There are many reasons why I think spending family time on a budget is really important. The obvious factor of necessity is what drives a lot of my brainstorming. We are a family of 5, living on one income. I love the fact that my husband has a job where he is home on the weekends and usually walks through the door at 6 PM on weekdays. He doesn’t have to go on long business trips, our kids get to spend quality time with him during dinner up until bed time and I actually get to spend time with the man I married without having to schedule it in our calendar.
As with most families where the breadwinner of the household is not a multimillionaire or working from the moment the sun comes up until far past the kids’ bedtime, we have to stick to some form of a budget in order to keep on top of our finances.
However, I am a big believer in doing low budget things, no matter what your financial situation is like, and here’s why:
Kids need to realize that money and happiness are not related
Empty pockets never held anyone back.
Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.Norman Vincent Peale
“Money doesn’t guarantee happiness”
A sentence we have heard so many times and most of us agree with. Yes, money makes things simpler a lot of times because we don’t have to worry about paying the bills and whether we can afford certain luxuries, but it does not mean you are happy just because you have tons of it. We, as grownups, know this is true and also know why that obvious statement does not really need to be explained.
Yet, how are our kids supposed to know this is true if every happy memory they have in their young lives relates to expensive activities and things that had to be paid for? It seems logical if you think about it, but as a parent it’s sometimes easy to forget that less can be so much more for our kids in the long run.
I want to teach my boys that they don’t need to choose their future career by how high the salary will be, but instead by how much they enjoy the work they will be doing. I believe that it is far more important to do a job where you love going to work on most days, even if the pay is just enough to pay your bills, than to make loads of money in a job where every day is a motivational fight and you count the hours until you can leave from the minute you arrive.
Again, it seems simple and logical, but is it really? How do our kids realize this if we don’t show them by example that money is something we need to survive, but not something that decides the level of happiness we have in life?
Teach your kids the value of money
It is ridiculous to think that a child can realize how much money a family has spent on a vacation and then actually understand what that means. I also don’t think it is really important that a child truly understands that, they have enough time to realize this when it is their turn with their own family.
However, kids do need to learn the value of money with everyday things, things that are important in their lives. Toys for example. When they are at the toddler age they will not understand that a big toy car garage is much more expensive than a little toy car. So that’s where it’s our job, as parents, to explain this to them and (like with most parenting) repeat this a thousand times.
I always tell my kids that this is a toy that they can wish for on Christmas or birthdays. This way they have learned that there are toys that can be bought throughout the year for smaller occasions and there are toys that go into the “big” category and these need to be waited for and are special. This has worked quite well for us and seems to make sense to our kids.
With our oldest one, we actually tell him how much a certain toy costs and he then calculates how long he would have to safe up his allowance for in order to buy it. It makes him realize how much it really costs and gets him a little closer to understanding that it’s important to not make “impulse buys” because you might not have money left over for the next thing that you actually wanted more than the thing you just bought in the heat of the moment.
And the same thing therefore goes for us as role models, when choosing activities to do as a family, it is easy to forget how much an excursion with the family costs when brainstorming fun things to do. Yet it is hard for our kids to grasp the concept of “the value of money” if we do not show them that we understand the value ourselves and instead just splurge on every family activity we do.
Allow your kids to be creative
Kids love being creative, it’s in their nature. Yet, this is something that needs to be supported and built up with them. If a child is never bored, they never have a reason to come up with ideas to entertain themselves. If there is a gadget and a program offered to them for every life situation, they never have a reason to think and get their creative juices flowing.
Again, it’s so simple, yet it is easily forgotten because in todays society parents are often led to believe that if their kid is not entertained 24 hours a day, we are bad parents who do not care for our children enough. Are we really doing them a favor though? Are we prepared to entertain them their whole lives until they meet their future spouse and then give this responsibility over to them? I know it sounds extreme, but when it comes down to it, that is what it is.
“Don’t let your child be bored because it means you don’t care enough to do something with them!”.
I have to admit, I do feel guilty when my kids are bored and they ask me what to do and I don’t find a solution that suits them right then, but I try to remind myself that it is important for them to learn how to use that wonderful brain of theirs. If I give them a couple of suggestions of what they could do and they decide to shut them down because they are not in the mood, then I let them figure it out on their own. And even though my boys are very good at playing the guilt card and purposely hang over the sofa miserably twiddling their thumbs and sighing heavily every time I walk past them with a load of laundry or the vacuum cleaner, I remind myself that it’s important for them to learn.
And then the moment comes where they forget that they are trying to make me feel guilty for not offering them a solution to their boredom problem, they actually figure out something to do with their time and it is awesome to watch them invent a game or build something out of a cardboard box… and it reminds me that it’s important and worth it to sometimes just stick with it and teach them these qualities they will need for the rest of their lives.
Don’t let the sparkly things overtone family bonding time
I love doing great family outings and going to amusement parks or other big things. It is great seeing these new places with all the sounds, smells and tastes these activities have to offer. At the same time, all these inputs can make you forget who you’re there with and focus more on the sparkly place you are at instead of having fun simply because of the amazing people that surround you.
I am in no way saying that these activities are bad or should not be done, I am saying that they should be special occasions and stay that way. There is little more to say about this except for “less is sometimes so much more”.
A fun board game or trampoline session in the garden can sometimes bring you closer than a whole day excursion with loud music, sweets and rollercoasters.
Best memories are made with the simple things in life
When I think back to my childhood, I have many happy memories that pop up in my mind. The ones that have stuck with me though are not the ones where a lot of money was invested, but instead the really special ones are the memories where I spent time with my sisters doing “normal” and “boring” things. Except, they were never “normal” to me and they were anything but “boring”, because we had fun and we laughed and we had to figure out what would make that day adventurous.
I remember spending time at the lake and how we played with the dog in the water. I remember sitting in the warm sun on a beach towel in the garden playing card games. I remember playing bakery in the mudpuddles on the slope behind our house, being covered in mud up to our knees and elbows by the time we came inside. I remember the rainy afternoons where we played monopoly for hours on end. I remember playing sing star on playback (long before those shows first came out on tv) and how Malia used to recite every Whitney Houston and Maria Carey song she had on her tapes (yes, tapes!).
And while times may have changed and there are gadgets for everything and so many board games have been digitalized (who thought “Monopoly Banking” was a good idea?!) I believe the same things are still just as great and important to continue with our kids.
Parental Peer pressure…
I have realized that in today’s society it just seems like there are these expectations that are had, that if you have a certain wealth standard you are supposed to live a certain way. Go on holidays at LEAST once a year, make sure the kids all wear new clothes (fixing the clothes of older siblings is so 90’s), have 2 cars and the list goes on. It puts families under the same peer pressure that we thought we had escaped after high school. The same expectations to fulfill if we want to be part of the “cool crowd”. It makes it hard to try to raise your kids to be grounded and understand certain values in life without having the kids end up paying for it because they are the only kids who don’t have all these things.
…once you get to that mental state where you can deal with the thought that your neighbors might see you as the family that is a little “different”, it’s extremely freeing, makes things a lot more interesting and opens a whole world of possibilities and future memories to look back on.
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