I’ve always tried to be a good saver, and a lot of my learnings probably came from being a former poor kid. But stretching a dollar wasn’t all I learned growing up poor. Here are a couple of other lessons:
1. It’s easier to be a poor kid than a poor adult
Kids can be pretty cruel. If you don’t own the latest brand name clothes or the most expensive pair of shoes, you’re immediately shunned by the infamous “cool kids.” It’s not easy being known as the “poor kid” in school.
But it’s nowhere near as tough as being the poor adult trying to feed and clothe that kid… while struggling to pay the bills and deal with the constant nagging of not having the coolest stuff. Growing up, I really didn’t understand how much my parents sacrificed for us.
Now as an adult, I see many struggling parents trying to make ends meet, keep up with their bills, while trying to provide for their kids. I’m sure many of them have days where they’re thinking:
2. Work hard and fear poverty
People ask me all the time why I work so hard every day. Do I really love my job THAT much that I basically live and breathe my career? Not really. Granted I do enjoy my work, but the underlying reason for my die-hard commitment to my job is simple … I don’t want to lose it.
Growing up, my parent’s most notable teaching was: Work hard, don’t get fired, and don’t be poor. Talk about pressure! Not only did growing up poor teach me the value of a dollar, but it put the fear of poverty in me. And the fear of poverty is the start of hard work. Never ever do I want to be jobless (unless it’s by my own choice) with a mountain of bills to pay.
3. Treat debt like a really bad cold sore
I can be pretty vain, especially when it comes to my complexion. The moment I get a cold sore, I jump into “Web MD mode” and I begin to self-diagnose, treat and prevent. This is exactly how I was taught to approach debt.
Get rid of it as quickly as possible and do everything you can never to get it again. There are too many issues when you carry unnecessary debt. The only debt we have today is our mortgages, and if there was such a thing as mortgage-strength Abreva, I’d be rubbing that shit all over TD Bank.
4. It doesn’t take much to impress a former poor kid
Some people grow up to want everything they didn’t have as a kid. Brand name clothes, expensive shoes, designer bags, and the latest electronics. I went severely in the opposite direction.
My husband says I’m the lowest maintenance person he’s ever been with. I don’t do presents. I hate flowers. And unless they’re funny or insulting, I’m not a big fan of cards either. It’s true my cynicism could have something to do with my anti-romantic outlook, but I think my childhood contributed too. I never had fancy stuff, so why start now?
I’ll leave you all with this conversation I had with my husband:
“If we were poor, you would still love me, right?”
I had an ear-to-ear smile expecting a response like, “Of course, silly!”
But instead he says: “How poor?”
“What do you mean, HOW POOR?!?”
“Well, what are we talking about here? Too-broke-to-eat-out poor or borderline-homeless poor?”
“Does it matter?”
Then I texted my best friend, “If you and your boyfriend were poor, would you still love each other?”
Her response: “How poor?”