Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trick Your Kids Into Thinking They Are Rich

Note:  This post was an idea of my wife's and she helped me write it... 

When you have one parent who is a stay-at-home person, and lack the benefits of the dual-income family, you have to sort of trick your kids into thinking certain free or cheap things are completely awesome. Here are some things that my wife and I have come up with:

1. Teach them that used book sales are the coolest way to buy books – see this post about it, but basically we try to hit up as many of these as we can and find as many great books as we can. (We like to buy new books too, but we prefer to do so from authors from small presses or authors who have self-published.)

2. Feed them rice and beans until they learn to love it (or any cheap, healthy dish) – Food is expensive, and so black beans and rice is a common lunch (and sometimes dinner) in our house. And, it’s actually the one meal that everyone likes equally. And you can always add cheese, salsa, guacamole, or meat to it if you want. It’s a flexible meal.

3. This sort of goes with #2, but think up cheap recipes with peanut butter, like these – cheap(er) protein that is uniquely American, so you’re also being patriotic when you eat it.

4. Limit your trips to the park so that they become a special treat – I’m kind of old-school in that I don’t like to go on a lot of outings, just to go. I think we have enough toys and outdoor playing stuff, like a swingset, bikes, a little kitchen set, etc., to keep them occupied. Also, my wife’s always telling them to go make a fort out of sticks and pretend they’re homeless like she did when she was little (true story, and a blog post of its own for another day). 

5. Go to libraries that are far away so that it seems like you are going somewhere special – I don’t know about your area, but we have a lot of little libraries within a 30 minute drive. And, they all usually have some sort of unique thing that is interesting to kids – like a cool playground, some different toys, etc.

6. Make a big deal about it when people give you hand-me-downs so that it becomes as exciting as buying a new outfit – Our kids have been massively blessed with people giving them great looking clothing and shoes. It helps that we have four girls and any piece of clothing will eventually be worn by at least one of them. Anytime someone gives us a bag, it is like we hit the jackpot in our house – excitement, a fashion show, sometimes tears of jealousy – it’s all happening simultaneously sometimes.

7. Go thrift shopping occasionally and treat it like a treasure hunt – I’m not really one to do this with the kids (because I hate shopping), but my wife does, and the kids love it. They will come home with the strangest things sometimes.

8. Make free events that are local a tradition experience – Every year we carve out time to go to a certain annual festival every summer that has a great parade and a lot of fair food and even a library book sale. Also, there’s an event locally every year that celebrates Maple Tree tapping for maple syrup. These are two of the things our kids look forward to and talk months in advance. The tradition of going to these becomes almost more important than the events themselves. 

I think one of the main things is to treat free/cheap things like you would an expensive thing. So, we’re not going to Disney World anytime soon, but you know what? Our kids get as excited about our annual day trip to the water park a couple of hours away (they start talking about it in January). 

And, this is not to say that these things aren’t completely awesome. It’s just that as humans we’re wired to think that things that are bigger or more expensive are naturally better. However, it makes sense that you will be a happier person if you have an easier to please (read: cheaper) sensibility. Also, when your kids get older, there’s no telling what the economy will be like or what they will feel led to do with their lives (like, become starving artists or something). It’s better to learn to be happy with the little things in life at a young age.


  1. Wonderful ideas and a great way to teach gratitude.

  2. We did this with our kids and I have to say (in a completely unbiased way of course) that they have learned to appreciate what is right in front of them way more than most of their worldly traveling friends - oh and by the way - they have way more fun with their lives and actually enjoy each other and family more than those other "more priveledged" kids do. True story. (P.S. they've never been to Disney)

    1. Learning to be content and have fun with the few things in front of you is so important (in my opinion).

  3. We have done/do ALL those things with our kids. My 16 year old daughter still thinks it is AWESOME to hit the Thrifty Saver Shopper on their 50% off EVERYTHING Saturday. :) my big kids still think a day spent at water safari is the best day ever, and we LIVE on the lake! LOL!!