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Dealing with past poverty

October 13th, 2009 at 04:57 pm

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about how I have been feeling about my budget, my debt, my spending, and everything that involves.

It is weird that now that I make more money than I did as a younger person, I am feeling a bit more stressed overall about money and what a middle class income really means and represents.

When I was younger, I was poor. Poor in that kind of way where the other kids pick on you because you have only one new outfit for the entire school year, and most of your clothes were sewn and re-sewn again and again. Yet, I remember wishing I had a lot of things....like clothes, or a certain look, but I don't remember being upset about being poor.

I think that I just accepted how things were as a survival mechanism. I learned to not ask a lot of questions, because, well, I think the answers would just make me upset, to be honest. Now that I know why my family went down the road they went, I do find that I have some anger at my parents for some of the choices they made. I do love them dearly, and in a weird way, part of me does not want to make their same mistakes. It does not mean I don't respect or love them, I do, and I miss them every day. But I don't want to have that kind of lifestyle.

I feel like now, as I watch my neighborhood change and get more affluent, and I am torn between buying my favorite cheese, or focusing on what else I could buy for that $4 pricetag that would last longer, I get a bit more...irritated. I can blame no one buy myself for my debt, and maybe it is anger at myself that I am feeling, but projecting outwards?

Part of me wonders if how I am feeling now is in part to what I felt when I didn't have control over money as a child, and how I feel that that upbringing shaped some of my spending habits. I will admit that I was not really taught well about money----there was just something in me from a young age that made me hoarde whatever birthday money I got. I guess the pattern I learned from my parents was not about saving, but spending what you had, eating well at the beginning of the month, and then eating the cheaper cuts of meat at the end of the month.

Being poor, I think, does things to you, especially when you don't have a supportive environment (I went to upper income schools....got a great education, but received a lot of judgment and ostracizing about being poor, among other things).

I am constantly calculating my budget on a daily basis and figuring out how much money I have to buy deodorant, etc. Today, I needed to buy some toiletries, and found that a local store had what I needed, at a price that is hard to find in the city limits, but I stopped myself from buying it because I know that store takes coupons, so I will make another trip with my coupon to get a bit of a discount.

I am also a bit upset because I wanted to buy some lettuce and lean protein and cheese today....I imagined fields of healthy salads, and the scale going down. But, I thought about feeding two people, and instead stuck with the rice, juice, and protein laden eggs. I haven't decided what I will eat tomorrow.

I know I am blessed to be able to even have food (I feel so silly about complaining when I saw that in Haiti people are eating mudcakes! http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/29/food.internationalaidanddevelopment ). Stories like that make me sooo mad! We are one of the richest countries in the world, we have more food than we need, and yet people in our own country are going hungry, and people in other countries are starving as well. Sorry, but I am upset about this, and even madder at myself cause I realize that I am lucky to be able to buy "jasmine" rice and canned beans.

2 Responses to “Dealing with past poverty”

  1. momcents Says:


    I, too, am from a poor money background. My situation was worse in that I lived in an apartment with my mom and brother and had a rich father who drove new Corvettes and didn't pay child support. I was raised in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago (where I still reside) and was an "apartment folk". I ate mac and cheese and beans and weanies and waffles most week days. My father didn't care about us kids on weekend visitation, so my grandparents fed us and bought us what we needed.

    I was college educated through financial aid and went on to receive a Masters Degree (which I paid for through student loans). I have been to Europe three times and Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. I married at a young age (20) and waited eight years before I started to have children (six of which five survived). In my quest for education, I became educated not because I loved my chosen field, but because I was afraid that one day I would be a divorced mother of kids and I wanted to be able to provide for them. Funny thing is nineteen years later I couldn't be happier as a SAHM and would like to have more children - though we're leaning toward adoption for the next child.

    I think that understanding where you came from helps make sense for how we view money - whether healthy or non-healthy. I also compare my situation with my lawyer-brother who has debt and my father still makes his student loan payment. It used to bother me when I made my own payment each month. What I've learned is that I have my own independence and am not relying on anyone to take care of my needs. I used to be bitter about it, now I'm proud that I can take care of myself.

  2. HELPmeFriend Says:

    I can remember when my parents got divorced and my mom had cancer. I didn't go to school when she felt too weak to get up and drive me there. Me and my cat survived on bar-b-que chips and pretzels with the little mustards that my grandpa didn't like that came in his Christmas presents from Peckridge farms. You live and learn. Nothing bad comes from learning how the other half lives. Some people could learn a lot if they had to scrimp and save.

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