12 Telltale Signs That Someone Used To Be Poor

12 Telltale Signs That Someone Used To Be Poor

Growing up poor or experiencing poverty can impact an individual’s life, shaping their habits, attitudes, and values in ways that persist long after their financial situation improves. Even when someone has achieved a more stable and comfortable life, there are often telltale signs that reveal their underprivileged background.

These signs are not meant to stigmatize or shame those who have overcome financial hardship but to highlight the resilience, resourcefulness, and unique perspectives that can emerge from such experiences. I grew up in a working-poor family, even though I didn’t know it at the time, and I still carry most of these habits even after becoming a millionaire.

This article will explore 12 common characteristics that may indicate someone grew up poor or faced significant financial challenges.

12 Telltale Signs Someone Grew Up Poor

Growing up or living in poverty can impact an individual’s habits, attitudes, and values, even after their financial situation improves.

Here are 12 telltale signs that someone used to be poor:

  1. Frugality and deal-seeking habits
  2. Hoarding and stockpiling tendencies
  3. Preference for repairing over replacing
  4. Lingering financial anxiety
  5. Finding joy in simple pleasures
  6. Discomfort with non-essential spending
  7. Strong work ethic and resourcefulness
  8. Prioritizing practicality and functionality
  9. Hesitance to waste food
  10. Generosity towards others in need
  11. Appreciation for small luxuries
  12. Valuing experiences over material possessions

Keep reading for a deeper look into people’s residual habits even after they are no longer poor.

1. Frugality and Deal-seeking Habits

Those who have experienced poverty often develop a keen eye for discounts and deals. They are always looking for ways to save money, whether by using coupons, waiting for sales, or comparing prices across different stores.

These frugal habits become ingrained and persist even when their financial circumstances improve, as the fear of returning to a state of poverty can be ever-present in the back of their mind.

2. Hoarding and Stockpiling Tendencies

The fear of scarcity can lead to hoarding among those who have experienced poverty. They may stockpile items such as food, toiletries, or household supplies, even when they have the means to purchase them as needed.

This behavior stems from the uncertainty of not knowing when they might be able to afford these essentials again, and it can be difficult to shake, even when it is no longer necessary.

3. Preference for Repairing over Replacing

Growing up in poverty often means learning to make do with what you have, including developing skills in repairing and maintaining items. Those who have experienced financial hardship value extending the life of their possessions rather than replacing them.

This mindset can persist, even when replacement becomes more cost-effective, as the habit of repairing and preserving is deeply ingrained.

4. Lingering Financial Anxiety

The experience of poverty can lead to chronic financial anxiety that lingers long after one’s circumstances have improved. This anxiety manifests as a constant fear of returning to a state of poverty, even after achieving financial stability.

It can influence daily life and decision-making, such as opting for a more secure job over a riskier but potentially more rewarding one or being hesitant to make large purchases even when they can be afforded.

5. Finding Joy in Simple Pleasures

Those who have experienced poverty often develop a deep appreciation for simple, inexpensive joys. These simple pleasures, such as a home-cooked meal, a walk in the park, or a heartfelt conversation with a loved one, hold special meaning for someone with a background of poverty.

This appreciation is a source of resilience and contentment, reminding them that happiness can be found in the most essential aspects of life.

6. Discomfort with Non-Essential Spending

Growing up poor can lead to a sense of guilt or discomfort when spending money on non-essentials. Even after achieving financial stability, individuals may struggle with indulging in luxury items or experiences.

This internal conflict arises from the ingrained habit of frugality and the belief that money should be saved or spent on practical necessities rather than frivolous desires.

7. Strong Work Ethic and Resourcefulness

The experience of poverty can foster a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. Those who have grown up poor understand the value of hard work and are often willing to put in extra effort to secure a better future for themselves and their loved ones.

Additionally, the resourcefulness developed by those who have had to make do with limited means can be a valuable asset in both personal and professional settings.

8. Prioritizing Practicality and Functionality

When making purchasing decisions, those with a background of poverty often prioritize practical, functional items over luxury goods. They emphasize value and utility, seeking out products that will last and serve a specific purpose.

This mindset can influence lifestyle choices and consumer habits, leading to a more minimalistic and purpose-driven approach to material possessions.

9. Hesitance to Waste Food

The experience of food scarcity can lead to a strong aversion to wasting food among those who have grown up poor. They may develop habits such as thoroughly cleaning their plates, saving leftovers, and repurposing ingredients to minimize waste.

This hesitance to waste food can persist even when food is more readily available, as the memory of scarcity lingers.

10. Generosity Towards Others in Need

Those who have experienced poverty often develop strong empathy and generosity towards others in need. Knowing the struggles of financial hardship, they are more likely to support those in similar situations, whether through time, advice, or emotional assistance.

This generosity can be a way of paying forward the help they may have received and recognizing the importance of community support.

11. Appreciation for Small Luxuries

For those who have experienced poverty, small luxuries hold a special significance. A fancy coffee, new clothing, or a night out at a restaurant can be cherished moments representing progress and achievement.

This heightened appreciation for small indulgences contributes to gratitude and perspective, reminding them of how far they have come and the value of life’s simple pleasures.

12. Valuing Experiences over Material Possessions

Growing up poor often leads to valuing experiences and relationships more than material possessions. Shared moments, such as family meals, heartfelt conversations, or memorable outings, take precedence over acquiring expensive items.

This emphasis on experiences can shape priorities and lead to a more fulfilling life, as the individual focuses on creating meaningful connections and memories rather than accumulating wealth or status symbols.


The experience of poverty leaves an indelible mark on an individual’s life, shaping their habits, attitudes, and values in ways that persist long after their financial situation improves.

Recognizing these telltale signs can help foster a deeper understanding and empathy for those who have overcome economic hardship and serve as a reminder of the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.