Want to save money? Be more like children


Alright, you’ve probably already tuned out because it’s that kind of inspirational porn that is rampant over social media: all talk, no action. OF COURSE little children are carefree; what’s your point, Tucker? Ok, hear me out, people!

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Watching our brood of children (all seven) play for a week non-stop at the cottage inspired this post. They swam, read books, caught turtles and frogs, went canoeing and fishing, played games of telephone around the campfire, and did crafts (one of the Moms ran a craft class – you know who you are, keener!). For the most part, they didn’t even beg for devices except for a few Pokemon adventures into town and – get this – they got together and made a movie. They determined the plot, the actors, gathered up some props and filmed it on the iPad. We used to act out plays, our kids film movies. Same thing.

Notice how I didn’t say, “childlike.” The reason for that is that child like denotes an immaturity and I don’t think you need to be immature to take advantage of the qualities children have.

I never want to be one of those people who wishes for “the good old days” or who make disparaging comments about “kids these days” because in all honesty, a> today is great, and b> the kids are alright. But I do want to highlight that Mr. Tucker and I often talk about our lives from back when we were young and poor. We aren’t trying to romanticize it (being poor stinks) but when you can’t use money to fill your boredom, you get creative. We reminisce about evenings spent drinking crappy coffee and either painting or playing guitar in our respective crappy apartments. You had no options so you had to find ways to do things without money.

As you get better paying jobs and start slowly make more money, you get lifestyle creep. The definition of lifestyle creep is simple: when you have more money, you spend more money. At first it’s all about treating yourself, then those treats become a normal expense so then you add another treat, and so on. It happens so slowly: one day you are having pasta and red sauce with the dry, crappy Kraft “Parmesan” sawdust (if you are lucky to afford that), and the next thing you know it you are making a Puttanesca sauce with fresh pasta and 10-year-old real parmesan shavings on top. It happens in all areas of your life as well: from the alcohol you consume, to where you live, to your transportation choices. Our lifestyles inflate as our paychecks do, and with easily available credit our lifestyles can even surpass our income.

One day you wake up and you wonder when life got so complicated!? But it doesn’t have to be, you can slowly – or quickly – reduce your spending by being more like children.

Kids – when left to their own devices – will turn anything into an experience. Haggard parents of toddlers know that as soon as they start walking, kids are into EVERYTHING. As they get older and their attention spans lengthen they start being more creative and involved in their projects. Now that my kids are 7 & 9 they are at that age we like to romanticize from our own childhoods: the go-outside-and-come-back-when-the-streetlights-come-on years. Armed with only a water bottle, they will meet their friends at the park after school. On inclement weather days they stay in and play games, do art, or read a book. We only allow our kids tablets and tv on the weekends (and special occasions) so we’ve cultivated this habit.

Parent thyself, parent!

We are hypocrites. We tell our kids it’s a nice day, so they should go outside and play with their friends meanwhile we are pasty indoor-dwellers. We moderate their electronics use but we use our phones almost constantly. We tell them if they are bored to find something productive to do, but we spend evenings glued to our favourite shows. We tell them to eat properly, but we buy junky work lunches from fast food places. We definitely have a case of “do as I say, not as I do” going on.

Let’s face it – as adults we have a hard time saying no to ourselves. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be a culture smothered in debt with our three-car garages filled to the brim like graveyards of hobbies past.

Adults throw money at all their problems even when the problem could be solved by creativity, not by money. When I am out of chicken the solution isn’t to run out and buy chicken at full price for dinner, the solution is to figure out what I do have in the fridge and make that for dinner instead. When I need more exercise maybe the solution is biking to work instead of getting a gym membership.

When you are a kid you spend all day inventing things, running, playing, using creativity to fill the void. You come home to eat and dinner is what is put in front of you, so you don’t question it. You don’t decide it was a rough day at the schoolyard and so you treat yourself to a steak dinner because you are a kid who has no money. You may beg for candy at the checkout but chances are you know you aren’t going to get it. Your expectations are such that when you DO get a treat, you truly relish it.

“I’m booooored,”

I don’t allow my kids to say this. I mean, they can say it but then I make them sit in a chair and stare at the wall for a few minutes. (How is that for boredom?) But I get anxious riding an elevator and whip out my phone to alleviate the boredom. As adults we surround ourselves with constant stimuli because our lifestyle creep allows us to buy all the things we need to not get bored.

But boredom is the solution, not the problem.

As adults we never let ourselves get bored anymore and creativity springs from boredom. What’s worse is that boredom gives us anxiety. The anxiety comes because we feel we should be doing something with our time – maybe work on that book we want to write, maybe take the time to do a budget and get yourself on track, maybe reach out and see a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. But we often get anxious and overwhelmed and so we go for the simple wins: fill that hole with shopping for happiness, refresh social media and compare our lives to others.

We need to stop.

Look at all the things you store right now that you once bought to make yourself feel happy. How do they make you feel today? If spending truly makes you happy, why have you spent all this money over the years and have yet to reach peak happiness? How much more do you think you need to spend to make yourself happy? Is there a finish line?

The reality is that after you have your basic needs met, you need relatively few extras to make you happy. Once you hit that peak, your enjoyment for money spent goes way down. This is obvious when you observe children: they have food in their bellies, clothes on their backs, they marvel in the world around them, they have good friends and time to enjoy them, they solve boredom creatively, they get regular exercise, they don’t default their attention to electronics, they generally get a good night’s sleep. Frankly, more adults should take their cues from kids – not the other way around. When do they do get a treat, their excitement is infectious. If all purchases made us that happy!

So I put it to you, adults: be more like kids. Get creative with the way you view the world. Stop looking to money to make you happy – and stop comparing yourself to people on social media, that’s a guaranteed way to make you unhappy, and when you are unhappy you spend money.

Hey-o! Look at me, making my own meme-like guide! Pin that sh!t on the fridge, people!