I hear a lot of talk about saving money and how hard it is — something I know to be a fact these days.
I was sitting around thinking about how much simpler it was when I was growing up and how frugal my folks were. I understand that technology has taken us to a whole new level and that technology is expensive, but I believe we can still learn money saving ideas from days gone by.
When there was not enough money, wesimply did without, something that is a shocking thought to many of us these days – especially the younger generation. Many of us have decided there are things we cannot live without, even though they actually are not life sustaining. Just take a minute and think about the things you believe you can not live without and determine if they are actually essential to staying alive and healthy. Most of us could probably find more than one or two things that we actually could live without.
As a nation, we have gotten spoiled. Most of what we feel are necessary items are really things that bring us satisfaction and comfort rather than things that keep us alive and healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should give up all of these pleasures, but we should examine what our pleasures are. Once upon a time, sitting on the porch with friends and family with some ice cold lemonade or iced tea and stimulating conversation was a joy that made life worth living, and playing ball in the yard with family was the highlight of the week.
Now, however, our children are being raised to think they must have a cell phone, a laptop, video games, cable television and a refrigerator full of food so that they can snack whenever they have the notion. Looking back at my younger years, I don’t even remember having between meal snacks. We did, however, have three sit down meals with our family. Mom got up and made breakfast for all of us, we actually came home at lunch from school for lunch, and every evening the entire family – Dad included – sat down to supper together. Once in a great while we would sit down in front of our one and only television and watch a show as a family and maybe have some popcorn. Soda pop was a luxury that we got on very special occasions. Besides, my grandfather was entirely against it; since it ate through the rust on the naval ships decks, he proposed that it could not be good for your stomach.
I am by no means saying that technology is not a wonderful thing, since here I am typing on a laptop of my own. But I do feel there is a lot of wasted expense on unnecessary do-dads and whatchamacallits. I am a proponent of teenage drivers having cell phones in case of an emergency, but as I look around today it seems that every child from about age 12 (or younger) and up have a phone, whether they drive or not. That is most likely because I live in a huge metropolitan city, and it does get scary when you do not know where your children are, but I wonder if it has spread to the smaller communities as well. We seem unable to tell our children no in this day and age. If their friends have something, then it is a given that they should have it as well.
I believe that if you start your children out from the very beginning with the right thinking and ideals, they will happily accept this lifestyle. Wanting a simpler, purer way of life never did anyone any harm. If you start from the time they are small, they will not know any different until they get to school, and hopefully by that time you will have instilled frugality into their lives and they will not feel as pressured to keep up with all the latest and greatest trends. If it is presented to them as a family ideal, a way to save for things you really need, a way not to owe tons of money, a way to be able to have nice vacations and do fun things as a family, then I believe it will work.
Start traditions on holidays and birthdays where everyone will receive one item they really want, another gift of something they need, and a couple of small gifts to open for fun. Do this instead of supplying so many gifts that they go into overload. I can tell you that this was the way it worked when I was a child and I was absolutely thrilled every Christmas morning. Birthday parties did not happen every year either, but when they did they were sure special and we did not even have to go to a special place – just playing games in the yard and having cake was a thrill. Plus we got a gift from each child….sweet!
I know we spend way too much on snack foods, soda pop and boxes of cereals that we never eat at my house. That is another thing I remember as a child, every week we took turns (there were three of us kids) and got to pick out one box of cereal to last us the week. And it was only for breakfast, not for between meal snacks. If we did come home from school hungry, Mom would give us an apple or maybe a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because she did not want to spoil our dinner.
We would then run and play outside until the street lights came on, at which point we knew it was time to go home. We ate as a family and cleaned up the dishes as a family. We did not have cell phones, laptops, video games or a thousand channels of television, and we sat and watched one or two shows in the evening together as a family. We never felt as if we were doing without as children – we were happy.
The first time I remember feeling unsatisfied was when I became a teenager and wanted some of the latest styles, which typically were not what Dad and Mom brought home for me to wear. We got frugal clothing only. But even that was a positive thing for me, because I was 15 and I decided I needed a job so that I could buy the things I wanted. I found that I loved working; it was a social outlet for me and I had so much fun. As I look around today I see children, including my own, that do not really appreciate material things because they do not have to work for them. They take everything for granted and somehow feel entitled to bigger and better things because that is how we have trained them since their birth.
I never missed out on a thing in my life and we had a blast. Our folks were not poor, just frugal, and we did not do without anything essential to sustaining our lives or our happiness. It would behoove most of us to sit down and list the things we really need and to let go of some of the items that we have simply gotten used to having. The money we would save would shock most of us. I am not talking about taking away things until you are suffering, just drop something off the list every little while and see how you can actually live a full life without things. It will benefit everyone if we give it a try.
Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.