So recently I wrote an article for an online magazine, mostly on a whim. I did pretty well in the selection process, but in the end the article wasn't chosen. Instead of letting it just sit around never to be seen, I've decided to post the rough copy here. Enjoy.
No matter how bad things get in the world, or how little money families have, there is at least one constant: kids will find a way to have fun with whatever they have. It’s almost enough to make those of us with $8/hour jobs and barely enough for bills extremely jealous. That was the thought Dr. Jeremy Stoole had, leading to decisions that changed his life and which he now promotes as a new lifestyle for those of us wishing to recapture our childhoods and lessen expenses.
“I felt like I was living on an allowance again,” Stoole tells, “and not even a good one. So, I started looking back at the times I really did have an allowance yet was happy with nothing, and started studying how the kids in my family stay happy. Eventually I figured out that if I gave up a lot of the new, expensive things I’ve come to enjoy as an adult, I could recapture that childhood joy and save some money in the process. It’s worked out well for me, so now I’m just trying to share my tips and maybe get a self-help book deal out of it.”
We asked Dr. Stoole if he’d be willing to share some of his childhood living tips with us, and he agreed to pass on five of the biggest lessons he’s learned:
1: Give up the big entertainment purchases.
According to Stoole, children don’t need a large budget for entertainment, and neither should you. “This was a hard one to accept when I first thought of it, but it’s probably the most basic rule. At the time I started this project I had cable, Netflix, and was going to movies whenever I could. Then I saw my young cousins playing during a family get-together, and realized they were making their own stories! As long as I had imagination, I didn’t need my big entertainment subscriptions. Now, I just have a big cardboard box set up in my living room that I can get inside and put on my own shows. My friends gave me strange looks at first, but now they come over just for my news reports and primetime dramas.”
2: Lessen the grocery budget.
Kids have simple tastes, and Stoole used this to make serious cuts in the weekly food budget. “Before I started this, I was spending lots of money on fancy restaurants and healthy groceries, but you never see a kid asking for spinach or looking to go to the newest fusion place downtown. Fast food and cheap processed groceries are the way to go. If you need inspiration, you can just look at public school lunches, as school boards all over the country seem to be using the same ideas in order to make the cheapest meals possible. Nothing beats my hot dogs cut up in mac and cheese, with a piece of frozen pizza on the side. Technically it‘s a vegetable now, so it‘s still a full meal.”
3: Arts and crafts for home decoration.
Stoole has lots of praise for the crafty trend that has been spreading on the internet, but claims it could go further. “All of the craft forums online and people posting things they’ve made with everyday household objects reminded me of the old summer camp arts and crafts time. I didn’t need to spend any money on tools or trinkets, either, just making sure all my projects have a healthy dose of macaroni and glue. Now my place is decked out in its own crafty style.”
4: Lose the pet expenses.
Pets are great for companionship, but pet food and vet visits are extremely expensive. Stoole offers up cheap alternatives. “There are some things that kids want that are always expensive, like a dog or a cat. There was no way I could afford a pet on my budget, and while free admission days at the zoo are great, only seeing the animals once a week doesn’t really give much of a feeling of interaction. I was on the verge of getting a pet rock, despite that feeling more like my parents’ teen years than my childhood, but then I went with my nephew to the local park. Within five minutes he was trying to play with the squirrels, chasing them around the trees. It was perfect, just like running around with my dog as a kid, and it also doubles as great exercise.”
5: Spend more time with family.
Stoole’s last tip isn’t always the most popular, but it’s one of the biggest staples of childhood living. “So you’ve given up your TV, fancy restaurants, your stuff is covered in glitter and glue, and you’ve found companionship with the local squirrels, yet you still can’t cover all the bills. I got to that point and was just about to start looking for another job and work 80 hours a week, until I remembered the most important part of childhood living: family. It took some convincing, but I was able to move back in with my parents and even set up a home office where I can teach others about this new lifestyle option. Granted, all these changes caused my girlfriend to break up with me, but that’s alright, she had cooties anyway.”
For more information, Dr. Stoole can be reached at his home office anytime before his curfew.