Save Money and Teach the Power of Personal Choice
Published: July 31, 2019
By: Christina Katz
My teenage daughter said the magic words to me after mentioning she needed an outfit to wear to the drama club end-of-the-year event. “Let’s try Goodwill first,” she said, and I had to suppress the urge to do a little victory dance. After years of suggesting the same thing over and over, she has finally gotten the memo about choosing thrifty over spendy. And peer pressure is finally backing me up, hallelujah!
We walked out of the resale shop with two quality dresses, four fashionable shirts, two pairs of already broken-in shoes, and a swingy sweater for under $40. My daughter used her own money to pay and I pointed out how much she might have spent if she’d bought everything new. I also mentioned what great condition everything was in and how nicely they would last. Besides, when she was tired of them, she could re-donate them and find fresh replacements. But I didn’t need to sell her on any of these points. My teen fashionista was already cheerfully putting new school outfit combinations together in her head.
Being a parent has definitely made me thrifty. I am less motivated to buy new, when we have an abundance of older quality items within a short driving distance. Besides, every time we choose resale over newly minted, we set a great example. We keep garbage out of landfills, we emphasize the importance of selecting quality, and we demonstrate that cheap is not better than lasting.
Thrifty items are often rich in character, variety, and style. By teaching kids to hunt for happy bargains, they stop making corporate brands richer and keep more of their own money. If they still crave name brands, they can find plenty at local resale shops for a fraction of the usual prices. Kids who learn to thrift shop are more selective, self-expressive and community-minded than kids whose parents habitually pay full price. While a trip to the mall once in a while isn’t going to kill anybody, a balanced attitude about shopping choices is wise counsel. Here are a few ways to instill enlightened shopping habits in your kids while they are growing up:
Frequent Estate and Garage Sales. Let’s say your child has outgrown his bike. Your first instinct might be to head on over your local sporting goods chain store to replace it. But hang on a minute. Is your son going to keep growing? Do you want to spend a couple hundred dollars on a bike that is only going to last one or two years? Spend a Saturday morning swinging by estate and garage sales instead and you will likely find a replacement bike in perfectly good condition for between $10 and $40.
While you are there, I bet you can also find that extra measuring cup you’ve been wanting for the kitchen, some inexpensive décor items, and a few pieces of barely worn clothing. For a fraction of what you would have spent on new things, you can fulfill a plethora of family needs by buying used. At check-out time, if purchasing multiple items, don’t forget to ask for a discount. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to demonstrate laid-back negotiating skills for your kids.
Encourage Collecting. Shopping can become a history lesson with curiosity sparked by interesting objects from bygone days. Not far from where we live, there is a community of antique shops within walking distance of one another. When we take Samantha shopping there, she often has questions about the eras and uses of items. She has found fascinating old books that have fired her imagination and inspired her hobbies. If you want to pique your children’s interest in the past, one of the best ways is by browsing antique shops. Once they are old enough to shop calmly and methodically, lure them into antiquing with you by allowing them start a collection of inexpensive items like tiny bottles, costume jewelry or vintage toys. Teach them to only collect items that truly move them. They can slowly add to their collections over the years, while practicing patience and selectivity.
Support Personal Taste and Individual Style. When you shop at department stores, the trendy looks are on display by size. Of course, all the other kids are wearing those looks, too. In thrift stores, clothing and shoes are also grouped by size, but there is usually only one of each item. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach kids to develop an eye for personal tastes that are as unique as they are. Parents can help by ruling out inappropriate or impractical choices and reminding kids to focus on filling needs rather than exploring too many possibilities at once. Initially, you may spend more time in the thrift store dressing room dividing items into piles of yes or no. But this is time well spent since kids are learning about the power of personal choice. Shop on days when your child’s mood is lighthearted and they will be able to hunt and gather efficiently. When kids are feeling emotional or self-conscious, that is not a good day to go thrift store shopping.
Author, journalist and writing coach Christina Katz has been cultivating thrifty shopping skills for decades. She feels especially proud when her daughter experiences the satisfaction of finding a good bargain and the thrill of zeroing in on the perfect find.
Where to thrift:
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