How To Raise The Best Kids Ever! Hint: Almost No Spending Required
Howdy! While Mr. Frugalwoods and I enjoy/attempt to survive our very first month as parents to our daughter, Babywoods, I have a delightful slate of guest posts from my friends lined up for your reading pleasure. Today, please welcome the fabulous Mr. 1500 from 1500 Days To Freedom! In addition to being wonderful writers about all things frugal and financial independence-related, the 1500s are awesome people who generously handed down their Ergo carrier to us for Babywoods (and showered us with other adorable baby gifts)! Frugal friends are the best.
By: Mr. 1500
People love to hand out advice when you tell them your first child is on the way. Well-meaning relatives, friends and even random people at the grocery store will readily tell you how to successfully raise kids. Mrs. 1500 and I heard all kinds of advice ranging from the best diapers to the safest strollers to where (and even how!) the baby should be born.
More than anything else, people told us that children would be expensive. “Start saving now!!” we were warned. I didn’t find this advice completely untrue, but maybe not in the way you think. The main cost for us, and it’s not insignificant, was my wife leaving work for eight years to raise our two children. If she’d kept her job, our biggest expense would have been daycare.
However, many people maintained that we were going to be surprised with the expenses that come with children. Cribs! High chairs!! Toys!!! Oh my! The more I thought about these warnings, the more I questioned them. Now that our daughters are 8 and 5, I’m convinced that children can be expensive, but only if you let them.
What I Tell New Parents
When I learned that the Frugalwoods’ first baby was on the way, I started thinking about advice that I’d give to new parents. I distilled my thoughts down to four Bs; Bikes, Buffett, Books and Building. None of them have much to do with spending money.
I still remember the day I learned how to ride a bike. I was seven and felt instantly free. My world had expanded; I could now get to far away places (the other side of the neighborhood) in a minute or two. I have fond memories of my friends and I spending most of our waking hours during summer on bikes, riding from dawn to dusk and beyond.
A love of biking has carried over to adulthood. Why jump into a car to run an errand when you can be outside on a fine fall day, enjoying the sounds and smells of the great outdoors? I find that I can often get places faster on a bike too, especially during times of high traffic, because I’m on one of my town’s excellent bicycle trails.
Biking is also a wonderful family activity. Our children love our family bike rides. We all cruise over to the library or park at least a couple times each week.
Give your children a love of biking and you’ve instilled a skill that will serve them well for life. Biking provides cheap transportation and great exercise.
Tip!: Balance bikes are an awesome invention for teaching children to ride, but there is no need to buy a dedicated one. Just take the pedals off your own child’s bike, lower the seat and have them shove themselves around with their feet. Sit back and pay attention.
After a while, you’ll see that your child can balance because she’ll coast for 50 feet or more without putting a foot down. When this happens, reinstall the pedals and your child will be instantly able to ride. We did this successfully with both of our girls. No need to run around behind them holding the back of the seat. My lower back hurts just thinking about that!
Buffett (teach your children about money)
You probably know Warren Buffett as one of the most successful investors and richest people of all time. While those qualities may be admirable, there are plenty of people who have figured out how to build great wealth.
What sets Warren Buffett apart is that he’s a genuinely good person. Did you know that he plans to give almost his entire fortune to charity? Did you also know that he lends his voice to a cartoon (Secret Millionaires Club) whose purpose is to educate children about money and business? Buffett had this to say about the subject:
This stuff is age-old, but it has to be taught. Some kids are lucky enough to get it at home, but a lot aren’t.
It’s wonderful that one of the richest people on earth cares about financial education. He’s filling a void because money education is rare in school and at home. When I was growing up, discussions about money were off limits. It was OK to talk about sex, but I didn’t dare ask about my dad’s income.
Tips!: While the Secret Millionaires Club cartoons are a fun resource for your children, let them only be a starting point for money education. Don’t expect the schools to teach your kids about money, because they probably won’t.
- Encourage your children to save: Our children have three envelopes that they use to save money. We encourage them to save, share, and on rare occasions, spend. This money comes mostly from a weekly allowance that the girls earn for doing chores.
- Teach them about spending: If one of our children wants a toy, the money comes out of that spending envelope. No exceptions. They are much more hesitant to buy a toy when they know the money is coming from their own funds.
- Teach them about investing: Our children own stock. The purpose of it isn’t to make them rich, but to start to teach them about the world of business. It’s never too early to start.
- Encourage your children to start a business: I want my children to be entrepreneurial. While a lemonade stand is perfectly acceptable, I’ve encouraged my children to think big. They are building bird and bat-houses which they’ll sell at local craft fairs and online.
Books (instill a passion for knowledge)
If you asked me what traits have made me most successful, a love of reading would be at the top of the list. The written word has taken me to incredible places in life. Instilling a love of reading in your child is one of the greatest gifts you can give. A passion for knowledge is a very powerful tool. Besides, sitting down with a good book is one of the great pleasures in life.
How do you get your children to love books though? It’s amazingly easy and this sums it up:
Readers are born on the laps of readers.
This works! We read to our children constantly. Our older daughter knew how to read at age 3 and, as an 8-year-old, can’t put books down. We have to yell at her to stop reading when it’s time for dinner.
Tip!: This one is simple: Read to your children. All. The. Time.
Building (instill a work ethic)
I’m an oddball in my neighborhood. I’m the only guy who changes the oil on the cars. I’m the only one who knows how to install a toilet or lay tile. If something breaks, I take it apart to see if I can figure out the problem before I call someone. I find that these qualities are lost on too many people in our convenient, modern society.
I want my children to be like me. I don’t want them to be afraid to try something. I don’t want them to be afraid to work with their hands or give up easily. I want my children to know that hard work will take you great places in life.
To help them along, I’m building a playhouse with them. Together, we designed it on a computer and building it is a family project. Both girls know how to use a hammer, level and tape measure. I hope that our playhouse project gives them the confidence to try anything they want in life. I also hope it instills creativity. A store-bought playhouse would have been easy and fast, but what fun is that?
Tip!: You don’t have to build a crazy playhouse like we’ve done. The big box, home improvement stores frequently have Saturday morning projects for kids. They provide the tools and the kit, all for free.
As a parent, my job is to equip my children with the tools necessary to be successful adults. So far, the lessons have been going well. Both children enjoy biking as much as I do. I’m thrilled that they know who Warren Buffett is. I’m giddy that I have to yell at my 8-year-old to put her book down. The girls proposed some creative ideas for their playhouse:
- Fire pole (Yes!)
- Trap door (We can do that!)
- Moat with drawbridge (I like the way you think, but…)
One day our girls will leave the nest. In the meantime, I’ll do everything possible to mold them into the best people they can be. I want them to be smart, compassionate, thoughtful, and hard-working. I want them to dream big. I want them to take some risks and never be bound by fear.
And The Best Advice Ever
Perhaps the most important advice I ever received was this:
Kids will tell you they want all kinds of stuff, but deep down, all they really want is you.
A friend told me this when she learned my first child was on the way and I’ve thought about it frequently. It’s completely true. Kids don’t need trips to Disney. They don’t need designer clothes or iPads. They don’t need expensive toys or private schools.
They need you to spend time with them.
Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods for sharing your fine piece of Internet real estate with me today. You are going to be fantastic parents!
Mr. 1500 writes about financial independence, practices frugality and dreams about plastic dinosaurs over at 1500days.com. When not writing, he can be found spending time with his family in the mountains of Colorado.