Seven Ways To Parent With Frugal Extravagance

Some kids have more stuff at their disposal than ever before.  It’s almost overload.  Toys, trinkets, devices and gadgets fill kid’s rooms, cars and homes.  You get a toy in every fast food kid’s meal or cereal box.  Santa and the tooth fairy have even upped the ante since I was a kid.  My grade school daughter is practically making a living between Christmas, Easter and losing teeth.

Even in our own modest household, as I type this post, I see lots of toys, dolls, accessories, gadgets, computers, clothes and more.  I see two Barbie dolls riding an American Girl Doll horse.  And I see a basket of condensed down leftover Easter Candy.

I want my kids to enjoy life, to use things, and have enough, but I don’t want to spoil them.  I’ve often thought about one of the Andy Griffith episodes about the kid who was so spoiled he’d rather have his dad thrown in jail than have his bike impounded.

(or you can just watch the most important last 6 minutes here)

Kids need to know that we are supposed to love people and use things.  Too many in our world get this important distinction backwards.  I’ve been thinking about how my kids can grow up well in this regard.  One phrase that has come to mind is “Frugal Extravagance.”


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The definition of frugal is “simple and plain and costing little.”  Extravagance is defined as “a thing on which too much money has been spent or which has used up too many resources.”

A bit of a oxymoron, but think about this:

Frugal Extravagance can be summed up by the common knowledge that kids will open an expensive gift and will wind up playing with the bubble pop wrap.  Or they’ll have all kinds of toys in the house, but will play with a cardboard appliance box for hours in the garage.  They have video games at their disposal, but long for human connection, eye to eye interaction and old fashioned time spent being together as a family.

I want to figure out ways to go over the top on the things that are most important, and ironically, don’t cost anything.

Here are some ways this phrase might play out for us:

  1. Be extravagantly present.  My presence with them doesn’t cost anything, but it can be given lavishly.  When I am home, I want to respond, connect and engage with them.
  2. Be extravagantly encouraging.  I don’t want to puff them up or make them think they’re good at something if they are not, but I want them to feel encouraged by me when I see good things or growing things in them.
  3. Extravagantly listen.  It’s such a gift to be listened to, yet so hard for me at times to set aside what I’m doing and to truly listen. Listening extravagantly means setting aside and giving full attention.
  4. Be extravagantly loving. Hugging.  Writing notes.  Saying I love you.
  5. Be extravagant with instruction.  I want to teach my kids to pray, to read, to learn the Bible, to understand things in life. I want to instruct through experiences and opportunities.  You don’t have to have lots of money to do this. We read lots of books and typically get them from the library or a used book store. Disciplines in life are also important.  I want to help them learn habits that will stick with them.
  6. Be extravagantly thankful.  This includes being mannerly enough to say thank you every time it’s warranted.   But it’s also living extravagantly in gratefulness, thankfulness and contentment.  Be thankful for them and your home.  Live a life of gratitude.
  7. Be extravagantly creative.  I want to play music for fun, sing when we can, teach instruments as we are able, and let them be creative.  I don’t want to push it, but I want them to enjoy it. I want to make sure we decorate for dinner now and then, try new foods, and create art.  I want to include them in creative aspect of life.

Another way this phrase has been playing out in our lives is how we save money for experiences.  There are times when we can intentionally be frugal for the purpose of eventually being extravagant.  We’re trading some pain now for gain later.  We’re trading work now for play later.  We’re going to great lengths to be live simply now so that we can later, in a sense, live more extravagantly through experiences.  It’s a great trade off and it’s fun.  We at times clear things out we don’t need and sell some of it.  We save coins we find for the vacation cup.  We save going out to eat now for having more fun experiences later on.

Frugal Extravagance.  It’s an odd mix, but a great one to grow into.  As you parent – and as your living life in general – be extravagant with the simple things. The list seven things above – none of them cost money.

Live with frugal extravagance.

The other day, we made a boat out of cardboard, paper cups, and tape.  We then proceeded to take it to the city park to test it out. For lunch that day we got two free Pizza Hut Pizzas with the Book It Reading Program they have.  It was a delightful couple of hours.  And I had my daughter create a little video of the experience if you’d like to see it.


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