Avoid Passing on Lifestyle Creep by Raising Frugal Children

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Lifestyle creep is when we gradually increase our spending as we earn more, and ultimately requires us to have more money and stuff to sustain our happiness. Unfortunately, we may be passing along that expectation to our children, defining what they need to be happy before they’ve had a chance to define that for themselves.

Raising frugal children who are happier with less can benefit your children just as much as your wallet. In this article, we’ll talk about how children are happier with less, how growing up frugally allows them to experience gratitude, and how raising frugal children allows them to define their own lifestyle without predetermined expectations.

Children are Happier with Less

Ever buy your child a new toy only for them to play with it for 5 minutes and find more amusement in the box it came in? A 2018 study from Infant Behavior and Development looked at how children played when they were surrounded with more toys and discovered that children are more creative and played for longer durations of time when they had less toys to interact with.

This suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively.

infant behavior and development

For the holidays this year, I researched a few minimalist toys and was impressed with the hours of entertainment my son found with simple magnetic shapes. With some creativity, they have transformed into a playground for his toys to play in, and a garage to park his cars. I was pleased to see one toy bring him so much happiness and hours of focused attention.

In addition to toys, our children can benefit from fewer choices in clothing as well. I look forward to the day when my kids can dress themselves, and by providing them fewer options to overwhelm them, they can increase their sense of independence.

We frequently hold on to clothing due to guilt, yet confusing our children with options that we never intend to have them wear will only add frustration as they take on more responsibility.

Value What They Have and Experience Gratitude

When your children are raised with the basics, they will experience gratitude more often. For example, if my children have access to a toy at daycare or grandparents’ house, I purposely don’t jump to duplicate in my own home because I want them to enjoy that moment when they are in that environment.

When gift-giving, I often encourage the family to gift my children used toys and encourage used clothing as well. In today’s world, we feel like everything needs to be new to bring us happiness, and I feel passionate about simplifying those expectations for my children.

When I was 19 years old, my friend’s mother bought me a few new shirts for Christmas. I grew up typically buying second hand from goodwill, or hand-me-down from friends and family. The feeling of appreciation I had at that moment was unforgettable. Had I grown up showered in brand name clothing, I would not have felt the same level of gratitude during that moment.

Freedom to Define their Lifestyle without Expectations

Many parents feel an obligation to provide more for their children than they had growing up. This may result in closets filled with expensive clothing, more toys than they know what to do with, or maybe even a brand new car as soon as they are old enough to drive.

Unfortunately, setting this lifestyle expectation early means they need to earn a certain income level to maintain their current level of happiness. If they experience a life with less, will they have the freedom to define their dependency on money and stuff?

While we have good intentions to provide for our children and make them feel loved, I frequently worry about the expectations I set for them when they look to define their own life. Will they feel proud of the life they create for themselves, or will they feel like they can barely keep up the lifestyle they were raised in?

How will that make them feel and will it change their ability to find happiness in life if they can not maintain a certain lifestyle? Am I subjecting my children to my own lifestyle creep and making it difficult for them to envision a life happier with less?

When I first became a mother, I felt obligated to shower my children with gifts for Christmas and was extremely self-conscious about what they were wearing and what people would think. Once I stepped back and considered what was best for my children, the decision to simplify and embrace a frugal lifestyle became that much more important.

What are your thoughts about raising children with a strong sense of financial awareness and embrace a frugal lifestyle? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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