Good frugal childhood memories vs. bad ones - how can we ensure our kids have positive frugal memories? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 05:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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In another thread, shayinme said "...I had nothing as a child, basically my folks shopped 2nd hand so as an adult I could not stand thrift stores..."

I have heard it both ways and want to open up a discussion here about how our kids will look back on the frugal lifestyles most of the people on this board have either chosen or been cornered into.

My DH felt deprived as a kid, and when he started making his own money, he wanted to spend spend spend (and did for awhile, and even now still sometimes makes decidedly un-frugal choices "just because he can.")

I grew up working-class in a very white-collar town. It was not easy to wear thrift-shop clothes to school among classmates dressed in designer duds. But I fondly remember pawing through hand-me-downs and carving out an identity based on individuality and not conformity. "Character-building," my sisters and I called it. I am glad I learned some good tightwad values as a kid, and I've built upon them as an adult.

I will sometimes tell my kids that we can have X but not Y, and my 9yo will roll his eyes and say "because we're frugal." When questioned, he tells me that he doesn't feel deprived and thinks it's fine, but the eye-rolling has me wondering.

I want my kids to look back on the frugal choices and habits of our family, and feel loved, inspired, and savvy. I don't want them to look back on it and feel deprived, shortchanged, or poor.

What do you think? Is it possible to live a frugal lifestyle, by choices or circumstance, and grow up feeling proud of it? What can we as parents do (or avoid doing) in the name of frugality, so our kids will remember it positively and not negatively?

Amanda, mom to Everest (12), Alden (10-1/2), Ellery (7-1/2), & Avery (6)
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#2 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 05:41 PM
 
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My parents managed to create a positive association with thrift stores. They're let us get a book or a small toy while we were there shopping for other things.
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#3 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 06:12 PM
 
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haha I loved thrift stores cause you could buy clothes there that weren't sewn by mom.

The first week of college in the Dorms really spoke to me. My friends and I all went out as a group to buy groceries for our rooms... I was SHOCKED at how useless everyone else was at the grocery store. I was shopping the deals, and buying the generics, whereas they were like "Um I like cherios, how much is milk, where is the beandip?"
It was when I first realized that most people don't really know how to shop, it isn't that they don't care. I was doing price per ounce comparisons as a 5th grader, and none of my college friends had even considered unit pricing! I mean most stores have price/oz listed on the tags even... you don't even have to do math to find the better deal.

Anyway I taught them the ways to grocery shop at least mindfully if not frugally, and they were all thankful... I think I appreciated my parents a bit more after that first trip. Even if some of their "frugal" stuff that isn't really frugal still drives me nuts.
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#4 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 06:39 PM
 
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Lots of good points. My perspective is a little different.

I don't know that being frugal has much to do with the good vs bad memories. My family was poor when I was little, then we rich when I was in high school--either way, what I remember was being happy or miserable due to the mood at home. And they weren't obviously linked to finances in any way that I can see now.

If your childhood was stressful, and thrift shops remind you of your childhood, you're not going to like to thrift as an adult. If your childhood was stressful, and staying in the Ritz reminds you of your childhood--you probably won't want to go back to the Ritz.

Someone posted a sweet story on the the simple living board, about a summer where a single mom was down on her luck, so she made a picnic on the living room. The mom was surprized, years later, to find out that it was one of her daughters favorite memories. In reality, the mom had very little for dinner and was just trying to make the best of a bad situation. It's all in how we play the hand we're dealt.
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#5 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 07:36 PM
 
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I have some bad memories of growing up frugal, and went WAY overboard spending on my kids. My issue was that we girls couldn't have anything, but my parents could have anything they wanted. There was ice cream, Pepsi, and butter in the house, but we weren't allowed to have any of the Pepsi, we had to eat margarine, and the ice cream was very closely monitored. We couldn't even ask for a coloring book at the store, but my mom spent recklessly on her fabric stash and gardening supplies, while my dad always had money for poker.

In my house, we are in this together. I stress the need for frugality, and the kids understand that the corners we cut benefit (and hurt) everyone equally. I do not choose to balance our budget on the backs of my children. When they get an equal say in what we are saving for/toward, they are on board and have helpful suggestions on how and where to plug the leaks. There is nothing wrong with being frugal, either by necessity or by choice, as long as no one suffers more than anyone else.
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#6 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 07:38 PM
 
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I can't say for sure, since my kids are still young, but I have some guesses.

I think a lot depends on your attitude. Do you thrift shop because you have to, and wish you could do otherwise, or do you treat it as a given, or do you enjoy it? My kids get excited when we find something cool at the Goodwill. In fact, when I found oDD outgrowing things like crazy, and I suggested we go there, she was delighted.

Also, I suspect explaining it (without referring to deprivation) might help. I guess what I mean is, not saying, "We can't afford to buy new jeans" or whatever, but rather, "If we get your jeans at the thrift store, we can also get two shirts and a sweater. If we get them at _____, that money would only buy the jeans." My kids totally get that--to them, it just doesn't make sense to spend more than necessary, because getting it for less leaves us more resources for other things.

And, when it comes to teenagers, etc., I think it helps if you really can find socially acceptable clothing at the thrift stores. (At least, if your teens and tweens care about that...) It truly is hard to be different at that age, unless it's by choice.

Perhaps another thing is to make sure the kids know other families with similar habits and values? I bet it would be less likely to bother them if they didn't feel like they were the only ones. If they see other people doing it, it's easier for them to take it for granted, rather than automatically buying into mainstream culture.

I don't really know. I'm interested in other people's answers to this one, because we're not likely to stop shopping second-hand, even when we have a higher income. (Wow! Only one more year!)
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#7 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 07:56 PM
 
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I also think that you can associate happy memories with being 'simple' not just frugal.

Cooking (from scratch) is a good example of that from my childhood. Most all my childhood that I can remember is in our old kitchen. I can imagine gardening and sewing being thought of like that as well.

I think if you put less of an emphasis on frugality (we don't do/have ___ because we don't have the money) and more on simplicity (we don't do ____ because we it's wasteful/unnecessary) is a better way to teach your children to live a frugal life.

I remember my baby brother saying to my dad that even if he had a million bucks he wouldn't buy a farari. It was just too much money to spend on a car-- he'd rather give the money to a worthier cause.

Of course he doesn't have a million bucks, but the point is that frugality doesn't equal being poor and scared. It means using your resources wisely.

anways, sorry for rambling.

Texmati-- Knitter, Hindu, vegetarian, WOHM. Wife to superdadsuperhero.gif and mom to DS babyf.gif24 months, and DD boc.gif 8 months! .

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#8 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 08:01 PM
 
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I think it's important to consider that there are other ways of being frugal besides second-hand shopping. You can be frugal by buying new, in limited quantity, at less expensive department stores (like Sears or Penny's or Target).

For essentials, we almost always bought new, we just didn't buy expensive. We shopped at Sears or Penny's sales for new clothes, not somewhere like Macy's or even brand stores like Gap or something. If we ended up with something second-hand it was something we kids decided we loved. And somethings we always, ALWAYS bought new, like shoes.

As kids, really, we did get dragged along on a lot of second-hand shopping, but I don't really have negative memories. In fact, I love thrift stores -- but we never bought clothes there. We bought books or toys or stuff for crafting. My mom is an elementary teacher and she would always say she wanted to go to Goodwill (or whatever thrift shop) or to some garage sales to find more books for her classroom (she's ALWAYS after books for her classroom, truly) but then of course she would "let" us pick out some books or whatnot ourselves for entertainment while she was looking at books.

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#9 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 09:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EljayMom View Post
I can't say for sure, since my kids are still young, but I have some guesses.

I think a lot depends on your attitude. Do you thrift shop because you have to, and wish you could do otherwise, or do you treat it as a given, or do you enjoy it? My kids get excited when we find something cool at the Goodwill. In fact, when I found oDD outgrowing things like crazy, and I suggested we go there, she was delighted.

Also, I suspect explaining it (without referring to deprivation) might help. I guess what I mean is, not saying, "We can't afford to buy new jeans" or whatever, but rather, "If we get your jeans at the thrift store, we can also get two shirts and a sweater. If we get them at _____, that money would only buy the jeans." My kids totally get that--to them, it just doesn't make sense to spend more than necessary, because getting it for less leaves us more resources for other things.
And, when it comes to teenagers, etc., I think it helps if you really can find socially acceptable clothing at the thrift stores. (At least, if your teens and tweens care about that...) It truly is hard to be different at that age, unless it's by choice.

Perhaps another thing is to make sure the kids know other families with similar habits and values? I bet it would be less likely to bother them if they didn't feel like they were the only ones. If they see other people doing it, it's easier for them to take it for granted, rather than automatically buying into mainstream culture.

I don't really know. I'm interested in other people's answers to this one, because we're not likely to stop shopping second-hand, even when we have a higher income. (Wow! Only one more year!)
Since the OP referenced me in her post, I feel like I should reply , that said the points you bring up are one way that my parents may have been able to make our lack of money more palatable and less like a burden to my brother and I. In our case we were always the kids wearing the out of style jacked up clothes and by middle school it really was not cute at all. Maybe if we had friends in a similiar position it would have felt less like a burden.

One of my most painful memories is that I took ballet classes for free and at the end of the year there was a recital that required me to have white tights and a black leotard. Well my folks couldn't come up with the money to buy it and the only thing that my Mom found at the thrift store really was not appropriate (sleeveless leotard) so I stood out like a sore thumb. To this day that memory makes me tear up. My brother despite being 8 years younger than me also had similiar memories though by the time he was in HS they were better off financially.



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Originally Posted by aquarian View Post
I also think that you can associate happy memories with being 'simple' not just frugal.

Cooking (from scratch) is a good example of that from my childhood. Most all my childhood that I can remember is in our old kitchen. I can imagine gardening and sewing being thought of like that as well.

I think if you put less of an emphasis on frugality (we don't do/have ___ because we don't have the money) and more on simplicity (we don't do ____ because we it's wasteful/unnecessary) is a better way to teach your children to live a frugal life.

I remember my baby brother saying to my dad that even if he had a million bucks he wouldn't buy a farari. It was just too much money to spend on a car-- he'd rather give the money to a worthier cause.

Of course he doesn't have a million bucks, but the point is that frugality doesn't equal being poor and scared. It means using your resources wisely.

anways, sorry for rambling.
I like what you said, when it came to food that was probably the only area I did not feel as deprived because my Mom did do lots of homemade goodies, if only that feeling could have translated over to other areas of our lives.

Again I do think having friends with similiar values could go along way in creating buy in and feeling less like deprivation. In my case I was the Black kid in schools that were predominantly white and most of the other kids came from monied backgrounds, talk about a disconnect. Hell, in HS we didn't even have a phone (in the late 80's) yet I had friends who were wearing Armani back then driving BMW's. So yeah as an adult I ended up with a out of wack set of values when it came to money and it was exacerbated by the fact that I married at 18, had my first kid at 19, so by the time I actually had any money of my own of any significant amount I was probably 24/25 and I just went crazy, hence now at 35 I am finally getting some balance in my life about my relationship to money.

The thing is my brother who grew up in the same house suffers from almost the same issues with money, thankfully at 27 he is a single architect who does pretty ok financially which helps him from being in debt. Yet we both have a total hoarder mentality, why buy 1 nice shirt in sale when you can buy 10. I also used to hoard junk food because it was the one food item we never had when I was growing up, so in my 20's I would buy tons of the junkiest food/cereal just to have it, never eat it but just wanting it because now I could. Last year I finally stopped hoarding and buying junk food since as my dh finally got me to realize it was wasteful because I never ate it.

Yeah, I have had issues around growing up broke. Technically we probably weren't poor just lower working class.

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#10 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 09:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by shayinme View Post
Again I do think having friends with similiar values could go along way in creating buy in and feeling less like deprivation. In my case I was the Black kid in schools that were predominantly white and most of the other kids came from monied backgrounds, talk about a disconnect. Hell, in HS we didn't even have a phone (in the late 80's) yet I had friends who were wearing Armani back then driving BMW's. So yeah as an adult I ended up with a out of wack set of values when it came to money and it was exacerbated by the fact that I married at 18, had my first kid at 19, so by the time I actually had any money of my own of any significant amount I was probably 24/25 and I just went crazy, hence now at 35 I am finally getting some balance in my life about my relationship to money.
Awww.. s:

I just wanted to add that I totally think that enviornment has a HUGE impact on how kids view being frugal. I also have a lot of memories of sticking out, (like the ballet thing), but I associate them more with my parents being the only foreign parents when everyone at my school was white and local. Horrible, and I can totally see how that would still have an effect on your adult life.

Texmati-- Knitter, Hindu, vegetarian, WOHM. Wife to superdadsuperhero.gif and mom to DS babyf.gif24 months, and DD boc.gif 8 months! .

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#11 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 09:41 PM
 
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Our situation may be a little different from many people's. We homeschool, so ds (10) has never had to worry much about others judging him by his clothes/toys/gadgets (not that it's that way at every school, but I'm sure there are quite a few school social scenes that would make thrifting more difficult). So, for instance, brand names mean nothing to him.

We talk a lot about value, the environment, voting with our money, etc. He's always known why we do thrift stores. Also, I think he sees thrift stores as treasure hunts.

And, he LOVES being able to get tons of cool stuff with his meager allowance, rather than having to save and save to buy things new. When he sees things new that he's found at thrift stores, he's always amazed by how much more everything costs. He's told me on several occasions that people who don't look at used stuff first are really missing out.

When he finds something he wants new, he immediately checks to see if anyone on Craigslist, Half.com or Ebay is selling it at a good price. Sometimes, he asks me to put an ad up on Craigslist or Freecycle to see if anyone has whatever it is he wants. If no one bites, it's on to the thrift shops. His father and I use the same tactics, so I'm sure it's just rubbed off.

Oh, and his father and I absolutely LOVE thrift stores, garage sales and the like (it's so much more fun!), so it's probably never even occurred to him that thrifting might be any less desirable than shopping new.

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#12 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 10:20 PM
 
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I grew up frugal, on a farm. My mom sewed, cooked everything from scratch, and gardened. We bartered with the neighbors. I do remember feeling "different" and looked-down upon by some of my peers - I remember one good friend's parents being derogatory about my lifestyle (I was about 10.)


I have one older sister who grew up behaving as though she has a silver spoon in her mouth, but with nothing to back it up. She is now one of those horror stories of bad decision-making leading to ruin in this economy, and at 42 years old is trying to sponge off of my aging parents because she has no life skills. She literally can't boil water - her family eats out breakfast, lunch and dinner, literally (ugh) and she favors couture clothing, plastic surgery and a private trainer. But she grew up in a barn just like me

I do not have much of a materialistic bent, so I have fared much better. Plus I have been on my own from 18 and have never depended on anyone but myself, whether I chose it to be that way or not. That and my life experiences may help me to be a decent frugality example to my DD.

I am teaching DD to cook healthy, stretchable meals, how to handle food, and to garden. I'm teaching her the value of money and savings and the importance of not being wasteful. I'm hoping I lead by example and some of this will rub off on her. So far she seems very interested and is learning.
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#13 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 10:22 PM
 
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i grew up with a severely mentally ill mom, a workaholic dad, and no money. the stuff i went through as a kid would now be called abuse and neglect, but at the time it was no biggie. all my memories are negative. having classmates recognize my 'new' clothes as the castoffs their moms just donated, showing up at the neighbours' houses right at dinnertime in hopes of an impromptu invitation to eat, stuff like that.

as an adult i'm superfrugal. but it's taken some healing to get to the point where i'm ok with it. and i'm not deprived. i choose to live simply. partly because when money gets tight i get stressed out beyond belief. by living simply i can try to avoid triggering these issues, and so my whole family is happier. plus homemade is always best!
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#14 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 11:07 PM
 
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as an adult i'm superfrugal. but it's taken some healing to get to the point where i'm ok with it. and i'm not deprived. i choose to live simply. partly because when money gets tight i get stressed out beyond belief. by living simply i can try to avoid triggering these issues, and so my whole family is happier. plus homemade is always best!
This is what I am striving for, not quite there but its my goal. Money is definitely a trigger for me as well, the past year money has been tighter than ever in 10 years of marriage and I swear its been a real challenge. Right now things are getting better, but the old demons are rearing their heads. I do believe its a healing process.

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#15 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 11:13 PM
 
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Interesting thread. I feel strongly that a lot of my own issues with debt and spending and money are related to the way I was raised. My parents (really my mother) has always placed an extremely high value on name brands and appearances, but never paid/pays full price for anything. That, in and of itself, sounds like a good thing, but instead of searching out one fabulous Ralph Lauren dress at Marshall's or TJ Maxx, she'll buy 6 items on super clearance with if they are RL - whether they are attractive or not. As a kid, she wanted us to be dressed in fancy labels she felt reflected well on us, but the clothes themselves were awful - which is why they had been marked down so much. She is the same way in all other areas of her life. She has drawers and drawers of high end stationery that she bought at a discount. Endless Waterford tchotchkes that she found on sale. More designer sheets and towels than she could ever use, all purchased on sale. But here's the kicker: I never really cared about the brand name of anything. I just wanted to wear the same styles as my peers, and, in the late 80's and early 90's in rural CT, they weren't wearing Ralph Lauren. I always felt so out of place . My mom could have spent the same amount of $$ on clothes for me - or less - if she had purchased them at stores she looked down her nose on. These were not cheapo stores, they just weren't places that sold RL (think Gap or American Eagle vs. TJ Maxx). But she usually just said, "we can't afford to shop there." Even from a young age, I thought it was strange that my parents "couldn't afford" to shop in the places I wanted to, but they could afford a vacation home and enough high end towels to stock a hotel. I know now that my mom's priorities and the value she places on labels are screwed up.

I struggle with not letting the values I grew up with seep into my own mindset, and hope I can find a happy medium and settle into it. In a strange way, I always felt deprived - that probably sounds ridiculous to many of you, but it was hard to never feel comfortable in my own clothes. I think that part of being successful and happy while being frugal is figuring out what is really important - not just to you, but to your children, too, as the grow - and finding the right balance of frugality. Perhaps you dress them in thrift shop finds now, but splurge on family oriented activities, but when they're teens you loosen the purse strings on the clothing budget while cutting back on other things that are no longer as important to them.

I think I'm getting ramble-y.... forgive me .

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#16 of 49 Old 06-24-2008, 11:21 PM
 
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I have both negative and positive memories of growing up with a mother that had frugal habits.

A good memory I have is actually a thrift store called "The Button Jar". I didn't really realize it was a second hand store, I just liked going there to get clothes with my Mom.

Another good memory was all the cooking my Mom would do from scratch. Sure we ate a lot of casserole and what not but I enjoyed the time in the kitchen with my Mom. I also enjoyed grocery shopping with her, she would buy what was "on sale" and make it work.

A negative memory I have is from one summer when things were bad financially, really bad and we pretty much only ate out of our garden. The fact of the matter is I got sick of eating tomato sauce and squash. And I knew we were eating it because my Mom couldn't afford groceries.

Another negative memory was after my parents split and my sister and I came back east to visit my Dad. One of the first things he said to me and my sister was that if we had friends over the only snack we could have was left over lemon cake from his wedding that was in the freezer. I just remember feeling so shamed by that. It made me not want to have friends over because the only snack I could offer them was some frozen lemon cake...

I think when it comes down to it, "bad" memories of frugality are often associated with depravity. If "being frugal" made you feel deprived or shamed, then you are likely to feel like being frugal is a negative thing.

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#17 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 12:22 AM
 
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Let's see, Good: My mom always clipped coupons. I think it was good for me to see frugality as somethng worth putting work into. She also taught me to compare per ounce prices at the grocery store.
We used cloth products more than paper (washcloths instead of paper towels, etc) and I think that turned out to be positive since I am much more likely to reach for a rag or towel than half a roll of paper towels to clean a mess.
We never spend excessive money on clothes, especially when we were younger and were going to grow out of them anyway. Thanks to that I tend to look for deals instead of impulse buying like most of my peers.
We waited for movies to come out and rented them instead of going to the theater to see them. DH and I go to the movies on occasion, but mostly do netflix, it's a lot cheaper, plus you can pause the movie if you have to pee.
We just generally didn't live beyond our means. I was taught that this isn't the right thing to do. My mom's credit is pretty much perfect, and mine is higher than most people my age/economic class. I'd rather do without some luxuries than spend the rest of my life paying off credit cards. (We do have a credit card that I use frequently and maintain payments on, to build credit history, but it's a very low limit and we make sure to pay it off.)

Bad: Being told "no" almost EVERY time we asked for something. It could be as simple as something like a 50 cent piece of fruit, my mom would still tell us no. We'd go grocery shopping with her, have to help run and get stuff off the list, etc, and still get in trouble for asking for things.
Food restrictions: If we ate more than one serving of something, we were making a pig out of ourselves. We had set snack times and always had to wait until snack time. At meal times, we had to clear our plates. Not a terrible thing, but I do think that pressure to eat when I was not hungry and to not eat when I was hungry contributed to the eating disorder I had growing up.
Heating: My mom is very hot-natured, I'm very cold-natured. In the summer she'd keep the AC cranked up cooler than seemed necessary, but she didn't us the heat much in the winter. So while she was comfortable in jeans and a sweater, I'd be piled under a ton of blankets shivering, and my mom would tell me "just put another sweater on." I remember times when I had to wear 3 sweaters and sweats over jeans to keep warm. It just seemed excessive, and I always wondered why saving a few bucks on heating was worth making me so uncomfortable, but her comfort was more important than saving money on AC. It created a real "adults' needs come before those of kids" feel in our house.

So I guess there was some good and some bad. I think her main mistake was that she didn't really explain her reasoning behind these things to us until we were older. She was very much a "because I said so" mom and I think if she would have talked to us she'd have realised we didn't want anything unreasonable. In fact even as a kid I had a respect for saving money (something she did right) and never (well, not that I remember, and I have a pretty decent memory) asked for anything I knew we couldn't afford. I guess I'll just take that as a lesson not to assume my kids are going to be unreasonable and make an effort to take their feelings into consideration.

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#18 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 12:35 AM
 
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I also used to hoard junk food because it was the one food item we never had when I was growing up, so in my 20's I would buy tons of the junkiest food/cereal just to have it, never eat it but just wanting it because now I could. Last year I finally stopped hoarding and buying junk food since as my dh finally got me to realize it was wasteful because I never ate it.
I actually sometimes do the same thing with really healthy food, as if buying it and keeping it in my fridge while I eat ice cream and cinnamon toast crunch will somehow make me healthier!

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#19 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 01:24 AM
 
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My parents made quite a bit when I was a child but never made good decisions about how to spend the money so we were very tight. I remember having to wear my brothers hand me down to school sometimes and that was very embarassing. However, I still love to shop in thrift stores because you can find some good deals there. My mother was a manager for a DAV (Disabled American Vet) thrift store for a while when I was younger and during that time I had the nicest clothing. I think its important to make sure you are getting nice/clean clothes when thift shopping. I didn't care too much about style as long as I wasn't being dressed as a boy.

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#20 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 01:54 AM
 
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Wow, what an interesting thread! Here's my view:

I grew up poor - single mom who worked 2 jobs, food stamps, government cheese and powdered milk, rolling pennies to buy groceries, etc. So, now that I'm grown, I am extremely frugal. I am so terrified that something will happen and I don't ever want my children to grow up the way I did (routinely coming home to pitch black because mom couldn't pay the electric bill).

I've told my children about my childhood (and DH's - same) and they know all about poverty and people who have much less than even I did growing up. This puts it into perspective for them.

I always think thrift stores are fun and DD, especially, thinks they are smart. We'll buy cute, name brand clothes and figure what we would have paid. She's always so impressed that we saved so much money.

We garden and that saves money, but the kids think it's so fun. They love watering it and pulling veggies.

We don't buy snack and/or pre-packaged goodies. I know it's much more fun for the kids to help me make a batch of cookies or a loaf of banana bread.

I agree with what others have said, if you have a positive attitude and convey the fact that you like/choose to do the things you do, it will make the kids feel the same.

I think the most important is keeping them involved. No matter what you do, buy, give them, they'll still remember how you were, regardless of things.

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#21 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 02:51 AM
 
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This is an interesting thread. for those people who had such hard times as kids.

We've already run into this issue a little bit because my DS asks sometimes why our house is so much smaller than some of his friends. The truth is that we deliberately live in a small house to keep our house payment small, to minimize stress in our family, and to enable us to save money so when DS is older we can both work part-time and "retire" early. We also think having a small house promotes family closeness and we like the small footprint. But he knows it's smaller and he asks.

He also regularly invites his friends over, though, so I think he's not ashamed, just curious about the size difference. I hope so.
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#22 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 09:18 AM
 
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My worst childhood money memories are when my parents used to be so stressed because they didn't have enough. Even as a kid, I could never understand why have debt and worry so we could have a new couch, etc. when the old one was still functional. I still don't really get it. I use frugal means to avoid ever being in that trap of debt and rising prices. I am aware that some of my kids peers might think it was strange if they knew that all of my kids clothes came from yard sales. But there are great yard sales around here so my kids pretty much look like the other kids. As my dd is getting older (almost 10) and just started using public school, I am realizing that she needs some different clothes to fit in better. So I augment the yard sale stuff with purchases from a high end resale shop. I would even buy one or two things new if I thought they were appropriate (much kids clothing strikes me as uncomfortable and/or restrictive to movement). Alot of my kids favorite memories are frugal ones. Free outdoor concerts, going to the zoo for free because we have a family membership, swimming at our local pool, birthday parties with homemade birthday cake, an annual picnic in December under the christmas tree the day we put it up, picnics, famly parties. It helps that all of her friends really like my cooking! I ramp up the cooking when her friends eat over and provide things like blueberry fritters, homemade cookies warm from the oven, stuff like that. I hope my kids see that in the end, it was really better to have the stuff they really wanted and not just what everybody else has. I will have to keep my fingers crossed...
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#23 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 11:30 AM
 
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I have a bit of a different perspective. I'd say I grew up frugally compared to how I could've grown up. My parents always had money, but they were cheap. I wore a lot of hand-me-downs, I remember my Mom only buying one pair of jeans for my brother and me to share b/c they were too expensive. We did a lot of shopping in the US - granted, flying there so often was not frugal, but it was always going "home" or visiting family. We'd get everything we needed for a year, and that was that. I remember in high school how many kids wore brand name clothes- I didn't even ask whether I could have any, I knew I would get laughed at . Any money for things we didn't need had to be earned by ourselves.

The difference for me was that I always knew that there was money. I never had to be scared that we wouldn't make it, and I secretly made fun of those who "needed" to show what they had, when I didn't (of course that's also a privilege, but I didn't realize that at the time). I think that is one of the biggest issues for those who don't have that security. My best friend grew up very, very poor, and I know it is something she is going out of her way to prevent happening to her (unborn, exactly for that reason) children.

My husband and I went through a phase in which we had no money, none at all, and it looked like it would stay that way for a long, long time. THat is when I began craving things, wanting to shop, and I felt I needed gadgets. Now we don't have a great income, but enough to get by, and those "needs" have disappeared entirely. I am now back to living frugally, simply b/c now it doesn't make sense to me to live any other way.

I think if frugal means using common sense and not spending more than you have to, while managing to keep up a healthy lifestyle, it should be normal. I also don't think it's a big deal when children are little. However, if frugal is barely getting by, your kids having to make sacrifices that other people notice, by depressing you b/c it you don't know how to get yourself out of a difficult situation, and your kids are in puberty (or even earlier), it's a whole different issue..
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#24 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 11:41 AM
 
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I think being connected as a family and spending time together is just so important. Those are the things that childhood memories are made up of to me. Playing games together in the yard on summer evenings is frugal and fun! And really including kids in the reality of the family's finances (in an age-appropriate/non-scary way, obviously).

I grew up with a fairly frugal father (who had lived through the Great Depression) and silver-spoon mother. My father was a doctor, so we did have money, but I wasn't really privvy to the details or tools of budgeting or that sort of thing. My mother kept a couple hundred dollars in her wallet as a matter of course. My father, on the other hand, would break down how long he would have to spend in the operating room to earn the $10 I was asking for to go to the movies.

What I really wanted was their time. Gifts and things do not equal love.

And I can tell you first hand that there were so many kids at my boarding school who were LOADED and probably would have traded it all for their parent's time and affection.

It's taken me a while to get frugal as an adult. Which has been necessary since we are very blue collar (and self-employed!). But, my kids have fun helping with the calculator at the grocery store, picking out toys at the thrift store, and finding a bargain! My 6 yr. old just started his own company doing odd jobs around our town and neighborhood. He refused my money b/c he said that would just be spending "family money" and he wanted "outside money" to contribute to the family money. He's made up flyers and been very enterprising ($6 last week). He's also spent the last of his own money on something he knew his little brother would just love (a big, honkin' power rangers sword!). So, I feel good that he's getting the message to be frugal but not stingy, to work hard for money, and that above-all quality time with family is far more important than monetary wealth.
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#25 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 11:44 AM
 
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Wow, what an interesting thread! Here's my view:

I grew up poor - single mom who worked 2 jobs, food stamps, government cheese and powdered milk, rolling pennies to buy groceries, etc. So, now that I'm grown, I am extremely frugal. I am so terrified that something will happen and I don't ever want my children to grow up the way I did (routinely coming home to pitch black because mom couldn't pay the electric bill).

WOW! i could have written that same exact paragraph......down to the government cheese! my sister and i often look back fondly on our childhood though......my mom was a master at making it seem like we were doing just fine. even the 1 winter we had our heat shut off and we literally LIVED in our living room with a kerosene heater and blankets over the doorways to keep the heat in. she made it out to be a big "camp out"! lol! we still laugh to this day about how freezing cold the toilet seat was! most of my friends families were in sort of the same financial boat, so we were pretty much all in it together......no judgement there. and god bless my grandparents for making sure we had new school clothes/supplies so that we didn't ever feel out of place at school! we just never knew how poor we really were until we grew up and realized just how dire our situation was!

my own life now is a STARK contrast to my upbringing........although we are still frugal/careful with our spending. my husband makes very good money, i have my own design business, and my kids go to a top notch private school. i want them to have every chance to continue our now broken "cycle" of welfare in my family. but i still try and instill the same lust for life and adventurous attitude with my own 2 kids that my mother instilled in me. and my kids are well aware of my upbringing, but they also see that my sister and i fared pretty well despite it.......and even ask to hear the story about the winter we "camped out" with the ice cold toilet again and again.

: : vicki ~ wife & mom of 2 amazing kids
live well ~ laugh often ~ love much
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#26 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 11:49 AM
 
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Growing up, my family was poor but not frugal. I remember however, that I always viewed our poverty as an outcome to wastefullness, although it was probably a good mix of income and wastefullness. I remember getting so angry with my parents because they wouldn't let me run the finances at age 10, I could certainly pay the bills and buy groceries better than they did. Even now, I still see so much overspending and wastefullness in their lives, my mom always makes frugal living a burden which causes her to overspend. So I am frugal because I hate to see things wasted. I love shopping thrift stores, it's my favorite hobby, I love to see that I am getting more for less money. Anyways, for the most part, we are fine being frugal, we don't think of all the things we can't have, we think of all the ways we aren't wasting money. Gas has been hard lately though, it's hard not to think negatively when you can't leave the house on the weekends in the beautiful summer weather because you don't have gas (we don't live in walking distance of anything either).

On the flip side, my husband is a spender. He wants money to just be fun, and where as I have no credit card debt, he carries a regular balance. Ironically his family was extremely wealthy, but lived frugally. His father shows love and approval by buying things for others. Unfortunately his father has very high standards and so he doesn't regularly share.Now my husband can't leave the store without buying our kids some kind of treat, even if it's just a candy. His father will also reward the good child when another sibling is acting out. For instance on the day my husbands brother got married to a no no girl, instead of going to the ceremony, he went out and bought our kids a very expensive wood play set and when dropping it off even jokingly added that he had to do something to celebrate his son's marriage. So my husband has this desire to buy things to feel approval and love.
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#27 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 12:17 PM
 
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I think if frugal means using common sense and not spending more than you have to, while managing to keep up a healthy lifestyle, it should be normal. I also don't think it's a big deal when children are little. However, if frugal is barely getting by, your kids having to make sacrifices that other people notice, by depressing you b/c it you don't know how to get yourself out of a difficult situation, and your kids are in puberty (or even earlier), it's a whole different issue..
I agree with you, maybe simplicity and frugality would have felt a lot less like a burden if I didn't feel that it affected me in potentially negative ways. I also think its a lot easier to live simply with younger kids, I have a 2 yo and a 16 yo so for me I am speaking from experience. Just thinking of the thrift shop issue, while my 16 yo is not opposed to going to a thrift shop, if the stuff is horribly outdated he is not gonna wear it, thankfully he works so that helps a lot. On the other hand my toddler could care less what she wears, its all cute to her.

Government cheese, yep we occasionally had that too along with the butter, now that's one thing that I look back on and laugh in a good way about. That cheese lasted forever and was pretty tasty.

I know I have made it sound like my childhood was a mess and yes it was and a large part was because my folks had no money (only 1 birthday from 0-18 and that was the year I turned 8 and it was more like a consolation prize that they were having another baby who was born 4 days after my birthday).

In the end I think there needs to be balance with being frugal, creating good memories of time spent togather is one way, but as others have said when you always hear no even if your request is for something as simple as fruit (another thing we had little of when I was a kid) it can be painful.

Shay

Mothering since 1992...its one of the many hats I wear.
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#28 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 12:51 PM
 
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Wow interesting thread! I didnt grow up poor by any stretch but my parents kept a good gripe on reality. MY parents started their family when they were young- around 20. So by the time they were 30, they had all 4 of us. So when I was in Jr high/HS, they had stopped living check to check and were able to afford to pay for all of us to go to college out of their pocket (state schools) and also pay for my sister and I's weddings as well as a generous gift for my brother's wedding. But they didnt take flashy vacations, drove cars for years, dressed us from Penny's etc. But 30 years ago, we were not carted from activity to activity. We went to the town pool in the summer or hung out in the neighborhood.

DH's family had 9 children and again they were not poor but there wasnt enough for everyone to have the best of everything. DH's middle siblings birth order 4,5,6 are all major winers and very materialistic about everything. When they were in Jr high/hs, ILs also had 3 smaller little boys (dh included) and 3 older college aged, entering adulthood children. So of course they couldnt buy them what goes on at that age. All manage their lives fine but they are a pain to be around. They go out of their way to spend way too much on anything and let their kids have whatever they want and whenever. And make a point about it!! This makes their offspring a bit annoying after a few hours as well.

I find if its not talked about as saving or frugal, no one is the wiser. I cook from scratch and make very tasty but frugal desserts. I have one that is a handful of chocochips and saltine crackers that gets gobbled up in seconds. I brought this to a potluck in our neighborhood. One of the kids mentioned Mrs L (me) makes the best food! I have even had parents call and want to know where I bought ordered the whatever I served or
what brand it was. I have to let them know I scratch cook. My yard has a dozen kids in it several days in the summer. They play on our big huge rainbow system that is 2nd hand and cost us $250 cash and we had to unassemble and move to our house and re put up. My friend paid $7K for the same thing just last year. So its fun to see the kids who have parents who have those materialistic qualities who kids love all our creative and cost effective ideas.

BUT, I have friends who growing up were denied basic things and now as parents go out of their way to provide each and every "thing" that is important to have now. One parent I know has her children in brand new clothes all the time because she remembers wearing floods as a child year after year or too tight dresses etc. Another friend really didnt have much growing up and had a job at age 13. She buys her children whatever they want because she had nothing according to her.

Funny, something we didnt have growing up, you want to provide for your family. MY ILs always buy the new expectant parents nursery furniture- a dresser and crib because they didnt have any money when they had their first for such things. Co-slept out of neccity not anything else!
My grandparents all lived several states away. I didnt know them but for a few visits every year. I wanted my kids to know the grandparents. Both live close by, which is what I wanted.

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#29 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 12:53 PM
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this is a really interesting thread! glad ya started it.

growing up poor and growing up frugal by parents' choice.

if no choice, then as a parent, you do what you have to do, love the HECK out of your kid, and send the message that the most important thing is family and relationships. Money may not be helping (or even enough), but I think the other message gets through.

though very frugal, my parents emphasized: money is not everything. What is important in life is
[each other sibs],
family,
education,
healthy food.

looking back, I think my parents definitely got their message across effectively, as all their kids live the way they do/did. Learning frugality and finances can take a lifetime though, and I am thankful for the opportunity.
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#30 of 49 Old 06-25-2008, 05:53 PM
 
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my own life now is a STARK contrast to my upbringing........although we are still frugal/careful with our spending. my husband makes very good money, i have my own design business, and my kids go to a top notch private school. i want them to have every chance to continue our now broken "cycle" of welfare in my family. but i still try and instill the same lust for life and adventurous attitude with my own 2 kids that my mother instilled in me. and my kids are well aware of my upbringing, but they also see that my sister and i fared pretty well despite it.......and even ask to hear the story about the winter we "camped out" with the ice cold toilet again and again.
Hey, I could have written that paragraph (minus the design business, I don' work)



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my sister and i often look back fondly on our childhood though......my mom was a master at making it seem like we were doing just fine. even the 1 winter we had our heat shut off and we literally LIVED in our living room with a kerosene heater and blankets over the doorways to keep the heat in. she made it out to be a big "camp out"! lol! we still laugh to this day about how freezing cold the toilet seat was!
Sadly, I couldn't have written this one. My mother was never home, by choice or not.

I think it comes down to the fundamentals - make some lemonade out of lemons and your children will look back fondly!

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