Training Your Kids to think Frugally

The other day my son and I ran to the store to pick up the items needed to make his birthday cake. Since he is twelve we separated in order to find our items quicker. I asked him to get the Oreos. (A bit of background here, we buy Oreos about once a year, and it is almost always for a birthday cake). He ran up to me with a package of cookies in his hand and a big grin on his face. I looked down and noticed that he picked the generic brand of Oreos. I then (foolishly) told him that he must have made a mistake because the package he had in his hand wasn’t really Oreos, but a cheap knock-off brand. He smiled and said, “I know mom, and they only cost $1.69, the Oreos are $3.” I then explained to him that this brand couldn’t possibly taste as good as the real deal, but if that is what he wanted I would buy it.

What was I thinking!!! Here was my son, being a smart shopper and me Toni Tightwad, wanting to pay double for a bag of cookies! We bought the cookies, and I am sure you will all be shocked to find out that they taste just as good as Oreos, if not better. This is a lesson I have been trying to teach my children for many years (try the cheaper brand, you might like it), but when it came to something that I love (Oreos) I wasn’t willing to take my own advice.

This whole event started me thinking about how we are training our children to handle money. Like many kids, when my children receive money they want to immediately spend it on something. It really doesn’t matter what they spend it on, they just want to spend it! In order to help curb this tendency we have been helping them see how to do things differently. These are some things our family does to help our kids have a frugal mindset.

  • They clip coupons and view the savings on the receipt.
  • They actively search the sale ads and coupons for the best deal.
  • They do not see us use a credit card, usually we pay with cash and occasionally our debit card.
  • We have taught them to try generic brands (of course they have learned this one better than I).
  • When they do have to spend money we try take them to a thrift store or yard sales. While they are shopping we encourage them to find a gift for their siblings if there is a birthday coming up.
  • Occasionally we will come home from a thrift store trip and look up online the actual cost for the items purchased. Many times we have saved $100’s of dollars. They kids are always impressed.
  • They have been with us on many of our dumpster diving excursions.
  • They each have a bank account and are able to see their money grow each month.
  • We explain to them how much certain things cost so they understand where our money goes each month.
  • If they break a toy we do not replace it.
  • They play an active role in recycling and reducing waste.
  • When they really want to purchase a large item, we usually have them wait a month, to make sure they really want to buy it, and then see if we can find a used one.
  • We have allowed them to earn money so they understand the value of work and money.
  • They pass clothes on to friends and receive clothes as well. They are always excited to get a bag of “new” clothes.
  • We have tried to be as honest as we can about our financial mistakes with our children. Maybe they can learn from us rather than repeat them.

It is my hope that the changes my husband and I have made to our finances will be seen and practiced by our children. I would love for them enter adulthood frugal rather than learn it the hard way. I would love to hear how you have instilled a sense of frugality in your children.

If you haven’t lost all hope in my you can view my post on how our family saves money at the grocery store here.

For more Frugal Friday’s visit Biblical Womanhood.

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  1. Great lessons! and we have learned the same thing on a variety of generics–quite a few of them are as good if not better!


  2. My kids got a big bang out of generic-label shopping in Canada…the generic brand there is called “No Name.” You almost have to buy it just for the humor value.

  3. I have learned to look at my financial habit some years ago and boy! it was really an awakening. Now that I am a mother, I have promised myself to teach my baby K how to live simply and be frugal. She’s into clothes exchange and has a bank account which neither parents can withdraw.

  4. My sons used to think we could absolutely not buy cereal unless I had a coupon for it. I, too, buy quite a bit of generic items. Now that I’m living alone, I expect my grocery bill to be VERY inexpensive!

  5. Somebody's Mimi says:

    And then they go to Grandma’s!!! No only kidding. I have taken my grandchildren shopping at thrift stores and garage sales. I am probably more of a thrifty shopper now than when my children were at home… they absolutley refused to eat store brand “Fruitloops”. I think they have learned now WHY I wanted to buy store brand. Sounds like you have taught your children well.

  6. We have been doing a lot of teaching frugality lately to our kids as we are buckling down. They have balked with some things, but others they have taken in stride. 😀 I’ve even gotten my husband shopping at thrift stores. He told me the DAV Thrift Store was a gold mine after what we found the last time we went. LOL!

  7. Love the “oreo” story. I have an ice cream dessert recipe called Buster Bar Dessert (named after the Dairy Queen treat) that is to die for. It uses oreos… I use the generics… no one ever notices!

    Teaching your children frugal ways early on will definitely pay off as they become more independent.

  8. Sorry.. Gotta disagree. Not on being frugal, but about the generic Oreos. I have not tasted a store brand that tastes as good as the real thing. Most cereals? Yes. Oreos? Nope.

  9. Somebody's Mimi says:

    I’m going to out out and buy different brands of Oreos and have a blind taste test with my neighbors…and me! Then we will have an unbiased opinion once and for all.

  10. Well, if Tristan can do it, I guess I can, too.

    He inspired me at the store today.

    I was planning to buy Oreos to crush and use as dirt in a recipe. Instead I grabbed the store brand. Seeing as they will be crushed and mixed with all sorts of other yummy stuff, paying the extra $$ would really be wasteful here. Thanks, Tristan!!

  11. Did you have to train your DH as well as the kids? I had to train mine by giving him his own savings account! It has been a long and slow process, but he has gotten better.

  12. Joshua Charles says:

    Growing up I found not much incentive to save. The rate at the local bank was barely 1%. It was always annoying seeing on my statements that by keeping my money in my savings account I would reap a whopping $0.23! Sheesh. Not much incentive. But today many banks are able to offer High Yield Savings Accounts online due to the low overhead involved. ShoreBank, who I represent, has one with 3.5% APY. Seeing that compounding definitely adds a bit more satisfaction. Check them out at Here, a penny saved is a penny earned — plus interest!

  13. I think being honest about your own mistakes, and letting them watch the struggles of dealing with them is a good way of teaching them that debt simply doesn’t pay.

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