The Frugal Family: Instilling Frugallity from an Early Age

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

We are fortunate to live in times when there is an abundance of things to buy which can make our lives easier and more enjoyable. More and more things become available every day that tempt us to open our wallet and fork over some of our hard-earned dollars. It’s all too easy to get swept up in the “I want everything and I want it now” mentality of our culture.

That mentality, however, runs counter to living a truly frugal lifestyle. While frugality needn’t be experienced as a constant state of deprivation, it does require that we closely consider our resources and exercise restraint in the way we handle our money.

Anyone who has made the decision to be frugal soon learns that it encompasses much more than a tight grip on our piggy bank. It’s about adopting an overall mindset of balancing our needs and wants, our available resources and our sense of satisfaction — in a sensible way.

Knowing, in very practical terms, what is “enough” while taking into account our personal circumstances can lead to a greater sense of overall contentment and security. Those are empowering qualities indeed. They are, in fact, vital qualities to instill in children from the start so that they can enjoy the benefits of abundant satisfaction as opposed to abundant over-indulgence.

How can frugality be taught to children? Jennifer Behnke and Jason Jacoby of northern New Jersey are parents of 3 1/2 year old twins Ella and Isaac. They instill the lessons of frugality as a part of day-to-day life in their household. Through this common-sense approach, they are instilling a naturally frugal way of thinking in their children from an early age. Here are some of the methods they employ:

  • They make a shopping list for the family and one for each of the children so they can participate in gathering what the family needs. Jennifer says, “When we go to the fruit stand, I have been known to draw pictures of the fruit we are shopping for on their own envelopes, and hand them their lists.” Through this activity, the twins learn the concept of “impulse-deferment” or making conscious choices based on predetermined need rather than on spur-of-the-moment impulse to make a purchase.
  • Jennifer and Jason teach the twins when foods are in season – berries, for instance. This not only makes them aware that Spring is berry season which means that the fruit is cheapest, most abundant and at its peak quality at that time of the year. Being knowledgeable shoppers equips them to be active rather than passive consumers.
  • Before shopping, Ella and Isaac help “take inventory” of what’s in the house by counting how many bottles of, say, apple juice, are in the cupboard so they can help plan the family shopping accordingly. This exercise helps them learn that certain items are needs and that it’s important to stay stocked up on them.
  • Perhaps the most important part of teaching the twins frugality is including them in grocery shopping excursions, encouraging them to participate in the purchasing. They help their parents find items and match the numbers of items required to the number of items they place in the cart. This teaches them that shopping is about making sound choices.

Frugality is an overall mindset. By learning the building blocks of frugality – common sense, awareness, want vs need and impulse deferment at an early age, Ella and Isaac are well on their way to becoming frugal adults, in control of their financial lives.

How do you teach frugality to your children?

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