My in-laws are in town this week. They have always been pleasant with me, and have treated me with respect despite not really understanding me. They are the epitome of Consumerism and Comfort. If you know anything about me, you know that I am not. Every time they come, they buy unnecessary presents for my kids, force us to eat elaborate and expensive meals, and spend money on “improving” our house. Today they are painting a room that doesn’t need to be painted. Yesterday they bought my son a toy garbage truck – despite the fact that he already has one (which they bought for him last Christmas). My in-laws are great people, and their actions always have good intentions but misdirected.
I’m struggling to instill good financial virtues with my children, and it’s especially obvious when we have family in town. Our extended families always want to buy “stuff”, and they don’t understand why my wife and I don’t. My wife is on board with our path to fiancial freedom and extremely early retirement, my children don’t seem to mind any perceived sacrifices, but when family comes into town it becomes very difficult to stay on course. So I’m left with few options:
- Stay strong with my beliefs, continue to push back on family and reject gifts and offers
- Give in, accept the gifts and offers, and wait it out until they leave
- Teach anti-consumerism to my family
Option #3 is out. I’ve tried it, either it’s impossible or I lack the skills required for influencing them.
I have two goals to consider when deciding which option to pursue. The first is to be financially free by rejecting consumerism. This is easy, because it’s simply a matter of ideology and time. Since my wife is also on-board, this objective is being met. The second goal is to teach the same rejection of consumerism to my kids. This is an uphill battle against TV commercials, fabricated consumerist holidays, in-store marketing, family, and friends.
If I proceed with Option #1, I risk alienating my family – something I don’t want to do. If I proceed with Option #2, I will be allowing the Consumerist culture into my children’s life more than it already is – against my second objective.
I’ve decided to pursue Option #2, and not risk alienating my family. They are only around a few weeks out of the year, so the damage they can do is minimized. I want my kids to have a good relationship with them, so I won’t risk alienating them. Instead, I will accept the things they want to give me, and then teach my kids lessons on the side. Teach them how consumerism prevents financial freedom, how marketing breeds synthetic desires, and how consumption is damaging to our environment. I won’t speak poorly of family (or anyone else that doesn’t see what Consumerism really is), but I will show them the light.
Of course, I’ll continue to monitor this and always hold the right to change my mind.
Do any of you struggle with this? How do you address it?