Are Kids the Victims or Victors in Frugal Homes?

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Last week I did a guest post at Heavenly Homemakers.  The article was 3 Reasons to Kiss the Joneses Goodbye.  In the comments section, a mother shared how she and her husband are in ministry together and they were wondering if their kids would grow up to resent the fact that they couldn’t pay for college, buy them cars, or get them the latest and greatest.

I think she was wondering if kids might just be the victims of our simple living and frugal homes.

Since I’m promoting frugal living on this blog and in my latest eBook I thought I should address that question.

I guess in some ways I feel qualified to answer this question.  I grew up in a ministry home.  I lived 10 years as a missionary kid in Lae, Papua New Guinea.  Then we moved to Canada where my dad worked at a small Christian high school.

Now I’m in ministry too.  So I’ve experienced these things as a kid and as a parent.

My Childhood

Sometimes my parents tell me how we had difficult financial seasons when we were missionaries.  Know what?  I had no idea.  I don’t know how my parents dressed me in comparison to other kids.  I don’t know if I had more or less toys than my friends.  I don’t remember any of that.  I guess at least I wasn’t scarred by growing up in a ministry home.

Giving kids what’s most important is more important that giving kids what they want.

Without a Doubt, Kids are Blessed by Their Frugal Homes

Frugality, as I defined it here, is:

  • A decision to live on less than you make
  • A commitment to exchange time for saving
  • Reducing excess

Thus, frugality is nothing more than focused spending.  Frugal families focus their spending so they can achieve valuable family goals.

My wife does not work outside the home.  We decided we wanted her to be a stay at home mom.

What our kids (without a vote) gave up was access to more expensive games, toys, and such.  However, what they gained was a close and intimate relationship with their mother.  Moreover, they get to spend more quality time with mommy and daddy both, because we don’t feel the burden to work more, to earn more, nor buy more.

I honestly can’t imagine how we’d raise three kids if my wife worked.  Life would be so hurried, demanding, and stressful.

I guess we could buy our kids nicer things if I’d just go out and get a good paying corporate job.  But usually more money comes by the means of more time.  Promotions rarely come to those who leave at quitting time every day.

Keep your big paycheck.

I’d rather do God’s work and have time for my family.

True, other parents may criticize you if your kids wear second hand clothes or cloth diapers.  But, I can almost guarantee that young children will not.  One thing I’ve learned living overseas is that ‘normal’ is defined by your environment.

I believe that as kids grow up, they’ll want to know that their mommy and daddy made a difference in the world.  They’ll be proud to know that their parents did the best they could with the resources they had.

I’ve never seen a kid spoiled by having too much time with their parents, but I’ve seen a bunch of sour grapes who got everything they ever wanted.

Side note: Give Them Freedom When They Get Older

Right now my kids are 5, 3, and 1, so take the following with a grain of salt.

I do think kids should not be forced to live frugally when they are old enough to make independent spending decisions with their own money.

The reason is simple.  What is extravagant to one person might not be to another.  If my daughter wants to spend $60 for a haircut when she’s older, I don’t think I should stop her (if it’s her money).  Personally, I’d never pay that for anything to do with my hair.  She, on the other hand, might judge some of my spending as extravagant.

I think once we’ve molded our kids in the younger years, we should give them freedom to become who they want (financially) – even if that’s different than how we choose to live our lives.

Are kid the victims or victors in frugal homes?  If you were raised in a frugal home, do you have regrets or not?

Transforming Your Financial Diet: 7 Steps to Simple Living and Generous Giving is only available for three more days.  You won’t be able to buy a copy after that. Get your copy now.


  1. says

    I was raised in an extremely frugal home but my mom did send me to Catholic school. There were many upsides, but the downside is that there were kids that were much better off than me, so I did notice a difference between me and them.

    That being said, I really value my frugal upbringing and love that I learned that it’s possibly to live quite comfortably on less. I worry about my own children because they do have a lot more than I did, but hopefully I can get them to learn how to save as well. Good article. Thanks.

  2. says

    In my opinion, the spirit of Mammon and the commercialization of life has so affected our DNA that we are asking the wrong questions. Myself included!

    I’m one of those “fortunate” rich Christians who can live well within their means and still have plenty of excess. My kids haven’t lacked anything materially. And we’ve said “no” to plenty of things because we didn’t want to spoil them, and still they have way more than they need, as do we. Are we really better off? And does willful deprivation make us better off?

    This is really not about the size of my house, the kind of car I drive, or whether or not my kid has a PS3 he plays on a 60″ LCD TV.

    I would really like to see a complete change in my orientation and the orientation of Western Christians in general! The sickness of our age is birthed in us and there is only one who can save us from it.

    Instead of asking myself how much is too much or too little for my kids so that they don’t resent their upbringing? Or how much should I give to this or that cause? Or should I buy or not buy this or that?

    I want to ask questions like this. How do I become so infected with the spirit of Jesus that all my needs are met in God? How do I become so enraptured with the glory of God that what I have or don’t have isn’t even on my radar? How can I become so free of the spirit of Mammon and satisfied in God that I only buy or use what I truly enjoy and not what tries to fill some deeper spiritual void?

    And then, how do I pass that life on to those around me, beginning with the precious ones Father has entrusted to my care?


    “…we should give them freedom to become who they want (financially) – even if that’s different than how we choose to live our lives.”

    As a parent of teens, I find that’s wise advice. Not just on the financially.

  3. says

    I grew up more on the poor side, and not because my parents were missionaries. It was tough at times, but my parents were great parents who didn’t buy me nice toys instead of actually playing ball in the yard with me.

    • says

      You comment reminds me that poor is such a relative term. You had parents who played with you. Lot of kids parents are too busy for that. I wonder who is really the ‘poor children’.

  4. says

    It can go both way you either learn to appreicate the value of a dollar or it pushes you to the other end of the spectrum and you become a spendtrif.
    I was lucky enough to have that balance to respect the value of the dollar but was also taught the reward system, whenever I reached a goal I set.

  5. says

    Love, compassion, understanding, optimism, hope — these are all more important than money.

    I will say, however, that frugal parents should spare no expense for two things: their children’s health and education.

    Health is obvious; I don’t think I need to explain why.

    Education is, in my eyes, an investment — beyond just the financial sense. It invests not simply in the future earning power of the child, but also in the child’s ability to learn for the sake of learning, to think critically, to be exposed to premier teachers, facilities and peers, and to reach their potential.

    When children need to work in college to pay for little luxuries, it teaches them responsibility. But when they need to work 30-40 hrs/week through college to support their basic cost of living, like rent and groceries, it interferes with their ability to learn. I think this is a disservice to the student.

  6. says

    Great article, and I like this mindset on some levels because it will force our younger generation to work for something they may want. As you say, if they want to spend their own hard earned money on something, they can do it, but I bet that they will think twice before they do so. Keep up the good posts!

  7. Mike says

    I remember having everything I wanted, but I think my tastes and preferences were limited.

    However, I remember one lecture from my mom in college. I had spent (wasted) $300 on who knows what. SHe saw the bill (credit card that was sent to her). She said that she had been working as an adult for over 20 years and still hesitated when spending $300. What made that statement sink in is that she is a physician with significant financial resources.

    Since then, I find large sums unpalatable, except when giving charity.

  8. says

    Here’s a thought: We’d like our children to do better than us, but we can’t guarantee what will happen in the future.

    If the child knows how to get by frugally or has survived a time of tight finances, then it’s not so traumatic should circumstances not be so kind to them as adults.

  9. says

    Victim or victor doesn’t depend on money. Christian values are what count in life. Love of money is the root of all evil. But having money allows you to do good for those who are less fortunate.

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