It can be hard sometimes to constantly have to count pennies in order to get by. Sometimes all you want to do is let your hair down and shop, or to not have to worry about where the college fund is coming from, or how you’re going to start that retirement fund.
It can also be tough to have to tell your kids that they can’t have this trendy toy, or that cool scooter, because it isn’t in the budget. However, being a frugal parent doesn’t mean you are teaching your kids to be skinflints and misers, it has some stunning side effects that will be of enormous value to your child later in life.
To start with you are teaching your children that money and possessions are not the most important things in the world. This is a hard lesson to learn and to teach! After all, we are living in a society that says material goods and money and youth are the epitome of success and cool. It’s tough to walk away from the constant “Buy me” and “If you have me, then you will be happy” messaging and to tread your own path past this but by doing so you are showing your children that happiness is measured in more valuable ways.
A new scooter won’t cuddle them when they are sick or heartbroken, but a loving parent will. A mum and dad who value your thoughts and dreams will give you the support you need to choose the right path through life and to make the right decisions. Money won’t teach you right from wrong, and today’s must-have outfit will soon be tomorrow’s tattered tat.
So if you find yourself staring in the mirror and fighting off the creeping guilt about not having held the ultimate child’s birthday party or bought them the latest toy, just remind yourself of how often you sit and spend time with them, how much fun you have together, and how the money you have saved is going towards better things.
Another gift the frugal parent bestows upon their offspring is creative thinking. When you don’t have a pile of colouring books, toys, playdough and other such entertainment items, you take everyday things and transform them into magical items.
Your children will be able to take something as simple and boring as a bowl of uncooked pasta and turn it into a train, a deserted wasteland, an alien invasion. When I was a child I lived on a farm in Africa and one of my favourite treats was when my mother made oxtail stew. At the end of the meal I was allowed to wash and clean the bones and then I would re-enact the Great Trek using these bones on the kitchen floor.
I can still remember how much fun I had with the “wagons” and “oxen” and it cost my parents absolutely nothing more than a simple meal.
This leads neatly into the next brilliant gift you are giving your kids – you are teaching them the value of simplicity. How to see the value in simple things and to appreciate them fully. I really want my child to grow up as the kind of person who walks through a parking lot and notices the butterfly or the autumn painted tree rather than the expensive car or designer handbag.
Thanks to your careful management of money your kids don’t have rooms piled with plastic tat that is mostly unused or covered in dust. You don’t have kids that demand a new “kick” every few days because they are so spoiled. You are raising children who are excited about going for a family stroll, or who love the idea of painting toilet rolls with you in the afternoon, and who think that hunting invisible tigers in the garden is far more entertaining than anything else in the world.
I have always admired people who can appreciate each wonderful moment in each day, who manage their finances with utter aplomb, and who can turn a simple chore into a fun adventure. I think that by not being caught up in the consumer crush and the need to be more, more, more, you are allowing yourself to really enjoy life to the fullest.
So next time you feel bad about saying no to that new toy or expensive treat just remind yourself of how utterly brilliant you are. Remember that college, education, and simple values are far more important and pat yourself on the back.