53 Eye-Opening Examples Of Little Things People Who Grew Up Poor Consider Luxuries
Then if you’re interested in another piece featuring people from humble backgrounds, check out this Bored Panda article next.
#1Actual Nike shirts or shoes.. was drawing my own swoosh for years..
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While money can’t technically buy happiness, it can buy many things that make our lives easier. Money buys us full stomachs, which allow our bodies to function properly and avoid feeling like we're in survival mode. Enough money allows us to nourish our bodies with fresh produce and healthy foods to keep ourselves in tip top shape and at minimal risk of health issues. Money buys us shelter and warmth, and therefore comfort. Money buys us experiences that add to our quality of life, like going out to see a movie or being able to take a vacation. Money buys us help when we need it, whether it’s a tutor so our kids can ace their SATs or therapy to keep our mental health in check. Money buys us vehicles and thus the freedom to get around. Money buys us resources.
In 2010, a Princeton study reported that money can buy us happiness up to a point. The researchers concluded that people are happier the more money they make, until their income reaches $75,000 a year. After that, there’s no significant increase in happiness levels. The topic is a bit more complicated than that, however, because more money did appear to buy more life satisfaction.
#2Summer camp, or basically any school trips that had to be paid for.
At my school the kids who couldn't afford to go on trips that happened during school hours still had to come to the school, we just sat in a room and did *extra work* like it was detention.
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If your first thought is that life satisfaction and happiness sound synonymous, I would have to agree. The difference is specified by the researchers in the original study noting that well-being can be broken down into two aspects: emotional well-being and life evaluation. Emotional well-being focuses on “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience” while life evaluation “refers to the thoughts that people have about their life”. Happiness is about how you feel while life satisfaction is about what you think. According to the study, happiness is not likely to increase even if someone’s salary is well above $75,000 a year (also keep in mind, that amount in 2010 would be about $100,000 today), but life satisfaction can continue to increase with higher income levels.
#3Christmas decorations. We used to just put tinsel on a fan and that was our tree
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#4$5 to spend at the book fair. I never let go of that one and now I send my kids off with $40 to spend at the book fair with the idea that my kids will walk out of there covered head to toe in book fair drip after telling their middle school crush "just get whatever you want, it's all on me."
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More recently, however, a 2021 study challenged the 2010 idea that happiness related to income reaches a cap. In fact, this study found that “there was no evidence for an experienced well-being plateau above $75,000 [a year]”, and “no evidence of an income threshold at which experienced and evaluative well-being diverged, suggesting that higher incomes are associated with both feeling better day-to-day and being more satisfied with life overall”.
A review of this study by Giving What We Can also addresses the concern that happiness is probably also determined by what you’re spending your money on. It’s recommended to be a conscious purchaser, spending less money on material items and more money on enriching experiences. It also may be beneficial to "buy many small pleasures rather than few large ones". The review warns readers to be cognizant of how purchases affect them and to “pay close attention to the happiness of others”. If you're purchasing an expensive car because you don't like comparing your 2005 Honda Accord to you're neighbor's new BMW, you probably won't feel satisfied after your purchase. But if you splurge on a month-long trip to New Zealand experiencing a new culture and exploring the country's nature, your happiness actually might be increased.
#5I am from a small island in the Pacific. While I mostly still take cold showers, I have always felt that a hot shower is the finest luxury one can experience. I had my first hot shower when I was 22 years old and I can never forget it.
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#6Grew up poor and when I was a kid I used to think you were rich if you had a dishwasher and a millionaire if you had one of those refrigerators that have a button for ice
McDonalds was also a luxury, a couple times a year on our birthdays
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Some particularly cold individuals use the adage “money can’t buy you happiness” as an excuse to turn a blind eye to others in need. “Why give the homeless woman at the intersection a $20 bill? It won’t buy her happiness.” Or sometimes affluent individuals perpetuate the misconception that poor people are actually happier than the wealthy because money buys you problems. But as Borgen Magazine so kindly points out, “Even the World Happiness Index ranks the high-income countries as the happiest.” As of 2016, the “happiest” countries in the world were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland. Meanwhile, countries at the bottom of the list included Afghanistan, Togo and Syria. While not everyone needs to live in a two-story home with a pool in the backyard, there’s no question that being able to afford basic necessities increases quality of life.
#7Ice cream once a year on my birthday
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#8Buying any kind of fruit I want at the grocery store.
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#9Going to someone's house when they had a sectional sofa. The pinnacle of luxury.
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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a great example of how money contributes to our levels of happiness. While physiological needs are at the base level of the pyramid (including food, water, clothing, warmth and rest), money can actually solve most of those issues for us without a question. Rest can be a bit trickier because factors like insomnia and mental health issues can come into play. Or maybe a person’s job is inhibiting them from being able to get a proper night’s sleep, due to working overnight. But if someone needs medication to help them rest, that can be purchased. Or if a person's job isn’t allowing them time to sleep, they probably could avoid that problem if they made enough money to work less hours. Or they could take a lower-paying job with better hours, if they didn’t need to be so concerned about finances.
#10Buying a book instead of borrowing from the library
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#11saving the life of a pet because i could afford to pay the vet
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#12Drinking clean (and enough) water and just having a decent meal, not just a piece of dry bread and tea!
Yes, I come from Yemen, where we did not have a sufficient amount of water (for drinking or cleaning) and did not necessarily have three meals a day.
I remember that we would not have random plants in our garden to water, that would be a waste of water. If you watch Dune, we kinda had (and still have) a similar situation!
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After physiological needs are met, we can begin to focus on security and safety. People deserve to experience “order, predictability and control in their lives”. This allows us to relax and avoid feeling constant stress. Safety needs are less about physical issues and more about emotional security, financial security, law and order, freedom from fear, social stability, health and wellbeing. Again, money can take care of many of these issues, providing us health insurance, financial stability and freedom from the fear that unexpected issues will plunge us into debt.
After our safety needs are met, we can start to think about love and belonging needs. These include social needs like acceptance, receiving and giving affection, intimacy, trust and love. At this point, money can no longer explicitly purchase any of these needs. But think about it this way: when you have enough money to enjoy free time and go out to social events, it’s much easier to make friends and build relationships. When we’re constantly working and trying to squeeze in rest, there is not much time for (or much time to even think about) satisfying social needs.
#13Going to the grocery and feeling able to buy pretty much anything I want within reason.
I still compare cents differences in name brand vs. store brand vs. sale items; or do I really need this?
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#14When I was able to afford pads or tampons. Growing up, I had to steal toilet paper from my school during my cycle.
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#15Cable. For 15 years my only South Park experience was on VHS tapes
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The fourth level of needs are esteem needs, including self-worth, accomplishment and respect. Maslow broke these down into two categories: esteem for oneself and the “desire for reputation or respect from others”. The latter, Maslow noted, is particularly important for children and adolescents. Again, these cannot be bought at a specific price, but keep in mind how respected people with money often are. It is seen as a great status symbol to have a significant source of income, and a certain level of respect can be built right into someone’s job title, if they are a surgeon or a CEO for example.
Lastly, we can’t forget self-actualization needs. These refer to the realization of a person’s potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. While pursuing these needs looks different from person to person, wealth can again be a contributing factor. If someone has an artistic passion, like painting or making music, money can buy unlimited resources to hone skills and hire proper instructors. If it’s therapy that will help someone feel fulfilled, that can be purchased too. While money cannot directly solve most of the needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, it certainly can make pursuing those needs easier.
#16When my grandma would come pick me up and spoil me. My parents didn't have much money and were addicts so when my grandma would come get me I would come back with new clothes, video games, toys, etc. I used to think my grandma was rich but she actually just had a stable income.
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#17We would go to the movies from time to time, but we went to AMC once and the concrete/pavement outside the building had reflective specs in it.
Pair that with street lamps, and a darkening sky and I thought we made it.
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#18After growing up in a home where every unexpected problem was a financial emergency, my idea of wealthy became "I just want enough money that if something breaks I don't get anxiety about how to deal with it."
Edit: Thank you all.
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While happiness may be too much for us to ask of money, our finances are tied to our mental well-being, according to Purdue University. In fact, a 2020 survey found that 73% of Americans rank finances as the number one stressor in their lives. This stress can manifest in physical symptoms as well, including anxiety, headaches, compromised immune systems, digestive issues, high blood pressure, muscle tension, depression and more. “Health issues then present increased medical expenses, which worsen already tight money situations,” Amanda Hathcock, an employee assistance counselor at the Center for Healthy Living, told Purdue. “It’s important for individuals to have support to help them process this cycle of overlapping stressors so they can hopefully slow the cycle and head in a new direction that leads to some relief.”
#19Going out for pizza was a big deal. Those free mini pizzas for reading books were huge.
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#20Going to a fair, a concert, or a similar event, and buying food. Unthinkable when I was a child. Clearly people go to the summer fair just to enjoy the aroma of fried dough.
#21We’re usually had a can of soup or beans or a slice of bread and spam for dinner. On payday mom would bring home one of those rotisserie chickens they sold at the grocery store. We were eating like the rich people. Fast food was still like eating at a restaurant to my mom and thus unaffordable.
Harvard Business School has a piece on their blog addressing how money can not only buy us things, but it can also help us avoid things, like stress. It can make it much easier to solve everyday hassles, like what to eat for dinner or how to get to a party. There’s no hesitation to call an Uber or order takeout when you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. Don’t worry about waking up early to pack a sandwich to take to work with you if you can afford to buy a $12 salad at the cafe near your office. “If we only focus on the happiness that money can bring, I think we are missing something,” says Jon Jachimowicz, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “We also need to think about all of the worries that it can free us from.”
#22Drinking something other than tap water with a meal. Like juice or squash. We never, ever did this, and if I ever do it in adulthood it feels wildly luxurious - like, you already have the flavour from the food, why do you need flavour from the drink as well?
#23Getting a one month RuneScape membership for my birthday once. Im still living on that high.
#24Going to a friend's house and seeing they had stairs. An upstairs bedroom? A downstairs basement area? I thought my friends were millionaires.
In terms of solving the issue of wealth inequality in the United States, Jachimowicz acknowledges that there’s a long road ahead of us requiring systemic change. There’s an unfair stigma around being poor, and affluent people often have no idea how privileged they are, especially if they inherited wealth. “We have normalized this idea that when you are poor, it’s your fault and so you should be ashamed of it,” Jachimowicz notes. “At the same time, we’ve structured society in a way that makes it really hard on people who are poor.” He points out how difficult everyday tasks can be for those living in poverty, from relying on inaccessible and expensive public transit to being unable to afford daycare for their children so they can work. “People who are poor should feel like they have some control over their lives, too. Why is that a luxury we only afford to rich people?” Jachimowicz says. “We have to structure organizations and institutions to empower everyone.”
#25Butter on toast with sugar.
Also, getting to watch a late-night PBS movie WITH popcorn.
#26This is a weird one, but seasonings and spices in cooking. My mother raised me by herself so a lot of the time our meals were the bare minimum. Lots of cheap spaghetti and sauce. Her main priority was just feeding me. I didn't like meat until I made friends who would invite me over for dinner and I was able to experience seasonings.
#27I wasn’t able to afford avocados, now every-time I buy some I’m like ‘Wow that’s cool I can take that’. Like. Every. Time.
While being poor has made the people featured on this list more appreciative of the little things in life, it’s unfortunate that these luxuries couldn't be common occurrences in their lives. Being a person is stressful enough without having to worry about where your next meal is coming from or if your children can go on a school field trip. We all deserve so much more than having our basic needs met. We hope you enjoy reading the rest of this eye-opening list; then let us know in the comments what little things you’re grateful for that you’ll never take for granted.
#28Renting a VCR player for a special Saturday. You could watch a movie whenever you wanted, and *pause* it. And no commercials. I know, it sounds too good to be true. That's why it only happened a few times a year.
#29Having more than a five minute long shower. Five was the maximum like my dad would start banging on the door at 10 minutes he'd shut the hot water off.
Not just mattresses on the floor.
If we ever ate meat. One of my brothers didn't recognize a pork chop at age 6-7. Asked my mom, 'Is this hard meat or easy meat?' He's 50 now and we still laugh about it.
Syrup instead of a few canned peach slices and some peach juice on our stack of pancakes.
BEAN BURRITO NIGHT
We got instant refried beans as a food commodity. Mom grew lettuce and tomato pot back. We would shred the government cheese. The treat was a pint of sour cream, and a jar of salsa. We would each take our turn at the table telling mom what we wanted on our burritos. (One brother only ate peanut butter and cheese burritos, and yes he did survive into adulthood).
Mom is almost 80 now, but as long as us kids cut up so the ingredients and pull up a chair for her she will still roll you a 'big fatty - her words. Cue mom getting wistful and reminding us, 'I was quite the roller in my day.' The 80's were good to her lolol
#32Shoes that didn't come from the $2 aisle at K-Mart...once a year.
#33Having the heating on. We used to go to bed in our sleeping bags in winter which was really cool back then, pretty depressing now
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#34Dental and medical care. Dental insurance was a huge luxury. I didn't have an employer that offered that until I was in my late 20's. Needless to say, I spent a fortune on my teeth. I made sure my kids always had dental care from them on.
#35Getting new clothes at Christmas from relatives. I don't know if that is exactly a luxury or the kind of answer you are looking for, but we never had a lot of money when I was in middle school. I went an entire year wearing the same pants everyday. The funny thing was my parents didn't even buy them for me. I got them for Christmas from my Grandparents. All the kids use to give me so much s**t for wearing the same pants everyday. I always told them that I had 5 of the same pair which made me feel good inside and kind of made them ease off even though I know they didn't believe me.
I remember I fell on the school bus one day and the jagged floor cut a hole right in the knee cap and the panic that went over me was just insane. It was one of the worst feelings of my whole life because I knew that I didn't have any other pants to wear and that now all of the kids in my school were going to know that I only had 1 pair. Needless to say I could not wait for the last month of school to end.
EDIT: Just want to say thank you for all of the awards. I honestly didn't think that this comment would really mean much to anyone, but I can see that I was defiantly not alone in my situation growing up. I appreciate everyone sharing their support and stories. This did have a great impact on my life and it shaped who I am in a lot of ways. Thank you all again for sharing your stories and support.
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#36At the end of the season, sometimes the grocery store would have peck baskets of peaches on sale for a dime to clear them out before they went bad. And if Mom had a spare dime, she'd buy them and tell us to eat all we wanted - normally fruit was limited to one a day if there was any at all. Man, we'd hit those peaches like a plague of locusts.
Image credits: HowdyDoobie
#37Just getting some god dang crafts, man. I was the kid you could entertain the rest of the night with popsicle sticks, glitter, and glue. You know what I never got to do? Crafts, because the only popsicle sticks we ever got were NONE, the glue was for school only ("don't let your friends borrow your glue/crayons/pencils we can't buy more 'til income tax!"), and glitter meant more electricity vacuuming it up.
I am now a grown woman with a craft room that sparkles like a dragon hoard. I make Martha Stewart weep
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#38Towels. Honestly, I was almost 10
When I realized people didn’t just put back on their dirty clothes after a shower because my family was so large (12 kids total including myself) and extremely poor. I thought towels were just for hotels or were maybe a prop on television. I went to a friends house and she asked for my help folding her towels. I remember laughing and thinking she must be rich. Long story short, I wasn’t sure which way to fold the towels, and begged my mom to buy them after I revealed that my friend, Simone, had them. She bought a box of used ones from a local auction and I walked around with them on my head feeling like a frigging empress after that, even though—-let’s be clear…these were second hand towels! ?
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#39A meal out in a restaurant (not even a fancy one).
#41I grew up broke and am incredibly fortunate to have money as an adult. Meals out when I was a kid were huge, I think I only really remember three in my whole childhood, so as an adult who does largely whatever I like, going out to dinner still thrills me, always get dressed up, make the most of it etc.
#42Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as opposed to store brand. Soda out of a can. Any restaurant where you sit down and get a menu. Having the AC on in the car.
#43The concept of going to a restaurant and deciding on food you actually wanted, not just the cheapest thing on the menu, was wild and a hard lesson I still grapple with. Restaurants were special but my family did this odd thing where when we were expecting things to be extra tight for awhile we would go to a (cheap) restaurant as a kind of final hurrah before things got really bad for awhile. So I associated restaurants with sad/hard times coming, and would always order the cheapest thing to help save money. This extended to even a friend's family taking me out. Even now my partner asks me if the thing on the menu I chose was what I actually want or just the cheapest thing. They didn't grow up poor so they were very confused by some of my "odd" behaviors.
#44New clothes. Pretty much had to make everything last and while I'm not proud of it I did alot of shoplifting as young teen.
I always look back and think how I really lucked out that the "dirty punk" look was super in when I was a teen. I basically based my whole style around it and people thought I was just being fashionable but I was just really f*****g poor lmao.
#45Being able to turn on the heat in the cold and pay a professional to fix damaged appliances, plumbing, and other issues
#46A holiday. We never went anywhere when I was younger, but some of my friends did. Then when my mam got a job she told us we’d being going on holiday soon. 2 years later and we went to Wales on the ferry to some s**t hole, British holiday camp. It was the best f*****g holiday I’ve ever been on. We even had enough money to leave the camp and went to a restaurant in a nearby town and rode the miniature railway there. It really felt like we weren’t poor.
I also remember getting brand name trainers for the first time; what it felt like to own a VCR; having a car that didn’t need a push start and being able to go to the cinema. They were all HUGE luxuries.
#47As a European, vacation in a foreign country. Not overseas, just a different country, even neighboring. Also, staying at a hotel - I experienced that for the first time as a 16-year-old and felt like a VIP, not having to cook for yourself, getting to choose from a breakfast buffet, etc.
As for the vacation, my classmates went to Greece, Italy, Canary Islands, Turkey, Thailand, etc... while I went to my grandparents or stayed at a cheap rental apartment near the destination of our vacation (in our country).
Related to this, flying. I first flew when I was 21 and making money on my own.
#48A motel room. We stayed one night at the Pink Flamingo in Ocean City NJ and felt like millionaires
#49During the first few years of our marriage, my wife and I combined, made about 17k per year. It was ROUGH.
Now we make just over 100k per year, and I still stop once and a while and think to myself "Wow, when was the last time I even had to check our balance to make sure we could buy groceries? This is AWESOME!"
Just the little things of not having to worry or double check before you pay for normal purchases is SOOO much better. 'Money doesn't buy happiness'? Yes, Yes it does. You've just never been truly poor if you think it doesn't.
#50When I was broke I would take walks alot, usually at Daytona beach. I'd sometimes walk past some really nice looking restaurants and wish that were me sitting there eating delicious food.
16 years later now I do.
#51New clothes! I always had hand-me-downs from our more affluent neighbors. But for my birthday, my grandparents would sometimes take me out to but a new outfit or new shoes. Always a fun adventure!
Also, going out to Friendly's. We got to do it once a year when report cards came in. :)
#52Anything I could live without. Especially skincare. My skin has become amazing since I've had the disposable income to buy better products.
It still makes me feel bad though