Do Your Kids Think You’re Poor Because You’re Frugal?

Lexus Luxury Utility Vehicles
If you don't drive a luxury car in Fairfield, CT., your kid may think you're poor. Image via Wikipedia

Why is it that kids equate being frugal with being poor? Maybe it’s just the kids that live in affluent towns, like Fairfield, who think this way.

My 13-year-old daughter asked if we were poor last week just because I said “no” to her a few dozen times when she suddenly announced that she “needed” a new this and a new that. My 12-year-old son thinks people living in 5,000 square-foot homes must be “zillionaires” (uh, not always, dear child!). Why is it so difficult to teach children to equate being frugal with being financially at peace?

So, where did we go wrong? Since day one, we’ve taught our kids lesson after lesson about how bigger doesn’t always mean better, people who have so much “stuff” often have credit card debt, and on and on. Did they hear us? I’m concerned. It seems that every other day we have to have another “teaching moment” because some random kid at school says “my house is bigger than yours” or “we are going to pick-a-warm-state for vacation,” or “why don’t you have an insert-name-of-luxury-SUV?” On and on and on. It doesn’t seem to matter much to my kids (yet) that we outright own our cars. Maybe it’s time to make “The Millionaire Next Door” required summer vacation reading.

I remember a friend who lives in another more normalized part of Connecticut saying she’s lucky she doesn’t have to address these issues with her young son because no one where they live has the bigger-is-better syndrome. Listen, I love living in Fairfield thanks to the beach and the decent schooling, so perhaps I’m turning lemons into lemonade here; But could it be a good thing that we live in an affluent town where there are so many teachable moments? Maybe, just maybe, when my kids are older, some of our advice will have rubbed off on them and they will think twice about the futility of keeping up appearances while the kids who live in towns with normal-sized homes will become adults who stand in awe of 5,000-square-foot houses. Time will only tell…

~Marilyn from TFF



2 thoughts on “Do Your Kids Think You’re Poor Because You’re Frugal?

  1. (Whoops, sorry folks, my husband replied using my email account, thus, my photo! He does not look like me ;–)

    I’m the husband of this one frugal Fairfielder…and I have to say this is as true today as it was when I was growing up in Fairfield in the 60’s & 70’s….well, actually it is definitely much worse today. Back then if a neighbor drove even a used Mercedes/Cadillac/Lincoln, all the other neighbors (even me!) were in awe! How could they afford it? Well, back then, one used to actually SAVE their money to buy a car! Nowadays, with low- or no-interest financing, $0 down, or fleecing, I mean leasing–to quote Dave Ramsey–you can now drive any of those high-maintenance cars your neighbors drive! Remember, it’s not just the monthly payment that’s the cost, but the overall cost of ownership that matters. With 117K miles on my car, and 88K on my wife’s car–I figure we still have a few more years of driving before we replace them with a 2- or 3-year old “returned lease” (our current cars are “returned lease” cars) car that has already taken the biggest hit in depreciation. Just my .02 cents.

  2. Wow. Have always thought about this and it really frustrates me, but you put it into words here. Really nicely done. We so often treat money as the be all, end all. “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.” 🙂

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