What Farm-Living Teaches Kids About Money

by Jamie Simmerman · 13 comments

Farmers know how to get the most out of every dollar spent, as nothing goes to waste when you live on a farm — they even recycle manure! For many farm families, living frugally is a way of life passed down from generation to generation. Frugality is an intentional part of raising farm kids, so what can we learn from them?

Here are five lessons on frugality for kids from the farm.

Money Lessons for Kids from the Farm

1. Recycling is essential.

Food scraps get fed to cats, dogs, cows, and other livestock instead of being put in the trash or down a garbage disposal. Old tractor tires are used to grow potatoes or serve as swings and flower beds. When a building needs repairs, materials are often found already on the farm. Old roofing isn’t discarded. Nails are pulled from old boards for re-use, and roofing that’s no longer fit for the farmhouse is recycled for the chicken coop or woodshed.

Bailer twine is saved for tying up plants, securing loose items, and even holding up your britches in a pinch. Look under the kitchen sink, and you’re likely to find a ball of used tin foil, carefully washed and stored for re-use.

How often do we recycle in our modern society? And recycling (or repurposing in some cases) doesn’t even have to be about saving money. Sometimes, it just makes things better. Did you know that Cantonese restaurants use ingredients left over from different dishes to make other ones? Their soup base is often a mix of different scraps taken from different orders. They take a bit of crab meat here, a spoonful of chicken oil there, and voila, a base that can create a brand new dish. That’s one of the reasons why Cantonese restaurants are better in Asia. They just have a ton more customers to create complex dishes from all those orders.

When was the last time you thought about reusing what you already have?

Nature is great entertainment.

Farm kids often grow up with less interest in television, video games, and toys, but you’ll rarely hear a farm boy complain he’s bored. Nature is perfectly adequate. The birth of a baby cow, seedlings sprouting in the garden, and frogs, fish, and crawdads to be hunted all serve as amusement for a farm kid.

An apple tree becomes a fortress, the hayloft is great for an afternoon nap, and muddy fields are instant fun on a hot summer’s day. Manmade entertainment pales in comparison to the free entertainment provided by nature.

Are you always bored and end up spending money just to kill all that free time? Go out for a walk. Go on a hike. We have a community pool close by but not many people use it. Instead, people around us have been sitting in their homes looking at their iPad all day while complaining about the heat inside their air-conditioned room. Then, they complain about their electricity bill.

Don’t complain, but instead do something about it!

2. 3. Responsibilities come first.
Farm animals are dependent on the farmer to meet their needs for food, water, and shelter. Fixing the fence is a continual process to keep animals safe, and animals often eat before the farmer does.

The entire family pitches in to get chores done; work is simply a way of life. Farm kids learn work ethics and life skills that are essential in the workplace.

How often do your kids help out around the house?

4. Work for today, but plan for the future.
Farm kids learn that saving for the future is critical. Equipment wears out, and repairs are a regular part of farm living. Preventative maintenance will increase productivity and lessen the cost of large repairs.

When farm machinery wears out, purchasing new replacements can cost thousands of dollars, so saving for future purchases is a constant practice. Food is canned and stored for the winter, while excesses are sold for profit.

A financial winter will come for all of us one day. Are you ready for yours?

5. Relationships are important.
When a neighbor calls and asks for help putting up crops, you always say, “Yes.” You never know when you’ll need a favor returned. Mending fences with your neighbors is a phrase from the farm that’s learned early on. Keeping on good terms with your neighbors and each other makes working and living together easier.

If a nearby farm family falls on hard times, the surrounding neighbors often pitch in to prepare meals, help with livestock, or tend crops. Unexpected life events can be devastating, but with community support, a farm family doesn’t have to face total ruin when funds are tight or sickness strikes.

Notice I didn’t say that they offer money to the struggling family. Help people on hard times get through a tough situation, but don’t provide handouts because giving money seldom helps anyone get back on their feet. Often, lending money simply ends relationships.

Even if you don’t live on a farm, you can still teach your kids these life lessons about money and frugality. Intentionally building money skills and work ethic in your children is an effort that always pays off.

Have you learned any money lessons in unexpected places?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ornaments says:

    That being said, I still went to college, started my own business in a large city, and am now a multi-millionaire. You can go out to a farmer with your child and he will happily show you. I worked in the concrete trade for most of my life. and I was growing up and it was the best part of the year.

  • Beau W says:

    This is a great article with so many great points. I worked in the concrete trade for most of my life and I have come across a few farm raised fellow co workers and let me tell you they are not lazy and know how to work. No complaints about anything. Get the job done period. Very sharp individuals. Very well mannered folks.

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      How we are brought up makes such a big difference in how we handle life later on. It gives me motivation to make an effort to teach my kids good values.

  • Steveark says:

    My wife grew up on a farm and I can vouch for your accuracy. She is frugal, creative and hard working. My advice to anyone is, if you can’t grow up on a farm, then at least marry somebody who did!

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      Too late for me because I’m happily married, but noted on your advice for anybody who’s single! 🙂

  • Greg Platon says:

    I agree with all your points but I like the second point the best…It is really a great challenge for parents to keep children from being overwhelmed by gadgets, online games and other toys especially these days. With nature, their imagination will be of best use; sharpened. What’s more, they can get more opportunity to exercise.

  • Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle says:

    My sons were lucky enough to live on a farm for about 8 years while they were growing up. They are both excellent workers and team leaders at their jobs even though they are both still in university. They learned to work at an early age – just work not whine. There was no time to whine.

    Feeding and watering meat chickens in the morning before they got on the school bus, haying like grown men at a young age and chasing cows at 2 in the morning makes for good workers. They were the first children to be called for every neighbour for haying, stone picking and fire wood stacking. They were often hired to do jobs for non-farming neighbours when the neighbours’ own kids were the same age or older but the work was “too hard ” or the parents couldn’t get the kids to do the work.

  • Property Marbella says:

    The best farmers are the nicest people too. You can go out to a farmer with your child and he will happily show you and your family around the farm and all the animals.

  • zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com says:

    Basically, you have to put in a hard days work and don’t waste anything. I have had relatives in past who owned farms and they really worked hard for their money.

  • bmv818 says:

    Many farmers don’t recycle manure – they only use it once.

  • Fred says:

    I grew up on a farm in southern MN. Everything mentioned in the story is true—at least it was for me and all my sisters. I spent 18 years on our family farm. We were poor financially however, and lived with help from welfare most of our lives. That being said, I still went to college, started my own business in a large city and am now a multi millionaire. I think the farm background had everything to do with giving me an attitude of working hard, being patient, and of course understanding the value of saving money.

  • KM says:

    Jamie, you are so lucky to be able to live on a farm. I spent my summers on my great-grandmother’s farm when I was growing up and it was the best part of the year. That nostalgia is kicking in and I even started a small garden on my balcony with herbs, peas, carrots, and green onions for small-scale produce and to show my toddler how plants grow and how to take care of them. Unfortunately, I am not an animal person at all, so unless our diet was fully vegan, it would be rather difficult to live on a farm, but I would love to one day be able to fully provide the produce for my family from our own garden.

  • Your Daily Finance says:

    I got a lot of good/great advice the problem was that I wasn’t really ready to listen. I am finding that a lot of the financial advice I am gaining I actually heard before when I was younger. In little lessons my grandmother would teach me about saving some of the money and not spending it all on candy. Farming also teaches you not to be wasteful. When you have to kill an animal that you fed you learn the importance and value of where food comes from.

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