Growing Up: Broke to Comfortable

Happy Saturday! I thought I would share my childhood with you guys since I like reading about others' lives and how they grew up. Feel free to share your story in the comments!


Growing up with a single mother was pretty difficult. I remember kids making fun of my Payless brand shoes because I didn't have Nikes. I had to wear the same pink power ranger costume for 3 years in a row since we could not afford a new costume. My mom had to rent out 3 rooms to strangers after the divorce just to make ends meet so I ended up living with these strangers and calling them "uncle" or "auntie". I had no idea what was going on at the time. I couldn't participate in hot lunch every Thursday at school because we didn't have the money, and since I went to a private school, everyone else always bought 2 or 3 hot dogs/pizza slices/hamburgers for hot lunch. I remember crying as my grandma scrounged around for change in one of our renter's room just so I could have $2.50 for hot lunch the next day. As a Catholic and a morally good person, I didn't know what to think at that time! Was it right for her to "steal" money like that, even if it was just some loose change?

I'm thankful that my mom never made it known to me that we were broke, but she did make jokes about how we might have to move to the Philippines when she was laid off a few times. I'm very grateful that she didn't burden me with her financial troubles but I also wish she would have taught me how to save money since she was so good at it (she is an accountant after all). I now appreciate everything she has done to pay for my education and everything I wanted. Whenever I came home complaining about what the other kids were wearing or what the other kids' parents bought them as Christmas gifts, she never complained or got angry. She would go out and get me all the gifts she could afford and every Sunday after church, we would get McDonald's. I looked forward to Sundays all the time just to get my happy meal. I wish I could go back to those days and thank her for everything she has done for me.

When my mom got remarried when I was 9, my stepdad was just starting his career as an engineer, and he was making less than my mom. Things were still really tight and we were still pinching pennies, which is why I decided that I needed to start working when I was 14. I first started teaching hip-hop classes to kids at the local community center and then moved on to selling cell phones at T-Mobile at the mall. Without that real life work experience, I don't know how I would have turned out. I was exposed to reality and the true cost of living at minimum wage. Then, I started driving and taking care of my little brother and sister. I felt like a teenage mom and was actually mistaken for a teenage mom most of the time but it taught me a lot about responsibility and the love I felt for them is something that motivated me.

When my dad became a captain in the Navy, this is when the lifestyle inflation began. We started going on trips and my parents bought me a new car (not an expensive one, just a Toyota Corolla, but it was still brand new!) when I was 16 and they purchased a new 5-bedroom house, and also started renting out our previous 2 bedroom townhouse. My dad bought a BMW and after my mom got into an accident with our old van, my dad bought her a Lexus. My dad moved up in his company quickly and ended up being the predecessor to the former owner of the engineering firm, and I was so proud of him.  The happiness in his eyes as he talked made me so happy. My mom would tell me everyday that she couldn't believe how her life turned out. She looks at her house everyday and tells herself how thankful she is for everything she has been given. I am so happy that my parents worked so hard to get to where they are today, and I can only hope that I can follow in their footsteps.

What troubles me is that sometimes my BF and I try to compare ourselves to where my parents and his parents are at currently. We have to remember that everyone starts off at the bottom and has to work their way to whatever goal they are trying to achieve. We can't just skip ahead without putting the time in to be where they are at today. It's hard when your parents automatically assume that you should be making 6 figures right when you get out of college, but that's life and we have to make do with what we can afford right now. We are both grateful to have jobs and I think that's what is important. At this point, I have accepted that I may not even get to the lifestyle my parents are living, and I'm okay with that. I just want to be able to provide for my future family like my mom did, because I know I appreciated everything even before we were able to afford a lot of things and live comfortably.


Michelle P said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is a great post! I love it. Everyone has to start out everywhere. Sounds like you had great parents.

~Carla~ said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I come from the same place you do... Single mother, no money. Your last sentence sums it up perfectly... We also live on a very tight budget, but we all have a safe & warm roof over our heads, healthy food, clean water, a litte bit of extra $$ for fun stuff, etc.. all luxuries that many in ths world do not have. I'm abundantly blessed, and being grateful is the first step to contentment.

Wonderful post! :) You're quickly becoming one of my favourite bloggers...

lil desiqua said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I had a similar life too growing up, single mom, not a lot of money. But like your mom, my mom did what she could with what we had, and I didn't realize how broke we were until I went off to college!

Thanks for this post. It's a great reminder to be grateful for the little things, and to work hard to get where you want to be.

Mo' Money Mo' Houses said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post! I had a similar upbringing as my parents got married and had kids when they were 20 so they didn't have a lot of money at the start. I started working at 15 and I'm really thankful for getting that real world experience at a young age. Because of it, I think I was more mature and focused than my peers when going to school. I definitely agree with you about comparing your current situation with your parents. My parents have a nice house and live pretty comfortably now, and me and my BF are living in an old apartment on a very tight budget. I also may never be able to live like my parents and afford a house in the future if I stay in Vancouver (they go on average for $1 million for an old 80s 3 bedroom house, it's ridiculous), but I've come to accept this and I'm pretty happy where I am right now. CHeers :)

femmefrugality said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Sounds like you have a great family. That's something money can't buy. I still buy Payless shoes, but constantly remind myself that I'm working to make it better :)

Serendipity said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My story is backwards, we were comfortable at first and then really scraping towards the end. But I was still able to learn the value of a dollar and how important it was to work. Great story!

Daisy said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

So interesting! You and I have similar backgrounds. I grew up with a single mom too, Payless shoes (well, in Canada we have Zellers, which is like Target, and that's where we got our shoes from), no hot lunches, mom didn't burden us with her financial trouble but she was in deep. Then my mom got married, sold her house, moved into her now husbands house, and they're all good. But I was older when that happened - 17.

Frugal Fries said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Your story is a really uplifting one! I too came from a pretty rough start, but my parents have always been very hard workers. They are doing a lot better now, but they couldn't really marry into any extra money so they haven't made any dramatic headway.

Growing up, my parents would make a point of spoiling us every now and then (dinners at McDonalds, or trips we'd save all year for).

shopping2saving said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wow! It's so nice to hear from everyone and realize that we all come from different yet similar upbringings. Thank you so much for your feedback, and I am glad some of you can relate!

mochiandmacarons said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

That's a fantastic story. It has the same ring of truth as my parents' does, particularly since my mom made herself into somebody out of nothing.

My whole family growing up, has always been appreciative of what we had although they never told us enough, or impressed upon us strongly enough about how lucky we were compared to how they lived. I wish they had.

I understand the situation now, but it's not the same versus having been a kid.

My situation wasn't in those levels growing up. We were middle class, and I didn't get gifts for anything (Christmas, birthdays, etc) after I turned 10 because my parents thought it was a waste of money because it wouldn't last forever (which I believe is partly true, as an adult now who is thinking of having kids).

We had food, a roof, more than comfortable living conditions and our treats were ordering pizza once in a while.

Now, my parents are STILL grateful for their situation (they grew up dirt poor, hungry every day, one set of clothes a year), and I'm just happy everything turned out.

smallbudgetbigdreams said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I too grew up with a single mom in a similar financial situation. Thanks to my wonderful mother, I never knew that we didn't have money. She later got re-married and things got better financially, but during those early days I never wanted for anything and she always taught me to be grateful for what we had. My frugality and love for saving definitely came from her.

inbudgetswetrust said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you so much for sharing! It sounds like your mom and lola worked very hard to give you an education and raise you with as good a life as they could afford. My mom is Filipino, too, and the older I became, the more I understood the hardships she underwent as a child, and the promises she made to herself to raise us with a better lifestyle than she had. You had a wonderful message in your post, and I appreciate you reminding us all that we have to work to keep the same or improve the quality of life we currently have :)

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