The Best Survival Hacks from Folks Who Grew Up Poor

Survival is a skill when you’re poor. With everything costing money you don’t have, people with limited incomes discover helpful hacks to make it to the next paycheck without losing it all. 

Here are some of the best tips for surviving when you’re poor. 

Cleaning Products

Woman looking away into a room with her back to the amera. She has her hands on her hips and cleaning supplies in them. She looks as if she's ready to tackle the chores.
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Tide costs a small fortune. Thankfully, cheaper options get things just as clean. Vinegar, baking soda, and Dawn dish soap will keep most of your stuff clean without the extra costs of name-brand specialty products. 


Collection of old clothes and towels that are now rags.
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Most of us use paper towels for casual cleaning, but the cost of these disposable products is too much for the poorest among us. Instead, they use old towels and clothing as cleaning rags. 

Rice and Beans

A bowl filled with half white rice and half beans cooked to look like a chili.
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The inexpensive mix of carbs and protein provides most of your nutritional needs without busting your budget. 


Happy woman sleeping in a comfy bed.
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Sleeping can offer a much-needed respite from boredom and hunger. Poor college kids often take naps to alleviate hunger pains and wait until they can get a meal the next day. 

Events with Free Food

Healthy fruits and vegetables compared to unhealthy donuts, pastries and sugars.
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Check your city for local art gallery openings, art walks, and other events offering patrons snacks and beverages. Scoring a tiny amount of free food from these events can help keep the hunger pains at bay. 


Server carrying tray of water
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When our stomachs rumble due to hunger, filling them with anything, even water, can ease the pain. Adding salt or sugar to the water is essential if you do this regularly due to a lack of food. 

Take Advantage of Things Restaurants Give Out

woman serving food at a fast food restaurant counter
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You can usually grab ketchup, napkins, utensils, and other items for free when you order fast food. Most employees don’t care if you take a few extras. 

Food Bank

An abundance of healthy frutis and vegetables on a table.
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Many people will casually take things from restaurants but refuse to go to a service specifically designed to help them. There’s no shame in visiting the food bank if you can’t afford to feed yourself. That’s why food banks exist. 


A small stack of books on the table at a public library.
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When you’re poor, the library is your best friend. You can use their computers, access community programs, use the restroom, and get a little downtime in the temperature-controlled building. 

Some community libraries offer far more than books for rent. Users say they’ve seen everything from dishware to bikes available at their local library. 


man running on a treadmill at the gym.
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Unhoused people keep their gym memberships to access showers, lockers, and restrooms. People who sleep in their car can use the membership to maintain basic hygiene. 


Four hands break a cookie evenly to share it between them.
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Poverty isn’t shameful. Millions of people face the same struggles. The people who do best are the ones who find a community of folks struggling just like them and band together to get through it. 

Window Insulation

Man putting plastic up over a house.
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We love our windows, but they’re substantial energy drains when you can’t afford heating and cooling. Aluminum foil reflects heat out over the summer, and plastic sheeting provides a nice layer of insulation in the winter. 

Consider A Personal Loan

couple meeting with an insurance agent
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Banks are usually the go-to place for personal loans, but they don’t always offer the best deals, especially for those with poor credit. 

If you need a loan, you should consider every option. 

Read More: The Best Alternatives To Personal Loans

Financial Planning

hands working on a financial plan
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You don’t need to pay a financial advisor to craft a financial plan. Here’s how to do it on your own!

Read it Here: How To Make a Financial Plan

Generational Poverty is Real 

hands holding an empty wallet to represent poverty
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Generational poverty is just as real as generational wealth. Here’s a look at generational poverty in America

Frugal Hacks that Aren’t So Frugal

Confused woman holding a wad of cash money.
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These common myths about frugality often cost people more in the long run. 

Build Generational Wealth

Father smiling as his son puts coins in a piggy bank.
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Millionaires give their kids a hefty leg up, but you don’t have to be wealthy to do the same. Here’s how you can build generational wealth for your family

Source: Reddit