Frugal Living | Parenting

How A Low-Income Household Can Affect Children

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Growing up in a low-income household can steal your money mindset so much that when you earn a good salary, you struggle to put your guard down.

I feel this pain at times.

According to Stats Canada, a low-income household after 1992 with 2 people living in a community with a population of 30,000 to 99,999 is $26,577 after-tax dollars.

Other low-income cut-offs for 2 persons based on the community size and family size of 2;

  • Rural Areas $16,718
  • Under 30,000 population $19,133
  • Population 100,000 to 499,999 $21,612
  • Over 500,000 Population $25,555
low-income families

Low-Income Household Saving

Canadians have to do better when it comes to creating less debt and saving money for the things we need.

As our son walked home from school we realized that his boots had a crack at the bottom and his socks were getting wet.

He was walking on his tip-toes and wasn’t telling us why until we asked him, and he replied, “the boots are broken.”

Then I had flashbacks of my parents buying me shoes from the second-hand shop unfit for my feet.

My parents lived off one income and oftentimes took being cheap to the next level, especially with my shoes.

I remember how awkward it was that my shoes were either a bit too loose, tight, or didn’t last long at all.

My feet paid the price for these small savings, and now I use orthotics to fix my problem.

Then I turned to Mrs. CBB and said, I don’t want our son to go through what I did as it negatively affected me.

It’s hard to sometimes come to terms with things that have scared you from childhood, but ultimately, we have choices.

Being Frugal vs. Being Cheap

As frugal parents, we have purchased used shoes and boots for our son but only brand-name high-quality made, and they had to be in excellent condition.

When our son started junior kindergarten, we bought him a new pair of Bogs for winter that cost us $135 and only lasted one season.

We were adamant that we would not spend that much money again on winter boots until last week.

The look in our son’s eyes when he told us that he always had wet socks broke my heart.

It wasn’t that the boots he was wearing were second-hand either, but they were low-quality Bog-like winter boots.

We tried to save some money but ultimately paid the price in quality, his sadness, and having to buy him another pair.

Finding More Ways To Save To Get What You Need

I looked online to see if I could find a used pair for him that were hardly worn but to no avail.

So, this time, I did some online shopping and found him a brand-new pair of Bogs for $65, which he loves.

I could use Rakuten to get cashback on top of the purchase, plus I used my Canadian Tire MasterCard for points.

His new Bogs were about $30 more than we paid for the other knock-off pair but they will keep his feet warm.

Selling Bogs footwear second-hand will be fairly easy, especially if they are in excellent used condition.

Sometimes the lessons we learn in life come with a price, so things like this get added to our projected expenses.

Growing Up In A Low-Income Household Through Multi-Millionaires Eyes

We only get a bleep into his low-income household growing up, but Justin Bieber shares what seems to be a special place in his heart.

As Justin Bieber begins his Seasons documentary – Leaving the Spotlight, visiting his hometown of Stratford, Ontario with his new wife Hailey, he brings us to his old apartment building where he lived with his mother, Pattie Mallette, for 10 years.

Upon entering the apartment building after being buzzed in by a resident, he gives the audience short flashbacks of the building he called home.

What hit me the hardest was how his low-income household accommodation affected him as a child and perhaps how it inspired him to be who he is today.

“I used to tell my friends because I was ashamed of living in such low property standards. I used to tell them there’s a bowling alley downstairs and stuff.

It’s booked up right now (laughing), but.” Justin Bieber (skip to 4:51 in the video)

Although Justin was chuckling when he spoke about the bowling alley, this must have affected him enough to bring it up.

Mrs. CBB and I grew up in a low-income household and, in some ways, can relate to what Justin said.

It’s not easy as a child not being able to have parents who can’t afford to buy you even second-hand clothes.

The Power Of Money

Justin’s mother gave birth just before the age of 19 after a life of what seemed like very dark times.

She left home when she was 16, supporting herself through petty theft and drug dealing. During this time, she experienced loneliness, depression, and suicidal ideation.

At 17 she attempted suicide by throwing herself in front of a truck, which led to a stint in a mental ward.

While there, she became a Christian.  Mallette raised Justin with the help of her parents- Wikipedia

Kids don’t understand the power of money until they see what the world offers and what it offers everyone else.

Hailey, who comes from a wealthy acting family, learns about Justin’s life through the window of a stranger’s apartment as he shows her how small the accommodation was and still is.

Having the opportunity to see both sides of life Justin reflects on what growing up poor was like and how fame and fortune tore him down.

All he wanted was to return to being normal to help him find himself.

Find Your Happiness

There has to be an in-between sense of fulfillment for some people for life to soothe their core.

I can relate to this since I try never to give up on what I start, especially if I feel in my heart that it has potential.

For example, when I moved to Canada, instead of just getting a job, I went back to school.

I didn’t have to, but I knew I wanted more, so I pushed myself even if we had to live on a tight budget.

Plus, shortly after getting married, things started going downhill with my wife’s health.

We had a small corner in our room that housed many cans of tuna, beans, oatmeal, and other inexpensive kitchen staples that we would eat to save money.

Creating Debt To Feel Happy

Some people spend money and create debt to fulfill their dreams but find stress once the bills come due.

Embrace Your Low-Income Household

Others are happy living a minimalist life and accept what they earn and how they get on each day.

I know many low-income families with children who play outside daily or find ways to make every day count.

There are no video game systems, tablets, smartphones, or walk-in closets; love for humanity without added expenses.

I always like to reflect on how the meaning of what we have is someone else’s rich.

For example, having a roof over your head may be a rich that a homeless person only dreams of.

Following Your Dreams

Was Justin motivated to sit on those steps and sing his little heart out for fortune?

I don’t believe he had any intentions other than he loved to play instruments and sing.

I wholeheartedly believe that humans live through music, and it’s a way to express what we can’t or want to say.

That’s why we have favourite artists or songs to which we can relate.

I can’t tell you what he was feeling but what I do know is that he had something special and wanted the world to know about it.

It’s not uncommon for him today to donate money to strangers on the streets or other artists he sees doing what he did.

Low-Income Household Effects On Children

Right off the start, we all know this is a personal experience and not something that I or anyone else can say will or will not happen.

Generally speaking, physiatrists and doctors have an idea from dealing with people from all walks of life who know the effects of how low-income households, moderate-income households, and even rich households on children.

Each brings their own set of ups and downs for children however I wanted to focus on what I know best, low-income household living.


From the age of 5 until 12 I really didn’t know the difference between a low-income household and rich kids.

It wasn’t until I turned 13 when I’d had my paper route and then started working scrubbing dishes that money started to make sense to me.

I noticed some of my friends weren’t living in the same type of home as I did which was very small.

Although I had friends who lived on the same street as we did I rarely ever brought friends home.

In a way, yes I was embarrassed because we didn’t have anything fancy that I could show my friends.

Kids like to do that; hey, look at this and how cool it is. No, I didn’t have that but a savings account.

We also moved often because my parents would buy and sell in hopes of making money.

It was part of their financial game which served them well I suppose, but that’s all they have for their retirement years.


I can 110% assure you that having grown up in a low-income household has motivated me to save money.

Not only have I become a saver, but I realized how important my education was to successfully fulfill my career dreams.

I may have travelled halfway across the world to accomplish them, but I would never have met my wife had I not.

I truly believe life has a destiny for everyone and although it may not always be what we want it to be, it’s something.

Can we change it? Sure, why not. If you want more, go get it.

Grow Up Faster and Responsibility

As I’ve mentioned several times on the blog, I started working early with a paper route.

My parents couldn’t get me to spend any of my earnings if they tried because I was tight with my cash.

I truly believed that if I kept saving money in the bank, I could have everything my rich friends had one day.

Rich to me back then was having a big house or bigger house than we had, a nice car, parents with stable jobs and money to do and buy things without waiting.

Instead of travelling I spent my time working at my parents’ shop or various jobs.

By the time I would get home, I’d be too tired to hang out with friends, which angered me because they didn’t have to work.


There was a bit of jealousy in me which I don’t think is a bad thing because it fuelled my desire to get where I am today.

If someone told me that they have never been jealous about something related to money in their entire lives I’d say they were trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

Two things can happen with jealousy;

  1. It improves you in a healthy way
  2. You dwell on it, which can cause health problems.

Depression and Hardship

Like Justin, kids may start to tell white lies about where they live just to make their friends think they are cool or richer than they think.

Unfortunately, growing up in a low-income household can cause depression for children who don’t understand finance.

I know kids who don’t see their parents together for long periods as they work opposite shifts or more than one job.

Not all kids are lucky to have parents who work 9-5, come home have family dinner, and then play board games until it’s time for bath and bedtime.

That’s just a traditional family although we know this has changed on many levels with work-from-home parents to parents who travel extensively.

Children may understand money more than you realize and are unhappy that their parents are going through hardship.

However, your child may feel left out compared to their more affluent friends.

Money Talks Are Important Parenting Steps

I think this is where parents need to discuss finance with their children from a young age.

When kids understand where the money comes from, then, perhaps it will help them gain perspective on their family life.

Parents may go through a period where their kids think they are a failure for not having a better job or aren’t trying hard enough.

Perhaps you are a parent who has a disability with no other means to earn money apart from government assistance.

This too can weigh heavily on your child unless you talk to him or her about the situation once you feel they are ready.

Even then, talking might not be enough.

It’s never easy being a parent and helping your child to understand why things are the way they are.

All we can do is encourage them to be the best they can and strive to meet the goals they outlined in their lives.

Have you ever told yourself, “I’m never going to be like my parents?”.

You’re not alone.

Related: Are You Embarrassed By Your Job?

Change The Way We Think About Money

We as a society put too much emphasis on ‘stuff’ that it becomes a want for our children rather than a need.

Commercials and marketing ploys are a big nuisance because they thrive on little minds that can carry into adulthood.

I want this, I want that and not responding well to the word no has turned generations into entitled adults.

Entitlement is a messy word and one I don’t encourage anyone to get involved with on an intimate financial level.

Although I went through many financial hardships and wished my parents had done things differently, I can only create my path.

I wish it was easy to say that I won’t be scared by the things I had to live through just so my parents could pay the bills but that isn’t the case.

How I handle my emotions with my past has made a world of difference so if you feel your children are suffering don’t be afraid to find them, someone, to talk to.

Discussion: Did you grow up in a low-income household? If yes, what effect did it have on you then and now?

Leave me your comments below, and I’ll be sure to respond.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog so you get my weekly emails.


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  1. Oh my goodness, this brought back memories. I always had hand-me-down, ill-fitting things. My boots were always leaky. I used to put bread bags over my feet to before putting my boots on. That would keep my socks dry. I remember always being cold in the winter.

    Coming from a low income household and being very low income when I first got married did change me. I have always been terrified of running out of groceries. When I was a younger I did tend to buy and store too much food “just in case”. As the years have passed I have been able to overcome the urge and now buy reasonable amounts of food.

    There have been positive things. I made sure I got an education. I am very good at “making do”. My husband and I happily drive 9 and 12 year old well-maintained (paid off) cars. We never felt the need to keep up-sizing our house. Because of that, we paid off our mortgage years ago. I am sure my early experiences helped turn me into a saver. I have been saving for retirement since age 18. Of course I will always worry it won’t be enough 🙂

    1. Hi Carrie,
      Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like the experience had a positive effect on you where you took something that wasn’t pleasant and turned it into a life that works for you. Not everyone can do this so well done.

  2. Funny this should be the topic today. I had someone ask me the other day if the reason I am good with money was because of my father.

    I told them that Dad & Mom gave me the road map on how to make things different but the absolute biggest influence happened when I was 15. I was 3,500 miles away from home at a summer figure skating school when I ran out of money! It was a week from the time I would head home & a week when the tests that I had prepared for all summer would occur and there I was…no money for food for that week.

    I knew my parents had scrapped together everything they could to send me to the summer school and I knew if I called home they would somehow, some way, find a way to send me food money. But at 15, I saw this as my own personal budgeting failure and resolved not to make that call.

    Water was free so I drank lots of water that final week and in hindsight, one of the ladies at the club figured out that I was in financial trouble and brought me a couple of pieces of fruit every day that she said “was just going to go off before she could get it eaten”. God bless her.

    What did the experience teach me…actually a few things. I learned that I was old enough to take financial responsibility for my choices and chastised myself with not being more frugal with my “meal money”. I also learned that I never wanted to have my back to the wall that way again…so I always needed to have some money in reserve. I also understood that I was not the be all and end all of my parent’s world since they had 2 other children to provide for. Had I made that phone call to them, I would have been robbing one of the other four members of my family of something. That was not something I was prepared to do. I had this amazing summer given to me and I would be darned if I was going to be a greedy Gus and ask for more.

    Perhaps the biggest lesson was that I am responsible for myself. That’s a huge one for such a tender age! Few really understand, from their gut, quite so early in life that we walk this road from birth to death alone. We have teachers, mentors, loved ones, friends and associates along the way but that the path we walk is ours alone and that we alone are responsible for it’s direction, it’s effects on others and the world in general plus what sort of example we are choosing to set. As the eldest of three children, I made my choice. It’s not a choice I ever shared with my family…but it certainly shaped the course of my life.

    1. Hi Mary,
      Thanks for sharing your story as both Mrs. CBB and I just read it. She says to tell you that she went through the exact same thing but when she was 19 in College and this is what shaped her financial outlook. Like you she ran out of money because she was ordering pizza instead of walking to the grocery store. She had no car and taking the bus would cause her too much anxiety. She had already asked too much of her parents who were struggling financially themselves so she broke down and asked her grandmother. She got $50 which was a blessing for her. After that with no money and a smoker things got rough and she was on welfare for a bit until she was able to move home and find a job. She found 3 and has never looked back, saved all of her money but with plenty of lessons along the way. It’s all a learning experience as you’ve experienced yourself. Sometimes it takes that hardship to give us a kick in the butt. She never, ever wanted to be that broke again. Picking smoke butts off the ground was her breaking point.

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