Author Topic: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting  (Read 13108 times)

PaulM12345

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Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« on: July 29, 2012, 06:31:57 PM »
I've been poking around the MMM posts related to parenting (among others), as well as the posts on this forum. I am all on-board the basic mustachian premise, but as a parent of young children I have some lingering concerns - based on the childhood experience of people I know.

The first is about cheapness: I love the distinction between frugality and cheapness, but I don't think it's such a clear divide. No one thinks they are cheap. They think they are frugal. But we all know cheapskates. From this we have to accept that we might are cheap without knowing it! I would not be surprised if adults (including parents) can slowly drift from frugal to cheap without realizing it. Just as we need to remain vigilant about our consumption, I think we should be vigilant about our cheapness. So much thought about money, finance, and savings can be kind of all-consuming.

What does this have to do with parenting? That leads to my second concern. I know several adults, some older, whose parents grew up during the depression. One woman I knew is still bitter, 60 years after the fact, that her depression-era mother bought the cheapest, scratchiest bath soap available (I don't know the brand, but it sounds truly bad). She is also, by the way, quite cheap (not frugal) in her old age. Others I know (not necessarily with dust-bowl parents, but just with parents on the cheap to frugal spectrum) feel angry that their parents never bought them new clothes. They had a lot of confusion when they found out that their family was actually well off (in terms of savings and income). "Why would my parents deceive me? What does that mean?" It's one thing to grow up poor. It's another thing to think you're poor when in fact you are not poor by US standards.

I write all this not as a critique but really as a question: Does anyone else wonder about these questions? What will you do when you're kid "needs" new shirts for middle school? Or a new dress for prom? Hell, what about a new car? Private college? Where do you draw the line? (don't worry, we're never going to buy them a new car, I just use that as an extreme).

A parallel example is TV: We haven't had a TV for ten years, and don't plan on ever getting one. But I don't want my kids to feel deprived, and then over compensate when they are out of the house. Same thing with video games. We'd like to think we're "good enough parents" to not let that happen, but this kind of reaction is pretty common.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 06:33:56 PM by justinFarnsworth »

sol

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2012, 09:28:34 PM »
For the vast majority of parents, I think recognizing that they might be spending wastefully would be far more helpful than recognizing that they might be too frugal.

For modern families who are really on the depression-era-cheap side of things, I don't know what to say.  Do we even have people like that in America anymore?

Adventine

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2012, 10:42:30 PM »
I would prefer having parents who are frugal-bordering-on-cheapskate instead of parents who try to maintain a standard of living that they can't afford.

PaulM12345

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2012, 11:03:09 PM »
Sol, that may be true, but I was assuming that people reading this forum were of the minority - the ones who are trying to be frugal. So I was more asking about the best way to parent from a frugal standpoint without the consequences I mentioned. As far as whether such depression-era-cheap families still exist, I would say yes. Maybe not cheap in the same way or for the same reasons, but I know they exist.

Adventine, that makes sense, but I don't know that everyone would see it that way. Also, It's not really black and white - there are families that maintain a standard of living they can afford, but it's not really frugal. They just budget so that they can retire at 65, and spend a lot of money but save enough to retire. Kids in such families might get more of what they want, if they learn, from peers at school etc. to want it, than kids in "frugaler" families.


sol

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2012, 12:11:09 AM »
Our kids are 6 and 9, and they have no idea that we're in the top few percent as measured by household income.  And hopefully they won't for many years.

I just don't see any advantage to throwing money at your children.  Kids want love and attention more than they want vacations to Disneyland.  We live a modest life in a modest neighborhood, save or donate most of our income, and try to focus on being good parents. 

Too many of my professional friends who can't control their expenses resort to $3k/month full time day care so they can work 12 hour days M-F.  They tell themselves they have to work so much so that they can afford to give their kids the life they deserve, but I think kids deserve more than absentee parents.

Our kids aren't deprived.  They have more toys than they know what to do with (thanks, Grandma), healthy food to eat every day, activities they enjoy and a stable home life.  I don't worry about whether or not they will resent us for not telling them they're rich, because if that becomes an issue for them then I'll feel like I've failed as a parent to impart the money lessons that I think are important. 

Sure, it could happen, and they could both turn out to be social rejects who hate everything and murder kittens.  The best you can do is try to provide the best childhood for them that you can, and hope for the best.

gooki

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2012, 03:44:44 AM »
My parents were frugal, to the point I stole a Transformer of a kid at school, I suspect the reason i stole it was partly because Transformers were awesome, and I felt like I deserved one (I had and older brother and had to make do with hand me downs).

I quickly learnt that was the wrong thing to do, and don't resent them for giving me a good telling off or restricting my toy intake. I'm probably more bitter about having to eat poorly cooked liver, cheapest chewiest cuts of beef, and brussel sprouts but only in a joking way. I suspect I'll compensate for this with my own children, but try to moderate it with the philosophy of quality and not quantity.

But I'm damn glad they weren't like other peoples parents. One kid I recall talking about how his parents had to take out a loan so he could get a new bike and a remote controll car for his birthday(this was at age 6 or 7). It's amazing how some low income parents often over compensate for their forced frugality with poor financial choices, thus keeping them in the cycle of living pay check to paycheck.

Back to the topic at hand.

New shirts for school, no problem, buy them new, but search for best price.
Prom dress, pay 50%.
Car, encourage them to go without
Private college, that ain't happening, unless it's a fully paid scholarship.

With the sheer generosity of their grandparents, our general standard of living, and the desire to spend a lot of time with our kids, they won't be depraved. At the same time I want to be open about our financial wealth, so they can see the freedom hard work, and good money management can create.

Worsted Skeins

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2012, 06:10:08 AM »
Well JF, I can share with you the results of frugal parenting on my now 20 year old son. 

One of his first acts as a college freshman was tagging along to the used goods charity shop when someone with a car was going.  He spent $5 on an all metal sewing machine which he uses to patch his jeans and do mending.  This parent was pleasantly surprised that my frugal tendencies were that deeply engrained!

Most parents have many discussions with their kids about choices.  We have a television (just one, thank you) but no cable.  This allowed us to have occasional "movie nights", usually with videos from the library, or to watch PBS programming.  At some point in elementary school he wanted cable.  I ran the numbers.  Would you rather have cable or buy a plane ticket to San Francisco or take some special science classes?  We cannot do it all so choose what is most important to you.  Cable never won.

My kid has an antique pay as you go phone--no fancy phone or data plan-- but he does have a decent bike (at home--beater at school) and good hiking boots.  When he wanted his own computer at age 13 or so, he got a virus filled discard from a neighbor that he had to strip down.  My husband helped him upgrade things like the sound card.  We did not just hand him a machine but made the experience an educational one so that he would understand how it worked and how it could be repaired or improved. 

It tickles me to report that one of his childhood buddies who has become quite the cook credits me for this.  I taught him how to make pizza from scratch years ago.  He said that he has impressed so many people with this--and saved a lot of money.

Back to my own frugal parenting:  We value education and travel and have spent more on these things than some Mustachians might.  Again, it is all about choices. 

tooqk4u22

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2012, 08:48:09 AM »
Our kids are 6 and 9, and they have no idea that we're in the top few percent as measured by household income.  And hopefully they won't for many years.

I just don't see any advantage to throwing money at your children.  Kids want love and attention more than they want vacations to Disneyland.  We live a modest life in a modest neighborhood, save or donate most of our income, and try to focus on being good parents. 

Too many of my professional friends who can't control their expenses resort to $3k/month full time day care so they can work 12 hour days M-F.  They tell themselves they have to work so much so that they can afford to give their kids the life they deserve, but I think kids deserve more than absentee parents.

Our kids aren't deprived.  They have more toys than they know what to do with (thanks, Grandma), healthy food to eat every day, activities they enjoy and a stable home life.  I don't worry about whether or not they will resent us for not telling them they're rich, because if that becomes an issue for them then I'll feel like I've failed as a parent to impart the money lessons that I think are important. 

Sure, it could happen, and they could both turn out to be social rejects who hate everything and murder kittens.  The best you can do is try to provide the best childhood for them that you can, and hope for the best.


This is absolutely spot on - kids need their basic needs met and love, attention, discipline, edcucation, etc.  They never really realize what's going on until later in life.  That is why DW stays home with kids (I guess she figured ERE before me - Ha Ha).  We have all seen the estimated costs to raise child - I can tell you those estimates are a bargain compared to losing the income of a high earner, but worth it to us.

My parents were frugal, to the point I stole a Transformer of a kid at school, I suspect the reason i stole it was partly because Transformers were awesome, and I felt like I deserved one (I had and older brother and had to make do with hand me downs).

But this kinda hits the other point - the worry that being too different will lead to poor decisions or "going crazy" once they are out of the house.  I also worry about the social aspects - adults can choose and accept who they want to be around and most don't fret if they don't fit in with certain groups - children don't have this luxury or maturity.  As an example, most of my kids friends have some form of the latest game console - we were against for a while then realized that it was impacting certain social situations.  So we have one that they play sparingly and they don't have that many games, but on a rainy day they can fit in with their friends.  I encourage my kids to be who they are and never do something for sake of fitting in, but sometimes fitting in is important and if you are on the opposite end of fitting in to the extreme it acn lead to problems. 

Its all about balance.


smalllife

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2012, 10:38:23 AM »
As a child of parents who were stingy in some regards (but lavish in others) perhaps I can weigh in.  It has all balanced out in the end, but there are a few sore spots still.

My parents did not let me watch TV at all until I was late elementary school, and even then it was only classics.  Same thing with radio. I grew up not knowing who major pop stars, TV shows, or actors were.  This didn't create a problem until middle school, but it was a problem.  Even now in my mid 20s all I can do when friends reminisce about their childhood is sit and listen.  It also had the opposite effect of now when I watch TV I can't multi task like others (aka watching a show with friends all of my focus is on the TV).  But now I don't have a TV and don't waste my time on pop culture . . .  so make of it what you will.  This is similar to the game console situation tooqk4u describes, except that I was deprived of it entirely. 

Clothing is important, but only in the sense that they shouldn't be wearing obviously out of date clothing if you can help it.  My mother hated to shop, so I wore what she provided me.  We have opposite taste in clothing!!  Super frustrating and I remember buying cheap stuff in my style as soon as I had access to money and a car.  I also had to teach myself about make up which made for more than a few awkward years.  Spare your child outdated clothing and teach them basic personal upkeep abilities if you can.  Spend the couple of hundred bucks to have someone else teach her if you don't know.  It will give her the confidence to take on the world.  I got there eventually, but I often wonder what would have happened if I could have been taught those skills early on in life. 

« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 11:34:04 AM by smalllife »
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grantmeaname

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2012, 10:42:01 AM »
I also had to teach myself about make up which made for more than a few awkward years.  Spare your child that if you can.  Spend the couple of hundred bucks to have someone else teach her if you don't know.  It will give her the confidence to take on the world.
Makeup is a requirement for a well-adjusted adolescence, and a prerequisite for confidence? I don't think so. Maybe that's changed from when you were 15 to when I was 15, but that conception of things is a far cry from what I experienced and today feel to be true.

smalllife

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2012, 10:44:42 AM »
I also had to teach myself about make up which made for more than a few awkward years.  Spare your child that if you can.  Spend the couple of hundred bucks to have someone else teach her if you don't know.  It will give her the confidence to take on the world.
Makeup is a requirement for a well-adjusted adolescence, and a prerequisite for confidence? I don't think so. Maybe that's changed from when you were 15 to when I was 15, but that conception of things is a far cry from what I experienced and today feel to be true.

I was talking about clothing moreso than makeup.  Going around in clothing that didn't fit your body or sense of self, when you already felt awkward and a social outcast for liking school, certainly didn't help matters.  My confidence shot through the roof when I discovered that clothing could actually fit my body and that I could conceal genetic under eye circles. 
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" - William Morris

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2012, 10:47:05 AM »
That makes much more sense, and jibes with my experience much better. Sorry for my misunderstanding.

AJ

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2012, 11:20:47 AM »
I don't have kids myself, but I did have very frugal parents. I am in NO WAY mad or resentful that I did not have things other kids had, or that we ate Ramen for dinner and bought our clothes at thrift stores. Very much the contrary. My parents stressed strongly that fitting in was not the most important thing in life, that I should think for myself and not make my decisions on what my peers did. They taught me peer pressure was wholly stupid, and that anyone who didn't want to be friends with me because of where I bought my clothes (or because I didn't want to get high with them) wasn't a real friend anyway. That teaching was a double whammy: I didn't care about being poor and I learned to think for myself, which has served me well in adulthood. It also helped me avoid drugs and early sex when all of my social cohorts were into them.

If my parents had caved and bought me designer clothes and whatnot, it only would have reinforced the idea that fitting in and succumbing to peer pressure was valuable and valid. It would not have gone well with me. My parents were parents, and didn't try to be my friends when I was young. Now that I am older I am so glad they had the chutzpah to stand up to me when I was a child rather than giving in.

AJ

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2012, 11:31:46 AM »
I also had to teach myself about make up which made for more than a few awkward years.  Spare your child that if you can. 

I wonder if this is universal or personal. I didn't wear make-up until my mid-twenties, and I really couldn't dress well in my youth. But I have always had self-esteem coming out my ears. Everyone is a bit awkward in their youth, that is just the way of things while you are figuring out who you are and trying on different hats. I don't think it is bad to experience a few awkward years. But maybe my experience is unique. My parents worked very hard at my self-esteem - not through outer trappings but through being strong and confident in who I am as a person. I'm happy with their methods :) (and, have since learned both make-up and appropriate dress. Those things are easy to learn in your twenties, and no one now cares what I wore in high school.)

It reminds me of the PE section of this comic: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/senior_year

smalllife

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2012, 11:35:32 AM »

I also had to teach myself about make up which made for more than a few awkward years.  Spare your child that if you can. 

I have gone back and edited this sentence to reflect the appropriate reference I was making, as it has been applied solely to make up twice now.  "That" is referring to awkwardly shaped and out of date clothing, with a side reference to make up (in which I include hair cuts, actual make up, and personal grooming of any nature).
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kisserofsinners

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2012, 12:52:40 PM »
Disclaimer: I don't have kids, but i do have an opinion. :)

I grew up with quite a double standard...

We grew up wanting all the things and were routinely denied for reasons that we "didn't have enough money". That idea that there wasn't enough money is really the culprit. We actually had plenty of money for things like pizza EVERY Sunday night for dinner. The place knew our order before we called. We always has money for the newest digital whatever my step dad wanted. We had enough money for no one to notice how bad my father's drinking problem was.

We could have gotten along just fine without the idea that there never seemed to be enough money for what i want while still have enough for what everyone else wanted. The fact is that my parents were more that committed to the idea that success is shown by what it bought you. I picked up that lesson, too.

In my college years i messed myself up good using both at once. Buying things to make up for lost time and feeling fully justified that this is how i show the world i'm ok.

It is genuinely frustrating to share my saving goals with my step dad only to have him say, "that's what a credit card is for." when i'm beaming with pride about my $1000 emergency fund.

Is the response for me to make sure i buy my kids the stuff that status is built with? For me that answer is no. I will teach my kids about choices. I will teach my kids that following trends is unsustainable. I will teach them about enough and how to find it. I will hope that this will make them never know anything about how we are doing in relation to others financially. The discussions around money will be about finding happiness.

Did i need the makeup my mother was happy to buy me as I entered middle school? Everyone else had it. Something i noticed in school is that the girl who wore make up everyday and didn't sometimes, occasionally looked plain. When the girls that never wore make up sometimes did they looked special and got complimented. Rationalizing that we are only remembered for the occasional, i decided i wanted to be remembered for occasionally looking nice VS occasionally looking plain. I stopped wearing it.

Ultimately, we don't "need" very much and the things we need to fit in are not things i think of as being good for *me*, but good for everyone else. IM(not so humble)O, that is some commie bullshit right there, brother. ;o)
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tooqk4u22

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2012, 02:33:24 PM »

I wonder if this is universal or personal.[/b] I didn't wear make-up until my mid-twenties, and I really couldn't dress well in my youth. But I have always had self-esteem coming out my ears. Everyone is a bit awkward in their youth, that is just the way of things while you are figuring out who you are and trying on different hats. I don't think it is bad to experience a few awkward years. But maybe my experience is unique. My parents worked very hard at my self-esteem - not through outer trappings but through being strong and confident in who I am as a person. I'm happy with their methods :) (and, have since learned both make-up and appropriate dress. Those things are easy to learn in your twenties, and no one now cares what I wore in high school.)

I think it is very much personal and is falls under the argument of hereditary vs. environmental influences on ones life.  They clearly both play role so it is not either or, but people have an inate and natural personality traits and characteristics that are then modified by the environmental influences over time.  You may be one of the those that have a inate sense of confidence, many don't and thing those people is what this is about.  I never did and still don't care what people think about me (except at review time $$) but my sister is much more concernced with this - same upbringing/same blood but different inate personalities.  I see it even in my young children, which I didn't think was possible yet.

Grant - this is your field of expertise, help shed some factual light on this topic.

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2012, 07:23:57 AM »
I think it is very much personal and is falls under the argument of hereditary vs. environmental influences on ones life.  They clearly both play role so it is not either or, but people have an inate and natural personality traits and characteristics that are then modified by the environmental influences over time.
That's just about exactly right. The nature vs. nurture debate continues to this day among anthropologists, psychologists, and education researchers, but it's a pretty non-controversial position to say that both contribute strongly. The debate today is over degree and often delves into specifics, like whether IQ is more explained by nature or nurture. (Regardless of whether traits come from genes or culture, there are many that are cultural universals, everything from body modification to incest taboos. I've always thought that the list of which things are universal is fascinating.)

As an aside, while we're talking about awkwardness, I've always thought that high school was awkward because we don't have a real adulthood ritual that occurs in the early teens, like vision quests or the bar/bat mitzvah. It means you have people who are mentally and physically adults who are waiting on full adult status for years yet (whether that comes from a college degree, a drivers license, a first pregnancy...) rather than a group of peers transitioning to adulthood at the same time.

twinge

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2012, 08:18:10 AM »
Quote
I write all this not as a critique but really as a question: Does anyone else wonder about these questions? What will you do when you're kid "needs" new shirts for middle school? Or a new dress for prom? Hell, what about a new car? Private college? Where do you draw the line? (don't worry, we're never going to buy them a new car, I just use that as an extreme).

A parallel example is TV: We haven't had a TV for ten years, and don't plan on ever getting one. But I don't want my kids to feel deprived, and then over compensate when they are out of the house. Same thing with video games. We'd like to think we're "good enough parents" to not let that happen, but this kind of reaction is pretty common.

I have 2 kids with the oldest in middle school and I think a key thing is that we have pretty meaningful conversations in our family about ideas of wealth, reflecting on what you really want and what makes you happy, what is fair, what is sustainable etc. that are not just personal but also about society,history, different cultures etc. First these kinds of conversations are fun, help you get to know how your children think, and give an opportunity to reflect on your own values with them.  But also,
I think if you only have these conversations  when it is "personal" (e.g., why do you want to spend $x on this shirt when you have 10 others that are perfectly fine?) you set yourself up for a more combative/defensive argument.  We'll see how this plays out over time, but so far it seems to have "worked" in that I have watched my son's thinking become complex and inform some of his choices (e.g., how much of his birthday money he will spend vs. save for college; creating little  business ventures for charity rather than just personal gain).  He  also seems to identify with and value our family's more counter-cultural anti-consumerist tendencies--if anything, we have to temper his judgmental stance on others' consumption (we live in one of the richest counties in the US so it can be pretty dramatic).

 I have found having these philosophical conversations to be important because as a family we DO think a lot about our values and how they are reflected in our daily lives but we are atheist and thus have less established/formalized routes for sharing our beliefs with our children than those who are parenting from a religious tradition.  And also because our children are living in a world different than what my husband and I grew up in--it's through their perspectives that we can understand 'what does it mean in 2012 for a kid not to have x, y or z' and then make better decisions on where we want to draw the line.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2012, 08:23:08 AM by twinge »

mm1970

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2012, 09:20:39 PM »
When do the philosophical conversations start working?  I try to have these with my 6 year old, and it seems like he just doesn't get it.  It sounds like it's normal for 6 year olds to constantly want new toys, and I say no most of the time.

But I think he doesn't "get it".

An example, he thinks our neighbors are richer than us because they have a camping van.  I said "well, they bought their house 2 yrs before we bought ours, that's a van."  Actually, it's more like 2 vans.

He wants to buy one, or a motorhome, and of course I say no.  But I do note that maybe on one of our longer camping trips we could try and rent one.  "BUt I want to OWN it."  "It doesn't make sense to own a motorhome that you use 1 week a year."  Ugh.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong sometimes.

sol

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #20 on: August 02, 2012, 10:20:43 PM »
I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong sometimes.

My hypothesis is that what you're doing wrong is caring what a six year old thinks.

twinge

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2012, 04:29:45 AM »
Quote
When do the philosophical conversations start working?  I try to have these with my 6 year old, and it seems like he just doesn't get it.  It sounds like it's normal for 6 year olds to constantly want new toys, and I say no most of the time.

But I think he doesn't "get it".

 I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong sometimes.

This is kind of what I meant about the issues that arise when the conversations start out "personal"--connected to concrete things your child sees as desirable.   Your son sees a shiny camping van or toy and that's going to fill up the space of his 6 year old mind with all its sparkly possibility and a philosophical conversation is sort of useless because he smells the trap of a parent wanting to take away fun.  At this point, I just wouldn't draw it into a conversation -- rather just state the principle guiding our  family rule, "We make the choice not to buy expensive things that cause a lot of pollution and rarely get used." End of story. 

BUT  I would hear a little mental signal that I should--at a later time when he's not thinking about the camper van--have conversations about choosing wants wisely and maybe talk about how I struggle when I have some want that I know is not good for the environment, and maybe generally about what wealth means.  I find that expressing my own struggles with consumerist desires seems to work.   I actually just did this the other day when I had an important work function and wasn't pleased with my clothes options.  I just said, "Ugh! Sometimes I wish I was the kind of person who when they feel like they have nothing to wear would just go out and buy something beautiful!"  Since there's  NO chance my son would be tempted in ANY way by that, he's way more likely to just think on principle rather than desire.  He gave me all the really thoughtful reasons why that was a bad idea and that I really did have beautiful things already etc.  He actually really did make me feel better and more relaxed about my clothes too.  And I told him how I often find that when I'm anxious about something (in this case, making a big speech)  I get sort of panicky feeling and my brain doesn't work as well and it's like there's a tunnel to this weird, soothing thought that "maybe I can buy something to make it better" rather than facing really what's making me nervous.   This is all true--though to be honest stuff that I've mainly worked through already-- so I am playing it up just a little for the sake of a parenting strategy. But it's rooted in a real in the moment struggle of my own.

The payoff I'm finding is that over time, these conversations--which are just sort of the natural moments of daily life-- build a sort of ethos that actually DOES inform his thinking on things he really wants too.  Or at least I have some principle I can refer to that he agreed to in the past when we're having a conversation about one of his wants too.

don't know if that helps....
« Last Edit: August 03, 2012, 04:59:50 AM by twinge »

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #22 on: August 03, 2012, 05:43:47 AM »
When do the philosophical conversations start working?  I try to have these with my 6 year old, and it seems like he just doesn't get it.  It sounds like it's normal for 6 year olds to constantly want new toys, and I say no most of the time.

While I would continue with the conversations, I think it is more important for children to absorb your family culture or ethos by just living it on a daily basis.  Have your kids help with meals.  Teach your six year old some carpentry skills. Write limericks and sing songs. (Discuss the environmental impact of tent camping vs. Shiny Camper camping?)

We attended a neighborhood folk sing last night.  One of the nine year olds made mini apple pies as her contribution to the dessert bar.  It took up much of her afternoon and she was delighted that they were all consumed by the ravenous singers.  Her reward was staying up late to sing.

I have a minimal tolerance for whining so I would try to turn the tables on the toy begging/nay saying response. 

happy

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #23 on: August 03, 2012, 07:15:42 AM »
I don't think there's one right way to do parenting so this is just my take on this.

As parents we can try hard, but probably won't do it perfectly... hence the stories about young adults feeling they were misunderstood/deprived in some way and then going to an extreme to correct this.  I think thats just part of how we all grow up, none of us are really completely well adjusted unless we are pretending :). Each generation has to do some personal growth work.

My 2 children are completely different - one never spends all their money and the other always is trying to wheedle the latest "stuff"  beyond what they are allowed.

Children on starting school, if not before, really pick up on social values and status - in an amazingly sophisticated fashion, although you may have to read between the lines to see that's what they are doing.  Classifying on "stuff" for them I think is an easily visible marker... I don't think they can see too much deeper than that at age 5 or 6.

My children picked up  on the stigma associated with single parent status at that age... and looking back I have possibly at times over compensated for this, as I did not wish them to grow up with a reduced sense of self worth in this regard.  So I have tried to maintain a balance between too much and too little. We are about the only people I know without a large screen TV... but we do have 2 smaller old non-flat screen TVs, both gifted to us when their owners upgraded. As far as clothes go, I have tried to use a smattering of new clothes, much aided by grandparents...backed up by second hand ones.  So my point of balance has been to allow a few desirable new items so they do not feel too "poor", but counterbalanced by an otherwise tight hand on the purse-strings.

One of my most satisfying moments was during the "Great Financial Crisis", when I guess they had been hearing bad news stories about people losing jobs and houses etc. One of them came to me and asked in a worried tone if the bank was going to take away our house etc. I was able to say, no because we don't spend all our money on stuff, I have money saved up and the bank can't take away our house; we don't look rich but we actually are a lot  better off  than many other people, so please don't worry, we will be fine.  Their little faces lit up with relief, which made all the struggles so worthwhile.

Finally never underestimate the power of "modelling", the most powerful way children learn. It often seems otherwise, but your values/behaviours are all going in.  My "non-frugal" teen surprised me recently.. going away for a fun working weekend where enough cash would be made to cover living expenses and a little skiing if they adhered to a tight budget. They made a spread sheet... figured out food at the snow was v expensive and bought simple food that didn't need much cooking to take with them. Then figured out they couldn't afford the internet via mobile phone in the budget and went without for the weekend ( a really big deal, said teen is totally bonded to the internet). Didn't manage any savings...but I was pleased at the discipline and how the expenses were juggled. All done spontaneously without any direction from me.




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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #24 on: August 03, 2012, 08:15:55 AM »
I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong sometimes.

My hypothesis is that what you're doing wrong is caring what a six year old thinks.


Bingo.


In the big picture I don't think parents give enough credit to simple random luck and genetics.  It matters a lot less than we think what we do and what we say.  Our best words can backfire, we can say the absolute right thing at every single moment, and the kid will do what they want because they are a kid. And the kid will grow up and screw up and do what he/she wants because that's just life.


Having said all that there is absolutely a reason for hope, good parents raise much better kids than bad parents in general.  So be a good parent, say the right things, more importantly live the right example, and most off all let them feel the consequences of life. 
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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #25 on: August 04, 2012, 11:07:47 PM »
I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong sometimes.

My hypothesis is that what you're doing wrong is caring what a six year old thinks.


Bingo.


In the big picture I don't think parents give enough credit to simple random luck and genetics.  It matters a lot less than we think what we do and what we say.  Our best words can backfire, we can say the absolute right thing at every single moment, and the kid will do what they want because they are a kid. And the kid will grow up and screw up and do what he/she wants because that's just life.


Having said all that there is absolutely a reason for hope, good parents raise much better kids than bad parents in general.  So be a good parent, say the right things, more importantly live the right example, and most off all let them feel the consequences of life.

Okay this makes sense.  In many ways, I don't really care what he thinks.  My best friend used to negotiate with her 3-4 year old because he was "sensitive" and needed to be convinced.  I didn't understand why she didn't just say no.  Because that worked for us. 

I think now part of it is that he is so talkative and is so argumentative so I'm trying anything to get him to drop it or just shut up.  He's so persistent.

It's particularly hard for everyone right now.  Our new baby is 4 wks old. He is no longer the center of the world.  His life has only gotten worse since his brother was born.  (his words) And now he is home with me for the summer and all I do is say no.  Not true, but that is his perception. 

Also my hubby is on a business trip so I'm doing double duty, and he's kind of a softie anyway. I'm stuck being the bad guy much of the time. It's wearing on me. That and the lack of sleep from nursing every 3 hrs.

James

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #26 on: August 05, 2012, 08:34:07 AM »
I think now part of it is that he is so talkative and is so argumentative so I'm trying anything to get him to drop it or just shut up.  He's so persistent.

It's particularly hard for everyone right now.  Our new baby is 4 wks old. He is no longer the center of the world.  His life has only gotten worse since his brother was born.  (his words) And now he is home with me for the summer and all I do is say no.  Not true, but that is his perception. 

Also my hubby is on a business trip so I'm doing double duty, and he's kind of a softie anyway. I'm stuck being the bad guy much of the time. It's wearing on me. That and the lack of sleep from nursing every 3 hrs.


Our oldest is like that, we think he'd make a great lawyer since he can find the loophole in anything and presses his case far past our patience.  And doing double duty with a 4 wk old?!  Wow!  It becomes about survival doesn't it...  and it's hard not to feel guilty for not being a "perfect" parent, or even just the parent you want to be.


I think it's key to remember that kids are a lot more intuitive than we realize.  The surface frustrations, the "saying no all the time", the bad guy routine, it all seems so large to you.  But your children see past that.  They know you better than your outside personification.  Those day to day frustrations that drive you nuts probably matter a lot less to the long term wellbeing of your kids than you think.  The very fact that you are concerned about what your older one is thinking means you probably don't need to worry about it.  :)
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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #27 on: August 06, 2012, 02:17:35 AM »
@mm1970
I agree with James,  your family is going through a major adjustment and you are dealing with it on your own. Don't expect too much from yourself or your son. Personally I would try to maintain boundaries as such as "no" means "no" as much as possible,  but its likely he will be much more demanding than usual.

A sense of humour can help - I'm sure mine were about six when they told me I was the meanest mummy in the whole wide world because everyone had X or were allowed to do Y. I felt like the meanest mum, but just said "Yep, thats me, I'm the mean mummy" and made a joke of it.  Now its a sort of family joke when I won't go along with something they want... kinda takes the sting out of it on both sides.

Mind you with a second one @4 weeks, no sleep  etc, you'd be entitled to have lost any inkling of a sense of humour!

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #28 on: September 06, 2012, 10:06:10 AM »
My parents did not let me watch TV at all until I was late elementary school, and even then it was only classics.  Same thing with radio. I grew up not knowing who major pop stars, TV shows, or actors were.  This didn't create a problem until middle school, but it was a problem.  Even now in my mid 20s all I can do when friends reminisce about their childhood is sit and listen.

I have the same experience even though I was allowed TV and radio.

Today I watch so little TV and so few movies that I have the problem even worse with modern stars. I see, on average, around 5 new movies per year. I still haven't seen Dark Knight Rises even though I plan to. I don't see any modern TV shows, and I don't see any ads (which apparently is very weird to some people to not know current ads).

When I consider how much of my life I would have to invest to be current with pop culture throughout my lifetime, it's a pretty clear decision to just stay away.

And honestly, even though sometimes it feels weird to just sit and listen to friends talk about shows they watch or watched, it's a small part of any (normal, well-adjusted) friendship. No one is going to shun you (in the real world [outside of school]) for not having watched Fraggle Rock or not watching CSI (is that even still running?).

I don't intend to provide regular TV or movies for my children, and I don't anticipate that being any problem.

All that said, no matter what you do, you will eventually find yourself in some circle that finds it strange that you don't know X (where X is some book, movie, show, actor, singer, etc.). You could spend your entire life reading and watching and listening and eventually someone will still say to you, "I can't believe you don't know..."

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #29 on: September 27, 2012, 11:31:29 AM »
 

For me being frugal means not giving them every single thing they want and being cheap is denying them almost everything because of a pathological inability to part with money (even when it is available). My beef with cheap parents is when they have the $ but wont let their children participate in any activities that cost $$.  I am not talking about super expensive stuff, but for our example, $75 for a season of recreational soccer. (We did this and the only other cost was buying snack once or twice for the team). I also pay for dance lessons. Every parent's idea of what is too much will differ, but as parents we should expect to have some extra expenses when we have children.

 

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #30 on: October 04, 2012, 01:44:41 PM »
When do the philosophical conversations start working?  I try to have these with my 6 year old, and it seems like he just doesn't get it.  It sounds like it's normal for 6 year olds to constantly want new toys, and I say no most of the time.

But I think he doesn't "get it".

An example, he thinks our neighbors are richer than us because they have a camping van.  I said "well, they bought their house 2 yrs before we bought ours, that's a van."  Actually, it's more like 2 vans.

He wants to buy one, or a motorhome, and of course I say no.  But I do note that maybe on one of our longer camping trips we could try and rent one.  "BUt I want to OWN it."  "It doesn't make sense to own a motorhome that you use 1 week a year."  Ugh.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong sometimes.

Well, he's six. :)

But seriously, when my daughter (now just a few years older) was that age and got "the gimmes" I told her she could buy anything she wanted with her money and then asked her if she had remembered her wallet.  :)

This led to chores, and to her starting to understand that you have to earn the money before you can spend it. We do pay for chores done above and beyond her "normal" chores, like if she cleans the kitchen cabinets (with a toothbrush no less!) she earns a few dollars, which I am happy to pay. :)

So it might work to turn it around on your six year old. Instead of trying to get him to understand your big grown-up world, shrink things down to his size. Just an idea. :)
« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 01:47:54 PM by Erica/NWEdible »
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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #31 on: October 04, 2012, 02:01:49 PM »
There have already been many excellent comments on this topic, but I'll add some additional thoughts.
  • I'm old enough that my parents were depression era children, so they were very frugal/cheap. For instance, my Mom would reuse  tea bags (cheap). However, my parents paid for my undergraduate degree at a state school. In general, my parents were frugal (not cheap) when it came to their children. I greatly appreciate that my parents taught me to be frugal.
  • I now have two adult children who are also frugal because we taught them to be frugal. The job of a parent is to prepare his child to be a successful adult. The job is NOT to always make his child "happy". If you think that being a successful adult requires that you be frugal, then you need to MODEL that behavior.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2012, 06:23:08 AM by rjack »
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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #32 on: October 04, 2012, 07:55:12 PM »
I am trying to grow a stache but the fact is that we don't earn a lot. My kids don't go without the things they need, but I worry that they won't ask for the things they want. They really don't ask for stuff! (Ages 7, 11 & 18). I fear that being frugal expressed in the wrong terms will keep kids from speaking up when they want something. I don't want my 11 yr old not to mention the abysmal state of his pillow or throw away the school trip notice because it costs money. It's a fine line and the kids just want to be pleasing.

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #33 on: October 09, 2012, 02:01:21 PM »
Though I am not yet a parent, I have certainly thought about how to model frugal behavior in light of how I was raised.

My grandmother raised my father to be mindful of money, but I think at some point he took it to the extreme of "cheap" rather than "frugal." Perhaps the best example is going out to eat, which was always a rare treat. When it was a necessity, I was conditioned (though never told) to try to order the cheapest thing on the menu. I remember my father snarling at my mother for ordering seafood, for example. A few years ago, he refused to eat at Olive Garden for my birthday. He sat in the car instead and effectively ruined it for the rest of us. It certainly doesn't come from a lack of money. He's proudly told me he's been described by bankers as "the man with the golden credit," has thousands of dollars in savings bonds, and I understand he has a well-padded retirement account.

I'm glad I was brought up going camping and finding ways to have inexpensive fun. I am glad I was trained in basic personal finance, both in person and through example. My father has always provided wise advice in that realm, and I am proud to have learned from him. I am still getting over my ingrained guilt about spending money, but I am learning to strike the balance. I was chatting with my grandmother several years ago, and it occurred to me just how much she enjoyed being frugal but also spending money on nice things. I've been trying to emulate that mindset ever since.

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #34 on: October 12, 2012, 10:05:28 AM »
I get what you are saying.

My mother was an only child. My grandparents had her later in life.
Post-war, grandmother worked as a seamstress in a factory. Grandfather worked in a container factory. They were frugal. Very frugal. They never went on vacations. Ever. Only daytrips, usually to the Poconos and got up at 4 a.m. to drive there. My grandmother sewed all of my mom's own clothes. There's more to it, but I think you get what I'm developing here...

How did this manifest for my mom in her adult life?
My dad *had* and I mean *had* to buy her jewelry for every. single. holiday. even Easter. They went on vacations, had to have new cars every year. I say 'had/have' understanding that no, they did not have to had/have, but in her mind - she did and consequently, dad had to provide these things. And then there was the shopping, she always shopped. To the degree that she was hiding thousands of dollars of clothing in the trunk of the car, under beds, in back of closets. And then, she started opening up charge accounts without dad's awareness. In my teen years to early adulthood, she started confiding in me about what she was doing. Realizing that they were near 100,000 in debt, and a lot of debt that dad did not even know about (head in sand), I finally one day knew where she was hiding her QVC habit and was able to recite off to dad what credit cards were used, and where he could find the receipts in their house.

It was a horrible day. I was 'telling on' my own mother. I was betraying her confidence but in my early 20's, it had to be done. Dad was as much a partner in it, as I know he was aware of some of it but he was afraid to confront her.

Now, am I blaming my grandparents - people who lived in the same house for 30 years, sold it to pay cash for a house 1/2 the cost, so they could pocket the difference and literally, I am not exaggerating, lived on the interest from that amount along with their tiny pensions and grandfather's disability installments from the war.  No.

However, in her mind, she felt restricted. It ate her alive. She had to have stuff and a lot of it. It made her feel that she was not loved. But it was a cold house to begin with. My grandparents weren't overly affectionate, I think that may have been 'normal?" for the era they grew up in. This manifested in her own marriage with my parents having over the top anniversary trips and mannnnny vow renewals.

They are still married. They've survived it. However, when you wrote your post, I can tell you that I can relate to what you are saying.. with seeing it in my mom's life. Now, had my grandparent's house growing up been more 'loving' (hmm, and I struggle to say that it was entirely not like that, as I didn't grow up in it) but let's say more along the lines of having playfulness and those happy feelings that all kids want, maybe mom wouldn't have been so concerned with her day trips, hand sewn vs. store bought dresses, and whatever else really bothered her.

With our children, yes.. I am frugal. However, I am not cheap.
We purchase clothing at consignment stores but it is nice clothing. I am concious of daughter's desire to be relatively trendy, so I go to a more upscale consignment and shop on sale days. Son just took home a never been worn long sleeved shirt from a mall store for $4. When concert season comes up, if I can't find something nice to wear at consignment, yes.. I'll buy from Target.

School activities. No. They're not in sports and other after school recreation outside of school. However, they are in clubs that meet before or after school that interest them. Daughter excels in music and is even in strings club. No cost for instruction. I only pay $10 per month for instrument rental. I think it's important that they pursue interests, but I'm not going to be cheap about it where they can't do anything at all.. I just research and look for opportunities. Over the Summer, they participated in church camps, which were also volunteer oriented yet they were also able to go to some cool, fun places after their week of work was done. It was something that they earned. But we give them things, just because, too.. I think that's important to feel like you have something of your own. While we're not shoppers and live simply, I see no harm in on occasion seeing something nice at a store - not Goodwill - and saying, here son/daughter, I saw this and thought of you'. I think some people think it has to be all or nothing, and with children, balance is key.

That's what helps form them into well adjusted children, who can go out into the world, embrace diversity. If they're only exposed to one extreme or the other, I don't see how they can flourish (like my mom) without it affecting at least some aspect of their adult life.

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #35 on: October 13, 2012, 08:43:46 AM »
Wow.  Great thread.

I'm going to have to ask our daughter (now nearly 20 years old) what "frugality" of ours just pissed her off.  I know that we parents were way behind the curve on recognizing the study-group social value of a cell phone in high school.  But she rectified our ignorance with her own job income.

College has been a huge eye-opener for her.  In any given group at least one of the students is on full work-study scholarship, watching every penny, extremely entrepreneurial, only able to fly home once every year or so.  Frequently that home is in Asia or India.  In that same group there'll be at least one student dressed in the latest fashions, with all the latest electronic accessories and a new SUV, who has no idea how much she spends because Mom still pays her credit-card bills.   Usually our daughter is the one in the group who knows what a Roth IRA is, let alone the contribution limits.

Our daughter's old enough now to recognize that Grampa tells his side of the stories about raising Mom, and then Mom tells her side of the story.  (Grampa makes Jack Benny look like a wild-eyed hard-partyin' spendthrift.)  I'd hate to overhear my daughter doing that someday with her kids!
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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #36 on: October 19, 2012, 10:49:21 PM »
Okay, so we've adopted the "you can earn money and buy it yourself" philosophy and its working pretty well. My son has a lego he's  saving up for, and its $56 or $79 dollars on amazon, depending on the day. He's a long way from that amount, but he's starting to appreciate it.  Especially when he has to fold all his own laundry for fifty cents.

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #37 on: October 23, 2012, 07:54:47 PM »
I remember my mom saying no to us all the time when we wanted something extra at the store. She had to fight three kids at once, with us being a total of six years apart! I also remember once when my sister got a hole in the knee of her jeans. My mom was going to patch it up with one of those iron on jean patches, so my sister went and cut the jeans into shorts so she wouldn't have to wear jeans with a patch on them to school. Man did she get in trouble...Yes, it sucked when we were growing up that we didn't get to go out all the time, didn't get new clothes, didn't get a lot of "stuff" for Christmas, but right now (I'm 28) I don't think it was a bad thing. I learned how to sew and cook basic stuff and the difference between right and wrong and I'm happy with that. I can pass these skills onto my daughter and it will help her for a lifetime.

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #38 on: October 31, 2012, 12:36:39 PM »
Great thread and comments.  What I know is that I saw my parents with plenty of money for meals out, a fridge stuffed full of soda and convenience food and (!) every bell and whistle the phone company could provide (in the days when you typically rented your home phone itself from the company) in order to avoid bill collectors and debt consolidation places.  It infuriated me even as a kid to see the foolish choices they made.  Growing up further to see my older brothers get used cars as birthday presents because they 'needed' them to get to their jobs (!) while I wore their hand-me downs and got made fun of at school for it.

In short, I think kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for.  Over time they will see that, while you don't splurge on things and frequently say no to them, you never worry when the economy gets bad or the furnace conks out.  When you explain that your car is used but you paid for it cash while most people borrow money, they will get that.  When worrying about bills is never a dinner table conversation even though you don't all have the latest and greatest, they will get that too. 

I have children of my own who are still too young to realize how frugal we are being.  But I intend to give them a sense of security and stability that my own parents never were able to despite their profligacy with casual spending and gift-giving.

And Happy, I really like your 'we're fine despite the downturn' anecdote.

T.

happy

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #39 on: November 04, 2012, 06:03:23 AM »
Thankyou:)

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #40 on: November 21, 2012, 03:50:49 AM »
a big influencing factor for me being on this forum is probably my frugal parents. we went through 3 years of living on one income when i was about 6 and i think that's where my thoughts about money come from. i'm sure it was hard for my parents but i don't remember suffering and have good memories of that time.
however i do rile now when my kid sister gets everything i didn't!! i did get bullied and feel isolated for being without a few things although i think my parents reasons were more moral than financial.
yet i am in a secure financial position for my age and i worry about my little sister because she isn't partic good at saving (credit, she's getting better) or earning.
i think the pay-off in the long run is great if you're careful.

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #41 on: December 02, 2012, 02:15:32 PM »
My mother was frugal and my father wasn't.  While they were married and my mother was in charge of the finances, we did quite well on my dad's factory worker salary.  After they got divorced, Mom struggled but got by because she was frugal.  My father fell into conspicuous consumption and died broke.  My mom is living on OAS and a small amount of CPP (Canadian versions of Social Security) and lives quite well.  I'm glad we don't have to worry about her not making her rent or not eating.

I'm glad she taught us to live frugally.  Of my four siblings, only one of us has ever owned a car.  We shop sales and mostly cook for ourselves. 

Right now my fifteen year old daughter is rebelling.  She wants to appear rich and will tell people that I am poor because we live in a more affordable suburb than her dad does and my house is about half the size of his.  Before she became a teenager none of that mattered to her.  My son, who is 14, grumbles occasionally, but mostly he just gets excited about getting good deals and saving money. 

They grew up on second hand clothes and loved trips to the second hand electronics store, and my daughter kept her stuff in good shape and would resell it.  They told me that they wanted me to work part-time so I would be home with them before and after school. 

Little kids are different than teenagers.  I wonder what their perspective will be when they get older.


sheepstache

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #42 on: December 02, 2012, 05:34:17 PM »
I like this thread.  At some points in my childhood my parents were frugal out of necessity.  I remember at one point my mother saying, "You know, we're doing this [whatever it was] because money is tight right now, but if we needed $5,000 for a medical emergency or something like that, I could get it."  My parents made sure that I didn't take the fact that we were trying to save money as an indication that our situation was dangerous or unstable.  Being reassured that basics like housing and food were secure gave me a great sense of security, and I think the lack of that sense is what can make penny-pinching unbearable for children.  After that, yes, passing along the anti-consumerist mindset or however you would define your philosophy is key.

Nords

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #43 on: December 03, 2012, 11:11:17 AM »
Right now my fifteen year old daughter is rebelling.  She wants to appear rich and will tell people that I am poor because we live in a more affordable suburb than her dad does and my house is about half the size of his.  Before she became a teenager none of that mattered to her.  My son, who is 14, grumbles occasionally, but mostly he just gets excited about getting good deals and saving money. 
They grew up on second hand clothes and loved trips to the second hand electronics store, and my daughter kept her stuff in good shape and would resell it.  They told me that they wanted me to work part-time so I would be home with them before and after school. 
Little kids are different than teenagers.  I wonder what their perspective will be when they get older.
You can't count on much validation or gratitude at this age, but you'll start getting it after they move out and have to deal with these things on their own.

Our daughter just turned 20 and thanks us at least monthly for raising her as we did.  But the last 10+ years were notoriously lacking in appreciation, so she has a few years of catching up ahead of her.
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Sherry

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #44 on: December 12, 2012, 12:23:24 AM »
I have a gazillion thoughts on this issue -- many conflicted & contradictory.

I grew up thinking that my family was poor -- but really they were just cheap in many ways, but frugal/smart in other ways.  My parents paid off their mortgage super-aggressively and invested in other fixer-upper rental properties as their plan for retirement. 

However, when it came to me and my brothers, they were just plain cheap: outdated second-hand clothes, almost no "fun" experiences like going to the movies, no girl/boy scouts or piano lessons, haircuts at the kitchen table.  On the one hand, we are all very resourceful, hard-working adults who have our shit together and don't care what the herd thinks.  On the other hand, I am quite resentful of spending all of my elementary-high school years as somewhat of a social outlier.  It would have cost relatively little money to have helped us be more "normal" and accepted amongst our peers.  Let's face it: the children who are respected and gain leadership abilities are rarely the kids with outdated clothes and bad haircuts. 

Today at age 35, I have a fancy-pants education (completely self-funded), awesome job and am less than two years from paying off my mortgage.  However, I am not comfortable purchasing nice clothes for myself or truly able to enjoy myself on vacation or dining out if things seem "too expensive."  I fear that I veer towards "cheap" instead of frugal when it comes to spending money on myself.

I worry about having my son feel like a weirdo because of his parents' bike-riding, non-TV watching lifestyle.  However, we spend money to ensure that he is enrolled in good programs and try to give him fun experiences.  I don't want him to equate his self-worth with toys and gadgets he has, but at the same time, I know that these trappings act as social currency, which can give him confidence. 

Overall, I assume that balance is key and making sure that your children feel valued is most important.  One thing that seems common about fellow mustachians in regard to child-rearing is that they value spending time on their children and providing them with interesting experiences.  This probably offsets many of the problems caused by parents who are too stingy with both money, time and affection. 

Also, while there are great deals to be found in second-hand clothing stores, please make sure that children (especially girls) have clothes appropriate for their occasions that fits and are reasonably stylish. 

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #45 on: January 07, 2013, 04:46:36 AM »
I actually have similar question in mind. I'm quite bothered when my youngest son think that we are "poor" just because I often tell him that we have to prioritize other things before we could buy him his new toy. So every once in a while we bring them to the grocery with us and show them the list of our needs. If there is enough money to buy them a bar of chocolate, then we can include that.

josetann

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #46 on: January 15, 2013, 05:19:16 PM »
My hypothesis is that what you're doing wrong is caring what a six year old thinks.

Sorry, I disagree wholeheartedly.  I can't imagine looking at my 6yr old son, saying "tough, it's this way because I say so!  Well, maybe if I just spent the past 5-10 minutes trying to explain the same thing over and over, but that would simply be a shortcoming of mine (that I couldn't be more patient).

What we do:

#1, when each of our kids turned 4, they started receiving an allowance.  Yes, an allowance with no strings attached, no chores to do, just money to spend however THEY choose.  Blasphemy, I know!  BUT...this comprises the vast majority of the funds used to buy them "stuff".  I.e. we may spend $10-$20 on them at Christmas and on birthdays (and I may occasionally break down and buy something like a $50 android phone, because I wanted my son to have a camera, but this is rare).  He wants a roboraptor, he saves up his money.  Bicycle, same.  $20 Harry Potter costume that I think is absolutely ridiculous...sure, if they have the money.  This way, I'm in control of how much money they get, and they're in control of the toys they get to buy.  No more arguments at the store because "NO, you can't buy that, it's stupid.", instead it's "sure, if you have the money, let's go over how much you have at the moment...."

As for the allowance amount, it's $5 per week.  40% ($2) is spend, i.e. they can spend it that very same day on anything they want, no questions asked.  30% ($1.50) is save, i.e. they have to wait at least a full day before spending it (oooh, a whole day you say...well to a 6yr old waiting a day is like waiting a month to an adult, which is exactly the point).  20% ($1.00) is invest, something that they're saving up for that's far, far away (in this instance, a car or college).  10% ($0.50) is donate, pretty self-explanatory.  Now, I may make suggestions on how he spends his money, but I make it clear that it's only a suggestion.  I realize that his priorities are different than mine (surely he thinks some of the things I spend money on are silly), and that if he DOES make a mistake, I'd rather it be early on when the stakes are low.

#2, I explain what we do and why.  I expect these conversations to occasionally go over their heads, but I know that they're often ready well before I think they are.  I explain that mommy works to make money, and that all the things we have cost money, and that we could have more stuff/bigger house/more vacations, but that'd mean a sacrifice somewhere else (more stuff = less vacation, or bigger house and more stuff = mommy working more, newer car = ok, you get the idea).  We value making memories (travel) over stuff.  Things like that.

#3, I get his input on things big and small.  I do explain to him that mommy and daddy make the final decision, but we want to hear what his thoughts are, and we take them into consideration.  After our vacation in December and just before Christmas, I explained why he may not get as many toys for Christmas as some of his classmates, then I asked him if he preferred making memories (which we do on holiday) or a big pile of toys for Christmas.  He said he preferred making memories, and pointed out that too many toys would break our house :)  Now, a biggie we're starting to wrestle with is that he wants to stay in Australia because that's his home...and I'm getting a bit homesick for the US.  We'll see how that one plays out.

I think the biggest thing right now is the allowance.  I see kids at the store trying to talk their parents into a $30 doll, or having a meltdown because the parent said NO (and often the parent breaks down and says yes...now THAT's a bad lesson to teach them).  Our son is told (sometimes after I make an alternate suggestion) that if he has the money, yes he can buy it.  If he doesn't have enough spend money but does have enough save money, he's told that he can buy it, as long as he still wants it the next day.  Sometimes he gets a bit upset, but nothing like the tantrums I've seen.  I mean yeah, $5/wk sounds high, but that's $260/yr...add in Christmas and birthday spending, we're around $300.  I'm sure most "normal" parents spend way more than that on their kids, if they add in every single toy purchase made.  Or chocolate bars at the checkout (he bought a chocolate egg once, got very upset that he didn't have any money left for a toy, and so far has not bought another candy item with his allowance).
« Last Edit: January 15, 2013, 05:21:34 PM by josetann »

Nords

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #47 on: January 15, 2013, 07:36:18 PM »
#2, I explain what we do and why.  I expect these conversations to occasionally go over their heads, but I know that they're often ready well before I think they are.  I explain that mommy works to make money, and that all the things we have cost money, and that we could have more stuff/bigger house/more vacations, but that'd mean a sacrifice somewhere else (more stuff = less vacation, or bigger house and more stuff = mommy working more, newer car = ok, you get the idea). 
A side benefit to this technique is that our daughter would rather chew off her own arm than listen to one (more) of my explanations on why she needs to understand something...
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efish

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #48 on: January 16, 2013, 10:00:53 AM »
Growing up feeling like you aren't worth spending money on will eff you up.

If "frugality" is preventing you from making good memories with your children, or making them walk around in ugly clothes or shoes that don't fit, or not allowing them to have something in their lives that makes them feel special, you're doing it wrong.

GuitarStv

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Re: Unintended consequences of frugal parenting
« Reply #49 on: January 16, 2013, 12:17:38 PM »
I think that where you grow up has a tremendous effect on this as well.  I grew up in a small community in Northern Ontario next to a native reserve.  There were two places that people worked in that town . . . the lumber yard, or the rail station.  My parents were both teachers and made an OK salary.

We didn't get new clothing/bikes/stuff very often.  We didn't have cable (just the three channels that came in kinda fuzzy over the air - and one of those was French only).  None of my friends had fancy new clothes or regular gifts of fancy toys either.  Actually, the only time I remember feeling deprived was when I went down to visit my cousins from the city.

This is maybe a fringe benefit to NOT living in the best neighbourhood with the best schools and the lowest crime rate.  Kids just want to fit in.  If you don't need money to fit in, then kids won't care.