photo by jslander
Have you ever known someone who preached frugality at every turn? They were always eager to tell you how much money they saved, or how much you could have saved, or how frivolous your purchase was? I’ve caught myself being “that guy” sometimes, and it is not a character trait I want to develop.
Be a Frugal Leader
In many areas of our lives leading by example is the best way to encourage others to follow. Being frugal is no different. One of the quickest ways to turn people off of frugality is to tell them how they should live their lives, and how they should spend their money. This is especially true with spouses and children. Here lately I’ve noticed that I have become overly critical of my wife’s purchases, and get too easily upset if my kids want something I think is frivolous. Instead of telling them that I don’t think they are being frugal, it would be better if I kept my mouth shut, stuck to my own frugal habits, and let them come to that conclusion on their own. Sometimes it is hard for us guys to keep our mouths shut, and when I fail to take this advice I usually wind up with a foot in it.
Be Frugal for the Right Reasons
Many of us with kids worry that our frugality won’t rub off on them, or worse, that it will backfire and they will grow up to be mega consumers. I personally believe much of a child’s future personality is cultivated by the attitudes of their parents. If parents complain about frugality as a side effect of being “poor,” and constantly compain about the price of things, and what little money they have, then kids will likely grow up to resent anything to do with frugal living. However, if parents discuss finances with their children and explain that they live frugal because it makes them better stewards of their money and resources, and do it with a generally positive attitude, then kids will be more likely to adopt the behavior as their own.
Black and White
Writing about family finances has helped me see more gray areas. I used to only see things in black and white. Either you were frugal or your weren’t. You were good with money or you weren’t. Now I realize that everyone has their own tolerance for living frugally, and that’s okay–we can all still be friends. Some people like to cut coupons, while others see it as a waste of time. Some people cut their own hair, and others visit high-end salons. Some people skimp on clothing, drive old cars and refuse to eat out, but take an annual cruise. None of these people are necessarily doing anything wrong.
I started out this post knocking people too eager to give advice, but I will close with some for myself. Be more tolerant of others. Many times people are doing the best they can with the resources they have to work with. We may not know the whole story. We may not understand what psychological factors they are dealing with. Don’t be quick to look down upon people who don’t live the same way we do. Now, go be a frugal leader!