It can be tough to teach your children to be frugal. I originally wrote this post for Lee at Homely Economics back in March. I thought it would be a good time to revisit it.
Whatever your reasons for saving money, it can to be tricky to bring family on board, particularly kids. When you need to cut back it can be hard for them to understand the need for a more thrifty lifestyle. Maybe they have been used to always being given the toys they asked for, the clothes or the gadgets? Perhaps they have enjoyed regular takeaways and days out to theme parks? Fighting with your kids when you need to clear your debt or reduce your costs can be very wearing. So how can you teach your children to be frugal and have fun with it?
If you are anxious about money, the last thing you want to do is pass your worries to your children. But you can talk to them. Explain to them what you are doing and what your end goal is. It may be that you are saving for something that will benefit them. Or that you want to clear your debts so that you can start putting money aside for a holiday. Perhaps you want to pay off your mortgage so that you can work less and spend more time with them?
Try to put a positive slant on whatever you want to achieve. Their age will obviously impact on what you tell them and the amount of detail you go into. Just communicate and let them know you have a budget that you have to stick to.
Ensure that you lead by example. Don’t say no to a cinema trip with them and then impulse buy yourself an expensive pair of shoes.
Make sure you always build some small treats for them into your budget. So you can’t afford that cinema trip? How about making an occasion of a home movie night? Get popcorn or chocolate and snuggle up together to watch something on Netflix or a DVD. If a theme park is too expensive, your children are likely to enjoy a trip to your local park with a picnic almost as much.
Stress the benefits
Stress the benefits of a frugal lifestyle. Buying less stuff creates less packaging and is better for the environment. Cycling rather than driving gives you a chance to see nature and gets you fit. Cooking from scratch rather than buying convenience foods and takeaways is healthier. Using the library rather than buying books means you can take home a whole bag of books to read rather than just one or two.
The best way to teach your children to be frugal and budget is to give them money! Just a little though. Give them a regular allowance and sensible opportunities to save or spend it. If there is something they really want, encourage them to save up for it. The satisfaction they get and the appreciation of the thing they have had to wait for will be much greater than if you had simply bought it at their first request.
Take your kids to charity shops and boot sales. Both are great places for them to learn about bargain hunting and how to get the most from their money. They can observe you putting your own frugality into practice as you bag a bargain or two!
Teach your children the value of the pound in your pocket. Take them to the supermarket and discuss the different prices of items and your reasons for making the choices you do. For example you could explain that you buy the supermarket own item rather than a brand name because there is little difference in quality or taste and the supermarket brand is cheaper. Or that if you buy tomatoes, onions and peppers you can make a mass of healthy pasta sauce for the freezer rather than purchasing the more expensive jar version.
Teach them to cook
Let them help you to plan some of your meals so that you can discuss the cost of the ingredients. Then give them cooking lessons. This is one of the best skills you can teach your family if you want them to eat healthily and learn to budget. As they get older and go to university or get their own place, the ability to whip up a cheap and nutritious dinner will mean that they will be able to avoid spending money on eating out or convenience foods. Teach your children to cook and they might even cook for you.
Earning a crust
Let them do any regular chores for nothing, like tidying up their bedrooms, but offer your children small financial rewards for doing extra jobs from time to time. They will appreciate money that they have earned even more.
As soon as my daughters were old enough I encouraged them to get jobs – babysitting and shop work mainly – and I am so glad that I did. As teenagers, they could afford to treat themselves to some of the things I couldn’t stretch to. This also helped them get their first ‘proper jobs’, as employers love to see any kind of work experience on a young person’s CV.
Financial education will teach your children to be frugal
They don’t teach financial education in schools and I strongly believe that they should do. Older children need to understand how credit works and what interest rates are, how it can be helpful to occasionally use a credit card but that it must be paid back. Teach them about budgeting and financial planning. Tell them what you do and about your past mistakes. Encourage them to save by opening savings accounts for them.
You can teach your children to be frugal – it’s just common sense really. If you can get them on board it will help you to stick to your budget now and help you reach your financial goals. You will also create savvy children who will follow your lead in the future!