One Sunday morning during Margsy’s weekly swimming lesson a fellow swim mom (is that even a thing?) stopped to tell me how cute she thought my daughters bathing suit was and to find out where I bought it because she’d like to purchase a similar one for her kiddo. Now, I’m pretty open about my frugal lifestyle choices and will gladly tell you that x, y or z is used with great pride but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel judgement from time to time. You see the judgement I often face is not necessarily about our choice to live this way but more about the perception or maybe assumption that by living frugally we’re somehow parenting our kiddo incorrectly or depriving her in some way.
I was met with a little- okay a lot – of judgement that day and to be frank, it sucked.
It didn’t suck because I was being judged for buying, using and frolicking in used garb.
It didn’t suck because my lifestyle choices were scrutinized.
It didn’t even suck because we were assumed to be cheap, poor, underprivileged and somehow unable to provide for our little.
It sucked because my parenting choices were judged and it was assumed that I didn’t want what was best for my child.
See, once I informed fellow swim mom about Margsy’s used bathing suit I was met with questions and comments about our lifestyle and how I cope with not giving her the best of the best. There were sympathetic references to understanding “our situation” and hoping our “situation” would improve so that moving forward we’d be able to buy into mainstream consumerism.
Holy assumption that buying new is the only way to provide a kiddo with the best right? I find it so so interesting that giving a child “the best” has come to be intertwined with a families ability to provide materialistic and consumerist goods. Anyone else?
But, what if I want to buy used? What if I consciously opt to buy things that other people’s filthy (sarcasm clearly) kids have worn? What if, *gasp* I technically have the means to buy her everything new but simply prefer not to? Does that somehow make me a bad parent?
What if my ultimate goal as a parent is to raise a kid who could care less about materialism?
What does a frugal momma do when she’s left pondering complex frugal questions? Well, she turns to google and finds awesome conversations like this one over at Mr Money Moustache. I’d be totally lying to you if I told you that Mer and I had it all figured out with regards to how we plan to manage our frugality and minimalistic tendencies as this kiddo ages. At this point in her life, Margsy has no flipping clue that her shoes, Tonka truck, play house or blackboard were pre-played with or worn by other littles. She’s just so thrilled to have stuff to throw and lick (they legit lick and try to eat everything) and has zero awareness of this narrative that “new” is best that consumerism has done such a great job at brainwashing our society to believe.
In a perfect fabulously frugal world my kid would grow up to love personal finance the same way her father and I do. She’d scoff at buying new and prefer to bank that money to invest or use for something more meaningful moving forward. Ideally, and this is a stretch, my kiddo would plan ahead and retire at let’s say 35. One can dream right?
In all seriousness though, frugal parenting in this world can be kinda scary folks. It’s scary because living a lifestyle that is even remotely outside our mainstream culture’s definition of “normal” can be met with raised eyebrows, harsh criticism and inevitable judgement.
So, I’m about to get pretty vulnerable right now. Read on if you want to find out some of my very real fears about raising Margsy in our frugal family.
My fears and anxieties about frugal parenting
Margsy will resent us. Imagine for just one second that you were forced to wear used clothes and play with used toys as a child only to find out that your parents very well could have afforded to buy you all that stuff new? Would you in someway resent them? Technically, we can afford to buy our little pretty much anything she needs new. We just choose not to. We barter, dumpster dive and hit up local second-hand shops to basically satisfy all of her needs. The money we save on satisfying her needs is actually accruing in a bank account so she can pursue education without having to in-debt herself when she’s older. One of our major life goals was to make sure that this kiddo would have her entire education paid for and in a few more years we’ll have been able to check that goal off our list. But, will providing her with an education fund negate the fact that she never got “new” stuff? Will this kid turn around at 7 and tell us that we sucked as parents because we never gave her cool new stuff? It might sound ridiculous but this in fact is something I think about often. Can forcing frugality on kiddos somehow lead to parental resentment and feelings of deprivation in young children?
Margsy will get bullied. Kids can be cruel. I know it’s a statement that is thrown around a lot but as a former teacher I saw with my very own eyes how cruel kiddos can be to each other and more importantly how damaging it can be to self-esteem, agency and self-efficacy. I often worry that when the time comes Margsy’s peer group will meet her with harsh judgement. Sure, she could potentially keep it to herself. Although, until she is old enough to truly understand the whole concept of new vs. used she likely will have no idea but what happens when she does understand? Will she feel ashamed by lifestyle choices that were forced on her by her parents?
Margsy will overcompensate and plunge herself into a lifelong consumerist bender. Mer thinks I’m overthinking this one and creating an irrational fear that our daughter will be so potentially damaged by our lifestyle choices that she’ll run off, credit cards in hand and buy out a local T.J Maxx or Target. You see, what if she wakes up at say 18 and reflects on her childhood and says these crazy parents of mine made me wear used stuff, play with used toys and now I’m choosing to buy all. the. things for myself? A stretch perhaps but I often wonder if frugal parenting over the long-term has the potential to mold young children into young adults who crave the newness that consumerism encourages?
How we plan to manage and cope with these frugal fears
We don’t have a plan. Not a solid one anyway. You can’t plan anything for your kiddos. Trust me. Instead, you can lead by example, instill values and encourage kids to explore and perhaps challenge ideas that society has prescribed as “normal”. We’re hoping that our kiddo will grow up to quite literally not give a crap about consumerism. Ideally, she’ll be comfortable enough in her own skin to disassociate her own self-worth from what she owns. We hope and cross our fingers that by leading by example we’re instilling good money habits and consequently an awareness or at least an acknowledgement that consumerism in many ways is a social construct.
How will we do it? Well, we plan to keep on keeping on and lead 100% by example. Children learn by examples set by their parents. Hopefully, Margsy will see and appreciate that we’ve created a safe, happy and stimulating home without spending a fortune, attempting to keep up with the Joneses and give into consumerism more, more, more philosophy. Hopefully, she’ll see and appreciate that we’ve never deprived her of anything she’s ever truly needed while also saving for life goals that are important to us as a family. Hopefully, she’ll see and appreciate that happiness does exist beyond what you own and what you can buy.
Here are a few more frugalicious posts from TTBH for your reading pleasure:
- How we’re dealing with social pressures and keeping things simple this Christmas
- Reducing food waste in This Tiny Blue House
- Why I’m uncomfortable being labeled a minimalist
- 5 ways being frugal is different than being cheap
- How to incorporate bartering into your life to save you money
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Do you think there are hidden consequences of frugal parenting? Do elaborate and share your thoughts with me.