I learned early the value of money. My parents taught me and my three brothers to be frugal. For example, we drank powdered skim milk and bought only no-name products, and never purchased impulse items at the grocery store.
We also saved and reused our wax paper lunch wrappers.
Our mom taught us that you saved up all your money before you bought anything — certainly no borrowing from a friend or cousin, and no “cash advances” with an allowance.
I didn’t own a credit card until I had graduated from university and got married. If I wanted to buy a nice gift for a birthday or Christmas present, but couldn’t do it on my own, then I would pool my money with my brothers, so the gift was “from all of us”. Mom would insist that she didn’t need a store-bought present on special occasions, and preferred a homemade card.
When I had my own little ones, I tried to put to practice what I’d grown up with. I started savings accounts for the children and opened Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) for their future schooling. As the children got older, I continued to be mindful of finances and the desire to teach my children about money.
Depending on their age, I introduced them to different ways to be frugal with money.
Before my children received allowance:
Instead of always buying new toys, I rotated their old toys to give them new appreciation. Each month, I would place half their toys in a storage container and put it away. The following month, I would open the container and exchange the toys on the shelf for the ones in the box.
I loved to see the excitement of the children as they opened the container and pulled out toys exclaiming, “I remember this!” Instead of getting bored with their toys, they found new excitement in welcoming back an old toy.
When my children received allowance:
When I felt the children were old enough to receive a weekly allowance, I would give them the full amount and then they would give back 10% for tithing and 10% for savings. The rest they could spend as they wanted.
I bought journals for the children to daily list 5 things for which they were grateful. This gratitude journal helped them to see that not all things we are thankful for come from money.
When my children started paying jobs:
When the children asked for something, I would often reply, “If you make $10.00 an hour, how long do you have to work to earn enough money to pay for that item?” It put the purchase item into perspective and helped them to understand the value of time and money.
I introduced my children to the concept of receive-give. This meant that if they bought a new shirt, they would, in turn, give away a shirt they no longer wore. Or if they bought a video game, they gave away a game they no longer played.
In addition to being frugal with their own money, I wanted my children to also give thought to others. Each Christmas, I invited them to look through the World Vision’s catalog and pick a gift to send to a disadvantaged child. Once ordered, I would cut a photo of the gift and put it into their stocking so on Christmas day they could remember the gift they “bought” for another child.
I also helped the children design cards to distribute to the neighbourhood offering a free service like pet-sitting over the holidays.
Being money-wise and frugal as well as appreciating and valuing what we have are things best learned through modeling. My parents raised me to understand the value of money. How can you raise your children to be money-wise?
Oh, I wanted to share one last way that my parents taught us to be frugal. Recycle! My mom used the red corduroy from our basement couch cushions to make new coats for us kids.