photo credit: Samuel Mann
When someone embraces frugality they often view it as a common sense way to live. Frugal methods and tricks quickly become a daily routine. However, it is much easier to make frugal habits permanent when the whole family is on board. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make frugality fun and to practice it together.
Here are some ideas for practicing frugality as a family.
- Start teaching early. Even a child as young as 2 or 3 can be taught to turn the lights off when leaving a room or to not let the water run unnecessarily.
- Present a united front. Dad and mom need to agree on how frugality will work in their family, or at least they need to pretend like they do. If one partner or the other is discontent and looks down on frugality, the rest of the family will as well. If there is no unity when it comes to frugality, do your best to find a happy medium so that everyone in the family can work as a team.
- Menu plan together. This is one that everyone can really get involved in together. Work together to plan out meals, perhaps letting one child pick out all of their favorites for a certain day of the week. (However, if the favorites don’t fall into the frugal category, you may need to present them with acceptable options first.) Make sure every voice is heard, from the oldest to youngest, and carefully consider each suggestion. If there are suggestions made that will not be added to the menu plan, make sure you explain why. This will prevent hard feelings towards both menu planning and frugality.
- Form a coupon-clipping team. As soon as a child is old enough to use scissors correctly, let them begin clipping coupons for you. Many children take real pride in this task and even view it as a fun way to spend some time. With older children who are less inclined to enjoy this project, let them make some of the choices. Tell them if they can match up coupons with sales on some of their favorite items that are not ordinarily purchased, you will purchase that item if it comes in under a certain amount. They will quickly learn the thrill of the bargain-shopping chase.
- Make lists together. A grocery list is the easiest way to teach the value of a list as well as the importance of sticking to that list. Even young children can grasp the concept that only things written on a grocery list will be purchased at the store. But once that skill is understood, move on to other lists. Encourage your spouse and children to write lists for things that they really need. Use this as an opportunity to teach what “real need” really is. Then together watch for sales on those lists.
- Create a set of “Frugal Family Rules” together. Frugality looks different for every family and is not one size fits all by any means. So decide together what is important to your family. Write those rules down, let the kids decorate the paper they are written on, and post them in a place where everyone can see them as a reminder. If there are financial or other goals tied to your frugality, make sure those are included on that list as well.
- Shop together. There is no better way to teach real world frugality to children then to have them shop with you. They can learn to price compare and quickly realize the difference between quality and price, brand names, and doing things from scratch or using second-hand items versus costlier options.
- Teach the importance of saving money. When a child really wants something, have them save up the money to purchase that item. Together, look for the lowest price. Help your child understand that immediate gratification isn’t such a good thing if they can save money by delaying a purchase or going to a different store. Encourage them to look for cheaper alternatives on other items, and if they find a great deal, give them the difference in price to bolster their savings.
- Show the benefits of hard-work. This can go hand-in-hand with #8. Show children that their hard work will be rewarded with an allowance or special treat that doesn’t cost money.
- Display a cheerful attitude toward frugality. When you are trying to instill frugal attitudes in your family, it is important to keep your own attitude in check. Do not let your children hear you bemoaning the fact that you can’t purchase something because it isn’t frugal. They will follow your example.
- Brag about yourself. There is nothing wrong with letting your family know of your frugal successes. This is really easy in the kitchen. For example, if a restaurant is advertising a dinner special of $8.99 per plate and your entire dinner for the whole family cost less than $5, tell them! Give them a break down of how much it would cost for the whole family to eat out and the savings of eating at home.
- Remember it’s easier to stick to a task when there is a goal in sight. Even if your goal is intangible for the children, such as getting out of debt or building up a savings account, let them know your frugality is serving a purpose. Share as many of the details as you are comfortable sharing. And if necessary, relate your goals to something more on their level.
- Work together to maintain your belongings. Teaching children practical, frugal skills is a great life lesson. Teach them to, or let them watch you, remove stains, mend clothing, maintain household appliances, or even fix “broken” toys. Stress the importance of properly caring for their belongings.
- Turn price comparisons into a game. Frugality doesn’t have to be boring. Put a fun twist on frugal shopping by challenging children to find the lowest price on an item. Give the winner a reward, even if it’s just a big smile. Let older children have a mock competition with the ads from a few different stores and a list of products you need. Whoever gets the lowest total once the “shopping” is done wins.
- Divide and conquer. Just like most household chores, certain family members will gravitate toward certain types of projects. Take advantage of that and use it enhance your frugality. If your spouse is great at finding the best deals on electronics or furniture, let him or her have that job. If a child likes to cook, teach him or her how to cook from scratch.
- Have free or low-cost fun together whenever possible. Visit the library together, take a picnic to the park, explore museums on half-price days. If someone in the family discovers a great frugal activity or outing, do your best to make sure the whole family participates together.
- Sometimes, let the kids have a final say. If you are planning a vacation and there are two options – say, staying at a hotel but not being able to go to a costly attraction vs. camping and being able to afford costlier attractions, discuss this as a family. If the end result is inconsequential to you or your spouse, let the kids decide which option makes the most sense. There is real pride and accomplishment in having a little power.
- Don’t be afraid to indulge on occasion. Rewards help maintain a cheerful attitude. On occasion, treat the family to take-out pizza or an ice cream cone. You deserve the treat, and so does the rest of your family!