My family and I just returned from a two-day camping trip at Little Pond, a campground just outside my husband’s hometown of Livingston Manor. It was two days of sleeping in the cold and rain. There were bugs and dirt, but you know what? We all had a great time! So, this makes me wonder why we spend so much time and money trying to entertain our kids, when a tent, flashlight and campfire will suffice. Being a frugal person, I think about what life lessons our kids can take away from the simplicity of camping. Here are the four life lessons I hope my kids learn from our family camping trips.

1. Fun is possible without any electronic devices.
Sometimes I worry about my kids growing up in a world that constantly has them tuned into some electronic device. Camping was a great way to show my kids that you don’t need much more than some friends and family to have a good time. My kids had a blast swimming in the lake and making castles and moats on the beach. We read stories by flashlight and roasted marshmallows. This reminded me that we don’t need to spend a fortune entertaining our kids. My favorite part about camping was not being a slave to a clock, computer, phone or any other device. Time was strictly to be enjoyed, not worried about or accounted for and I think that is an awesome life lesson for my little campers to learn. Even this frugal lady knows that time is a thousand times more valuable than money. When you use up money you can make more, but once time is spent, it’s gone forever.

2. Friends can be forever as long as you keep growing together.
Our camping trip was made more fun because we went with several of my husband’s childhood friends. These awesome people are known by my children as uncles and aunts. These honorary titles teach my children that while there is the family you are born into, there is also the family that you create for yourself. Though I admit to listening to stories of “Manor” as an outsider who didn’t grow up there, there are also plenty of stories told around the fire that encompass the life my husband and I have created over the past 14 years. I have been tucked inside this tight-knit cocoon of friendship formed in childhood and I get a front row seat for stories about my husband (the boy he was long before the man he is now), which is awesome and pretty funny too. I can only hope my children will create their own “family” like this one day.

3. You don’t have to have it all to have it all.
This sounds crazy I know, but camping is a great financial equalizer. Ok, so if you’re “glamping” (glamorous camping) in a fabulous RV with all the amenities of a 5-star resort you might miss this life lesson, but if you camp like we do in a tent on the hard rocky ground you learn quickly that financial status is totally a moot point in the wilderness. Nobody is trying to impress anyone with flashy things because you don’t bring fancy things when you camp unless you want them covered in dirt. We all have the same opportunity to take our small patch of earth and carve out a “home,” if only for a few days. Like I always say, the people make the home, not the house and certainly not the stuff inside it.

4. Stuff is only great if it has a purpose.
Let’s face it, packing and unpacking a car for a camping trip is a huge pain in the neck. You have to carefully weigh the value of each item before you load it up, otherwise you could easily find yourself without room for the family. I hope my kids remember this life lesson when they grow up and set up their homes. My childhood home had no shortage of stuff. At times it felt like the stuff was multiplying and pushing the people out. I want my kids to evaluate the usefulness of their stuff. I don’t want them to hold tight to objects. I want them to remember that you can’t always take it with you.

Most of my favorite childhood memories revolve around my grandmother’s house and I remember the cardboard box she had filled with random toys. I suspect most grandparents have this same hodgepodge collection of toys in a box in their homes for when the grandkids come over to play. The toys never changed in all the years of my childhood visits to her house; I was the one who changed. I used my imagination and creativity to reinvent these toys to keep myself a happy camper at her house. Just as a single bowl or pan while camping becomes so vitally important that you use it in a variety of ways, I want my kids to view their stuff the same way. Not much good comes from boarding the “more” train. You can’t be a happy camper thinking about what you don’t have or forgot to pack in this world. You just get busy making do with something else. When you do that, you find a kind of satisfaction with yourself and your life that is truly priceless.