I grew up in a middle class family. I was the only child to a stay-at-home mom and a dad who worked as a millright. Money was tight most of the time, but I don’t recall feeling deprived. When we couldn’t afford to eat out, we improvised with whatever was in the pantry. Bored? My mom would help me craft my own toys, teach me to crosstitch or invent my own games.
Now that I’m married and have three boys of my own, I’m trying hard to share those values I learned as a child. Our income is greater than that of mine or my husband’s families growing up. Our kids are very fortunate in that they haven’t ever experienced real hardship. They don’t always understand how other families live. I do what I can to teach them to enjoy frugality as a lifestyle choice. They help me bake cookies and clip coupons. We shop garage sales and thrift stores. We try to help others who are less fortunate when we can.
Of course, I will admit there are times when it is very hard to avoid raising a materialistic child.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in teaching my sons about frugality is that my parents, who were once the epitome of thrift, now lavish our boys with gifts and meals out. They’ve worked hard to establish their retirement nest egg and love living near their grandchildren. It’s hard to teach the boys about money and values when well-intentioned grandparents give them whatever they want.
My four-year old has a bike with training wheels that I bought for him at a garage sale for $5. He would ride that bike for hours. My parents suggested that he needed a new bike. I told them that the old bike worked well and that my son loved it. They decided to buy him a brand new bike anyway.
And in one of my proudest parenting moments, my son thanked my parents for the new expensive bike, hopped back on his old bike and said, “I like the old one better.”
I was proud that my son thanked my parents for the new bike, and even more proud that he loved his old secondhand bike more. In a small way, I feel I was able to teach him that new and expensive isn’t always better.
It’s been a few weeks now, and he’s riding the new bike now. He tells me that he’s going to pass this bike down along with his secondhand bike to his twin brothers when they’re old enough.
And that’s fine with me.