Training kids for a frugal life

A life in frugality starts from childhood and the habits that kids inculcate are small actions they take in their childhood. This article tells you about seven such skills or habits that you can help kids inculcate. 

The article acknowledges that current generation is impatient, needs external prompts for self esteem and is low of social connection. It is interesting the way the article relates these traits to the financial wellbeing of the child. One example is the relationship of self esteem with consumption. If the kid looks for external validation for his or her self esteem, it is more likely that they would fall prey to the lure of advertising that promises you better looks, smarts or social life at a little cost of buying a certain product or service. Parents need to make sure that kids are confident as they are and do not look at external world to validate their value. 

The article talks about other skills such as patience, self confidence, collaboration, creativity, negotiation, contentment and individuality, each contributing to a specific aspect of the kid’s future financial life. 

In a great take of individuality, the author says, “In a world where consumerism and consumer debt is a way of life, choosing a different path takes a steely sense of self. Promoting a spirit of individuality in children helps them cope with — and even celebrate — being different. Point out how your family’s own spending and saving habits go against the grain and don’t be afraid to show the benefits (monetarily and otherwise) of your simpler, saner lifestyle. It will serve them well for the rest of their lives.”

This is important not only in the financial sense but also in the sense of building a great and happy life. Finding your own niche or corner in the world that behaves in a herd-like manner is not only important from a financial perspective but important in the sense of enjoying the life we have. 

Profiles of two Frugal families

A Cambridge couple Liz and Nate, who retired at the age of 30 and a Noblesville couple Holly and Greg who are living their dream by being frugal are great role models for anyone who wants to get out of debt and build a life that reflects their values.

Incidentally both these couples were in the corporate lifestyle and realized at a point that they were living someone else’s dream. Unlike most of us who are so trapped in the conveniences of the regular life, they actually took action. As Liz says, one has to have a plan, a vision of being free and work towards it with all seriousness. Both the couples talk about the importance of getting out of debt. Debt is the biggest hurdle to independence. They take their pride not in the possessions that they have but in the fact that they can do what they want.

Sure, they are proud of the fact that they have not bought clothes for month and they are driving old dingy vehicles. The pride comes because of the vision of freedom that is overriding. They know that these superficial things do not really matter for them. They would rather be free to live the life they want than to buy the latest iphone.

You can read their adventures at the well maintained sites of Liz and Nate(Frugalwoods) and Holly and Greg(ClubThrifty).

Wisdom of frugality

In an interesting new book Wisdom of frugality – why less is more – more or less, Emrys Westacott philosophises about why the ancient philosopher and sages advocated frugality as the road to wisdom. So the pull between the pursuit of riches and the desire to do with less is not a modern phenomenon as we think, it is there from the old ages. 

Emrys Westacott, who is a philosophy professor with Alfred University in New York runs a course on Tightwaddery, that  was named one of the hottest classes by the Daily Beast. Professor Westacott thinks that frugality is our only alternative to become environmentally more conscious. He also thinks that a frugal life is more meaningful than the one that follow a path of mindless hedonism and conscpicuous consumption. 

The course description says, “The basic idea underlying much of contemporary life and culture is: Spend money and you’ll be happy. This is a lie perpetrated by capitalists who want us to buy their products. This seminar will prove its falsity both in theory and in practice. On a theoretical level, we will consider how living frugally benefits your mind, your body, your relationships, your community, and the environment. On a practical level, we will examine personal spending habits, sharpen bargain-hunting, rip-off-detecting, and haggling skills, make field trips to yard sales and thrift shops, and prepare a class banquet for less than $10. At bottom, though, the course is less concerned with cutting coupons than with the question Socrates asked long ago: What is the good life for a human being?”

The class tracks the expenses of all the students, recommends ways to buy more for less and focuses on tracking all the expenses rigorously. The tightwaddery book list contains the usual suspects like the classic “Your money or your life” and some less well known ones like “Living well on practically nothing”.

In conclusion, both the book and the class website is a mine of information on the philosophical basis of a frugal lifestyle. It argues that frugality is not the last option but is a better option for people who may have enough.