1. Splitting restaurant checks.
2. Filling up your gas tank all the way.
When you live paycheck to paycheck, every dollar in your bank account has been mentally set aside for something. You can't drop $30–$40 on gas when you've got other essentials to buy. Instead, you fill up the gas tank to precisely how much you think you'll need until the next paycheck comes. And then you pray that you guessed correctly.
3. Turning on the heat/AC.
Heat and AC will really jack up your utility bills, so if you're strapped for cash, you sometimes feel guilty turning either of them on. If it's cold, you wrap yourself in blankets and sweaters. If it's hot, well, good luck. It can be really dehumanizing to feel so uncomfortable in your home, but you don't always have a choice.
4. Buying snacks.
5. Taking a sick day.
If you have a comfortable, salaried office job, you usually get paid sick leave. But in many cases, hourly workers are not so lucky. If they get sick and don't come in for their shift, they aren't getting paid that day. So people end up having to ignore their illnesses and come into work anyway. (BTW, the pandemic makes a compelling case for requiring employers to give paid sick leave, because in addition to this being unfair to workers, it also creates a serious public health concern.)
6. Similarly, taking a mental health day.
Mental health days can be life-saving. But it's hard to relax on a day off when all you're thinking about is how much money you're losing by not being at work.
7. Commuting to work.
8. Going to the doctor.
Doctors can be expensive, at least in the United States. When you're poor, you avoid those doctor visits at all cost. Unless it's a true life-or-death emergency, you're probably staying home and hoping the problem resolves itself on its own. Yet another reason our country needs to fix its broken healthcare system.
9. Taking your medication.
People who live comfortably don't think twice about taking their medications as directed, knowing they can always get more when they need it. But people who are poor don't always have that assurance, and are sometimes forced to ration their medication to make it last longer. This is particularly common with insulin, and people have died as a result. Have I mentioned the US needs to fix its healthcare system?
11. Buying a new thing when the one you currently have still (sort of) works.
This applies to big purchases, like cars. You don't buy a new car until your current one literally can't turn on anymore (and even then, your "new" car will almost certainly be a used car). But it also applies to smaller purchases, like shoes — you don't get a new pair until your current pair is so ragged and torn that they're unwearable.
12. Checking your bank account balance.
Rich people love checking their bank account to see if that sweet direct deposit hit. But the experience of checking your account is far less fun when you're poor, because the numbers you'll see are likely to make you panic — especially when there's a negative balance.
14. Short months.
It's not talked about a lot, but February can be a tougher month to make ends meet. When you get paid by the shift, every single day counts. Having only 28 days to earn your rent instead of 31 might seem like a small difference, but you have to plan and budget for it. Same goes for any month where your workplace might be closed for a bit (i.e. the holidays) or a month where you need to take some time off.
15. Paying full price for things.
When you're poor, if you absolutely must make a big purchase, you desperately try to find it on sale. Paying full price for anything feels wasteful and wrong, and comes with a lot of angst that rich people will likely never experience. You might monitor the price for months before pulling the trigger.
16. Going out for lunch instead of bringing it from home.
17. Going to therapy.
it's a common refrain these days: "Go to therapy!" And, of course, if you can afford it, therapy is a wonderful resource. But it can be expensive. People who are poor often have to make difficult decisions about whether they can actually afford to make their mental health a priority. And if you do decide to pursue therapy, you'll often have to make huge sacrifices in other parts of your life to pay for it.
18. Taking in your car for an inspection.
If you live comfortably, taking in your car for an inspection is just another boring chore. If you're poor, it can be an awful, scary, nerve-racking event. You cross your fingers and pray they don't find an issue that will completely drain what little savings you have left.