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People who have experienced poverty share what most people don’t understand about being poor

People share why its so hard to break out of a vicious cycle of poverty and debt and how it consumes you.

People who have experienced poverty share what most people don’t understand about being poor
Image source: Reddit/@NapalmKiss

They say it's expensive to be poor and anyone who's struggled to make ends meet will testify to the same. You can imagine what it's like to be poor, but you will never really understand what it feels like until you've been there. Many people who have lived through hard times opened up about what it really feels like to be poor, in a Reddit thread, and for many, it was an eye-opener. Poverty is a vicious cycle, and everything from putting food on the table, dreading a visit from a debt collector and the stress takes a toll on your mental health. Redditor 192335 asked, "What do most people not understand about being poor?" 

One man, young homeless sitting on the street and begging. - stock photo/Getty Images

1. It takes up all of your time

"Yep. I remember not being able to stock up on necessities. So I would have to run to the store a lot more frequently. I couldn’t afford a car so I would either have to bus or walk. All of these little things eat up so much time," - u/djflossy. Another Redditor chimed in, "I've thought about this when going to Costco. It's cheaper, in the long run, to buy toilet paper in bulk, but I have to have a car to lug all of my bulk groceries around."


2.  Unforeseen expenses can derail you

"When we save up money, something happens which forces us to use that money we had saved which starts a hard to break the loop," said one Redditor. Another added that it is a very defeating experience. "Saving up for rent? Oh, sh*t, something broke down. That's gotta come out of savings. Saving up for that car repair? Oh, damn, there's an appliance you regularly use that needs to be replaced. Gonna come out of savings. It's very defeating."

3. Being poor is exhausting

"It's draining. Mentally. Physically. It's just exhausting. Everyone needs a win sometimes. Sometimes that win is finding a way to just afford a f*cking meal out or a movie. Yeah, you do have bills to pay and shit to do. But everyone needs a breath of fresh air sometimes. A struggle needs a f*cking break every so often," wrote one person. Another person compared it to torture, and for someone to draw that parallel shows how affecting poverty can be. "It's like being waterboarded. You just need to breathe. You need to find some reprieve and you absolutely know it will make it worse, but it doesn't matter, you're on the edge and you just need a little bit of air," they added.


4. The pain of deciding who gets to eat food at home  

"When your parents are lying to you saying they're full when they're not so you can have the last bite," wrote a Redditor. Another person opened up about the struggle to put food on the table. "My husband and I recently were in a financial rough patch (hopefully over now!) and both of us went two nights in a row still hungry so my daughters could go to bed with full tummies. They had no idea we were in a pinch with money/food. When my youngest got up from the table and left a few bites behind, we quietly split it and scarfed it down. They don’t need to know our struggle or go to bed looking for more."  

5. It's a vicious cycle of debt

"Everything you buy has interest attached to it because you’re NOT using that money to pay off debts that you definitely have," commented one person. "Cycle of poverty is no joke. I got really sick from anxiety. My stomach hurt, I developed an ulcer, I had to go to the hospital. $$$ . Ok, so the root problem is anxiety and depression. How do I fix it? Therapy and maybe medication. But I’m already in debt from going to the hospital. So I try to do without. Manage on my own. Pay down bills. Anxiety grows from seeing the debt and life under covid. Anxiety. Stomach hurts. We’re back to the beginning," said a Redditor. Having money's not everything; not having it is," added another Redditor.

High Angle View Of Woman Wrapped In Blanket Sitting Against Wall - stock photo/Getty Images

6. It's near impossible to 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps'

"That you can’t just willpower your way out. Poverty begets poverty and it’s a vicious cycle. Once you’re there, it’s damn hard to get out without help, luck, or both," wrote one person.


7. You can never save money

"People who aren't poor don't understand how the expenses stack on top of one another all the time. Your car breaks down, the cat needs to go to the vet, you find out that your financial aid DOESN'T fully cover your tuition now that you're at university and not community college. All of this, in a never-ending barrage one after another, on top of regular bills. That's why the people who go "jUsT sAvE mOnEy" piss me off. When you're at a certain level of poverty, you can't because you're always on the knife's edge between survival and not being able to pay bills. You need every dime you have and then some," wrote a Redditor.

8. Taking drugs to numb the pain and suffering

"Addiction runs rampant because you aren't doing drugs for fun, you're doing them to survive. Need to sleep on the street? Being drunk or high will make it much easier.
Need to sleep with a stranger to afford food for your kid? Getting high will help. Undergone serious trauma and can't afford therapy? Drugs and alcohol will numb the pain," wrote one person. Another added, "I wish more people understood this. There comes a point where if you want to survive in spite of all of your suffering, you absolutely need something to help cope, otherwise you might give up. Alcohol and drugs give a lot of people a way to cope, and they’re more accessible than “desirable” treatments."

Portrait of Korean woman on cell phone reading an important document - stock photo/Getty Images

9. Your dreams fade away

"You can NEVER relax. Once you get a little ahead something will go wrong. The car might need repairs or the appliances might break down. It’s honestly relentless and it grinds you down over the years until you just stop dreaming of the future and making big plans. Those dreams just become desperate whispers to yourself at night as you go to sleep that your utilities don’t get shut off," commented one person. 


10. Poverty is violence

"That it’s violence. That poverty is actual harm. That it’s no different than walking up to someone and punching them in the throat. It doesn’t express itself in the way most violence does, but it absolutely does far more damage to people than most violence does," wrote one person. Another added, "That you never sleep well at night, NEVER! Your mind is constantly in overdrive wondering which bill(s) will or not get paid this month. That the smallest unexpected expense can completely put you over the edge."


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