Raising your Child to be Frugal

From the Wichita Times:

” Anne-Marie Faiola remembers resenting working in her mom’s garden as a teenager while her friends were out having a good time. But if she wanted spending money, she had to work for it. She also recalls grousing about how she had to pick an economical prom dress, while they could get any dress they wanted.

Yet any ill feelings Faiola had about her parents’ lessons in frugality are long gone. These days, when she sees friends burdened with debt and worrying about how to pay their mortgages, Faiola, now 33, is grateful. “It didn’t always feel like that,” said the Bellingham, Wash., website entrepreneur. Yet when the economy went south two years ago and she had money in the bank, Faiola knew whom to thank.

Frugality has taken on a certain cachet in the struggling economy, but for some, watching pennies is more than the latest fad. There’s always been a segment of the population that by conviction, or necessity, saved money by eating at home, shopping at discount stores and choosing practical cars. Those lessons were not lost on the children who grew up in these homes. As adults, even those who have developed some extravagant habits say they have a strong awareness of the value of a dollar, the importance of saving, and the dangers of debt.

“I did have my time of going wild, but I always paid it off,” said Priti Mehta, 28, who works for a nonprofit in Albuquerque.

Financial-literacy experts insist children absorb the spending habits of their parents. Yet there’s little research examining whether the children of frugal parents are more or less likely to be careful with money, said Tim Kasser, the chairman of the psychology department at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., and an expert on materialism.

Kasser said he could see both possibilities. “On the one hand, children learn their values around anything, including money, from their parents.” Yet it’s also clear that children rebel, he said, especially when they don’t have a say in what affects them. Whether individuals grow up to be thrifty is probably going to be influenced by whether they had a thrifty parent. If parents make saving money fun, give children choices and explain why careful spending is a good way to live, the children will probably get the message, he said.

That’s what Trent Hamm is counting on. The creator of TheSimpleDollar.com grew up in a poor household where any money available was quickly spent. As a young adult, he ran up nearly $50,000 in debt before transforming his ways and becoming an advocate for living a frugal lifestyle.

Today, when he blogs about the financial lessons he’s teaching his three children, particularly his 4-year-old son, some readers question whether he’s putting too much emphasis on cost at an early age.

“A lot of their habits are being defined now,” Hamm, 31, said in his defense. “You’re setting a model as an adult that they can follow.”

Hamm said he explains his choices to his son. They play at the park rather than visit an amusement center that charges admission, and the money saved goes toward vacation.

“I don’t mind if he thinks I’m an idiot from age 15 to age 25,” he said. “As long as he comes out OK on the other end, that’s great.”


4 thoughts on “Raising your Child to be Frugal

  1. I would also encourage you to consider the book series “Finance for Kidz” by Prof Dheeriya. It contains several examples of how you can teach your children financial skills very early on in their life. It is worth every penny, in my opinion.

    • Thank you. I will look into that. My intent in using this article is to hopefully get other parents to think about teaching their child–as early as possible-how to be better with money. One thing I get concerned about, is that in a world of ipods, cell phones, and “keeping with the jones” mentality, that our kids will be influenced to want all of these expensive and unnecessary things. In addition, we want our children to transform into responsible young adults.

  2. Wow, thanks for sharing this! I’m hoping to teach my kids not only about saving money, but about how to make it work for them. My husband and I are keen on the idea of making our resources work for us, particularly making our money work for us, rather than us working for our money. So, it all starts with mastering our money and our management of it. Thank goodness for good parents who taught us that in the first place!

    • The sad thing about my situation, is that I’m 23–but I was never taught how to be frugal or how to be good with money. My mom was pretty frugal when I was a child, but as I got older, her spending habits changed. My dad was never frugal with money. I’m learning from my friends how to be frugal and better with spending, but I can say that at this point I WISH my parents would’ve taught me this as a child, and as a teen. This economy if anything is proving to be a reason for all of us to learn the in’s and out’s of managing money and being frugal about certain purchases.

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