5 Frugal Life Skills I Want to Pass on to My Kids

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These are the daily habits I've refined over the years and hope to see them doing someday.

I love reading Trent Hamm's articles for The Simple Dollar blog. He writes frankly about living as frugally as possible, sharing the many lifestyle tweaks he uses to amass savings over time. One of his recent articles described frugal tips he has passed on to his kids this summer "while teaching them life skills." He and I share parenting goals – to ensure that our kids won't be overwhelmed by adult responsibilities by the time they move out, which requires years of practice. Hamm said,

"As I’ve worked with each of them on learning these life tasks, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of really useful little frugal things we do as a matter of routine that were exposed by my kids when they were asking questions along the way. I actually started making a list of these things, and I wanted to share them with you."

This got me thinking about which life skills

hope to pass on to my kids – namely, the ones I do a certain way and like to think I've refined over the years, and that I hope to see them doing someday. While a few of these skills overlap with Hamm's, the following list is my own. It's far from exhaustive, but it's a good place to start.

1. How to do laundry

I wash almost everything in cold water with a natural powder detergent that I buy in paper bags. (I get squeamish whenever I see plastic detergent jugs.) I hang laundry out to dry on a line or on racks indoors if it's rainy; rarely do I run the dryer. I actually love hanging laundry on the line and find the process relaxing. It forces me to take a few quiet minutes in the sunshine and I come back inside feeling satisfied and happy.

2. How to grocery shop

My kids have been accompanying me on grocery store trips for years and have recently begun asking about why I go to the stores I do. They're noticing the price difference between the discount grocer and the high-end supermarket in our town. We compare unit prices and examine ingredient lists; but they also are learning to shop efficiently, picking up the same staples weekly that we rely on to do much of our home cooking. I take cloth bags, containers, and hard plastic bins for carrying groceries home. I hope they, too, will someday support CSA (community supported agriculture) shares, the farmers' market, the local food co-op, or whatever other vendors are available where they live.

3. How to cook every day

Eating out is a rare occurrence in this family, as it was in mine as a child. I learned by watching my mother that cooking dinner was the norm, and she could whip up a meal in no time. I want my kids to learn the same from me because I believe it's important – nutritionally, emotionally, financially. They also witness the power of food as a social connector, a reason to bring people together and have a good time.

4. Ride a bike

For short trips in good weather, I see no reason to take the car. I ride my bike most places and encourage my kids to do the same. I want to normalize the behavior so that their own eventual instinct is to jump on a bicycle instead of into a car when they need to go somewhere. We spend a lot of time riding for pleasure, too, which they love. It helps them to develop strength and stamina, and learn the rules of the road with supervision.

5. Shop secondhand

I'm a big fan of thrift store shopping, especially for kids' clothing, because it's cheap, in good condition, and they grow so fast. It's also the most eco-friendly way to build a wardrobe. I've explained these reasons to my kids, as well as how it saves money over time that allows us to do other fun family activities that are more rewarding than having a trendy outfit. I hope they remember this as they grow up and start their own households.

These are just a few of the frugal life lessons I want to pass on as my children grow older. Only time will tell how successful I am, but for now I'm doing my best.