You’ve undoubtedly heard that old expression, “monkey see, monkey do”. You may have already figured this out but if you have children this is the basic way they learn. You might try the, “don’t do as I do, do as I say” thing but this rarely works. Most of how your children act will be based on watching what you do. We know that you’re a good role model so that your children are growing up with a good sense of what’s right and what’s wrong and the old golden rule, “treat others as you would have them treat you.”
But how about your spending? Is it possible you’re spoiling your kids “a little” or “a lot”? In a 2011 survey published on Today.com, roughly 4,500 people answered yes to these questions. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea when we spend money on our kids were showing that we love them. But this may not be teaching a good lesson. You can be a frugal parent while still showing your kids that you love them and here are some tips that can help.
Use free activities
Your community probably has a lot of free activities and you need to take advantage of them. Your local library has a lot of resources in addition to just books like free videos and CDs. There’s undoubtedly a park near where you live with a great playground. There are probably also free movies and free concerts where you live. How about taking your kids to a street festival or local farmers’ market? Do your kids not get outdoors much? Take them for a hike or bike ride. Our city has a free holiday lighting celebration as well as laser light shows and live music. Your city probably also offers these kinds of frugal fun events so take advantage of them.
Quit buying your kids new clothes
Regardless of your children’s ages you don’t have to buy them new clothes. You can dress them in secondhand clothes or do a clothing swap. According to a publication on Businesswire.com, 9 out of 10 American parents would not think twice about dressing their kids in second-hand apparel. This may not work if you have teenagers – especially teenage girls – but it will work with most kids. Think about going to a local consignment shop or swapping clothing with parents that have similarly aged kids. We have what are called “high-end consignment shops” where it’s possible to find designer-name clothes at a fraction of their original prices. If there’s not one where you live there are online consignment stores like Fab Kids. Heck, kids grow up so fast there ‘s just no point in spending a lot of money to buy new clothes today that they’ll have outgrown a couple of months from now.
Don’t leave home without them
If yours is a typical family your kids are probably involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. Whether this means a Saturday soccer game, an afternoon baseball game, volleyball, tennis or track meets don’t leave home without taking your own food and snacks. Fill a bag with cookies, fruit and snacks and take several bottles of water. You’ll not only be a frugal parent you’ll also be making sure your kids continue to eat healthy.
Fun doesn’t have to mean an $8 or $10 movie ticket or a $20 ticket to your local sports team. Put that money away and have a “family night in”. This could be something as simple as a picnic in your living room in front of the television or camping out in your backyard. You can have a special “movie night” with homemade seasoned popcorn or a meal that matches the movie’s theme. Believe it or not a good board game can be hours of fun and competition. Everyone in our family loves the game Apples to Apples and we’ve had many fun family evenings playing it. How about inviting your neighbors and their kids over for a potluck supper and then a game night? You might be surprised at how much your kids end up enjoying this.
Keep your spending on toys to the minimum
One of the things that most of us do is overspend on our kids’ toys. You may have already noticed that kids become bored with their new toys very quickly. What was new and exciting a few weeks ago is now sitting in a toy box gathering dust. Go to garage sales or secondhand stores and look for toys. We have Goodwill stores near where we live that can be just a treasure trove of lightly used toys. Take advantage of the fact that other parents have donated the toys that their children’s outgrew and buy them for pennies on the dollar. You should be able to find everything from games to wagons and toy trucks to dolls in good enough shape that your kids will hardly notice they’re not brand new.
One of the biggest mistakes many parents make is not talking to their kids about money. A 2012 survey published on MarketPlace.org revealed that 1 out of 4 teenagers thought a debit card was the same as a credit card. Talk to your kids about how you budget and your financial priorities. When you do this, your kids will grow up with a good understanding of personal finance instead of learning the hard way that swiping that little piece of plastic can end up creating a world of debt.
A frugal parent uses the toughest word of all
Finally, as painful as it might be you need to learn to just say “no” when your child asks for something. We know that you love your children and want to make them happy but sometimes it’s better not to. This initially will be a war of wills. There can be nothing harder than repeatedly saying no to a seven-year-old screaming for a new toy when you’re shopping at your nearest big box store. However, if you stick to it your child will eventually learn that they can’t get everything they want. And this can be one of the most important lessons you ever teach your child.