How do you know if you’re raising a frugal toddler? Well, here’s the thing – they do what you do and they won’t know any different. If you are frugal, they will be too.
TL Jr. Doesn’t know it yet, but he is pretty frugal. He doesn’t try to be, nor does he care what money is, what it means or where he can get more. He’s just enjoying toddler time with his mom and dad. I mention this because there are many places in the media (CNN for example) telling us how expensive it is to raise a child these days. I think this is BS. TL Jr. does pretty well right now with no TV (although we watch a rare YouTube video of things like OK Go music now and then), cloth diapers (a real cost saver), and no brand new clothes to speak of. He is under no hardship and is really enjoying life!
Most of his toys are hand-me-downs or purchased from garage sales and he loves them (the monkey shirt is one of his favorites). The trike on this page, was given to us by a friend (thanks!) and it’s even got fat pneumatic tires! TL Jr. spent a long time trying to tell me that we needed to blow the tires up as he recently learned what the bike pump was for and wants to use it at every opportunity.
We also read a ton of books! Many of our friends and relatives gave us books and we have gotten these at garage sales too. Dr. Seuss is a favorite right now – especially Fox In Socks both he and dad love the tongue twisting. Now he makes up his own tongue-twisters and silly words – it’s fun to watch.
It is the most amazing thing to me when people spend so much on new clothes for little kids at the big box stores. Not only do growing kids have a “wear window” for clothes of about 2 weeks, but they also truly don’t care what they wear as long as it’s comfortable. Cripes – there’s such a markup for something as simple as a t-shirt there. On top of that, the clothes don’t really seem to be designed for playing – they have high-society logos and sayings on them (like the kid can read or tell anything about how it looks) and most seem too ‘flashy’ to really get to PLAY in. We expect TL Jr. to get DIRTY when he plays!
We like not starting him on this road of consumption. As he grows up, we want it to be acceptable to get hand-me-ups, downs, or overs and appreciate them. This should be perfectly acceptable – especially if the clothing is still in good condition. I’m not advocating for a sloppy appearance, just a frugal one. Mrs. TL and I are very happy when we get nice used items. You can find all sorts of brand name and designer clothing at garage sales – some of which still have tags on them! Mrs. TL does a great job at finding these. She’s the garage-sale queen of the area.
I mentioned cloth diapers. At first I was not sure about them but they are AWESOME both to use and for frugality. They aren’t a big deal to clean either. Especially after I installed a DIY diaper sprayer on the toilet. Guests joke about us having a bidet (I can’t say I’ve used it for that yet) but it has been EXTREMELY useful for cleaning toddler messes.
The best reusable cloth diapers by my experience are the Bum Genius all-in-one diapers. They are soft and are sewn together so nothing falls out of the shell. We always have one or two of these stuffed in a bag when we go somewhere. It’s easy to put them in a resealable bag if dirty or you can go the more chic route with a DIY wet bag. Diapering has come a long way since we were kids. The only time we use disposable diapers are for long trips and we use one per night for his ‘night-time diaper’ as these hold more fluid than the cloth diapers.
We were very lucky to have a kid who likes almost everything. He started eating solids at a pretty young stage and mostly skipped the ‘mush’ eating phase. He went straight to crunchy things. Food in this house goes pretty fast but we focus on good foods like fruits and vegetables and we make almost all of our own meals. We have even been baking artisan bread for well over a year rather than buying store bought bread and it’s cheap and excellent!
He does have his own (free) plastic kitchen that he cooks in almost daily. I will be happy if he grows up to wow other kids with his cooking prowess…
TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENT
As far as I can tell, we’re raising a pretty frugal kid so far and trying to plan for that in his future also. We take him places in the bike trailer as often as we can rather than driving. It saves gas and he enjoys seeing things in the open-air. The places he likes best are the local park, the library, and the pool. The pool is a bit expensive, but once he gets a little older, we can move to some other water spaces like the outdoor county swimming holes.
I’m sure that if he is anything like me, his entertainment tastes will get more expensive as he grows up. I do like owning a computer for all of the entertainment, work, and creative potential it has. As part of my frugal nature, I actively look for are free or open-source suites of tools to use. I will definitely turn TL Jr. onto these programs (such as the Portable Apps Suite) or designing and programming his own.
What are some ways you promote your children to be frugal? How do you keep them busy and excited without all the chic, trendy toys?
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