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For several years Tiffany ran a daycare service out of her home in order to make ends meet while prioritizing the time she spent with her sons. Tight budgeting didn't affect Tiffany's outlook on creating memories. “I’d get as many experiences in with them as I possibly could; little road trips, free museums,” she said. “To this day, it’s what they remember most.”...
Frugal Parenting by Adam Colwell

For Tiffany Nation, the key to being a frugal parent is the philosophy. “It’s making the decision to step back and not look at what society tells you is important, or how much money you should spend, or what your kids should have,” she said, “but to look at what’s really truly important and peel away all that other stuff.”

It started with pinpointing her core values. “Number one was time with my kids, and number two was the importance of experiences.”

With that in mind, and a tight budget, Tiffany made her plans. She contacted friends in California who were eager to host them, checked into low-cost campgrounds where they could stay at for other nights, and readied her camp stove while deciding to purchase food only in grocery stores rather than to eat out. She figured out her gasoline budget, and had $400 for spending money. Tiffany and her three sons hopped into the car and headed west on an unforgettable two-week vacation along the California coast.

“It was fantastic. It was amazing!” Tiffany said. “Experiences stay with you and they can change who you are. Experiences are a good thing, in my book, to spend money on,” Tiffany said. “Anything that isn't going to be a memory that stays isn't worth anything to me.”

For several years Tiffany ran a daycare service out of her home in order to make ends meet while prioritizing the time she spent with her sons. Tight budgeting didn't affect Tiffany's outlook on creating memories. “I’d get as many experiences in with them as I possibly could; little road trips, free museums,” she said. “To this day, it’s what they remember most.”


Other tips from Tiffany:

• On activities: Consider exercise or art programs offered by the local parks and recreation department instead of enrolling them in a costly sports league, karate, or dance classes.

• On clothing: All clothes are used after you wash them a couple of times. Shop at thrift stores, and teach your kids how to hunt for quality. 

• On movies: Give your children choices–one full-price movie, or two at a discount theater, eating out, or cook a meal of their choice at home. They’ll often choose the less costly option because it’s more fun!

• On research: This is the biggest cost to parents, but it’s worth it. Take the time to research your options. Google is your friend: look up free events, activities, parades, festivals and classes in your community. Pick up the free area newspaper and scan the calendar section, investigate free events at the local library, or peruse community bulletin boards.

• On getting advice: Talk to other parents and ask them what things they have done to create memories with their children. They’ll be excited to tell you, and you’ll have new ideas.

Remember, frugal parenting is far less about the money you spend and far more about the shared experiences you create with your children. Establish your core values, make decisions based on those values, and don’t let anyone discourage you from your commitments. Your kids will thank you–now and later.

Adam Colwell is president of his own writing and editing production company. He is married, father of two daughters and lives in Tucson, AZ.