Living simply is an easy choice for an individual, I think. I’m married with six children aged 4-14, and sometimes I wonder about imposing my frugal ways upon my children. I feel a pang of regret that they don’t have bedrooms that look like pictures in a magazine. I micro-manage their wardrobes so I rarely pay full-price for shoes and clothing. Sometimes I make a deal that instead of going to the cinema to see a movie they’re really hanging out for we’ll buy it on DVD as soon as it’s released. We eat well, but simply and to a set menu, with few packaged goods and very little take-away, especially not from any of the fast food giants. There is a lot of pressure to provide our children with the best of everything – their own rooms, fresh new fashions each season, outings and holidays to expensive destinations. But we are choosing not to succumb to the pressure.
We bought a farm last year with a smaller house than we are used to, so the children are sharing rooms full of mismatched furniture including old wardrobes and bunk beds. For us this means keeping clutter to a minimum and ensuring they each have their own space within their room. There are other areas in the house to play and relax, and more than enough room outside. Our children generally get along well, know how to share and work together, and have company at bedtime. As we extend and renovate our house, some of them will still share rooms by choice, because they are friends as well as siblings.
Our children wear hand-me-down clothing, especially at home on the farm. I do love clothes though and they always have lovely outfits for going out – these are the better hand-me-downs, gifts, end-of-season and op shop bargains, occasional home-sewn items and store-bought for anything that’s missing when it’s required. To clothe six children in this way, I believe that I spend less than what it would cost to clothe a single child by buying all their needs in season, at a regular department store. And no complaints so far! This does take a bit of organising – I clean out their wardrobes and take stock of what they have and what they need well ahead of the change of season. I also keep a list of everyone's upcoming needs so I know what to look out for.
We choose quality toys and look after them. My kids don’t expect to get something new each time we go to a store. I prefer that they don't watch commercial television, especially the children’s shows because of the advertising. When they have birthday or Christmas money to spend I let them choose how to spend it, but do discuss the value of the items on their shopping list. Sometimes we end up with plastic, battery operated toys as gifts or bought with their own money. This doesn’t sit well with me at all, even with rechargeable batteries. These are the least-played-with toys, never last very long and usually don’t encourage creativity or imaginative play. They seem great in the box on the shelf, or on TV, but in reality are usually a disappointment destined for landfill.
There are many choices to be made by parents today. We need not listen to the advertisers, or try to keep up with what other households are doing. Ask yourself what’s best for your children, your budget, our planet… and don’t compromise your ideals to suit anyone else! If you’re being fair, and living an abundant lifestyle in other ways, your children will not wish for anything more.
* First in a series of guest posts by Belinda Moore.