This morning, as my children were waking up, I was inspecting their dresser drawers looking for clothes. I pulled out clean underwear and socks for both of them, but rather than continuing through the drawers, I started digging through their clothes hamper, inspecting the clothes right in front of them.
I’d examine one garment, say “This is dirty,” and throw it in one pile. I’d look at another, sniff it, and then decree “This one’s just fine,” and put it in a second pile. I invited them to join in, too (though I kept an eye on the items they were passing judgment on, especially ones they decreed to be clean).
Soon, the hamper’s contents were sorted, leaving two piles. I threw the dirty pile back into the hamper, then began folding the clean pile. As I did this, I also described what I was doing: “Many of the shirts and pants and dresses you wear aren’t really dirty unless you get dirt or other stuff on them. You can wear them again.” To illustrate this point, I let them choose their clothes for the day right out of the clean pile.
As they were brushing their teeth and getting ready for the day, I did a similar sorting of my own clothes right in front of them, retaining some and putting others aside for washing.
Obviously, this sorting technique cuts down on the number of laundry loads that we have to do, saving money and time.
Perhaps just as important, though, is involving the children in this and explaining to them what’s going on so that they view such tactics as the normal way to behave. If this is simply how they do things as they grow up, then they’ll spend less of their money on unnecessary things and have more of their money for other (ideally better) purposes.
Here are some other things we do around our house to encourage our children to think frugally.
At the end of a meal, if there are items still on the table, I’ll ask our kids what they think we should do with it. They’ve learned that what we do with extra food is save it for leftovers, which we have for dinner roughly every other night.
When it’s time to drink a beverage, I encourage them to drink water because it’s both cheap and healthy. Our oldest child now simply gets water whenever it’s time for him to drink a beverage.
When it’s time to read, we use library books and accentuate their usage. I’ll almost always mention that this book came from the library for free or that we need to go back to the library soon to get some more great free books when I’m reading them a book that came from the library.
When I utilize one of them as a helper, I’ll point out things like the types of lightbulbs we use and why we use them where we do. “This is an LED bulb, which is perfect for outdoor use. It’s a little more expensive, but it uses very little electricity and it’ll last for a very long time.”
I also utilize them as helpers for things like garden work (something I’ll depict in a bit more detail later this week), which is almost purely a frugal project.
Life is full of moments to make better spending and time choices. If you’re a parent, those moments are often also teachable moments.