How to Teach your Children to Live with Less
As a 13-year-old teenager, I was devastated when my parents moved from the country to the suburbs. I left behind all of my friends from a small school, only to find myself in a junior high school class triple the size. My parents bought a bigger house and with three of us growing teenagers, money became tight. My dad took a part-time job cleaning our church to make ends meet.
During this time, I became interested in the latest fashions of clothing and shoes. One day, I decided to sign up for track since I enjoyed running. My dad took me shopping to get a new pair of running shoes. I was discouraged to see the shoes he chose—an off-brand pair of maroon shoes. I considered them ugly and embarrassing, but I didn’t have the heart to complain.
Years later, the memories of financial struggles and shoes are still seared in my mind. However, they are incredible lessons for our future generations.
I tell the “running shoes” story to my kids for several reasons.
Why? I want them to learn to live with less.
There was nothing wrong with the shoes my dad bought me. I didn’t like them only because I was worried about my image. I should have been grateful that I had a pair of new running shoes. Instead, I was unappreciative of my dad’s generosity.
I don’t want my kids to be ungrateful like I was. So, when we are in a store, whether it’s food or clothing, they hear ‘no’ many times. It is true that sometimes the item is too expensive; but there are many times I could afford it, but I choose to say, “No.”
The less you can live with, the more you will be content.
And, when I do say, “Yes” to something they ask for, they are ecstatic!
Why? Because my children are grateful.
My husband and I waited several years before having children. I had a lucrative IT job and drove a sporty car (gently used). Right before my kids were born, I was saving hundreds of dollars a month and my 401k was quickly building wealth.
Then, we decided to start having children. Originally, I planned to continue working while my daughter was in daycare. I retired my sports car for a 1-year-old minivan preparing for a new child.
My life changed drastically the day my daughter was born. My career path suddenly stopped dead in its tracks, and I jumped fully onto motherhood while working part-time. Every day as the clock hit 5:00, I raced down the highway to pick up my daughter from daycare.
There was no turning back when I decided to permanently stay home after my son was born, almost 2 years later. Within a couple of years, the savings dried up, my 401K was depleted, and buying the latest electronic was a thing of the past.
I am thankful my father bought that ugly pair of running shoes.
I learned a valuable lesson that day, which carried over into my adult life.
Thanks to the “ugly shoes” lesson, instead of wasting money on the latest gadgets and fashion while I was working, I saved it. It allowed me to stay at home and homeschool my children on one income for several years.
I’ve had the opportunity with homeschooling to teach my kids about a budget; so they understand why I say, “No.” A plastic toy at the dollar tree may not break the bank, but that $1 could go towards a smarter purchase. We could use it to put food on the table or for a memory that lasts a lifetime.
So, when my children ask me for the latest gadget or a “happy for a day” toy, I typically say, “No” (unless it’s a reward for their hard work). And when I do say, “Yes,” they always say, “Thank you, Mom!” with enthusiasm and gratefulness.
I am hoping that someday I will see more fruit from my “ugly running shoes” lesson. When they are married and want to stay at home with their children, it will be easier for them to sacrifice.
In the future, my hope is that my children will not look towards more money or possessions to gain happiness. Instead, they will learn to live with “less.” I pray they will be content with whatever God gives them and use it wisely.
Natalie Fullmer is married with two children. After leaving her IT career in the healthcare industry, she decided to stay home full-time and homeschool both children. In the early days, she used boxed curriculum but has now adopted a Charlotte Mason & Eclectic-type style the last few years. She works part-time as a Virtual Assistant and teaches English to Chinese children. Natalie is also a proud member of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Besides homeschooling, her passions include raising animals on her mini farm, reading non-fiction, gardening, learning the latest tech, and sharing her minimalist approach with other homeschool moms on her blog at http://contentwithsimple.com. Favorite bible verse for encouragement is Philippians 4:13.