Teaching Children Frugality
Most children do not pay much attention to turning lights off, making sure the water isn't running, grabbing 10 sheets of construction paper instead of the one needed, etc. I have found that it isn't hard to change this. According to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ the definition of frugality is prudence in avoiding waste. Wasting money is the first thing that comes to mind, however it costs money to waste things like electricity, water, paper, food, etc. as well. As parents, most of us could do better in making sure we don't waste things. I believe that the best way to teach your children frugality is by talking to them about it. This will help them to understand frugality and put it into practice and it will help to hold you accountable too.
Instead of constantly telling your child to turn the light off or always turning it off as you walk by, why not explain to him WHY we need to turn the lights off. Even a young child can grasp that lights use electricity and when we don't need a light on, we don't want to use up the electriciy that others could be using. Therefore, turn off the light. Being aware of things around us and what is wasteful is a pretty easy concept to grasp, I think.
For an older child, I have found that charging them for leaving the lights on works very well. I don't always do this, but if I notice a problem starting I will. I go and find the child whose room it is and have them stop what they are doing, go to their room and turn the light or radio off and return to me with a quarter. One chore at my house is worth a quarter. Because they forgot to turn their light off, they had to pay me the equivalent of their working hard at one chore. This makes an impact on children. They love to earn money, they love to spend money and they hate to have to give it back to mom. My kids know that I will charge them and therefore usually remember to turn things off.
As you are spending time with your children talk to them about frugality. Reusing items like ziploc bags and tinfoil saves precious resources and kids can understand this. Reusing items around the house is a form of recycling and kids can help out in this area. Having a child help you in your frugal ventures is a great way to teach them about it. There are many books out there regarding recycling and the environment. I have read a few wonderfully simple books to my children and they do understand this concept. Some of the books I have found are Recycle! A Handbook for Kids , Fun With Recycling: 50 Great Things for Kids To Make From Junk , and Waste and Recycling.
When you take your children shopping explain to them why there are differences in the amount an item costs, i.e. who makes the product, what it tastes like, if a particular item is on sale, etc. Take ketchup for instance. There are many different brands and they are all different prices. Explain to your child that you could spend $2.49 for this 28 oz bottle of ketchup or you could spend $1.49 for a different 28 oz bottle of ketchup that is on sale. Ask them which they think you should buy? If they understand money at all, they will probably agree that you should buy the cheaper one. Explain that by purchasing the cheaper bottle of ketchup you have an extra $1 to spend on something else that you are wanting or needing. You are being frugal with your resources by shopping this way.
Every child should have the opportunity to earn money. Of course once they have money, they will want to spend it. Now you can teach them to make smart decisions with their money. Having a child spend her money on something is a great way to teach them to be frugal. My kids love to buy gum. When someone has saved enough money to buy gum I take them along with me to the grocery store. After talking with them through the store about why I am spending my money this way and comparing prices, we get to the checkout counter where the gum is. We analyze how much each pack of gum costs, how many pieces are in each pack, what is on sale and what they might have a coupon for. As a parent you can guide them to make a frugal decision. My kids always want to get the most pieces of gum they can for the lowest price. This is one of the points of frugality. The most of something for the lowest price possible.
Dave Ramsey has some wonderful books for kids on using money wisely. In fact he has a website for kids that has games and other learning tools that will help your child with money. The biggest thing for me when it comes to teaching children about frugality is to just do it. Read to them about it, talk to them about it and show them how you do it. Children are fast learners and can adapt quickly to new things. So if this is new for you, don't give up. Be consistent, explain why and include your children and it will work.