user sadly. 

“I remember that so many times in elementary,” shared another.  “I remember in first grade; my family couldn’t afford the $20 for me to go on an ice skating field trip. While my class left, I was sent to sit and do homework in a 4th-grade class. I just sat in a desk set to the side and was treated as if I was there for being bad or mostly ignored. It was a sad day that sticks out to me.”

“Or, if the trip was free, not being able to afford the lunch, activities, or souvenirs that you have to pay for. Mostly you’re just hanging out watching everyone else,” responded another. 

Knowing Your Parents Are Hungry

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Parents will sacrifice anything for their children, even food. Poor kids eventually figure it out, but rich people will never understand the feeling. 

“When your parents are lying to you, saying they’re full when they’re not so you can have the last bite,” responded one Redditor. 

“I remember eating the last bit of bread we had and my parents both watching me. Dad started poaching turkeys not long after. Didn’t really sink in until I was older,” said another. 

How to Survive Without Money

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Some Redditors mentioned the silver lining to being poor: you learn how to manage. Wealthy folks will never know the struggle and thus never learn those same survival skills. 

“Everybody can lose money and become poor, but it feels a bit more ‘safe’ if you already went through it and know how to survive with as few as possible,” said one user. 

Others agreed, sharing their stories of surviving for months on paltry budgets. 

“I did up a budget and realized I only had about $100 for groceries,” said one.  “I knew I had a few months before I could find work as most jobs I was relevantly qualified for would be hiring for the next school terms start date. I bought a whole bunch of rice, frankfurts, and powdered milk. I had a habit of buying stuff bulk beforehand, so I was very lucky. I ran out of food the week before the start to my new job.”

The Paycheck to Paycheck Pressure

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Everyone is stressed out, but poor people carry the extra burden of financial anxiety. 

One user put it nicely, responding that rich people will never know “the pressure of living to the next paycheck, with no safety net if anything unexpected happens.”

If you have money, the unexpected is an inconvenience. Yeah, it sucks when the car breaks down, or the cat needs to go to the vet, but you can afford it. 

For the poor, it’s life-threatening. If you can’t afford a car repair, you can’t get to work, and you might lose your job. There’s no help, no safety net, nothing to protect them from being homeless in the face of what would be simply inconvenient for those with deeper pockets. 

Poverty Begets More Poverty

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Rich people don’t understand that poverty traps you in an endless cycle of remaining poor. One user called being poor “cyclic,” explaining how poor people get trapped in a never-ending cycle of poverty. 

“Low income means old second-hand cars, which means poor reliability, high maintenance costs, and unreliable work attendance,” they shared. 

The user continued to explain how the loop further restricts opportunities. 

“Car difficulty discourages longer commutes or those without public transport alternatives – further restricting employment opportunities. Limited or unstable employment worsens income and prevents investment in more reliable cars, etc. The difficulty is finding an exit opportunity to end the positive feedback loop.”

You Need Money To Be Happy

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The common trope “money doesn’t buy happiness” may be true, but the poor know you need money to be happy. 

“Money cannot buy happiness, but the lack of money sure…prevents happiness,” stated one user. 

It’s hard to be happy when you can’t afford the basic necessities of life or know that one tiny problem will destroy your precariously built stability. 

Others mentioned that money could buy the things that would make them happy long term. “You know what would probably make me a lot happier?” one asked. “Therapy. Which I can’t afford.’

You Can’t Control Everything

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A common trope in financial circles is that you can fix your situation if you only work hard enough. 

One Redditor refuted this claim, answering the question with “the fact that not everything is under your control.”

Rich people can throw money at problems and make them go away. Middle-class folks can control their work schedules, take time off for illness, and hold out for the perfect job opportunity. 

Poor people don’t have these luxuries. They must take the job offered, work ridiculous hours that prevent them from doing anything else, and accept poor pay because they will be homeless if they don’t. They rely on public transportation, which adds additional hours to their commute, so they don’t have time to cook healthy meals or start a side hustle. 

Many poor people have no options. They get trapped in a cycle of poverty that they can’t escape and are constantly criticized about making better choices. Rich people don’t realize that they often don’t have a choice. 

Being Poor is Harder Than You Imagine

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The eye-opening thread showcases how hard being poor really is. The poor face trials and tribulations that the rich never have to consider. 

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