Growing Up in a Low-Income Household

I grew up in a low income household. My parents immigrated to this country and worked blue collar jobs. I am the oldest child. I have a sibling who is seven years younger than me. I have always been a very aware kid. At six, I knew we were poor. While most kids prayed for toys, I prayed for my dad to be blessed with a job and for us to continue to have a roof over our head and food on the table. Even now, I pray to be blessed with more work, and for my dad to be blessed with jobs as well. When I talk to my family, I never complain about working long hours. Even if I was working 80 hours a week, my grandpa would say “more hours are great, pray for more.”

It’s a completely different mentality. My childhood experience has left some scars.

  1. Lack of money is stressful. My parents argued a lot about money while I was growing up. They argued over how much money was spent. My mom would get mad at my dad if he spent his lunch allowance too quickly. They would argue over giving money to family. I wish I could say my parents would not let us hear their arguments; unfortunately, I was present for many arguments. Maybe not all of them, but definitely a lot.
  2. I don’t want to be stressed over money. Especially not having enough money. Thus, my huge focus on growing my career and income.
  3. Every dollar has a purpose. My parents’ main problem was not earning enough. Every dollar was allocated. I’m not sure how my mom did it, but we never had utilities shut off and always had plenty to eat. She still manages her budget on very low income. While she never necessarily sat down and taught me how to budget, I learned to budget just because I didn’t want to run out of money.
  4. Control the finances. I have control over our finances. I pay the bills (although most bills are automated), set the budget, set savings goal, and set investments. It can be stressful to have so much responsibility in our marriage, but I think it would be more stressful to not have the responsibility. Sometimes I wonder, if I’m doing my husband a disservice. I try to get him involved in the finances, but he’s not the best student. (Sorry husband)
  5. Frugalness. I say frugalness because while we’re frugal, we’re not super frugal. My husband doesn’t really care about monthly budgets. There are times when I tell him, hey we need to stop spending money on X because that budget is gone, and it won’t matter. To be honest, I’m not great either. The budget is mostly a guideline. Some months we spend more, some less. We could save more money if we were tighter with money, but a lot of it has to do with our choices.
  6. Guilt with spending money. My husband says it’s weird, but I always feel guilty with big purchase items. It’s not because I feel judged. It’s just because I never grew up with such luxuries.
  7. One more thing. Personally, I don’t ever want to be financially dependent on anyone, including my husband. My mom was a stay at home mom and she had less options because she didn’t have an income source. There were a couple times were my mom wanted to divorce my dad, but she never went through with it because she couldn’t support the family financially.  Those phases probably coincided with the most stressful financial periods for my parents. And probably other reasons, but the financial aspect was always there. While there more factors than money, money was a very big deal. Having experienced the roller coaster of my parents’ marriage, I just never want to be in a situation where I can’t do something because I’m not independent enough to earn money. Maybe it’s not divorce. But what if my husband dies?  I need/want to be able to survive on my own.

Growing up in a low-income household where parents were stressed out was not a positive experience in my life. It did leave psychological scars and serves as the background to why I’m so financially minded.

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