Do Kids Inherit Frugality?
February 5, 2010
Our son has been making me proud lately with his unexpected frugal remarks. The first one came as he browsed the toy aisle in a CVS pharmacy while we waited for a prescription to be filled. As he played with the trucks he said:
“we won’t get these… they’re too expensive”
Then the next night when I went to take out the garbage I left the door open a crack. He jumped up from across the room and yelled:
“Dad, close the door you’re letting out all the warm air”
Just last night he was running around the house turning off the lights. He told me:
“we don’t leave the lights on, they might burn out”
Of course, I’m sure he’s heard me say similar things before but I think it’s cool he’s making the connection between the frugal action and the reason behind it. He knows the reason that we don’t buy randomly buy toys in the store is because they’re too expensive (or a rip-off as I sometimes say).
He doesn’t really know what expensive means but he knows it’s a good reason NOT to do something. He doesn’t understand that it costs money to create warm air in the winter or electricity for lights; but he does know that you don’t want to waste the air or the light bulbs.
I can tell he doesn’t get the overall concept of conserving your resources because of little things; like tonight he used 8 sheets of toilet paper to dry up a little spot on the floor. He also likes to flush the toilet multiple times just so he can watch the water go down. So far he’s only picked up on specific behaviors, not the idea as a whole.
So all this seems behavioral, stuff he’s learned from watching and listening to my wife and I. We learned it from our parents, and they learned those behaviors from theirs. What I wonder is whether any of these tendencies are inherited rather than learned. Are there genetic characteristics that lend themselves to conserving what you have and not wasting your resources?
I doubt there is a “frugality gene” but what about the cavemen that were hunting and gathering ages ago? Were there some families that were a little more lavish with their food and belongings or were they all “frugal” with their resources? We often think of survival of the fittest as the strongest and fastest but maybe it was also the most frugal? Did the family that could make the woolly mammoth meat last an extra few weeks survive while the others perished?
Maybe nature was too harsh at that point in our history and every person knew to conserve as much as possible or die. However, as society evolved I can’t help but think frugal tendencies emerged as commerce started to develop.
The Cheap Inherit the Earth
I know there’s a Biblical passage something along the lines of the meek shall inherit the Earth. Well maybe for the time being it will be the cheap who inherit the Earth. When the foolish spenders fall into foreclosure and bankruptcy and the stock market plunges, those with frugal genes can tap into their long accumulated rainy day funds and buy stock and property at a big discount. Maybe as they’re bargain shopping they should be thanking their ancestors for passing on frugal genes?
What do you think?
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