Kids Do What We Do: Restraint and Financial Education for Kids

“We are NOT living in a 300-square-foot apartment,” noted my wife this morning. “Of course not, honey,” I noted. “That was for a couple. We’ll need 600 for our family of four.” She wasn’t amused, although we both agreed that the video of the intrepid couple living in their 309-square-foot dream home was pretty cool. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve become weirdly obsessed with the idea that we just don’t need as much space as we’ve come to believe we need since watching this amazing TED talk by Graham Hill.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s time for our families of four or more to embrace the Tiny Home movement, but it should give us all some pause to hear Graham tell us that we need 3 times more space per person than we did about 50 years ago. I mean, I thought that deodorant technology has improved since then! In all seriousness, though, thinking about housing size does get at an issue that I believe we should consider when we’re starting a financial education program for our kids: the idea of restraint. Learning to Share & Save & Spend Smart requires restraint, and it would be great for our kids to see us exercise that same restraint when we’re making our home, car and other choices. After all, research does strongly suggest that parental modeling has a strong impact on our children’s money smarts (The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Spring 2015: 13–38).
You might be interested to know that in the book Happy Money, research has shown that home ownership and home size have not been shown to increase human happiness. Certainly, we think we’ll be happier when we purchase a bigger home (Live with a 12-year-old, and you’ll agree that some additional space is a good thing.), but any exploration into the subject of human happiness quickly reveals that we are absolutely awful at predicting what will make us happy. (Read Stumbling on Happiness for much more on this.) 
So perhaps 150 square feet per person is a little extreme, but the point here is the recognition that restraint matters. Kids do what we do, and showing that restraint might even make us a little happier. And who can argue with that? 
Chief Mammal & Creator
The Money Mammals

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