People Talk About Why It’s Expensive to Be Poor

If you’ve lived a relatively middle-class existence for most of your life, you probably don’t understand a lot of the daily things that make being poor extremely difficult.

No transportation, food deserts, a lack of services and opportunities.

It all adds up.

And these answers might give a lot of folks some perspective about this reality.

So, in what ways is it expensive to be poor?

Here’s how AskReddit users responded.

1. Food deserts.

“Food deserts, where everything at the single grocery store for miles around is marked WAY the hell up because its shoppers usually pay in food stamps and/or have nowhere else to go.”

2. The laundry game.


Imagine needing an entire morning/afternoon to load and lug your sh*t to a hot building and feeding machines quarter after quarter after quarter while being tethered to the spot so your stuff won’t get stolen.”

3. Sad state of affairs.

“Biggest one that I always think of for all my fellow Americans is medical care.

If you’re poor you put off medical care as long as possible, and it’s extremely expensive by the time it’s serious enough to address.”

4. Can you retire?

“No money to invest in a retirement fund, stock market, etc.

With inflation you’re losing money, if you have any saved up at all.”

5. Sucks.

“I’m facing this struggle with my driver’s license.

In 2019, I got a ticket. The officer didn’t give me a copy of the ticket so I didn’t even know I had it. Of course, my license ended up being suspended which I didn’t know about.

Got another ticket for driving while suspended. Paid both tickets, and it’s still suspended. They want a $500 reinstatement fee because they’re claiming I didn’t have insurance.

Submitted proof of insurance, they rejected it because the officer put the wrong car year on the ticket.

Got the ticket amended but the licensing people are still rejecting my proof of insurance because it doesn’t show the ticket being amended in their system.

So for almost 18 months I’ve been fighting this ticket and reinstatement. This has caused my car insurance cost to increase and I refuse to pay the $500, even though it would be easier than fighting it. (at this point, it’s a matter of pride).

The biggest issue is that it takes 24-72 hours for them to process anything or return your calls and it all has to take place during “business” hours, which is when I work as well.

So, I’m just frustrated over all this.”

6. This is true.

“Mental health. Or more specifically stress.

You will always have stress about future, always making decisions based on your poverty so that it won’t affect your situation in bad way.”

7. Dangerous work.

“Low paying jobs can also be physically harmful ie factory work, and you can be treated like garbage because it’s cheaper to pay out the occasional law suit and medical expenses rather than resign the factory and make it less efficient to be safer.”

8. No wiggle room.

“As prices go up, and minimum wage stays consistent, it’s completely expensive to be poor.

We’re paying all of our checks for food and rent, and we have no wiggle room.”

9. Can’t buy in bulk.

“Not being able to buy more than you need to save money in the long run. The toilet paper in the larger bundle is less expensive per roll? Too bad; you can only afford the smaller package.

Buying peanut putter? If you get the bigger family-sized tub of it, it’s actually cheaper by the ounce. But if you can only afford the smallest size, too bad.

I sounds like it’s not a big deal, but when you’re counting individual coins, the savings from buying in bulk can definitely make a difference.”

10. No connections.

“Lack of network.

Poor people often come from poor families, and their neighbors and close friends growing up were also poor. I grew up in an affluent neighborhood. My high school girlfriend’s mom was a controller for a real estate company that my other friend’s dad owned, and they got me my first job. If I ever need advice from a lawyer or doctor, I have friends who are lawyers and doctors, and the same was true for my parents.

I know a number of owners of restaurants and other businesses, and have often gotten food or services for free or at a discounted rate. None of that’s possible when you grow up poor.”

11. Very expensive.

“Good cooking.

For us, middle class now, it’s easy to assemble a meal from what is in the pantry and freezer supplemented by what’s in our garden or in the stores within three blocks of my house.

It feels thrifty, healthy, sensible.

But to get to this point took a lot of investment. We have pots and pans, spices, flour, oils, vinegars, bags and cans of staples, grills, steamer, measuring devices galore.

We have the knowledge of cooking that comes from being able to afford to learn what we liked by going to restaurants, and having the spare time to watch cooking shows, and the energy to cook everyday because we don’t have two jobs each with long commutes.

And if you don’t have $500 to put together a basic kitchen, or secure private cooking space so that your investment won’t immediately be soiled or stolen, you’re likely going to be eating a lot of fast food. And that isn’t the most nutritious foundation for the next day.”

12. Everything.

“In every manner.

If you want healthy food, that costs. But eating cheap food, while sustaining, will inevitably lead to poorer health.

Bad health will cost you.

If you want to not be stressed-and stress is huge when it comes to health-then that means not having to worry is kind of an integral part of poverty.

Stress means less awesome interpersonal relationships, means less sleep, means overwork to try to make ends meet.

Good interpersonal relationships, getting enough sleep, and not working yourself to exhaustion are things that help you stay alive.

Mentally, you now have a running total of how much everything in your life costs. I guarantee you that every poor person knows exactly, precisely, how much milk costs or gasoline, or a bus pass, or the subscription to Netflix that brings them just a little joy and if they can afford it or not. There are no coins in their couches, $5 to discover in an old coat; they need that money and they know where it is.

And if not, now they have to spend time (another expense!) dealing with debt collectors, or people at utility agencies or banks or government offices, trying to negotiate and navigate systems that may or may not be willing to help them (regardless of that system’s original intent).

Poverty is merely the accumulation of expenses that one cannot pay and once you are poor, there is a system in place to ensure that you never, ever run out of those expenses.”

Can you offer up some more examples of how it’s expensive to be poor?

Please share them with us in the comments.

We’d love to hear from you!