Teaching Kids (& Family) about Life and Money: 10 Essential Principals to Start Living Now

Article by Make The Days Count Contributor Judy Mosley


Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.  The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”Elise Boulding


What does it really take to make a house a home? What does it take to make a family feel at home? What are the ingredients that families need to feel well, comfortable, safe, secure, and happy?


If you believed the ads that come from the magazines, radio, and television, apparently, it takes quite a bit.  From clothes to cars, food and phones, we can never seem to have enough stuff. And of course our happiness is found in the products being advertised.  Why else would those people be dancing so freely with their iPods?


But happiness consistently seems elusive as the products continue to change and we discard what we barely received for the newer and better version.  Here’s the rub.  It all costs money.  And people are discovering more and more that it’s money that we simply don’t have, especially with the economy as it is.  


So, how do you as a family find the joy in frugality?  How do you live life simply, without feeling like you are missing out?  And, how can you do it together, as a group, so that no one feels like they are missing out?  Here are 10 important guidelines to putting money and “stuff” in its proper place in your family:


1. It’s time we redefine what’s really important as a family.

We have been told that by getting more stuff, we would get the time that we need.  Instead, we are more distracted than ever and seem to find it harder to connect with those right next to us.  It’s time to turn off all the gadgets and start paying attention to what’s going on in each other’s life.


2. Teach by modeling gratefulness and restraint in your own life.

The best and most influential teacher that your children will ever have is you.  If they see that you don’t always get what you want and are still grateful for what you have, they will be more apt to follow in your footsteps.  If they see your creativity in using what you already own, they will look at their own possessions differently.  Start with yourself.  The rest will work itself out from there.


3. No is not a bad word, just a part of life.

Somewhere, we have all decided that no is a bad word, a negative word that destroys all happiness.  I want it to be Spring right now.  But, I know that the answer is no because when I wake up tomorrow, the world, at least where I live, will still be in winter.  There is a natural cycle that’s been built in this world and we need to understand that it may not be the right time to get what we want.  By taking the word “no” as a gift, we can focus on what we do have and even find new ways to enjoy what’s around us.


4. Let them know that they can still be whole people without the stuff.

Often, we place so much value on the things that we want; we feel that can’t move through life without them.  It is as if we are somehow diminished as human beings.  Instead we can show our children that they can be whole and real and true and mighty without those things.  We can show them that they aren’t diminished as people, simply because they can’t get what they want every time. We can give them real personal power with these opportunities of restraint.


5. Teach them that work equals pay.

If your children are of age and they would like to have some money of their own to use, encourage them to get a job.  Yes, it will cut into their activities at school and yes, they may not always go to the parties that everyone else is going to, but they can learn about earning their own money, with their own hands, and deciding what they really want to do with it.  What better time to teach them about working responsibly then in their own home, under your care?


6. Make things special again.

Remember when going out to eat was a treat?  Going to movies?  Eating ice cream?  Instead of doing these activities every week or every day, make these activities something special again.   Your children need fun little things they can look forward to.  Set aside money and do this once or twice a month, to where it actually feels like a mini adventure instead of something to do because there’s nothing else to do.


7. Make your children part of the budget process.

When you sit down to do the budget, invite your children to come with you.  Show them where the money needs to go and where it can go for better things.  Let them suggest ways where you, as a family, can cut back on spending, or spend in different ways.  Let them know that the money that you make now will be going to savings for future travel, college, emergencies, retirement, and the like. Give your children a future to think about, not just a good time while they are with you.


8. Explore the possibilities of shopping second hand.

Clothes are important at any age.  Go to your local Goodwill, thrift or consignment stores and shop for each other.  You will be amazed at the quality of goods available.  Encourage your teens to go shopping at second hand stores with their friends.  You would be shocked at the name brand items that you can find while paying a fraction of the price that you might pay at the mall.  And, besides clothes, you can find other items that you might need.  Furniture, art, books, movies, accessories; there is a literal wealth waiting for you at these stores.  You just have to be willing to look.


9. Redefine what you truly desire.

In my own journey, what I have learned is that if you aren’t fulfilling the truest desires of your heart, then you will fall for anything while searching for fulfillment.  Talk to your children.  Dig deep in their heart.  Help them discover what it is they would truly like to have for their lives.  Do they want dance lessons?  Music lessons?  Travel?  Find out what makes them tick and find ways to fulfill those dreams.  Give them a future and they will be more likely to pass up the latest craze for something better that you as a family are saving for.


10. Show them that they can give back to the world.

All of this frugality will eventually lead to some extra cash.  This is where you can guide your kids in changing the lives of others instead of just helping themselves more.  If they are old enough, have them search through different charities and pick one that you can donate to on a monthly basis. There are many reputable organizations out there that can give your family the opportunity to change someone’s life.  There are even organizations now where you give micro-loans to people around the world, such as Kiva.org, that aid others in ways that they might not have had the chance to receive.


This time of hardship can be a gift.  It is the chance to turn back to the basics, to remember what is important about our self, each other, and the world.


This is the opportunity to spend our money in ways that really matter and we, as parents, are given the privilege of including our children in this venture.  Please enjoy this life.  I discovered that it doesn’t take as much as I really had believed – and I intend on passing this gift to my children.


“We all have the means to bestow on others the most lavish gifts; love, joy, peace, hope, kindness, acceptance, encouragement, laughter, forgiveness, time.  There is not enough money to buy them and not too little money to give them.  The more you spend, the wealthier you become; yet nothing will cost you more than what you freely possess to give.”
-Eden Eliot


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Posted on 15 January, 2009 in Finance & Family, Parenting
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