Lessons In Frugality

Frugality This is a guest post from Sherri at Serene Journey, where she shares tips, tricks and philosophies on enjoying life a whole lot more.

When kids move away from home it can be bitter sweet. There are no more family breakfasts around the dining room table and no more fighting for the shower first thing in the morning (at least I’m sure that’s what my folks would tell you). Yet you are excited for them to get out there and experience life, see the world and grow into their own person. There are several things I want to teach my kids before they leave home and one of the most important lessons is on frugality.

I have made the transition from relatively spend happy to quite frugal over the past several years. I only wish I had adopted my frugal way years ago! Here are some key lessons I’ve learned, or aha moments if you like, when it comes to frugality, timeless lessons that every kid should be aware of.

1. There is a difference between want and need. It seems pretty obvious that things we want aren’t necessarily things we need but the lines can blur and the distinction is sometimes fuzzy. Food, clothing, and shelter are all necessities – you actually do need these things. However, spending money on steak and lobster every night, haute-couture clothing and a 10,000 square foot house are self-indulgent wants.

Experiment with your child. The next time they “NEEEEEED” something start a dialogue – ask them questions about why they need it so bad, talk through different scenarios and worst possible outcomes if they don’t get the item. Try looking for alternatives to purchasing the item i.e. can you rent it, borrow it from the library or use a friends? Sometimes the alternatives aren’t immediately obvious but they often cost a lot less.

2. Sleep on it…for a month or so. Keep track of things you want – absolutely everything, then commit to not buying anything on that list for at least a month maybe even two or three. This does two things.

  1. It removes all impulses purchases. It allows you to keep an eye out for sales and discounts. Keeping track of what you want also allows you to prioritize purchases and save up enough money to cover the cost (i.e. not putting it on a credit card).
  2. Sleeping on it allows you to see if you really want the item or if it was just something you thought you might like in the spur of the moment. After a month or two has passed there are generally two outcomes; you either still want the item or you don’t. If you still want it then it’s likely a good purchase for you and a wise way to spend your money. If you no longer want the item on your list, you’ve saved your money and can put it towards the next item on your list.

3. Use cash. I’m a big advocate for using cash as opposed to credit. It’s a lot more difficult to part with physical money than it is to hand over a piece of plastic. Using cash in combination with sticking to a budget will cause you to think twice about parting with $20 on one lunch when all you have is $50 in the budget for the entire month. You’re less likely to go over budget if you spend using only cash. While it’s sometimes not as convenient to use cash as it is to use a credit card it can actually save you a lot of money in the long run.

4. Make do with what you have. Everyone likes to have new stuff, but buying items just for the sake of “new” is certainly not in your best interest. It helps if you look at the practicality of an item and not just the aesthetics of it. Take an old paint splattered hammer, for example, while it doesn’t look pretty it still does the job of pounding nails into the wall so you can hang pictures. So why spend the money on a new one? The same goes for oven mitts, tea pots, furniture, and laundry baskets.

Can you also make do with what you have by multi-tasking an item you already have around the house. As an example, instead of buying a stand that keeps the gardening bags open so you can put the clippings in, use a plastic storage container that you already have kicking around the house. They are light weight, easy enough for you to drag around the garden and when it’s full just tip the bin into a bag and you’re done. It takes a bit of creative thinking but making do with what you have is a great way to live frugally.

5. More is not better. Abundance seems to be the “in” thing. But with many possessions comes more responsibility, clutter, stress and can even add complexity to everyday life. Frugality, to me, doesn’t mean living without or even being a minimalist. Living frugally means being aware of where your money is going, making smarter choices on how you spend it and making do with what you have where it makes sense.

Acquiring more and more, bigger and better may seem to be making your life better, easier or more efficient. In actuality, a lot of times the exact opposite is true.

Teaching kids how to live frugally is important but isn’t only a lesson of theory. We should really try to lead and teach by example. Try making a small change today and committ to introducing one frugal lesson in your home. You may just find you benefit a lot from it as well!

Please share your thoughts in the comments as well as other important frugal lessons to teach our kids.

Read more of Sherri’s articles on enjoying life at Serene Journey.

Photo courtesy of: s2photo

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6 Responses to “Lessons In Frugality”

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  1. Sherri – I can vouch for these methods. They sure work for me. I am especially fond of using cash. Mentally, it is a lot harder to spend cash than it is to whip out a credit card for a purchase. Getting rid of my credit cards has saved me a fortune.

    I also agree that more is not necessarily better. I have downsized considerably. In the last few years, I have sold a boat, Seadoo, RV trailer and hot tub just to mention a few things. It certainly saved me money in upkeep and storage. However, it has also reduced the stress and guilt related to either not using or maintaining these items as much as I felt like I should have.

    Great article!
    .-= Jeff@MySuperChargedLife´s last blog ..How To Build Rapport and Relationships Like a Guru =-.

    • Lin says:

      Sherri and Jeff,

      We’re actually planning a large garage sale/estate sale in the next month or so to get rid of stuff we just don’t need anymore, plus the money we’ll make from selling all the stuff will be used to continue paying down our debt. We’re planning on downsizing when the housing market improves enough to sell our house too.

      I’ve been reading a lot of articles about being frugal and various methods to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, and we’re so excited. Plus, we’ll have the house all to ourselves again soon so that will greatly reduce our expenses each month.

  2. Hi Lin,
    Thank you so much for running my guest post. I’m really glad you like it, I had fun writing it! Putting the money from a yard sale towards debt is fabulous!

    @Jeff – Good to know these methods worked for you as well. We also downsized a year ago and it has saved us a ton of money. Taxes are about a 1/5 of what they were in the city, utilities are less etc… sounds like you went all out with the downsizing (getting rid of huge purchases) and are now happier for it! That’s awesome!

    Lin, best of luck to you with downsizing when the market turns around! 🙂
    .-= Sherri (Serene Journey)´s last blog ..The Grass Is Always Green Right Under Your Feet =-.

  3. Janet Fox says:

    Nice post Sherri!

    I guess I can apply some of these tricks to my life. Its gets especially difficult during the month ends. I can really vouch for #3. I have tried leaving my credit card home for like a month and I have cut down my expenses by one-third :O Can u believe that. You really dont feel the pinch while swiping a card.. Its only when you need to spend real cash that you realize the value of it..

    • Lin says:

      Janet, I’ve been using a debit card for so long, I don’t know if I remember what it feels like to actually hold cash in my hand. Ha!

      I’m going to make a concerted effort to start carrying a little cash on me at all times, rather than whipping out the debit card for everything, and we’ll see how I do with that.


  1. […] Lin from Telling It Like It Is has been kind enough to post a guest article from me called: Lessons In Frugality. There are many things I wish to teach my kids before they leave home and an important one for me […]