I was at lunch the other day with a few octogenarians. Seniors with savvy money advice. One gentleman, 87 years old, told me that his mother taught him how to live life frugally.“Use it up, wear it out, make it last or do without,” was her advice. As a result, he learned to look for quality. Fewer purchases were made and were of a quality that would last.

Fewer purchases and longer use allowed him to save and then invest more of his money. Now, how do we teach kids the same lesson so they can thrive just as well as my senior friend? Start by asking your child a few questions each time they say they want or need something new.

When they ask for new jeans — ask why? Too short? Suggest that they be saved to be cut down for shorts in the summer. New toy? Why? Did something at home break? Maybe it needs a battery. Making the new old again can be fun and will help teach a child to make what they have last.

Low price department stores have made spending easy. Prices are low enough to tempt most of us to replace something rather than fix it. Do your kids see you sew up a hole in a sweater so it can be worn longer? Do you “darn” (when was the last time you heard that word!) a sock or go to the shoemaker to replace heals on shoes to make them last longer? Do you ask your children to wear a sibling’s hand me downs — even if they do not fit perfectly? Does your family eat leftovers? It’s the way I grew up, but not the way most families live today.

Tonight, kick off this new way of thinking and talk to your kids about quality. Explain to them that a quality purchase will last longer and save them money — money they can spend on something else rather than on replacing something that was cheap and did not last.

Explain quality. My mother was a seamstress so to this day, she will feel fabric, look at the way an item is hemmed and tell me whether this will survive many washings. Do the same thing with your child. Show them how to spot good workmanship and teach them how to appreciate quality. Point out to them something that just does not hold up. Don’t replace the item and have them do without.

Buy a needle and a thread and show them how to sew. I have seen my own daughters shun a top because a button was missing only to “need” a new top to fill in for the poor button-less top. Seriously. Many an item of clothing has come back to life now that they know how to sew.

Make toys new again by taking some and storing them away in a few boxes. Next time your kids want a new toy, let them pick one of the mystery boxes you have set aside. Set up a book trade with the kids in your child’s friend group. Everybody should put their name on the book they are “lending” so they get it back, but this way you can refresh your books at home without spending more money. And don’t forget the library — the best deal in town for books, videos, magazines, and all kinds of entertainment for free.

We need to teach our kids a new mind-set — one that makes them want what they own to last.

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Susan Beacham
Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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