Thursday, August 5, 2010

Parenting on a shoestring (Part 3 of 3)

In recent posts, I've discussed peer pressure and parenting, stupid things and parenting, and finally today... poor parenting.

Not "poor" as in "bad"... "poor" as in "very little money".

Everyone's tightening their belts these days, and of course, the recession hasn't helped. I'm the first one to tell you that jobs are scarce, bills are plentiful and unemployment benefits aren't forever.

But you know what? As long as you can keep your head above water, parenting while poor is not such a bad thing.

I'm not talking about those who are having to choose between medicine for themselves and groceries for their family, nor those who are risking foreclosure on their houses or who are working three jobs and NEVER see their kids.

That's a bad thing.

I'm talking about tightening the financial reins - budgeting your money - having to really, really watch what you spend in every aspect of your life. Which means at some point, you gotta let the kids in on it.

Here's how this went down in my family. I've always for the most part been a smart shopper. I look for the sales, clip coupons, and rarely if ever buy any high-ticket items. No, I don't have a flat screen TV. My biggest purchase in the last three years was probably my laptop and a new ignitor for my 10-year old oven.

My kids have always known that they don't "get something" for going to the store for me. But damn the candy in every checkout lane - they do try! If they want cereal, it has to be on sale. We don't buy cases of soda or individual eight-packs of Gatorade. And I truly don't think they know that two-ply toilet paper even exists.

Slowly... slowly... as they get older and have their OWN money to spend, I'm seeing little mini-me's emerge. All the times I stood wistfully in front of a Mac computer or held up a pair of beautiful earrings, then said, "Nope. Don't need it. Walk away..." they now do the same thing.

Case in point: While perusing the cursed school supply list, I ask my oldest what kind of organizational binder he needs this year. His reply, "Mom, the one I used last year is fine." I of course feel the need to start off each year new and fresh, and pushed it some more, until finally he said, "Mom! My old binder is FINE, and if you don't get me a new one, you save money. When I NEED a new one, I'll let you know."

(Insert Mom swelling with pride here...)

They've started to pay more attention to how much things cost and stop to think whether they "need" or "want". They've started at least thinking about saving for the future - even if the future is just next week. They're even following my lead - turning off lights (sometimes), using the timer in the shower (sometimes), and yelling "kilowatt! kilowatt! kilowatt!" when the other is standing with the refrigerator door open for too long (thanks, Dad).

I don't know what their financial future holds. Part of me wants them to be wildly successful, but the other part of me wants them to struggle a bit, so they learn how to work with less.

I guarantee we are just as happy if not happier than those who "have it all".

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