I have heard the call. After announcing we were expecting our first baby, a number of you asked how we expected to put not just two but THREE people in our tiny house. Questions ranged from What about the nursery? to How will you store her toys? And while minimalist and frugal lifestyles are quite popular right now there is still some question as to how we will show our child our love if we don’t plan on “providing” for them.
I for one have had it up to *motions to forehead* here with shows like MTV’s Sweet Sixteen that portray childhood and adolescence as a time to receive at any expense. What we need is a 180 from the conspicuous consumption of the late ’80s so that our spirits can find true appreciation and relationship. Life is not about the size of our home and the price tag of our car.
Growing up we weren’t spoiled children. We didn’t have our own bedrooms. We didn’t even have our own toys really. We had a sense of personal space, yes, but we were always taught that we weren’t entitled to anything. Shoes were good until the soles had a hole. Shirts were fine if the stain wasn’t obvious. Cars that ran and got you from point A to point B were every bit as nice as those that were considered “high performance.” Children today though seem to leave the womb with a debit (or credit) card in hand ready to flex their purchasing power. What we have already noticed is that with a baby comes a full product line of expectations. We are supposed to have a certain stroller, a certain line of diapers, a certain brand of clothing….heck, we have even been told we need a table designed just for changing! This isn’t even referring to the baby showers. We have already been warned, if you will, that with our precious Tilly Madison will come a typhoon of stuff!
So beyond bedding our daughter down in a drawer and making her wear rolled up hand-me-downs with nothing but chicken feed for supper, how do we ensure that our values of a minimalist lifestyle and frugality are passed on to her when mass media and the economic machine would love to have it otherwise? How can we buck the trend and raise a budget conscious baby?
Here is a list of strategies that have worked for our family:
Put the media on mute. This should be all that hard. We already don’t have a television and rely on our Netflix account for our visual entertainment. It works well and allows us to be in control of what is playing. By not having a traditional TV service and not knowing even the first radio station in our area, we can somewhat protect our daughter from the constant barrage of modern marketing strategies.
Limit electronics. While I enjoy a solid video game as much as the next and while we both have our computers we will limit our daughters exposure to electronics. We want her to be tech-savvy, to some degree, yes, and electronics can aid in learning even. But there is the possibility that over-exposure can adversely affect their relationships with other human beings and their ability to enjoy other forms of activity, especially quality physical activity. We live on a micro-homestead and want our daughter to enjoy playing outside, beating us at a board game, or just employing her imagination.
Share your values with the village. Grandparents were created to spoil. We are aware of that. But when trying to raise a child in a minimalist lifestyle it can be frustrating to receive cheap plastic gadgets and toys from loved ones each Christmas and birthday. And as a tiny house person, there just isn’t room for such things. We don’t plan to discourage the generosity and blessing of our friends and family but we will let them know that we encourage our daughter to enjoy the simple things.
Have fun. Being budget conscious does NOT mean going without. There are plenty of free things to take advantage of in this world. Filling time with activities that are fun and inexpensive is so important. Things like camping, going to parks, playing outdoor games, engaging in sports, visiting museums and such, cooking together, etc. can not only be fun but also be an incredible investment in the overall health and happiness of any child.
Be an example. You can’t expect your child to be frugal if you are constantly in envy of the latest gadget or if you are constantly shopping and spending money. Kids develop values based on their home life. I was always told children are parrots and I believe it. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
Instill a sense of service. Perhaps the best thing a child can be taught is how to give rather than to receive. When we influence a mind-shift towards thinking of others over ourselves, we have the ability not just to influence our child but to also influence our society.
Don’t feel guilty. Modern parents are made to feel as if they are depriving their children of “the best” if they don’t sign them up for every lesson, take them to every movie, or buy them every brain-enhancing toy. Let it go. You are not depriving your child; you are enhancing his mental and emotional development by letting the real world around him captivate and interest him.
Editor’s Note: While I endorse all of the above ideas I know that each child has individual needs and shows excitement in different ways. No strategy will work the same for any two children. These tenants may change drastically. But for now, we hope to give our joy of the simple life to our daughter, wrapped and with a bow!