Do you remember the TV show ‘MacGyver’ from the late 80’s? Over the years that name has become legendary, personifying resourcefulness. Armed with his trusty Swiss Army knife, MacGyver would save the world weekly with everyday items like paper clips, rubber bands or whatever it was he could find. He could turn almost anything into a solution for his current predicament.
Given the right opportunity, kids left to their own resources can be surprisingly creative and MacGyver-like. Thrifty may not be a word you commonly use to describe your teenager, especially if they haven’t had to work for their needs or wants. Entrepreneurship is one way your teen can develop MacGyver-like resourcefulness.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that running even the smallest business will force out your inner MacGyver! Creative problem solving, making due with what’s on hand, and stretching a limited budget, are just a few acquired survival skills for entrepreneurs!
Your young entrepreneur may not be raiding the cleaning closet to make Russian superglue (a trademark MacGyver creation), but with their limited budget they’ll become very clever at making due with what they have on hand.
My oldest son discovered at a very young age what could be accomplished with a small amount of money and a lot of resourcefulness. He’s even been accused of being thrifty to a fault! (the nerve!) To my knowledge, he’s never watched the TV show MacGyver, but to this day at the age of 31, he’s been called ‘MacGyver’ more than once.
Start Them Young!
When our kids were younger, one of our favorite things to do as a family was shopping garage sales. Our oldest son was especially fond of finding treasures in the rough, and would often purchase non-working mowers and electronics with his own money. When he would share his plans to dismantle the items so he could learn how to fix them, people would often donate the items to him because they thought his ambition was cute. What would you say to a 9-year-old boy negotiating a price on an item that didn’t even work? Little did they know how much their charity would teach him!
In the beginning, he didn’t have a clue how to fix any of these items and neither did his parents. Of course, our eclectic homeschool household loved his new hobby and made every effort to encourage it. We designated a work-space, some basic tools, and gave him plenty of time to work on his projects. He found several people in our church quite willing to help him. To our surprise, he actually fixed many of his purchases and resold them, only to reinvest that money in more broken treasures to fix.
Working with Change
Several years later, our move to a more rural area changed our young entrepreneur’s source of items to repair. Being less familiar with the area coupled with fewer garage sales per square mile and rising gas prices, our garage sale habit became impractical.
Fortunately, this didn’t hinder my son’s ambitions. As he grew older, he discovered Ebay and Craigslist, teaching himself how to effectively use them to move his hobby into a profitable business. Naturally, this came with some hard lessons, usually from people that took advantage of his inexperience and good nature. These experiences taught him many lessons not found in any book. He quickly learned what worked, what didn’t work, and resourceful ways to make the best of his mistakes.
This was the fruit I’d always hoped homeschooling would develop. My son had found a way to transform the book knowledge we offered at the kitchen table into tangible life skills. He figured out how to use a little money, find a need in the marketplace, and a way to fill that need using whatever he had on hand. He didn’t get rich doing it, but made more than he would have at a part time job and learned much more in the process!
This became the seed of his entrepreneurial journey as an adult. He moved on to repairing bigger and bigger items, working his way into his own car before he had a license to drive! Eventually, finding and fixing up cars became his passion. Sourcing vehicles to fix and resell became a full time income and he was soon running his own business. At the age of 24 he had his car dealer’s license (no small endeavor we found out!). Seven years later, he continues to successfully run this business selling good used cars and trucks. His MacGyver-like personality combined with hard work enabled him to create his own career and also jobs for others. To our delight, he’s the king of finding amazing deals of all kinds and his family loves the side benefits!
You can help your child get started in the same way with a little creative guidance enabling them to find or make something they can resell. Teach them how to buy low, add value, and sell at a profit. Sometimes items only need a good cleaning to increase their worth. Show them where to research prices and the best places for reselling. Smart phones are terrific resources for this! The holidays are a great time to test the waters with their wares.
Warn them ahead of time they may not make a profit at the beginning. Discuss with them possible ways to do better next time, listening carefully to all their ideas. Always try to encourage them and don’t let them give up! Remind them that success isn’t always measured by money. You may need to help them keep records of all their income and expenses so they can see what does and doesn’t work.
I don’t need to tell you that teens rarely choose to be thrifty or resourceful on their own. Research indicates making life too easy for your children can make it more difficult for them later in life. They will need you to get started! It’s always time well invested and will teach your teens skills they’ll have forever.
There are many other ways to learn resourcefulness and thrift without binge watching old MacGyver episodes. Let your children help you plan and search for the best prices on your next vacation or large purchase. Involve your kids in as many financial decisions as possible. You might be surprised how creative and thrifty they can be! My daughter would clip coupons and match them to sales for me and now she’s one of those ‘super-couponers’ that saves $400-$600 on groceries every month!
Together Always Makes It More Fun!!
Working together and making it fun will maximize their learning and resourcefulness. It’s a great way to spend time together. Who knows? Their new hobby may even become a profitable business and their future career!