My mum recently confided in me that she still suffers guilt from my brother and my very ‘humble’ childhood. My parents couldn’t really afford all the latest toys; instead we spent hours in the garden and fields with a host of pets. There were no overseas vacations, but we had many family camping trips to the English coast with fish and chips. We had a very frugal lifestyle with most of our clothes came from hand-me-downs. My mum looks back with guilt, but as I remember it, my childhood was idyllic.
Life has gone full circle, and I’m now a parent to four young children. As a family we’re striving to lead a minimal and purposeful life. Adhering to the less-is-more principle, enjoying simple pleasures, and living frugally. Like my parents, we don’t have a lot of money, but we are confidently and intentionally, choosing ‘humble’ for our kids. In an age of consumerism, parents can feel pressure to ensure their kids keep up with their peers and the latest trends, feeling guilty if they say ‘no’ or not wanting their kids to go without. But is a frugal lifestyle really ‘going without?’ It could be argued that it’s actually plentiful, just not in terms of material possessions.
Many people are actively choosing a life with less, and spending less as they work towards zero-waste and financially independence. Being free of debt is a liberating experience with benefits for the entire family and the planet. So, what exactly is a frugal lifestyle? And how can its practice yield lifelong benefits for our children?
‘Frugal living is spending less than you earn. It’s knowing how much you spend each month. It’s reducing waste. Spending less might mean reducing debt and/or increasing savings.’- Robin Laulainen – Everyday simple living blog
So, no more guilt trips. Here are five reasons why a frugal lifestyle benefits children:
1) Less Stuff Means More Opportunity for Creativity
A minimalist bedroom/playroom creates a calmer environment, and means there is more time spent playing and less tidying up. Owning less stuff also means kids truly learn to use their imaginations and become more resourceful and creative. They learn to treasure their possessions, and take pleasure from simple play. My kids play for hours with dirt, water, sticks, and exploration. What is nature if not free, multi-sensory stimulation?
Kids love to be included in the work of family life, yard work, gardening, food preparation, and even cleaning. Chores can yield great learning opportunities, helping them master useful life skills which will serve them to become more self-reliant adults.
3) Enjoying Simple Pleasures
If you set the bar too high for everyday routines it can take the fun out of simple pleasures. For instance, if you eat strawberries every day they become ordinary, and what do you do for special events like birthdays to make those special occasions stand out? For us, eating strawberries is a seasonal treat, the taste of summer, best handpicked juicy from the fields or purchased from local farmers’ markets. When eaten they are savored.
4) A life of Happiness
According to research cited in The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser, “the more materialistic young people are, the unhappier they are.” As parents we strive to give our children the best possible start in life. We want to give them a life filled with opportunities by ensuring access to an education and giving them the resources they need to follow their dreams. We want them to be happy, but that doesn’t mean we must say ‘yes’ to everything. Studies show that happiness has much more to do with experiences than with possessions, so rather then buying toys for birthdays, etc. why not give the gift of an ‘experience,’ and make special memories? Enjoy a day at the museum discovering a world of dinosaur bones or simply enjoying a special picnic.
5) Delayed Gratification
By choosing a frugal lifestyle, our kids can learn the value of money, the importance of choosing mindfully the items we own, and how to take pleasure from the simple things in life. By saying ‘no’ to some of our children’s requests, we are teaching them true resourcefulness and creativity.