Raising Frugal Kids: 8 Practical Tips Even Small Kids Understand

My dad just turned 80 so he’s pretty old-school.

He did a lot of things right – but one trait always stood out to me.

He was very FRUGAL.

He always negotiated better deals on everything from newspapers (subscriptions) to furniture.

It’s something I find hard to teach my kid!

My kid LOVES spending his money. He’s not exactly frugal 😅

That said, it’s something I’d LOVE to pass on to him.

Here are some ways I try to do that.

Rewarding Kids For Saving Money

Every Friday our son gets around $2. This is mostly spent on candy and ice cream.

Sometimes, though, we let him know that IF he saves it for next week, we’ll give him a smaller ice cream FOR FREE.

You can also guide your kids into saving towards something.

This will help them learn that just because you have money doesn’t mean it has to be spent.

You could make a fun savings chart together for your kid to track their savings.

This could be a color-in diagram of a:

  • Thermometer
  • Penny Jar
  • Rocket Ship
  • Bingo Card

Let Them Shop In Thrift Stores

One of the ways my dad inspired me was around new vs. second-hand stuff.

Fortunately for dads, in 2023, thrifting is becoming more and more popular.

A fun activity to get your kids on board with secondhand shopping is to have a “thrifting hunt”.

Who can find the oldest or most unusual item? 

While hunting, you never know what other items will grab your kid’s attention. And, many folks give away barely-used items.

Here are some other benefits of thrifting besides saving your money:

  • Reduce waste and send less “stuff” to landfills
  • You won’t be supporting big industries (which are often exploitative)
  • Your purchases support charity

Let Them Hear US Talk About Money

We let him listen in on us talking about money.

Of course, not every money conversation is suitable for kids. We don’t want to raise anxious kids.

But it’s good for our kids to listen to us talk about:

  • The grocery shopping list and monthly food budget
  • Birthday present budgets
  • The price of fuel and utilities

Your kid doesn’t need to know exactly what is on your budget spreadsheet, but he can see you working on it and doing the sums.

Watching dad take control of money is really important.

The little ones will learn that money needs to be managed and that it’s important work.

We Let Him Control His Allowance

We want to teach our kid how to be responsible with money. We try to do this by modeling good money-saving and spending practices.

But we also give him the freedom to control his allowance (with our guidance).

I’ve written more about this in a past blog on Money-Savvy Parenting.

Sell Some Of Their Stuff (Together)

We also want our son to learn how to:

  • Let go of unneeded possessions 
  • Spot entrepreneurial opportunities
  • Manage income

We’ve made a booth a few times and set it up outside our apartment. Our boy puts the items of choice on display.

Sometimes we sit and manage the booth. Sometimes we use an honest-box policy.

We’ve also sold stuff online and let him have the money.

Pro-Dad Tip: I’d suggest doing this with your kid and not behind their back. Avoid the white lies of where teddy really went.

Save Some for Later

Being frugal means carefully considering the way we spend. Part of this discipline includes how we use what we spend.

Teaching our kids that we don’t need it all NOW takes practice.

It’s tough to stop eating candy when it’s so delicious. It’s tough not to mix all the paint when it feels so cool on your fingers.

The trick is to SHOW our kids how to be intentional about the way we use or consume things.

“Let’s pour this paint into smaller cups so we can paint more another day.”

“Let’s just have 3 candies now and save the rest. Then we can have some each day this week!”

More Doesn’t Mean Better

This one’s for us, dads.

Ever heard of the saying “keeping up with the Joneses”?

It refers to our tendency to compare what we have with others and the belief that we are only “good enough” if we have the same or more than others.

And kids feel it too.

“But everyone else has one”. This pulls at our daddy heartstrings.

We dads want to be able to give our kids everything they need and more. But as the adults, we must remember that “more” isn’t always good for them.

Having more… and more…  doesn’t lead to happiness.

“More stuff right now” doesn’t teach patience, either.

And this takes me to my final tip on raising frugal kids…

The Attitude of Gratitude

We need to actively model gratitude. Not taking for granted what we have.

Pro-Dad Tip: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” doesn’t work.

In fact, it’s not helpful at all.

Telling your kid to be grateful doesn’t instill a mindset of gratitude. 

The reality is that our kids WILL throw temper tantrums. They might even get so angry they hit and shout.

Dads, it’s tough out there! I get it.

What can we do then?


Or, donate toys to a local community organization (for animals, people, or the environment).

Give financially to a charity.

You can get creative with your kids on how to raise money – what about a fun raffle among the residents in your street or apartment building?

Validate emotions.

Being happy and being angry are both real human emotions. We can validate that it’s okay to feel angry, but it is never okay to shout or hit when we are mad.

Best of all – model gratitude. 

As a family, talk regularly about what you’re grateful for. Share with your kids what brings you joy.

We like to do this over dinner together.

But you can also talk about this at bedtime while you reflect on the day with your kids.


Thanks for reading.

Get My Weekly Updates

If you’re not already getting my newsletter, you can do that here:


Scroll to Top