real life

'My family had "camping nights".' People share the moment they realised they grew up poor.

At some point, most of us have had a sudden realisation that something we thought was common to the western hemisphere was actually a unique family quirk.

And for some people, this moment of realisation was actually that their financial situation was tougher than their friends.

When Reddit user Karnaf0 asked, “What was the moment you said to yourself ‘Jeez I’m poor’?” the thread soon became a place for people to share the ways that, as kids or adults, they had learned their family was not well-off.

Here are some of the best examples of the heartwarming lengths parents and other adults would go to to try to make kids feel like they weren’t missing out.

‘We “snuck” hot food from the canteen.’

Redditor ReadMoreWriteLess shared that while reflecting on how “crafty” they and their sister were as seven and nine-year-olds sneaking into “hot lunch line” at school without paying, they had a realisation.

“Then we look at our kids and realise they could never get away with that. The teachers knew we had nothing. They looked the other way.”

“This led to us uncovering tons of other times when were kids thinking we were getting away with something realising that the adults knew full well. We cried a little.

“Thanks adults who knew.”

Meanwhile, one in seven Aussie kids think cash from the ATM is free money. On This Glorious Mess, we discuss why they don’t understand money. Post continues.

‘My family had “camping nights”.’

Houndstooth37 said they only realised years later the true reason their parents decided to have ‘camping night’.

“They would set up a tent and we would play board games by candlelight.

“Talking to my mother about it, my parents couldn’t pay the electric bill and they came up with camping night to not alarm the children.”

‘I didn’t realise most people didn’t eat mostly canned food.’

Reddit user WhatAmIDoingAwake said they had fond memories of the “monster mash” their mum would whip up from pasta and whatever canned food was in the cupboard.

“She’d make a huge vat of pasta and feed us with that for the week. She was not a great cook, but she could work miracles with random canned goods, in combinations that always seemed to pan out well.

“I didn’t realize other people didn’t primarily eat canned meat products and dollar spaghetti till I was in middle school.

“No regrets, that was delicious.”

‘My friend’s parents rigged a raffle for me.’

TheSwearPolice said he was “getting all emotional” thinking about what a friend’s mum did for him when he was about eight years old.


“Everyone has super cool ninja turtles action figures. I wanted one real bad,” he explained.

Then, while at a friend’s birthday, he “just so happened to “win” the mystery prize giveaway drawing at the beginning of the party – my very own turtles action figure”.

“Probably 20 years later I sit up straight in my bed in the middle of the night and realise my friend’s mum knew I didn’t have the means so she gave me an awesome gift at her son’s birthday party.”

‘My dad’s “stingy” habit was actually selfless.’

Seeyouyeah said as a child, at restaurants their dad would always buy one main meal to share between the two of them.

“When I was a little kid I always wondered why he wasn’t hungry, and as a slightly older kid I always wondered why he was so stingy.”

“It was only later that it clicked and I understood what he was going through and what he was trying to do for me.

“In a similar vein, I later realised that the reasons our main activities to do together were reading and cooking is that the library is free and cooking is necessary whether it’s fun or not.”

Mamamia staff share exactly how much debt they’re in. Post continues.

Video by Mamamia

‘My teacher made my lunch for me.’

User Lookitsmosterki said they realised they’re family was struggling when they were sent to school without lunch.

“I realised when all the other kids at school brought packed lunches every day and I brought no food so my teacher used to make me a vegemite sandwich in the staff room.

“Doing fine now but as a kid I realised I was poor then.”

‘My friend’s old toys were ones I could never afford.’

Texassadist said while sleeping over at a friend’s place in their spare room, they spotted a box that changed their perspective.

“Him and his siblings had their old ‘played with’ toys in a big bucket. These were the toys my family could never afford, name brand stuff.


“I was 14 and stayed up all night playing with GI Joes and stuff similar, crying.”

‘I was asked to go without Christmas presents.’

GoPLUSULTRA said their family lived under the poverty line, and a tiny budget for food, being unable to pay bills and not having holidays made them realise their family was not well-off.

But when they were about 14 years old, they were asked to help keep their younger siblings from realising this.

“Money was tight, and my parents pulled me aside to ask if it was fine if I took a hit to gifts that year so my baby siblings could get decent Christmas gifts.

“I kind of realised in that moment that we were really poor.

“The illusion was meant for kids who didn’t understand what our circumstances really were.

“I fully accepted, and was pretty cool with just getting socks from there on out.”

‘I saw how the other half lives.’

“I grew up poor, but it wasn’t the trailer park or taking a thermos full of water to elementary school lunch that made me feel poor,” user Mail_Order_Lutefisk shared.

“It was when I was a year into working and this senior guy took a few of us youngsters golfing at a private club.”

The Redditor said they didn’t realise the extremely wealthy found it rude to ask how much it costs to join a golf club and was only told “if you have to ask you can’t afford it”.

‘My dad was going to work extra shifts to buy me an iPod.’

TheseRevolution said that as a teen they realised their parents we’re well off when they asked their dad for an iPod.

“After a lot of whining, he said ‘Okay, but it’ll take me a couple weeks. I’ll do overtime next weekend.’

“I suddenly snapped into reality considering that my Dad hardly pays bills with his wages, and was willing to work all weekend to buy me (one of three kids) an iPod.”

“He worked that weekend, and following day told me we can go to Walmart or Best Buy to go buy it. I faked some lame excuse for ‘nahhhh. I don’t really want it that much anymore. You can keep the money’.”

The Redditor said that 10 years on, they’ve been able to repay their dad.

“I never bought myself an iPod, but just last weekend I bought Dad a $60K SUV – his first brand new ride. It feels good to come out of financial hardship.”

“Everybody else, good days shall come.”