Raise Frugal Children by Setting the Example

I’m often confused by parents who want their children to grow up with a sense of balance, and responsibility, but then buy their children every item they ever ask for and bend to their every whim. If you are that parent and decide to give everything to your children you never had growing up, great for you! Just realize there may be a trade-off.

I have known adults who have done this to their now adult children and they constantly regret the decision. Now their children are entitled adults and treat them like crap, expecting to still be catered to. And when the elderly parents need help, no one is available to help with even the smallest task.

My Mom says her motto as we grew up was to “keep your kids poor” so that they learn to value money and hard work. My Mom also lost her parents before the age of 18, as well as my Dad lost his father before he turned 18 (to heart attacks and cancer). They grew up into adults who had to do for themselves at what would now be considered a very young age. My parents wanted us to be completely independent by the time we reached 18, so that if they did pass away we would be able to take care of ourselves. I’d say they succeeded, much to our complaining.

Here in our household, Monkey and Crab know disappointment well, and definitely responsibility. In addition, they know that there are limits to our spending, but also that there is a whole positive world of learning available to them to build, create, and grow into whomever they want to be. Mostly – for free.

There is this pressure to register children in all types of activities. The pressure sneaks up on you when you’re not looking and next thing you know, you’re signing soccer forms, scheduling karate or dance classes, and driving the kids all over town on a daily basis. Then you’re worn out, cook less, and grab food on the go. Slowly, it all becomes a lot to juggle and the costs add up!

I’m here to let you know there might be another way to go about things. Maybe it’s my frugal nature, or maybe it’s because my children are too young to ask to play sports, but we don’t sign up for much in the way of paid activities.

Monkey is about to be 6 in the new year, and Crab is about 2 1/2 years old. We’ve found so many ways for them to learn and grow that hasn’t limited us to specific schedules or required classes. Monkey is happy to watch woodworking videos and then set on a path to build something with his Dad.

In addition, we are more relaxed about our family time and learning, because we go with the flow of where our curiosity leads us. We live outside of rigid schedules most of the time, but I like that my children do experience boredom and have to entertain themselves much as I did as a kid.

Monkey recently took up running with me this summer and ran his first race a weekend or so ago. He not only is learning how to take good care of his body, and mind I might add, but also that he can participate in individual sports that provide a source of good donations to charities. The race we choose was a Toys for Tots gift donation race!

It cost us nothing to train, and just a small fee and donation to race. The perfect frugal activity to enjoy spending time together.

In addition, he learned about how I saved on a gym membership and shopped around to find a treadmill used online to use in our home. From selling our couch, we were able to swap it out with a good treadmill that we are still using a year and a half later.

Through our own frugal activities, I hope that we’re building our children into Frugal Masters themselves. I know Monkey has caught on when he makes amazing suggestions for ways to fix things or build new things with items we already have. Oftentimes, he saves us from a trip to the store to buy something to replace or repair an item.

They also know that when we say no and they may still enjoy life to a great extent! There will be times as they grow where they’ll be exposed to more people doing fancy things, but I feel they currently don’t find the flashy to be that important. Maybe because they are boys.

One thing I’d like them to feel is always loved without the need to spend money to feel that love. I know growing up, sometimes I felt like someone liked me more if the present was more expensive, but I know now that isn’t always the case. With crocheting and giving handmade goods that they partake in (Monkey loves to bake!) I hope they learn that love is in the gift, no matter how big or small, pricey or not.

You can raise frugal children by setting an example with yourself and how you live. Despite thinking children should just do what we say, they definitely learn from what we do. When you can empower your children to live a lifelong learning lifestyle, you’ll hopefully find that balanced and responsible child turn into an amazingly helpful adult.

This isn’t meant to judge how anyone parents. It’s just a draft post I’ve had sitting for quite some time and thoughts I just wanted to get out. Really raising children is all just one big experiment and we all hope to do our best!

I am sure as we start to take our children on more interesting trips and to far away places they’ll feel fancy and special, but in the end I want them to see the world and how much more people live on far less and still enjoy life.

I always think back to the fisherman and the businessman story by Paul Coelho. It is a great reminder that we don’t always have to work so hard to get to where we’d like to be in life, we can exist in that space now if we so chose to do so. That concept I’d like to pass on to my children; that contentedness and happiness can be found in any moment and in any walk of life.

And usually with far less stuff and needs to be entertained.