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Growing up poor

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It occurred to me today that I can buy myself winter snow boots. Will I need them very often? No. Maybe once a year. My kids have winter boots, I’ve just always “made doâ€. The scars of growing up poor. So strange.

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I get it. I’ve had the same thought process myself.

 

My sons winter jacket zipper broke this morning and I went through a ridiculous amount of “can it be fixed†“could I replace the zipper?†“Could he wear another coat?†Before I got to “ the coats already looking shabby, so go to tractor supply and buy him that nice new carhart jacket you were looking at before you found this old one in the attic.â€

 

 

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I get it. I’ve had the same thought process myself.

 

My sons winter jacket zipper broke this morning and I went through a ridiculous amount of “can it be fixed†“could I replace the zipper?†“Could he wear another coat?†Before I got to “ the coats already looking shabby, so go to tractor supply and buy him that nice new carhart jacket you were looking at before you found this old one in the attic.â€

 

 

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What is bizarre to me is to watch my children interact with the things in their life. They know nothing of being poor. They have no problem with “mom, I need new shoes, let’s go buy someâ€. No thinking about it, trying to get by without them, etc. Just, I need this, let’s buy it.

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What is bizarre to me is to watch my children interact with the things in their life. They know nothing of being poor. They have no problem with “mom, I need new shoes, let’s go buy someâ€. No thinking about it, trying to get by without them, etc. Just, I need this, let’s buy it.

This is dh and me. I didn't grow up poor but there are 7 of us so money was distributed and thought about differently than in his 3 kid household.

 

Growing up, if something of mine broke my first act was to go find out if an older sibling had a hand me down for it or if I could get by until next season. Dh's family just replaced things immediately. And this is how it still is for both of us. Expect since I handle all the finances when he suggests we replace something I tell him I'll deal with it and then we go without until I get it used or find a good deal.

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It occurred to me today that I can buy myself winter snow boots. Will I need them very often? No. Maybe once a year. My kids have winter boots, I’ve just always “made doâ€. The scars of growing up poor. So strange.

Yeah, same. 

 

Dh did not grow up low income, so there's been this constant thing in our marriage where he doesn't think twice about buying something needed (or not), and I am constantly just telling myself that I don't actually need it. 

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I get it.  Dh forced my hand at buying a new tea kettle.  The old one nearly had a hole in the bottom and a melted handle, but I kept using it because the water wasn't falling out...yet. :laugh:  It just didn't occur to me to replace it until I absolutely had to.

 

 

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It occurred to me today that I can buy myself winter snow boots. Will I need them very often? No. Maybe once a year. My kids have winter boots, I’ve just always “made doâ€. The scars of growing up poor. So strange.

 

not just growing up poor - but other things that happen that severely limit discretionary spending.

 

my father died when I was 12, and income dropped below the poverty line.

but after I was married, we went through unemployment. off and on for years.   it's funny how sometimes I dont' have a problem spending, but other times I do.

 

dh grew up in a two-income family when one-income was the norm.   then his father died, and his mother can't handle money to save her life. he took control of the family finances at the age of 20.  it left him deeply scared when their income was $400 per month and ONE totally discretionary BILL was $600.  

 

we have coupons for the car wash in a nearby area, where we still don't' get very often.   I was down there, needed a car wash - but I had no coupons in my car and I couldn't bring myself to do so without the coupon.   which was silly, and if I'd had more time to think about it, I would have been able to overcome it and just wash the darn car because I was there.

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It occurred to me today that I can buy myself winter snow boots. Will I need them very often? No. Maybe once a year. My kids have winter boots, I’ve just always “made doâ€. The scars of growing up poor. So strange.

Wow, I had the same experience this winter. I’ve never bought myself snow boots, and it suddenly hit me that it’s ok to do that. Kids have always had them.

 

Same internal conversation.

Edited by Spryte
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I remember the first time I bought the kids rain boots.  The only time I had ever seen rain boots was in British children's books.  I thought they were things that only upper-middle class kids owned.  I told DH, "Look, they have rain boots!  We. Have. Made. It."

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What is bizarre to me is to watch my children interact with the things in their life. They know nothing of being poor. They have no problem with “mom, I need new shoes, let’s go buy someâ€. No thinking about it, trying to get by without them, etc. Just, I need this, let’s buy it.

My MIL grew up poorer than FIL. If my husband’s schools didn’t have uniforms, he would have probably gone to school in free company sponsored T-shirts everyday.

 

My husband is a tightwad so kids are used to buying the next size up during sales. We get winter sales around April and summer sales around September so we could buy coats, winter boots and swimsuits on sale for a size up.

 

My kids have seen homeless camps under freeways at San Francisco and at Emeryville. They have seen homeless people at McDonalds, Burger King and San Jose State University, as well as at many libraries.

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I did not grow up low income. I saw the waste of buying just because and now I choose to make do as much as possible. I am mindful of my purchases and would make do with what I have until I absolutely cannot.

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Yep. I grew up poor but we didn't notice it as much as our whole community was a rural poor farming community.

 

We wore bread bags in our boots, kids used sugar bags as lunch pails, a friend wore her u clean old mailman coat as her winter jacket, almost all clothes were hand me downs, etc. A friend's family raised rabbits as their main meat source and many families got government cheese, etc.

 

I am still very frugal. At times our income has been much higher (like 3x higher) and sometimes much lower. We have never been without food or housing but some things that many families do without a thought, we don't even think of doing.

 

I totally get the jacket thing, etc. We are though now starting to buy more quality items on sale/clearance as I know they will last.

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Where I live, one waits for the sale...50% off is nothing to sneeze at no matter what your wealth or pension expectations.I am kinda tired of the sales, but everything seems to go on a 50% off every month at the major stores...

Edited by Heigh Ho
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What is bizarre to me is to watch my children interact with the things in their life. They know nothing of being poor. They have no problem with “mom, I need new shoes, let’s go buy someâ€. No thinking about it, trying to get by without them, etc. Just, I need this, let’s buy it.

 

I find your situation interesting.  I'm about to go out and clean our chicken coop in boots with holes in them because I'm pretty sure I can make them last the winter before buying new ones.  Both hubby's and my sneakers have holes in them.  We're debating whether to replace them before our next non-family trip later this month.  We haven't decided.  Money is not an issue.  It never has been in his family.  Mine had enough to cover bills and some extra, but we still didn't spend frivolously except on some travel and I grew up with ponies.  I know I could go buy new boots/shoes, but have no desire to just yet.  I will sometime in the future.

 

My kids are even tighter with their money (and ours) than we are.  I had to talk middle son in to treating himself to some "luxuries" at the grocery store this past month when we were paying - luxuries like meats, veggies, and breads that weren't the least expensive he could get (chicken breasts, lamb, Brussels Sprouts, tasty whole grain bread, etc).  Youngest is currently on a "leave no waste" self-imposed lifestyle - which means he's buying practically nothing.

 

I'm not sure what the difference is.  I chalk mine up to growing up with Depression era grandparents who taught me how to save money and reuse or use up.  BUT, my mom isn't that way.  Tons of things are disposable or replaceable at the drop of a hat for her.  My dad is a Hoarder.  Hubbies folks pinch pennies.  His dad can tell you which fast food place is 10 cents more than another - for miles around.  They were children during the Depression.

 

My kids grew up with our spending behavior (tight at home, might spend more on experiences when traveling or otherwise) and adopted it whole heartedly.

 

Our experience is a bit different than yours I guess.  I have no desire to change.

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I remember the first time I bought the kids rain boots. The only time I had ever seen rain boots was in British children's books. I thought they were things that only upper-middle class kids owned. I told DH, "Look, they have rain boots! We. Have. Made. It."

Exact same!! Dd wanted rain boots. What?!? Why would you need such a luxury when they are actually $20 at Target. It really does take a moment to have a conversation with yourself.

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There is a difference between "voluntary discomfort" (stretching things, making do or doing without, choosing to forgo things because the cost isn't worth it) and having no options in the first place.  It's the difference between doing a "SNAP Challenge" to see how far you can spend a typical food stamp ration versus the reality of living on it with no end in sight.

 

I bought rain boots for my kid because the other kid got a hand-me-down pair for free, and both wanted them.  So I bought a pair for $13 on clearance at Target.   $13 for two pairs isn't much, but it's frivolous.  I wouldn't have even asked as a kid, because mom would have just cried.

Edited by BarbecueMom
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It's like when we come home, and there's one of those paper door hanger things on the front door.  The kids just think, "Oh well, probably some lawn care service or someone trying to sell us a roof."  I start to hyperventilate, because growing up that meant, "The water's been shut off, the electric or gas will be disconnected tomorrow, they'll tow the car if the taxes and registration don't get paid by next week..."  They've never had to live through the juggling act of having five utilities and only enough money to pay three.  Neither did DH.  Such a different experience.

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This happens to me a lot.  My knee jerk is always "I don't have the money for that".  With everything....always.  But then I also buy too much food, toilet paper, soap...etc etc.....  As if I have a family of 10 and there isn't a store within 1000 miles. 

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It's like when we come home, and there's one of those paper door hanger things on the front door. The kids just think, "Oh well, probably some lawn care service or someone trying to sell us a roof." I start to hyperventilate, because growing up that meant, "The water's been shut off, the electric or gas will be disconnected tomorrow, they'll tow the car if the taxes and registration don't get paid by next week..." They've never had to live through the juggling act of having five utilities and only enough money to pay three. Neither did DH. Such a different experience.

I teared up just reading this. Yes. Yes, a thousand times.

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This happens to me a lot. My knee jerk is always "I don't have the money for that". With everything....always. But then I also buy too much food, toilet paper, soap...etc etc..... As if I have a family of 10 and there isn't a store within 1000 miles.

That is my mental happy place. When the home is full of food, Kleenex and TP, I feel like I’m winning at life.

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Gently, I know you mean no harm. I truly think you’re just trying to engage on the topic of frugality, spending choices, and all that. However, the topic is about the scars of growing up low-income and I’m having a very, very hard time with your responses here. Of course, people with means can be incredibly frugal by choice. I think it’s awesome that your family is so wise with their spending choices. But that’s really not what this topic is about. This is a DEEP well of pain, fear, and shame for some of us. It helps to have this moment of “You do that? Me, too!†with those who have shared this experience. It is not helpful to read about your $6 vs $4 loaf of bread. Not in this particular thread. I hope you can understand.

Edited by Sassenach
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Did anyone else NEVER buy Kleenex? We just put rolls of TP on the kitchen counter when we had a cold.

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We used hankies. I’m all about conservation and cloth diapered two kids, but I now buy Kleenex by the 6 pack.

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Did anyone else NEVER buy Kleenex? We just put rolls of TP on the kitchen counter when we had a cold.

We still never buy kleenex.  Well, DH buys it, but I don't. It actually makes me think of my grandmother because she always had it at her house.

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Did anyone else NEVER buy Kleenex? We just put rolls of TP on the kitchen counter when we had a cold.

My foo never did. And I still hesitate when buying it. And even then I tend to just buy it when the kids have a cold and not when I have a cold or just to have around.

 

 

 

 

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Did anyone else NEVER buy Kleenex? We just put rolls of TP on the kitchen counter when we had a cold.

 

I probably used my sleeve as a kid. :leaving:

 

DH prefers TP, and I haven't had a runny nose in a very long time unless it's soup-induced, but I keep a box of Kleenex on hand for guests who are grossed out by that.

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For many years, I felt rich if I had fresh fruit in the house. I did not always eat it, but oh the joy of opening the refrigerator and seeing it!

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We used hankies. I’m all about conservation and cloth diapered two kids, but I now buy Kleenex by the 6 pack.

 

DS7 uses hankies.  Where we lived when he was a toddler had the expectation of carrying your own hanky and the market stalls always had dozens of different ones, even kid sized with characters.  We bought a few for each person, but ds is the only one who still carries them.

 

OTOH, I use cloth napkins at the table.  I have been fretting about the price of buying new, but dh pointed out the use from our old ones - 7 years and still kicking.  Albeit getting rather holey and raggedy, but still being used.  We buy one roll of paper towels at a time and it lasts quite a while because we always forget to use them.

 

DH and I both grew up poor, but we have vastly different experiences and approaches to life.  I grew up with a Depression-era mantra of 'use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without'. DH with the idea of 'buy it now before you don't have the money later'.  They've both shaped us into different people.  But I also think a bigger difference has to do with our genders.  I grew up with the idea of putting myself last, as did a lot of other women.  We're apologetic.  We don't take first, we take left overs.  It's something that is hard to overcome, even when it is necessary.

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My dh had his share of hungry moments in childhood.  He can't seem to stop himself - actually, I don't think he's even trying - from buying the kids all kinds of junk food, candy, juice, sugary treats.  He flat out says that he doesn't want them feeling deprived.  (Um, they are so not deprived, except maybe deprived of good nutrients.  Sugar daddy, I guess.)

Edited by wapiti
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​I grew up wearing my one pair of overlarge pants with the free school baseball tshirts- until I started working and allowed myself 3 outfits.  I had an empty closet, but my mothers was overflowing with dressers equally overflowing.  As a mother I just don't understand treating oneself so disproportionately better than ones children-however, she was mentally ill.  I haven't bought myself new flats despite they were 5 dollars from Walmart and are falling apart, as one of my children may need something. I told myself when our tax refund comes in I will get myself a new pair-lol. I have never bought myself winter boots/but my girls have them.  I spend all of my discretionary money on our sweet children- whether clothes, food, or education.  

 

 

I loved being a fabulous basketball player in HS as I got free clothes and shoes.

 

In elementary school the school always bought my shoes, coats, and food.

 

I still don't put a lot of money into clothing comparatively, but food I never tell my children no.

 

Brenda

 

I loved going to church (outside of the fact that I love the Lord) because they fed me lunch- and that wasn't going to happen when I got home.  We went on many youth outings with the church, God bless them for always paying my way.

 

I was on many Academic Bowl teams throughout school and my favorite part was snacks and educational materials.

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I remember the first time I bought the kids rain boots.  The only time I had ever seen rain boots was in British children's books.  I thought they were things that only upper-middle class kids owned.  I told DH, "Look, they have rain boots!  We. Have. Made. It."

 

I did the same thing when I found out 'spring jackets' were a thing here. My friend would get her kids spring jackets- you know like lined windbreakers (this was back in the day before hoodies were a thing) and when I finally bought my kids spring jackets I just felt so rich. 

 

ETA: This was a big deal to me because when I was in 6th grade I got sick and had to miss school for like two weeks. When I went back to school and had to go outside for recess the teacher asked me why I had no coat on. I made excuses for days on end...I had left it at church, or a friends, or it was being washed. She had never noticed I had no coat before but I guess being sick for so long made her notice my lack of coat. (I had a lingering cough for weeks)

Edited by Annie G
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Did anyone else NEVER buy Kleenex? We just put rolls of TP on the kitchen counter when we had a cold.

LOL, I never bought a box of Kleenex until we got married.  Never even occurred to me.

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This happens to me a lot. My knee jerk is always "I don't have the money for that". With everything....always. But then I also buy too much food, toilet paper, soap...etc etc..... As if I have a family of 10 and there isn't a store within 1000 miles.

My parents generation does that but they have lived through food and water rationing. My age peers from Asia were half joking that we are well prep for shelter in place due to any natural disasters because of all the threats of food embargo growing up. My husband would stockpile dry rations whenever there is a sale, just in case of price hikes.

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Gently, I know you mean no harm. I truly think you’re just trying to engage on the topic of frugality, spending choices, and all that. However, the topic is about the scars of growing up low-income and I’m having a very, very hard time with your responses here. Of course, people with means can be incredibly frugal by choice. I think it’s awesome that your family is so wise with their spending choices. But that’s really not what this topic is about. This is a DEEP well of pain, fear, and shame for some of us. It helps to have this moment of “You do that? Me, too!†with those who have shared this experience. It is not helpful to read about your $6 vs $4 loaf of bread. Not in this particular thread. I hope you can understand.

 

I'll delete it and stay off the thread.  Sometimes my curiosity doesn't serve me well.  I'm better off getting my questions answered in discussions at school.

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Did anyone else NEVER buy Kleenex? We just put rolls of TP on the kitchen counter when we had a cold.

My mom never did. Nor did we ever have paper napkins. We were allowed to have a half sheet of a paper towel if absolutely necessary (before they started making them that way). We used to think it was so neat when we stayed with our childless double-income aunt and uncle and they had paper napkins. Sometimes they even had designs on them! Lol. Now, I have paper towels in 3 rooms, a box of tissues in every spot possible, and paper napkins to spare! Even if they are the cheap store brand. :-)

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I don't have boots either, and I live where it snows for about 6 months out of the year.

 

My kids are pretty spoiled.  Often I wonder how much damage I'm doing in letting them have things that prevent all sorts of discomforts.

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That is my mental happy place. When the home is full of food, Kleenex and TP, I feel like I’m winning at life.

 

Thank you!!! That is my feelings exactly. I thought I was some kind of weirdo.

 

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Did anyone else NEVER buy Kleenex? We just put rolls of TP on the kitchen counter when we had a cold.

 

 

Oh!  I just started buying Kleenex in the last couple of years.  Dh pretty much insisted or I probably still wouldn't be buying Kleenex.  It just seems like SUCH a luxury. 

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I just ran to the store for more milk, bread, and fruit ahead of the coming snow. It makes me feel so rich to have a fridge filled with fruit and be able to tell my kids that they can eat as much as they want. We never bought produce when I was a child. I remember so many nights where my mother would try to divide a single, small frozen pizza among four children (those are some thin slices) and we would go to bed hungry.

 

And jackets. I love that my kids have jackets for cool weather and big winter coats for when it gets really cold. It feels so luxurious to be able to say, "Yeah, kid, you want two coats - here are two coats," even though they will outgrow them within a year or two. Yes, you can be warm now, and we'll buy you a new coat when you grow. Nothing was more humiliating as a child than being called in by a teacher or principal to be questioned about my lack of a coat in cold weather. 

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I do believe my childhood has taught me to appreciate things in my life to the fullest. I also love my family to the level of "explosions"-lol.  What many consider necessities, I see as special gifts.  Also when "hard" times come around I handle them well, as it doesn't seem that "hard" to me.

 

Brenda

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I get it. I’ve had the same thought process myself.

 

My sons winter jacket zipper broke this morning and I went through a ridiculous amount of “can it be fixed†“could I replace the zipper?†“Could he wear another coat?†Before I got to “ the coats already looking shabby, so go to tractor supply and buy him that nice new carhart jacket you were looking at before you found this old one in the attic.â€

 

 

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I have a winter jacket that I have had for at least 20 years.  I  noticed the zipper isn't working and the SAME moment of panic went through my head, 'can I fix it?  Oh no, it is so cold!' to 'Hey go buy yourself a new jacket.'

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We use cloth for paper towels and napkins, but boy or boy, there are a million pads in the bathroom closet and Puffs (with lotion!) on every available surface in my house. I know we sacrifice a lot for our kids, but those two luxuries (which anyone can use, obviously) are for me, IYKWIM

 

And yes on the fresh fruit!  Although I think my kids get it. They have heard a lot of my stories growing up and have a pretty good sense of when to be frugal and when it is ok to spend a little more. My dh though, it took me 15 years to convince him we did not have to eat out every time we left the house. But you know, his mom, every time there is a play or concert or soccer game or go to the grocery store, she wants everyone to go out to eat. Even if we ate before we came. Even if we have a picnic in the car. So I know where he gets it. He and I really struggle because he does not want the kids to know if/when money is tight (he always had plenty growing up) but I want them to know everything and how we are going to work through it so that they are smarter (than him :rolleyes:) when they are out on their own. Even all these years later.

  An example, This year at Christmas, I had already spent my gift budget and was done shopping for my kids when we stopped at a store to pick up a gift for a cousin. My dd saw the "Perfect" toy, and it truly was perfect for her. She said "Well. maybe I can get this! for Christmas" and I just started to cry. I could not buy her that thing, and I could not take any of her clearance, yard sale, thrift store gifts back to get it. I explained to her that I was already done shopping and that maybe she can buy it with her own money or get it for her birthday. The kids told dh and he went and borrowed! money from his mom and dad to buy that present. I was so mad! She was fine with waiting, but his ego was hurt so he went and bought it. Ugh.

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I do believe my childhood has taught me to appreciate things in my life to the fullest. I also love my family to the level of "explosions"-lol.  What many consider necessities, I see as special gifts.  Also when "hard" times come around I handle them well, as it doesn't seem that "hard" to me.

 

Brenda

 

 

It just affects some people differently. I don't 'hate' the childhood I had....I learned great lessons and hard work and yes I can handle  hard times better than most.  It is the good times I have trouble with.  Not being able to enjoy what I do have for the fear that is residing just below the surface during every financial transaction.

Edited by Scarlett
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Oh and I still don't usually use Kleenex or paper napkins.  I use those half paper towels - and I re-use them until they can't be used any more.  :p  (I do not re-use toilet paper.  Wait, I take it back - I do re-use TP if I've only used it to wipe my nose and it isn't super snotty.  I will fold it up and put it in my pocket / waistband or next to my desk for re-use later.)

 

My youngest sister (13 years my junior) thinks it's funny that I usually have a pocket full of folded-up toilet paper to use when I get a runny nose.  She had a somewhat more comfortable childhood than I did.  I remember my dad telling us to use only x amount of toilet paper each time we went to the bathroom.

 

Also my kids are horrified when I wear shoes with holes.  I used to wear holey shoes to school as a kid.  I also wore shoes that were too small.  I didn't really think much of it.

Edited by SKL

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What is bizarre to me is to watch my children interact with the things in their life. They know nothing of being poor. They have no problem with “mom, I need new shoes, let’s go buy someâ€. No thinking about it, trying to get by without them, etc. Just, I need this, let’s buy it.

 

My first two, my second two and my last all have SUCH different approaches to life. The first two never ask for anything, eat whatever is in front of them, thank me for everything. The second two ask for treats, are picky eaters, Expect to go shopping, and are generally pretty secure in their financial support expectations. The baby is SPOILED. She expects to receive everything she wants, always expects to get her own way, immediate gratification. 

 

It's so crazy to me that I can map exactly how our lives have been and how it has effected them. 

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About the coats... there was a girl in middle school who had one old coat. Poverty wise, I think she may have been worse off than I was. Rumor got around that a boy stole the coat, took it to the bathroom, stuffed it in a toilet, then urinated and defecated on it.

 

And she held her head high, retrieved the coat, and took it home in a plastic bag to be washed and worn again. Because she had no choice.

 

It still makes me sad and sick thinking about it, even if the story was exaggerated by the time it got to me. And that boy... how do you go about life knowing you treated someone like that? Unless you didn't and still don't care? Ugh.

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My mom never did. Nor did we ever have paper napkins. We were allowed to have a half sheet of a paper towel if absolutely necessary (before they started making them that way). We used to think it was so neat when we stayed with our childless double-income aunt and uncle and they had paper napkins. Sometimes they even had designs on them! Lol. Now, I have paper towels in 3 rooms, a box of tissues in every spot possible, and paper napkins to spare! Even if they are the cheap store brand. :-)

My grandfather would always cut the paper towel rolls in half. When select-a-size came out I was like, "Pepere, you could have been rich! You invented that!"

 

It's funny how some of us will continue to not buy certain things (like paper towels/kleenex), and others of us will swing the other way and always have it (like this post). 

 

I see that in myself. Some things are a must and others I continue to be overly cheap about. For me, clothing is a spot that I still cheap out on. I actually have dh take the kids shopping for shoes, because he will get them what they need while I'll have an ongoing internal (sometimes external) battle over how to find the cheapest shoes that will get us by.

 

This is a bigger ticket item, but dental/orthodontic care is the place that I totally relish in being able to provide.

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This reminded me of something funny last week.  I had taken the kids to the thrift store and how now it is "cool" to be thrifting and creative with clothes etc. I told them how when I was a kid, clothes were harder to come by and more expensive in regular stores and the thrift stores were full of everybody's 70s polyester cast offs, not the cool clothes that are there now and how I had 3 pairs of pants one year for school, 2 pairs of boys jeans and 1 pair of pastel pink old lady dress pants handed down from an aunt and how I cried and cried when I fell on the playground and ripped one of the pairs of jeans because we couldn't wear holey clothes to school and my mother would have to patch them. And patches made you an automatic target for the bully squad (wearing their ocean pacific and bugle boy clothes, haha!)

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