Farmers know how to get the most out of every dollar spent, as nothing goes to waste when you live on a farm — they even recycle manure! For many farm families, living frugally is a way of life passed down from generation to generation. Frugality is an intentional part of raising farm kids, so what can we learn from them?
Here are five lessons on frugality for kids from the farm.
Money Lessons for Kids from the Farm
1. Recycling is essential.
Food scraps get fed to cats, dogs, cows, and other livestock instead of being put in the trash or down a garbage disposal. Old tractor tires are used to grow potatoes or serve as swings and flower beds. When a building needs repairs, materials are often found already on the farm. Old roofing isn’t discarded. Nails are pulled from old boards for re-use, and roofing that’s no longer fit for the farmhouse is recycled for the chicken coop or woodshed.
Bailer twine is saved for tying up plants, securing loose items, and even holding up your britches in a pinch. Look under the kitchen sink, and you’re likely to find a ball of used tin foil, carefully washed and stored for re-use.
How often do we recycle in our modern society? And recycling (or repurposing in some cases) doesn’t even have to be about saving money. Sometimes, it just makes things better. Did you know that Cantonese restaurants use ingredients left over from different dishes to make other ones? Their soup base is often a mix of different scraps taken from different orders. They take a bit of crab meat here, a spoonful of chicken oil there, and voila, a base that can create a brand new dish. That’s one of the reasons why Cantonese restaurants are better in Asia. They just have a ton more customers to create complex dishes from all those orders.
When was the last time you thought about reusing what you already have?
Nature is great entertainment.
Farm kids often grow up with less interest in television, video games, and toys, but you’ll rarely hear a farm boy complain he’s bored. Nature is perfectly adequate. The birth of a baby cow, seedlings sprouting in the garden, and frogs, fish, and crawdads to be hunted all serve as amusement for a farm kid.
An apple tree becomes a fortress, the hayloft is great for an afternoon nap, and muddy fields are instant fun on a hot summer’s day. Manmade entertainment pales in comparison to the free entertainment provided by nature.
Are you always bored and end up spending money just to kill all that free time? Go out for a walk. Go on a hike. We have a community pool close by but not many people use it. Instead, people around us have been sitting in their homes looking at their iPad all day while complaining about the heat inside their air-conditioned room. Then, they complain about their electricity bill.
Don’t complain, but instead do something about it!
2. 3. Responsibilities come first.
Farm animals are dependent on the farmer to meet their needs for food, water, and shelter. Fixing the fence is a continual process to keep animals safe, and animals often eat before the farmer does.
The entire family pitches in to get chores done; work is simply a way of life. Farm kids learn work ethics and life skills that are essential in the workplace.
How often do your kids help out around the house?
4. Work for today, but plan for the future.
Farm kids learn that saving for the future is critical. Equipment wears out, and repairs are a regular part of farm living. Preventative maintenance will increase productivity and lessen the cost of large repairs.
When farm machinery wears out, purchasing new replacements can cost thousands of dollars, so saving for future purchases is a constant practice. Food is canned and stored for the winter, while excesses are sold for profit.
A financial winter will come for all of us one day. Are you ready for yours?
5. Relationships are important.
When a neighbor calls and asks for help putting up crops, you always say, “Yes.” You never know when you’ll need a favor returned. Mending fences with your neighbors is a phrase from the farm that’s learned early on. Keeping on good terms with your neighbors and each other makes working and living together easier.
If a nearby farm family falls on hard times, the surrounding neighbors often pitch in to prepare meals, help with livestock, or tend crops. Unexpected life events can be devastating, but with community support, a farm family doesn’t have to face total ruin when funds are tight or sickness strikes.
Notice I didn’t say that they offer money to the struggling family. Help people on hard times get through a tough situation, but don’t provide handouts because giving money seldom helps anyone get back on their feet. Often, lending money simply ends relationships.
Even if you don’t live on a farm, you can still teach your kids these life lessons about money and frugality. Intentionally building money skills and work ethic in your children is an effort that always pays off.
Have you learned any money lessons in unexpected places?
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