Sarah Deveau: Money Matters


How Being A "Poor Kid" Shapes Your Financial Future

Growing Up Broke

Did you grow up poor? In a must-read blog post from Cracked, writer John Cheese outlines his list of five stupid financial habits you develop as a result of growing up poor.

I related to a lot of them. In fact, they all hit pretty close to home for me.

Luckily, I’ve managed to break the cycle and get rid many of the bad habits I developed by growing up without money to spare. Though I thought we were poor at the time, I look back and see we weren’t “really” poor—we were never destitute or on the streets, and we had a solid support system that did step in to help when we needed it most. But at the time, it sure felt like we were broke.

Last week I needed batteries for one of my daughter’s toys. I went to the kitchen, opened the cupboard, dug out the battery box, and sorted through to find the right size. In doing so, I had a revelation that was pretty earth-shattering to me. We’re not poor anymore.

In university, when my husband and I managed to get our degrees with almost no debt (and little contribution from our parents), we still managed to scrape up the cash for the occasional concert or pint in the campus pub. Yet we still felt poor. Money was always tight—there was always something more important every dollar could have been going to instead of that pint.

Today, we’ve set ambitious goals for how we want to spend our 40s, 50s, and beyond. Because of that, we face the pressure of knowing the $60 we spent on dinner out or on a new pair of jeans could have gone to a loftier purpose. So despite making many times over what I made in our university days, and despite having been to countries where our poor would be their wealthy, in my gut I’ve still felt “poor.”

But standing there, staring at a box of brand-new batteries in all sizes, more than you could realistically need before you could get to a grocery store, made me feel rich. I didn’t have to scrounge around the house, looking for batteries. I didn’t have to steal the batteries from another electronic gadget. I had an embarrassment of batteries.

That $60 worth of batteries made me feel richer than I did when I bought my house or my car or my first expensive pair of sunglasses.

What have you experienced that made (or still makes) you feel “poor” or “rich” when you know neither label is a truly accurate representation of your financial situation?

Did you enjoy this blog post? You might like Where Is Your Money Going? or Extreme Couponing.