Some people learn early on what it’s like to not have everything you want. However, it definitely was not a hard-knock life for these 11 Reddit users, who shared the single moment in which they realized the all-important lesson that money isn’t everything.
1. The family business fell to pieces
“I was spoiled rotten until my mid-20s. My parents gave me anything I wanted. When a new gaming generation came out, I would get every system and essentially every launch game. In high school, I drove nicer cars than all of my classmates’ parents, and I had three different cars depending on how I felt. Two of them were brand new sports cars, and the other was an older, but desirable sports car. I never paid for gas or insurance. Never paid a phone bill. Didn’t pay for food, movies, snacks–anything. I was given almost limitless amounts of money to spend on whatever I wanted.
My parents paid for my college tuition, and I later worked in the family business and was paid a good wage for being simply who I was. I wasn’t a slouch, per se, but I had a false sense of security due to things being handed to me for years.
My perspective of life was that you are always on an upward trajectory to earn more. I swore that by 25, I would own a Lamborghini and a half-million dollar house (at least). Anything less than that would be an abysmal failure.
While living in this excess, I met a girl who grew up poor. She didn’t live in poverty, but she had to work since a young age and had to help pay her family’s bills. Basically, she lived a life that I deathly feared. Her financial situation stabilized by the time we started dating, but her life experience gave her a pretty solid background.
I initially approached our relationship from a position of wanting to give her the finer things in life. I spent thousands of my parents’ money on her to take her on trips and buy her jewelry. She was never comfortable with it and frequently said that she is fine with a cheap dinner and a movie. She and I got married and were expecting a child soon after.
My great awakening came when the family business fell to pieces. Suddenly, the endless supply of money stopped. It was so bad that I couldn’t even receive a salary and had to look for a job. I had a college degree, but really no discernable skillset. Finding a job wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for me to do.
I eventually found an entry-level job in a different field. The salary was incredibly low by any measure. For the first time I had to pay for gas, insurance, phone, food, etc. and the high-performance car I drove took premium fuel and got abysmal gas mileage. I sold it and bought the cheapest car I could find (that was safe and new enough to keep my family on the road).
I never drove anything so cheap in my life, was never paid so little, and had to pay bills for the first time in my life. I had to perform at work because I was living paycheck to paycheck.
My one constant? My wife was unflappable. She had been in far worse situations before. She was pregnant yet calm, cool and collected despite the sudden life change. She didn’t stress and essentially pulled up her sleeves and devised a budget for the household to see us through our new reality. It was clear why we were put together. I thought I was the man! Look who ended up taking care of who.
This experience taught me that money literally didn’t matter. Not only does it not matter, but it can disappear in an instant. I became closer to my wife, new son, and my faith after this experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
2. A tip
“I wasn’t necessarily spoiled, but I definitely grew up in a privileged family. Upper middle class, academic dad and lawyer mum. I was 17, and I got a job as a porter at a hotel to save and travel for a bit before going to college (my dad lives in Singapore so I figured SE Asia).
I went to Indonesia, Yogyakarta to see Borobudur, and I was staying in a decent-but-not-crazy-fancy hotel near the temple. It was my first night and I had no idea if tipping was the normal thing and didn’t have any rupiah on me, so I put a US $5 bill under my plate when I left (working in a hotel you get foreign currency tips, the note was worth more as a novelty).
As the waitress cleared the plates and I was walking away she freaked out, thinking I had left it there. She didn’t speak a lot of English but I got it across that it was a tip, and she basically broke down. It was screw all money so I was really confused.
Made the mistake of googling median wages of the area when I got back. Median, not even minimum, salary is about USD $3,000 a year. What I made in about two hours at a minimum wage hotel job, she made a week busting tail for 80 hours. I tipped WELL all through my trip. Even bought the crappy nicknacks from the hawkers by the temple. It was gutting.”
3. Three sizes too small
“I was a spoiled child and teenager. My parents bought me a brand new red convertible for my 16th birthday. I threw a fit over it because what I actually wanted was my brother’s old car, which was dark blue. I was so shallow and a horrible person back then.
The next summer, I took a job as a camp counselor at a local day camp. I did not have to work, but I was bored, and it sounded like something easy to do. God, was I wrong. This day camp was specifically geared to the lower-class families who could not afford childcare during the summer. We served them breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. For a lot of the camp kids, this was all they would eat that day, and on Friday’s they would beg for extra food/snacks to take home for themselves and/or their siblings because they may not get to eat again until Monday. This hit me hard, but that’s not the part that got me the most.
This one kid (around 5 or 6 years old) would refuse to take their shoes and socks off, even if we were going to the public pool that day. I couldn’t understand why until one day he came in limping, like his feet were causing him so much pain. I convinced him to let me help him get his shoes and socks so I could see what might be bothering him. Once I did, it took everything in me not to break down. His socks were covered in blood. His poor little feet were covered in sores and his toes seemed to curl under a bit. He was in so much pain from the state of his feet. As it turns out, he had been wearing shoes about three sizes too small. His family couldn’t afford new shoes. I took my lunch break and went out to buy him new socks and a few pairs of shoes.
This broke me, which I needed. It changed my way of thinking.”
4. My old ‘friends’
“I had an odd experience because I grew up with extreme wealth then went to living humbly. I’m half Saudi, so I had maids all my young life. I remember whenever my brothers and I got off the airplane, and we were driven to the executive ‘gold’ lounge. However, my parents got divorced, and my mother decided rightly I should live with her back in the UK. So I went from maids in a mansion where my bedroom was bigger than most people’s entire floor (in the UK at least) to sharing a tiny bedroom with my brothers.
I remember my first time washing dishes at school, and I did it with cold water and the other students laughed and said you’re supposed to do it with warm/hot water. I went from buying whatever I wanted to buying second-hand school clothes. It was the best thing to happen to me ever because when I went back and met some of my old ‘friends,’ they were just not normal people. This is when it really hit me, because I just saw how different they were. Fully grown men being catered to by maids in their old age, do they have no shame? Rich coming from me, but hey I mended my ways. Whenever I visit my father, I see my stepbrother who continued being spoiled, a 35-year-old man, never had a job, leeches off his mum. Our maid is 60 years old and she cleans his clothes, washes his dishes, and might as well squeeze his buttcheeks whilst he takes a poop. I refuse to let the maid do anything, and I give her money I have earned. To see such a difference is what made me grateful. I am so glad I didn’t continue growing up spoiled.
Frankly, I didn’t grow up poor either, my perspective of poverty was warped compared to real poverty. Our tiny shared bedroom was a luxury and I’ve learned to never take anything for granted. I’m so glad I grew up normally, I couldn’t stand the person I’d become if I continued growing up spoiled. I work hard now, I support my mother, I have pride, something I’d never have if I continued being a leech.”
5. The parental lottery
“I grew up in a midwestern town, middle-class neighborhood, private school. I never needed anything but my dad grew up poor and my parents wouldn’t give into any of my big ‘wants’ (Super Nintendo I never got).
My neighbor and best friend got everything he asked for. I loved hanging at his house because he had the best TV, the best food, the newest video games, 100 pairs of shoes and 1,000 hats.
After we moved away, I found out that his parents gave him anything he wanted because they were in a loveless marriage and constantly fought around him. They were buying love when my parents were showing me, love. I always wondered why he would prefer to stay at my house with a crappy TV and an outdated Nintendo with no games. Turns out he wanted to stay at our house because my parents didn’t fight, and would actually listen to him. My parents became surrogate parents for him, and to this day he calls them mom and dad; I’m happy to call him brother. If it weren’t for him, I would never have known how I won the parental lottery.”
6. My mother
“I grew up thinking we had money. Turns out we didn’t; my parents just spoiled me every time I threw a fit. When I was 16, I chose to do a biography assignment on my mom because I realized I knew little of her youth. My Mexican mother told me her best birthday gift was every three years she’d get new slippers since she tore through her one pair from growing. Also, that her annual gift was fabric to make her own dress. (I had recently begged for a homecoming gown that was $250 so that made me feel crappy), and that she didn’t see a movie until she was 17 years old, which hurt me the most since cinema had shaped my life up to that point. The thought of being deprived such a lovely escapism was hard to hear. She also never had an education and didn’t read until her late 30s. Learning about how my mother grew up was life changing to me. We weren’t rich, but I was spoiled rotten. I’m not sure if it was because my parents knew what it was like to have nothing. She grew up in a rural farm without electricity, and when she moved to America for the first time at 23, she asked her soon to be husband what the white machine in the kitchen was and he said ‘a dishwasher!’ To which she replied, ‘I knew white women were lazy!’
This inspired me to never ask for money or beg again. Starting that month, I saved three months of wages to buy my first camera at 16. I now make way more than I thought possible with my camera, and I don’t think without her struggles and hearing about her struggles, I would ever get close.
And believe me, I’ve tried to pay it forward to her. The woman does not want gifts. So I try to create experiences with her instead. We go on road trips, mommy/daughter dates, have daily gym workouts, and I’m planning a big 60th birthday party for her next year.”
7. First time holding a broom
“I grew up in Indonesia, a third-world country where you’d definitely have maids if you had any money. I grew up thinking it was common to have multiple maids.
Moved to Singapore, a first-world country where people still have maids, but it’s more of an upper-middle-class and above thing. Got assigned to sweep the floors by the teachers, and that was my first time holding a broom.
Swept it back and forth like in cartoons, and everyone was looking at me going, ‘Er, what are you doing?’
Turns out, I was creating a dust cloud around me. You have to sweep in one direction and gather all the dust into the dustpan.
8. Then my dad died
“I grew up in a small town, and my parents were not rich, but they had me late in life and were both retired. They were living off of my dad’s pension. I had them both at home all day every day.
Dad focused all of his energy on parenting, which meant I had a problem solver at home all the time with nothing to do but solve problems for me. Whatever went wrong, he could usually make it go away. He told my Mom I shouldn’t have to get a job in high school because ‘He’s going to have a job every day for the rest of his life. Let him enjoy this, even if he doesn’t understand right now.’
So I spent my teenage years hanging out, playing video games, and working semi-hard at school.
Then I went to college not too far from home. Dad paid to put me up in the swanky dorm, and I would go home every weekend to get my clothes washed and such.
Then my dad died.
Within about two months’ time, I lost my dad and my mother informed me she was going to move back to where her family was from, then sold my childhood home and moved away.
I found out what rent costs.
I found out what food costs.
I found out what utilities cost.
I learned about the laundromat.
I got into a wreck (guy came over a blind hill in my lane), replaced the car my Dad bought me with a crappy ‘here’s what you can afford car.’
I had one or two good friends who stuck by me and helped teach me how the world works, and dealt with my issues related to grief. Good friends.”
9. Change is hard
I grew up living in a huge hotel. Kind of like your ‘Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ thing except I was a spoiled young kid. When I was seven, I’d have a nanny put on my socks, wear my school uniform every day, etc. I had four nannies before that, and they all left. I made one cry once because I yelled at her for not helping me with my math homework. I slapped another one. She left three months later.
It hit me hard a year or two later when my dad had to travel overseas to work, so I was stuck with this one particular nanny named Tina. My dad didn’t really send a lot of money back to us and so we had to live in a cramped apartment because we needed to move out of that particular hotel. I hated my nanny at the beginning because she was strict. Turns out that she was doing this because she wanted us to change, and we did.
Because my dad didn’t send enough money and didn’t want to (stingy guy), we had to ration our food on some days, and I couldn’t go to many school activities because we didn’t have a car like we used to. And we didn’t have enough money. This was hard on my brother and me because we went to a private international school, so it was hard not to try to show others our personal struggle. It was even harder for me as I was a prefect at that school, and not attending school activities/extracurricular stuff was the worst.
During that period, I learned so much and began to empathize. I learned to socialize with my neighbors, be independent, and this made me enjoy my childhood living in that apartment more than I ever did living in a hotel. I owe it all to my nanny, to be honest. I consider her my surrogate mom now regardless of the rough beginning and honest to God, I would not have changed one single bit if it wasn’t for her.”
10. The young man from Sudan
“By developed nation standards, I don’t have much and never have. Buying food and paying rent has always come with varying degrees of difficulty. But my partner had an experience that made me realize I’m still spoiled rotten in many senses.
My partner took what we considered to be a crappy job at the time, working a physically demanding position at a large nursery for low pay with long hours.
One day, he noticed a new guy in the lunch room. The guy was wearing a suit, (totally unsuited to the work), and standing in front of the microwave staring at it, seemingly with no idea what to do. At the time my partner thought he must have just been a bit simple.
A couple of days later, he got talking to this guy and heard his story. He was a young man from Sudan who had been at home with his family when militia came calling. They made certain demands of his father, who refused to comply, and in response, they beheaded his father in front of his family.
While this was happening, he managed to gather up his brother, mother, and sister, and escape. They ran away, and in time, they made it to a refugee camp. They stayed in the camp for some time, but he feared for the safety of his mother and sister. He and his brother decided they would have to strike out and make an attempt to reach the UN in the neighboring country.
They left on foot to try and make it, but had no shoes while traveling through the jungle full of scrub he described as being like razors, severely lacerating their feet. They even had to run from lions along the way.
Eventually, in bad shape, they made it to the UN who took them in. They said they could arrange asylum for the brothers, but all they had was one place in the U.S. and one in Australia. They had no choice but to accept, and so they were split up.
The brother that went to Australia begged to have his mother and sister brought over too, as he believed it was only a matter of time until something bad happened to them in the refugee camp. He was told he would need to get and hold a job for a certain amount of time to show he was legitimate, then later he may be able to bring his family over.
He was provided with a small allowance to arrange clothing and transportation so he could get a job, with which he purchased an old suit and bicycle from a thrift store. He was set up with a job as part of a program whereby businesses can pay staff less if they are willing to take on refugees. He wasn’t told what the job was, however.
So he put on his suit and rode his bike to his new job. And that was the day my partner first saw him in the lunchroom. He was staring at the microwave because he had never ever used one before, and had no idea what to do with it.
When telling my partner his story, he explained how crucial this job was for him, and he believed the life of his mother and sister depended on it.
A few days later, my partner went to work and found out the young man had been fired. The business, despite having wages subsidized in order to help provide training, decided he was learning too slowly.
So now, when I’m struggling to pay my rent or bills but I’m doing so from the safety of my home having eaten three square meals, I think of the young man from Sudan’s story, and I’m thankful for everything I have.”
11. I tipped anyone that even smiled at me
“I was on an all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic with my wife ( we are in our mid to late 20s at this time). Everyone at this place is well into their 50s. This place was nice.
So anyway, we are out to dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants and for our anniversary we were given a cake. The server is a kid in his early 20s maybe even late teens. Super cool guy. Funny, charismatic and worked his butt off. When we first sat down, our table was covered in rose petals spelling things out, and it looked amazing.
We end up getting hammered and walk back to our room (beachfront- private infinity pool opening to the ocean) at about 11 p.m. Mind you, the guy was still with a table I think and still had side work. (We left a $20 on the table and gave the cake to him).
Next morning we wake and stumble to the breakfast restaurant and, it’s like 8 a.m. Soon as I sit down, homeboy comes running up to serve us. Actually started talking to him, and it turns out he lives there. He shares a room with four other employees (he shared the cake with all of them. Beds are stacked and probably arm width apart. He got home at about 1 a.m. and was back working at 7 a.m. He worked open to close seven days a week. He would take his money he earned and give it to his family. This was considered a good job since he spoke English. We gave him $20, which was about 950 peso. Which means I gave him a few days pay for just making us laugh.
The thing was here, their customer service was 100 times that of almost most places I visit. I made sure I tipped anyone that even smiled at me (lots of the other guests we talked to were total human wastes and thought they were gods gift to man).
I spend $20 a day on pointless bull, I can give $20 to people who can then provide for their loved ones.
I now give away my possessions to people. A friend wanted a PC for his kid but couldn’t justify it. Boom, take my monstrosity of a pc. Had a friend get into an accident and insurance wouldn’t cover it for some reason. Here, have mine. When I quit music and ran into a small time band. I gave them all my equipment because I had no need for it (they said they did the math and I gave them $20,000 in equipment). I owned a house in Austin, Texas, and when I moved home, I gave it to an army buddy. If I clean and find out I haven’t used something for 12 months – means I didn’t need it or use it and it’s always donated. When I go to restaurants, I creep on people. See a family taking their kid out but they don’t eat, find out they can’t afford to eat there but it’s little dude’s day. I’ll tell them to order anything; they celebrate his existence they should celebrate too.
I learned happiness is who surrounds you. Not what.”