Loose Change

Passing on Life Skills to the next generation

Loose change - make do and mend

Erith blogs at  Cracking Retirement about having fun in Retirement, making the most of her money, travelling far and wide and enjoying her hobby: bashing metal.


As a society, we have mostly lost the concept of Make Do and Mend. Our landfill sites are overflowing with items that could have been re-used, repaired or recycled. Why do we no longer care? It is so easy just to fall into the mindset of – it’s cheaper and easier to buy new. We buy takeaways rather than making from scratch. We are not passing on life skills to the next generation.

Time to Reverse the Trend

A few weeks ago, I had a few days away. The strap on my rucksack broke. The stitching had given way. I found a great hand-luggage trolley bag in Poundland for £8. I couldn’t believe my luck.

I stuffed the contents of my rucksack into the bag. The rucksack itself also fitted in. Result! I would be able to take it home and repair it.

Then it struck me – how often do we throw things away that have a minor problem, which could easily be fixed, if only we had the skills to do it?

Basic Useful skills

Today, many of us have lost the basic skills that our grandparents had. They made their own clothes, grew their own veg and cooked from scratch. No freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers etc. Having a few conversations with friends and neighbours recently made me realise how skills are getting lost

  • I need to get my skirt taken up. (basic sewing)
  • I need to get someone in to put up some shelves (basic woodwork)
  • I had to throw it out, the strap had broken (sewing again)
  • I can’t make cakes, I just buy them (baking skills)
  • I always run out of money by the end of the week (money management)
  • I ran out of ideas on what to make, so we just got a carry-out (menu planning)
  • It cost me £10 to get my trousers altered. (basic sewing)

Many of these skills are no longer taught in schools, as mentioned recently in a Loose Change article on teaching menu planning in schools. Our children often can’t cook or sew and they don’t know the elements of managing money.

How do we help the next generation?

I think it really starts at home. As parents, just as we help our children to learn to read, get themselves dressed and tie their shoelaces, we can encourage them to take a full part in the home. Otherwise we are not being fair to our children.

  1. Running the Home
  • Very young children love baking. Let them stand next to you on a stool or chair, and do simple parts of the task. When they are 8-14, they are more than capable of making a simple meal with some help. When they are 14 on, make them responsible for providing one meal a week. It doesn’t matter if it is the same dish week after week, at least they will have a signature dish when they leave home
  • Menu planning. Involve them in the discussions about what the family is going to eat over the coming week and then help build the shopping list.
  • Help with the shopping. Talk through the budget challenges. We have this much money and we need x, how are we going to do it? As you go, compare the prices of different brands & pack sizes etc.
  • Cleaning – every child should be able to do basic cleaning and how to use the vacuum. Your son’s future wife will love you!
  • Washing –Save them from their first student disaster by showing them how to separate out coloured items from whites. The importance of reading the washing instructions. Even better teach this at time of purchase – No we won’t buy those trousers, I know they look good but they need to be dry-cleaned.
  • Simple sewing tasks. My button has come off my shirt. – Ok then, let’s find the thread and I’ll show you how to sew it on…
  • Simple home repair jobs. Your average teenager is more than capable of changing a plug, replacing a fuse, putting up a shelf etc. they just need encouragement
  1. Managing Money
  • Get your teenagers involved in the shopping. Send them out with a certain amount of money, and a list. See what they come home with!
  • Be open about money. Explain how tax and National Insurance works. Why it is important to put money away for a pension. Why you save, and what you intend using it for. The concept of ‘emergency money’ etc
  • Explain to them how much it costs to run your home. How much you are left with after all the bills are paid. How much you set aside for food, petrol, family days out. Say where money is tight and what you do about it.
    • Explain Interest. Both on loans and on savings. Show how it can count against you, and how you can make it work for you.
    • Explain Credit Scores and their importance. Help them to understand the mess they can get into if they don’t make the payments on time.
    • Explain the concept of buying for the long term, buying once and making it last, not replacing it three times.
    • Delayed Gratification – Wait until you can afford it. Or give it a week or two, to make sure you still want it.
    • Taking out loans on things that depreciate is not a good idea. You might be still paying for it when you no longer have it!

It’s Important

We must pass on our skills to the next generation, and if we haven’t got the skills, we should build them together. You can find a U-Tube video on just about anything. Admitting you have a problem e.g. I never manage money well, why don’t we learn together, is not a weakness, it is a strength.

2 thoughts on “Passing on Life Skills to the next generation

  1. I couldn’t agree more, although not all sons go on to marry a lady 😉 I stepped in to help with running the house when my mum was doing three jobs on top of going to college to increase her earning potential. I left home just before my 17th birthday fully equipped to live on my own. My two younger brother still to this day in the thirties cannot cook, operate a washing machine, and would have absolutely no idea where the hoover lives. They both still live at home with my mum running around after them!

    1. Hi DJT
      You’re right – I should have said -your son’s future partner! I’m supportive of all types of relationships…
      Both my sons, by the time they left home (aged 17 & 18), could operate a sewing machine, cook meals, clean etc. To be fair, both now take their fair share in running their homes, particularly when it comes to ironing, when they both do the vast majority – we obviously taught them too well! (Their dad can also iron. Many years ago, their Dad and I agreed to spend the same amount of time ironing, regardless of whether he ironed 2 shirts and I ironed 12, the principle was established, so the boys have grown up in a very equal opportunity household!
      I would start leaning on your Mum, tell her to stop doing everything for your brothers (explain to her she is not helping them, or indeed being kind to them!. At 30, they need to be able to do everything themselves!) and if they don’t like the result, they can pay for someone to do it! It would make life easier for your Mum, a positive benefit!

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