When Things Get Broken or Wasted: Frugal Setbacks

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The following is from contributing writer Sarah of Frugal Fun for Boys

One important aspect of living a frugal lifestyle is being good stewards of what we have.  If we can take care of something, we don’t have to replace it as often, which saves money!

However, with three young boys and a puppy living at my house, scenes like the one in the photo above are an almost everyday occurrence.  No, it’s not always the toilet paper. Sometimes it is the puppy chewing up my husband’s black dress pants ($30 to replace because we couldn’t wait for a sale).  Or maybe it is the toddler scribbling on the pantry door or unrolling an entire roll of aluminum foil.  Or it’s a damaged library book that we now have to pay for.

No matter how careful we are, things are going to get broken and be wasted.  It is just a part of life!

What should be our response when this happens?

Remember that Everything Belongs to God.

Nothing is our own.  It is all His, and we are the stewards.  Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Recalling this to mind is huge, and can make the difference between an angry response and a godly response.

How does God want me to respond?  According to Ephesians 4:29.  “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Things get wasted and broken.  It happens.  This is not a sin (unless it is intentional on our part), but our response to those who did the wasting certainly can be!  Which is more important – keeping the carpet free from stains, or cultivating a good relationship with our children?

Salvage and Reuse Where Possible.

We used all of the toilet paper in the picture above!  It really wasn’t a big deal to use it out of a “pile” instead of a roll.  Another day, I scraped the top layer off the peanut butter after I caught my 2 year old spitting into it (what was he thinking??) and we used the rest of the jar anyway.  We all lived to tell the tale!

Implement Consequences for the “Waster” Where Appropriate.

Kids can help clean up something they have spilled or help with repairs. My oldest son recently broke a large 3-opening picture frame while throwing a ball in the house.  He wasn’t doing anything in anger, and he wasn’t trying to break the frame.  It was simply a case of poor judgment.  However, my husband and I had him use some of his own money to pay for part of the cost of replacing the frame.  We explained to him that God wants him to take responsibility for his actions, and that part of being responsible is making things right when you break something.

We as adults would do the same thing for others if we broke something.  “Not meaning to” does not excuse one from making things right!  If carried out without anger (see point 1), appropriate consequences can really help kids be better stewards of  the things they use.

What things tend to get wasted at your house?  How do you handle it with grace?

About Sarah Dees
Sarah is a Christian mom of three sons who shares inexpensive ways to keep boys busy at Frugal Fun for Boys. She features activities, homeschooling tips, and thoughts on teaching boys God’s Word. You can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.
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  1. Bonnie says

    Good post, I am trying to be a lot more “grace filled” with my children lately, since I find myself yelling so often. I want them to learn right from wrong and learn that actions have consequences and teaching our children these things works a lot better when they aren’t getting yelled at all of the time. If I can control my anger in the moment, and talk them through whatever it was when I have calmed down, I am finding that they pay a lot more attention to the “why” mommy doesn’t want me to do certain things instead of just being afraid to make mommy mad.

  2. Renita says

    Thanks for the great reminder. Just today I returned to a MUCH too quiet room to find my two-year-old “touching up” the drawers I had just painted. As anger began welling up inside me, God reminded me that no irreparable harm had been done, the mess could be far worse, and my sweet son was just trying to “hep Mama.” I’m so glad God used an opportunity when I would normally have blown up, and reminded me use it instead for a constructive moment with my son. Good call on learning to be a grace-filled Mama!

  3. Chi Fitzgerald says

    Love the article and the comments, however I couldn’t help but apply myself to trying to find a practical solution to the unraveled TP delimma

    The first thought that came to mind is the old tried and true remedy for TP flying off the roll:

    Take the toilet roll and step on it to flatten it out. Then put it on the roller. It makes it just a little less prone to spin off the roller. Kinda of spoils the fun just a little and hopefully they (pets or kids) will find other fun activities to occupy their little minds.

    Another option is to remove all TP from the room and the next time they need a little TP you can seize upon the moment as a “teaching opportunity”.

    Note 1: this works on some kids, but pets seem not to care in the least.

    Tip: It is important that if this is to be an effective teaching method that you remove all objects that could be substituted for TP, including your wash clothes and hand towels (leave the bowl brush for the truly adventureous and industrious members of the household).

  4. Chi Fitzgerald says

    If only you could teach him what to do with the TP he loves to pull off the roll!

    It might break off and force him to come back for repeated attempts and if you’re lucky he’ll loose interest, but beware one object of fun will very quickly be replaced by a new interest.

    I have a Chiweenie puppy who is now 6 months old and was the worse chewer I have ever had. It was a real challenge keeping him focused on what is “allowable” for him to chew on, but before we got to that point he chewed up my computer speaker wires and almost got through an electrical cord. That probably would have solved the chewing problem, but I would hate to loose him.

    You can see him on his very own Facebook page Joey Chiweenie. The pictures are from when we first got him this past Spring.

    Anyway he did learn not to chew on wires after a very stern talking too. But then an idle mouth on a puppy is kind of like an idle mind in a child so he just moved on to the next object.

    He managed to eat out the bottom of my relatively new Queen size box spring mattress, then on too my house shoes. I should have seen that one coming because I am sure it must be in the “How to be a good puppy” manual.

    These days I have Joey fairly well broken of the unacceptable chewing and credit it to giving him plenty of raw hide chews. He will sit and chew all day long if I let him. Just be careful with the type you buy and how far you let them get with chewing the chew down to too small a size. Some dogs will swallow objects just like a baby and child and choke.

  5. Becky Thomas says

    I just recently subscribed to your rss feed. I’m the now SAHM of a 3 year old and 7 month old. I’m finding your feed is exactly what I needed. I recently really struggled with this. I was finding myself angry all the time. Especially with the broken fresh-out-of-the-box toys. I finally reminded myself of a promise I made a long time ago: To live a life where people are more important than things. Now, I take a deep breath, let it out and say, “It doesn’t matter. It’s just stuff.” I punish my 3 year old where appropriate, but getting angry doesn’t solve anything.

  6. Barb @ A Life in Balance says

    As a mom of 5 (4 are 7 and under), I constantly deal with these types of messes/helps. My kids seem to be a bit rougher on stuff than other kids, though with a 3 year old boy thrown into the mix, things do happen.

    When the kids recently messed up a Wii game belonging to their oldest brother, each child contributed $5 towards a new game, and my dh and I paid for the rest. Unfortunately, the game is broken again. As a result, my oldest is keeping the Wii stuff in his room, and only bringing it out at parties for the rest of the kids.

    I try to involve the kids in cleaning up the mishaps as much as possible. We’re also emphasizing taking care of our possessions more, and cleaning up toys on a more regular basis.

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