I recently posted about the vocabulary of economics and how many of my students know a lot about living in poverty. I identify with these kids, because my family didn't have a lot of money. I did know that we were poor, but I didn't think much of it; it just was what it was.
We bought non-sugared cereal and ate a lot of oatmeal and Cream-of-Wheat for breakfast. Was that so terrible? We drank a powdered milk and a lot of Kool-Aid. We got free lunch at school; I loved it. (Red Velvet cake was my favorite dessert!) For supper, we ate a lot of Hamburger Helper, potatoes, pork chops, homemade pizza, and chicken (all of the parts; not just the breasts that spoiled kids get today (LOL). I still love the occasional HH (Beef Stroganoff is my favorite.) Mom always made sure we ate our vegetables; every dinner table had "something green" on it! :) When I ran away from home one day, the butter and sugar sandwiches I made suited me just fine. [Yes, I was home by dark. Somehow, Mom saying, "Don't forget your toothbrush!" took the wind out of my sails.]
Taking a family to the movies today costs an arm and a leg, but as I recall, movies were much cheaper back in the 70's. We always took a huge paper grocery bag full of popcorn in with us, freshly popped at home. (Ahh....those were the days.) We also enjoyed going to the public library at least a couple of times per week, and we wore out many a Monopoly board playing board games at home. "Michigan Rummy" or "Rummy Royal" was a BIG hit at our house. At the risk of sounding like an old biddy, I'll remind you that kids played together back then; not just side by side, facing a screen. And I believe we learned some life skills while doing so!
All of my clothes (unless I bought them myself) were hand-me-downs or sewn lovingly by Mom. When socks got holes, we sewed them. Lose a button? Here's a needle and thread! See these two little girls wearing summer dresses in Wisconsin, in December? Do they look any less happy or even aware that other little girls their ages were wearing long sleeved velvet gowns that Christmas? I think not.
I bought my first pair of Levis as a high school junior, having gotten my first real job. I remember feeling very proud to be wearing the fruits of my own labors.
We didn't take family vacations, but I did get to go to Summer Camp (on "scholarship") one year, and we were always welcome to work and save our own money for the things we wanted. (In high school, I earned enough babysitting money to pay for a trip to Alaska to visit my sister, Geri!) I also paid for my first car and for my college education.
My point is that even though we were poor; I really don't think it hurt me, and in fact, I think it built character (there I go, sounding like an old lady again) and made me more appreciate what I have today. If I could go back, I would not have it any other way.
Would you? What was your family's money situation growing up? Is it different for you today? Feel free to offer a link if you've written about this on your own blog.