Frugal living with children : LUSENET : Country Families : One Thread

I am glad I was such a tightwad before my kids started school! I do think it is harder to maintain an extremely frugal life-style as your kids get older. Not impossible... just harder.

I have pretty strict guidelines for most spending, but you do want your kids to have fun and have SOME of the "things" and experiences that their friends have. I try to come up with inexpensive alternatives, and teach the children that we must live within the boundaries of our income.

However this year has seemed very expenxsive! There are many activites at school that the kids must pay extra to participate in, like assemblies and plays etc... They have donated money to the American Heart Assocaition, where if you did not donate $10 you could not particiapte in the activites, (seems like extorion to me!!) All of the kids schools offer yearbooks, 2 different sets of pictures, also class pictures. Plus the PTO's at all 3 schools have many fundraisers. Also book sales, book fairs, donations to food banks, field trips, camps, 4-H, baseball, and I'm sure I am leaving out some. Kadia says school is just too expensive!! We don't always send money for all of these things, but I know when school starts it is going to cost us...

How do you deal with all of these expenses? Do you have any tips or hints for raising children more cheaply?? Especially teenagers???

-- Melissa in SE Ohio (, March 18, 2002


They have to pick and choose. One cannot do everything, and life is not fair ($10 for AMA or else, is not fair). Budgeting is the way we live; if we put too much here, we will take away from there.

One family I know of gave their children a certain amount for school expenses each year. This covered school supplies, clothing, shoes, and some of the "extras" (field trips, yearbooks, etc.). The amount given was for inexpensive things. If the child wanted, say, the $125 designer shoes instead of the $20 pair, he/she had to make up the difference or take away from some other area of the budget.

A child should decide what is most important to him/her and budget accordingly. And, yes, I know that sounds so simple, but hard to do. I think the biggest problem comes from peer pressure. In my school, "everybody" had one of those ultra thin, credit card sized calculators. I "had" to have one, too, but when I finally got it, I rarely used it. And it really didn't help my popularity as much as I had hoped it would.

-- Cathy N. (, March 18, 2002.

Another good reason to home-school!

-- Barb in Ky. (, March 18, 2002.

I don't know what to tell you about the fundraisers--but I give generously of my time, so I don't feel so bad to say no to the fundraisers sometimes (or buy the minimum). What I hate are the unfair incentives that are given that make kids feel bad if they haven't sold alot. I get tired of hitting up the neighbors repeatedly.

I volunteer to help with school pictures and get a package free for doing so.

As teenagers, our kids had a budget for clothes that they helped create (had to include a certain number of pants, shirts, shoes, socks) so that they didn't blow it all on a pair of shoes and then not have enough for other clothes. Let's say daughter purchases a pair of pants for $30 and our budget says $15 per pants--she pays the difference. The budget is based upon prices from walmart and kmart. If they choose to buy clothes at at the gap--it's their choice, but only 15$, for instance, would be reimbursed. It really worked--after a year there were no requests to be driven to the gap for clothes. Walmart looks better if you are paying for it!

Lastly--Let your kids benefit from the sale of their toys and clothes at your garage sale. Take them to other garage sales and let them see how much farther their money will go.

I buy athletic equipment at used athletic equipment stores. I "trade" our smaller sizes for larger ones. Often I find better quality used equipment that I can afford that is better than what I could have bought new.

Once, when my daughter cried at that store when buying her athletic shoes "because they weren't new" I let her take the difference in money and then she could see the value of doing things that way. She never hesitated again (and I never gave the difference in money again). Sometimes lessons are taught with real money.

-- Ann Markson (, March 18, 2002.

I imagine home-schooling does help in some regards, but when I was looking at prices of books, even used ones were expensive. Also most home-schoolers I know are still involved in sports, music lessons, camps, church youth groups, science fairs, etc... So I am sure the expense is still there and may actually be even higher in some instances...

-- Melissa in SE Ohio (, March 18, 2002.

Melissa, over on Countryside, there are some good threads on fundraising in the older topics (family and children, or is it children and family?).

I look at my property tax bill and wonder what the money goes to. And, depending on your area's median income, the people voting to raise taxes through school levies and other increases are in all likelihood not paying taxes themselves, which to me is totally wrong. You shouldn't be able to vote on raising someone else's taxes.

I think the money would be far better spent on teaching children to save to buy a small property to rent out (maybe go in with parents on it until they can pay them off), or to go into business for themselves. There will always be community theater, community band, etc. around (in other words, take the music classes in school, but not necessarily go on all the expensive trips), to get into later on in life.

I also agree that the time to train children to be frugal is when they're young. They can learn to be just as excited going to any thrift store as when going to a regular store.

-- GT (, March 18, 2002.

Melissa---our daughter homeschools & the material is expensive----- but they feel it is the only way to go for them---so we help them as we can as Grandparents----which is certainly not a lot---

Yes they want the kids to be able to socialize with other kids & yes there are ball games & equipment & school pictures even as homeschoolers----scouts---etc/etc/etc/----

The kids are not spoiled as yours are not-----it just takes money to do anything anymore----

The kids have a budget & if there is something really "special" the grandson's want to be a part of & there isn't money---Grandpa & I help out some---but not that much!!!!!(And we give it as birthday gifts--or that type of thing). They know they have to pick & choose what they can do---

The kids help as a family unit as your children do---all have chores & no one is paid for doing what is expected of each to do & help maintain a home---& family----

You can cut corners & save & do with out---but somethings will cost no matter what ---so you have to do /as your family does---decide what is most important--- & do that & not be able to do ALL that many others kids do.

It doesn't hurt your children to do without material things----they are getting the love & dicipline & right morals & education that they need---

When our daughter was growing up --it was hard to see she couldn't do & have all the others her age had---etc/etc/etc/---& we expected her if she wanted "wheels" she had to buy her own----she had to pay insurance & gas---etc/etc/etc/-----

So she drove an old beat up P.U. she bought(as she also used it on the farm for us also) as she worked giving ridding lessons---cleaning out stables----a clerk at a retail store--plus all her chores at home- --

At this same time all her friends were driveing new cars their parents paid for & the parents paid for the insurance & gas---etc.-- none of her frinds had any kind of a job at all -let alone chores at home----- Our daughter used her wheels to go back & forth to work as her friends cruzed around & had fun!!!

She has told me a million times since-- Mom----I thought you were terrible when you made me pay my own way---& all my friends didn't have to--- As now all those friends --don't know how to manage money---or work-- or save money----& are all struggleing to find them selves or expecting Mom & Dad to still bail them out.

Our daughter homeschools ---raised a garden & shops at thrift stores & garage sales & can make her money squeek---

All of her friends believe they have to dress their kids in designer clothes---are paying off school loans & have never had a job--they could keep----& eat out all the time & wonder why they are in debt--- & can't see day light-------

Kepp doing what you are doing----picking & chooseing what your kids are a part of---keep them working as a family unit & learning all the basics of cooking & sewing/ woodworking & gardening & how to care for livestock----etc/etc/etc/etc/etc/--

It won't hurt them to do without----as in the long run it will be helping them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You will know your children can make it on their own-----best feeling in the world & the best lesson we can give them----Sonda

-- Sonda in Ks. (, March 18, 2002.

Lots of words of wisdom in these posts. I think one of the most valuable lessons you can teach your children is how to handle money. To make them earn the special things they want, makes them appreciate it a whole lot more. We always had our girls earning money from grade school on up. They would sell eggs to their teachers at school, pick sweet corn and sell it at a little stand on our front lawn, even hoed weeds out of 60 acres of pinto beans (when they were in high school). This showed them that it took hard work and patience to earn a living. They are adults now and really know how to handle money and they are not afraid to work. Both have high level jobs and say that the farm ethic got them to the place they are today. So don't be afraid to give responsibility to your children, they will thank you when they get older. I see so many parents miss the boat concerning giving their kids everything they want and not making them work for at least some of it. Marilyn in CO

-- Marilyn in CO (, March 18, 2002.

Sonda and Marilyn - exactly right! After all, our ultimate responsibility as parents is to raise them up to be responsible, law- abiding, self-sufficient, Christian people and a beacon of light to others.

Our children went through the same as yours. They have thanked us over and over for teaching them to be frugal, disciplined, and upright in their ways. It brings joy to my heart knowing that my children will pass these things on to THEIR children.

Always keep the long-term goal in mind and don't let your principles be compromised. They will thank you in their adulthood.

-- Michaela (, March 18, 2002.

Melissa-you are so right about school expenses-I was furious over the A.H A thing-we just didn't do it. I don't buy the school pictures- twice a year and way expensive!-and uasually bad pictures to boot. We have a friend who is a photographer and she does a portrait of us, as a whole family. We pay her price-she is a professional, and we don't want to take advantage of her friendship, but her price is better, the quality of her work is much better, we get the whole family-last year when we finished the house she came out here and included the house! We send out lots of snap shots-my husband is a decent amature photographer, instead of school shots. We rarely do the school fundraising things-it IS hard to say no, but most of the stuff is over-priced junk and I don't like constantly hitting people up for money. Instead, I donate my time. Now this year my son did sell candy bars for Jr, Historical Society- but HE did the selling, and my daughter sold Girl Scout cookies. We did go to the Fall Festival-a school fundraiser, and I donated items, and time for that.

So far my kids have been very happy with their clothes-actually, they will wear just about anything, because they are more concerned with Doing things than looking like everyone else. One "sore spot" is that my son loves computers but we can not afford the things he wants- plus we feel they are too much anyway for a ten year old. He knows that. We put a limit on his Surfing-he discovered E-bay, once with all the fantastic"Deals" yes-e-bay has some great stuff but its overwhelming for a ten year old. he would go through batteries too- finally, I made him buy his own rechargable batteries-he can have them if he pays for them.

We don't give an allowance for doing chores-we feel that chores are everyones responsability-I don't get "paid" for doing the dishes. But we make sure they get some pocket money. We do pay for extra "Above and Beyond" chores.

I think its working-my daughter yesterday turned DOWN a trip to go shopping at the Mall (too Boring!) and she got $25 dollars for her birthday two weeks ago, and hasn't even mentioned spending it except to say two things-She was waiting until she saw something she really wanted, and she wanted to spend some on a gift for her brothers birthday comeing up!

But I also have to say they havn't hit the teen years yet.....

-- Kelly (, March 19, 2002.

Heres another thought-sometimes an example is much better than words. My son kept talking about a kid in his class that had the latest cds, the latest clothes, lots of spending money ect, and my son wanted to know why he couldn't have those things. Then he visited the childs home- an ancient mobile home-now thats fine, we've all lived in less than desirable housing, but the child came to visit Aaron and the mother picked him up and looked around our house and talked quite a bit about how they wanted a house, but couldn't afford it and how hard it was to make ends meet etc,etc. Though both she and her husband worked. Then she drove off in her shiney new car. A few days late, on a Saterday, we met her working at Save-a- lot. Aaron said (to me) he wouldn't like it if I had to work on Saterday like that. He figured out for himself where that families money was going! He drastically cut back on his requests after that!

-- Kelly (, March 19, 2002.

Melissa----we also found that the children who had everything ---BUT THEIR PARENTS TIME & LOVE --spend a lot of time in our familyroom!!!!!

Those kids still call me Mom & their kids call me Grandma!!! We had RULES at our home they had none at their home-----we had hugs & family time at our home---they had little or none AT THEIR HOME------ we played board games---player records on the record player---poped popcorn---did chores- & prayer together----hauled wood--etc/etc/etc/-

We never knew how many we might have eating a meal at our home----we ate a lot of fried potatos with flour gravey---& pasta---& what ever we had in our garden----the rule was /I cooked & they cleaned up---- Many of those kids had everything material they could ever want----- but just didn't have RULES & a HOMELIFE & someone to boss them a round & care about them----

We lived on a gravel road---dead end---when someone was comming down that road ya knew they were headed for your house----those kids use to fly on those gravel roads---when they were leaveing I'd always say- --you slow down on those gravel roads---& the next time I see someone driveing too fast on that road will be punished---they would all say /Yes Mom----& when they left they drove slow /as far as I could see their cars!!! ha/!

Raise your children--they way ya want them to live their lives---then when your children want to go visit their friends at their homes---- say why not have your friends come over here----then you know what EVERYONE is doing & can set the rules----it will make a big difference with your children & what a great help you can be to other children---who might desperately--need some direction!!

I have had my adopted children say to me---I don't know what I would have done if I didn't know I was always welcome at your home!!!

Raise your own & help all the others you can!!!!

-- Sonda in Ks. (, March 19, 2002.

Excellent responses. sometimes I like to throw these questions out here, just to get everyone's ideas. We also do not purchase the school individual pictures, they are expensive and usually poor quality. I like to tak them myself as well. I do buy the class picture, it is only $5 and has every child in the class in it which is nice to have. My kids do receive an allowance monthly that is used for all the little expenses they might have. We don't generally participate in all fundraisers, but I will make donations for some things. We try to allow each child to participate in activites they feel are important. The girls are in 4-H, piano, and some school clubs. Brady plays baseball and is in Clover Buds. They do have chores to do daily, and must keep their rooms clean. When there are things at school like book fairs, I give them a set amount of money and if they want to spend more they must pay. Kelly your daughter sounds like Megan, she still has some money left form her clothing allowance for last year, and hasn't even touched this years yet! Kadia has gotten smarter and is now "selling" her outgrown jeans to Megan! My kids are frugal and they do understand that we must live within our budget, it is nice to get some tips and hints from all of you!

-- Melissa in SE Ohio (, March 19, 2002.

We're just getting into the school things, but I have noticed (and complained to a friend whose kids go to the same school) that at least twice a month Mitchell seems to come home with a note that they need ... Candy to count for the 100th day of school, book fair money, a Flower or Card for the teacher to show their appreciation, donations for the auction (not just something you choose to donate, but something from a list they provided you), etc.

Most of the time I come up with something (Mitchell had money he earned from picking up pecans which he was thrilled to spend at the book fair), but I drew the line with the auction donations. You were supposed to choose something from a predetermined list and spend your own money on it (anywhere from $10 to about $75 each!). No, Thanks!

-- Christine in OK (, March 20, 2002.

Christine, I think parents everywhere need to step up to the plate and say "Prove to me that you (the school) needs such-and-such. And if you need this, why don't you get rid of that to get the money for it?" I don't think the schools can, at least not to my satisfaction (they always have some excuse), but unfortunately parents are either too busy or too weak to just say no. Even some of the donation things (like the food banks that Melissa mentions), well, I'd like to know that they are vetting people for true need, not just handing out stuff--there was an article in our local paper about people accepting food bank food, but leaving things like dried beans behind in the apartment laundry room in favor of convenience type food because they didn't want to take the time to cook the beans. I don't want to waste food (or other donations) on people who are not truly hungry.

And, a lot of times it's for stuff you wouldn't ordinarily let your children have at home (say the candy, for instance, as you mentioned for the counting, why can't you use something like pebbles for a manipulative?), so the schools are also undermining your authority as a parent.

I think also that teachers (and school administrators) forget that:

1)Parents are no longer in school (not theirs, anyway) and therefore are not subject to "drop everything and do this now assignments", and should assign projects, etc. consistent with the child's grade level, not assign things that entail other people to have to help them--adults work, have emergencies, etc. I'm not talking about allowing internet activity at home or taking a child to the library, that's normal, but when you're assigning projects where the parent is now assuming the role of teacher (not merely checking over homework), well, that's crossing the line, imho.

2)Parents should not be expected to volunteer for every little thing. Teachers are paid pretty well, and get decent benefits. A parent's job is to make sure a child is adequately prepared for school (well-fed, well-rested, well-mannered, has supplies etc.), and to support the teacher's authority, except in the odd, unforeseen circumstance. When I went to parochial school, 30 children in the classroom were adequately taught by one teacher--not a teacher, an aide, and extra parent volunteers. If children are not behaving in school, they should be sent home until they do.

3) Crayons are crayons. If the school wants you to have XYZ brand, they can negotiate a huge bulk discount and have kids line up the first day of class and have them take 1 from this box, and 2 from that box, etc. on down the line or the county can get some people working mandatory community service in the weekend before school starts to make up packets for each child. Even if the school adds $1-2 onto the total base price (remember, they should be getting a huge discount), they can make some money that way and still save parents a lot of time and money running to the store and buying everything separately.

4) Most parents know that the "school planners" are yet another money- making gimmick (not to mention shameless product promotion on the part of the companies putting out this stuff), and are totally unnecessary for most students. If a student is not turning in assignments on time, they might be of use, but I'm sure many of you did as I did, using a 3"x 5" notebook, or a sheet of notebook paper in each textbook or folder listing assignments to be done. Also, one could fold an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper (anyone notice that notebook paper is smaller these days?) into 8 equal squares, and make a small weekly schedule (2 weeks, using both sides of the paper) out of that--punch three holes in it, stick it in your binder, and voila!

Sorry for such a long post.

-- GT (, March 21, 2002.

that's one thing I really like about the school district here. The teachers don't make those requests at all. They do have the PTA fundraisers a few times a year but they don't push it on the kids like many schools do. We don't participate in selling that overpriced stuff. I don't want my kids knocking on peoples doors because I know how much I wish kids would stop knocking on mine lol. Before we moved to this area, it was just like Christine described, 2 or 3 times a month. The requests for $5 or more from each child for gifts to teachers seemed really out of line to me. A gift for a teacher is fine but it should not be expected like that.

I've been real happy with our district now. The closest thing to a school planner comes on 1 piece of paper once a week. They do give out alot of homework, most times over an hours worth every night for my son in 3rd grade. But it's usually something that doesn't require me to get involved other than checking over it for mistakes when they're done. I doubt we'll be in this area a year or 2 from now so I'll likely miss this school and the way they do things. I've really grown to like the year round schedule too, 3 months on/1 month off. I didn't think I would like it at first but it's been alot better for me and my kids.

-- Dave (, March 21, 2002.

Dave, where we used to live the planners were a such a big deal the students were even GRADED on them (part of English class)--I mean for what? Grammar and punctuation? When taking notes? That's silly.

I don't know about year-round school. If it would cut down on the number of half-days and teacher in-service days (where the children are still off from school), it might not be so bad--I really feel sorry for parents having to juggle day-care arrangements.

My only concern with it is that if your children are involved with extracurricular activities (sports, band, etc.), which follow a traditional fall-to-summer schedule, your children (and you), are never really "off". That part I would not be happy with at all. I think it is probably better for K-6, when kids aren't usually doing all the extracurricular activites at school.

-- GT (, March 21, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ