We have an hour before we run over to the neighborhood thrift, the Goodwill at Archer and Broadway in Denver, for the Saturday 50% off day. The whole family goes.
Would you believe me if I told you my children love thrift stores? Believe me if I told you their friends love it too?
Would you believe me if I told you my Pie loves receiving hand-me-downs from her sister Poe? Pie loves anything from Poe because she loves her, looks up to her, and thinks she’s the coolest. Poe is truly an idol in Pie’s crowd. Many of these girls have asked their parents for a Poe, like she’s a commodity. (Note: I’m tired of writing oldest daughter and youngest daughter so from now on I refer to them as Poe and Pie.)
Would you believe me that these notions of children wanting only new things is a retail-based strategy with the sole intent to drive sales to meet predicted quarterly gains on the stock market?
They did a damn good job of pulling the wool over America’s eyes in having us think if “it’s not new its EWW!” Or how about this one, “if it’s not new, it’s unfair!” Okay, sure if it’s a ratty t-shirt, who wants it? But if it’s a beautiful dress coat, who doesn’t? Wait, scratch that comment on the ratty t-shirt because there are many children in third world countries who would want that t-shirt.
My girls love thrift because they can afford it and they know it is good for the planet. When we were young (back in the old days when we walked five miles to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways) our 50-cent allowance had spending power. It really did. How sad it is that today a $5 allowance buys squat or junk that falls apart the day of purchase. Do you think the store really cares that the thing fell apart after two hours of play?
Take the children thrifting and they can buy sweaters, CD’s, purses, books, jeans, jewelry, scarves, shoes, dresses…I think you get the point. And they do this with their own money; Mommy doesn’t have to swoop in and save the day with a few extra dollars. The children are empowered. They don’t need help and often they don’t want it. Check out the slide show of some items children have purchased with their own money, third slide show down on the left, "What Kids Buy."
Children want their very own purchasing power. Is that too much to want? Hey, us adults want that too. Wouldn’t it be a bummer if there were loan officers in the corners of stores ready to receive applications from those who need more money to make a purchase? Oh yeah, we kind of have that already; it’s called maxing out the credit card and we usually don’t max out just one. “Oh, that card didn’t work? Well, let’s try this one.” If the second doesn't work, then fill out an in-store application for a store credit card and get 10% off your purchase. It amazes me how creditors are willing to take money we don't have. Is this only in America? I know their are readers in other countries out there. Can you comment?
Many years ago when Poe was four, she received $5 from a grandmother and was so thrilled about the prospect of having her own money to spend. Stupid me took her to Target. This was before I got smart and started thrifting. Poe’s shoulders slumped when she saw the prices. Seeing your child's shoulders slump is heartbreaking so my shoulders slumped too and my heart sank. It was a giant let down. It was also before Target had the dollar section but, a lot of that stuff is…I’ll let you fill in the adjective. I might say, “unnecessary.” Does one buy this stuff out of honest necessity or is it bought because it costs a buck and so few things do today?
That day at Target, I ended up supplementing Poe’s $5 but it sucked all the joy out of making her own purchase. It really did.
Let’s teach our children how to spend as you go. Give them a healthy sense of purchasing power. If they always have to borrow from mom and dad then they’ll grow up borrowing.
If grandparents must give them obscene amounts of money to buy a birthday gift, children will grow up spending obscene amounts of money.
My crystal ball tells me that today’s children are going to hit the job market with heavy debt from college, especially since 529’s have tanked. Who knows how long that correction will take? Then factor in the years lost on earnings. So, do we want our children to tack on massive credit card debt to their negative economic self-worth fresh out of the gates into adulthood? I think not.
This is one of the hardest parts of parenting. Your children are always watching and learning lessons you don’t think you’re teaching. Remember that when you go shopping. And, you may be surprised to learn that they'd rather be thrifting.