Written by Meg Dickey, Contributing Writer
As we seek to train our children well, one of our family's major learning points is to teach our children the art of frugality. Frugality is making good choices with the resources God has given you - this includes your brain, as I am apt to remind my children. :-)
I have heard many times from other parents, "I just want my kids to have the best I can give them." OF COURSE! We all desire our children to have good things, and to be happy.
However, happiness does not come from things, nor does it come with being handed everything you think you want. Teaching our children to make wise decisions is one of the best ways we can ensure their happiness.
Understand why you are teaching this skill.
As Christians, we are called to instruct our children with wisdom. "Listen to advice, and accept instruction, and in the end, you will be wise" Proverbs 19:20. We are teaching our children to examine the way we live our lives - "Is there a better way? Can we do this with less money? Can we avoid waste here? Is this the only place we can buy this? Does anyone around us have something we need, so we can trade?"
We can't just stop there, however! The danger in the frugal lifestyle is to end up just as self-focused as the world around us.
Our children need to know our frugality has an even higher purpose and calling for us as Christians. When we take care of what God has blessed us with, we are showing those around us a living example of Him. We are called to be good stewards:
"Herein lies the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship – the fundamental principle of all Christianity, in fact: We own nothing. God owns everything; we are simply managers. The Bible says, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
As humbling as this sounds, we don’t bring anything to the table. It’s all God’s. This principle carries some heavy implications. First, since God owns it all, he holds the rights that come with ownership. Since we only have what we have been allowed to have, then we operate primarily in the realm of responsibilities. Hear that clearly: God has rights; we have responsibilities. God has entrusted us with certain resources, gifts and abilities. These things rightfully belong to him. Our responsibility is to live by that trust by managing these things well, according to His design and desire."
from Bible.org, emphasis added
Once our children realized that it's wasn't just about saving money, we saw a real heart change in their attitudes. Instead of the complaining about not getting their "favorite", they reminded me to buy the other brand, "So there will be more for us to share with our friends." It's not always about getting the most for your money - sometimes it's just about having more to share with those less fortunate.
Explain, and then live it.
Our family's choices - about where we live, how we live, how we eat, how much we eat, how we dress, where we obtain our clothes, what we drive - it's all a part of a bigger picture.
Our children see us living our lives every day. If we don't take the time to tell them WHY, they will end up like so many children I have heard saying: "Mom and Dad just don't want us to have nice things. They make me feel so stupid by making me wear old clothes, and they are SO embarrassing when they show up in that old clunker of a car!" The most heartrending of the comments was "If this is how I have to be if I'm a Christian, I don't want to be a Christian anymore." That cannot be the end result of our frugal penny-pinching.
Our children need to know why we choose to eat real, whole foods; why we drive an older car that can run off veggie oil; why we choose to shop at thrift stores; why we grow or trade our own food instead of buying it. Everything we do, we do it all to glorify the Name of the Lord. We strive to be a living example of doing the best we can with what we have been blessed with.
Live it practically.
Our family teaches frugality every day. We remind our children to open a window curtain for light, rather then using electricity. We stay a little warmer in summer, and a little cooler in winter - because clothing is cheaper to adjust than the thermostat. We grow or trade for most of our food, allowing our children to realize the blessing of fresh, whole foods.
When we do go to a grocery store, our children help make the list, and they are allowed to gently (and respectfully!) remind Moma "That's not on our list, so we will be spending more." Our boys know the true value of cars as transportation, and why we don't allow ourselves to become a slave to them. [Case in point: our oldest pointed to a lifted, "tricked out" truck the other day, and stated "What a waste of money, Moma!"] We teach math in the Farmer's Market stalls, explaining how to get more for our money by buying in season, while sharing how spending it at a place where the farmer gets more of the money is wise, too.
Each small step we take with our children is one that is closer to a greater understanding of our commitment to those around us, our earth, and our Savior. Frugality is a path we chose for our family. Our children are growing and learning right alongside us.