Updated on 11.23.09

Teenagers and Expensive Clothes

Trent Hamm

Monica writes in:

I used to buy my daughter several new outfits before the start of the school year and then a few more items for Christmas. This worked well when she was less picky about her clothes. The last few years, though, she’s wanted nothing but a few specific brands of clothing – and those brands are expensive. I want her to have plenty of clothes to wear during the school year, but I don’t want to go broke during the process. What do you suggest?

I actually went through this myself when I was a teenager, but instead of wanting trendy clothes, I mostly just wanted high-end basketball shoes. I was usually quite content just wearing a tee shirt and whatever jeans were available, but the one thing I always desired were pairs of Reebok Pumps or Nike Air Jordans.

Now that the roles are reversed, I find myself looking ahead to my own children’s teenage years as well as looking back at how my parents handled such situations on a small budget. Here are the tactics that worked well.

Give clothes as a birthday gift or Christmas gift. This way, they get the clothes they want, but you’re not saddled with an additional cost, because your birthday gift expenses goes towards clothes instead. My parents did this for me a few years, buying me nice shoes for my birthday instead of as a part of going back to school.

Give them a “back to school” budget. State that you’ll give them a certain amount of money – say, $100 – to spend on back to school clothes with a basic requirement of buying so many pants, so many shirts, etc. Then let them make the decisions. They may be able to afford one “awesome” pair of jeans, but the rest will be pocket tee shirts.

Start your shopping at a thrift store. Let them dig through the racks and see what they’ll find. I’m often shocked at the amazingly good stuff available at thrift stores – my only explanation is people with way too much money and way too many consumerist values are jettisoning perfectly good stuff.

Buy them all low end stuff, then give them a certain amount of clothes allowance to buy more. In other words, buy everything they need at a minimum level of cost, then give them a certain amount with which to buy additional items – whatever they’d like. This lets them fill out the rest of their wardrobe with whatever “trendy” items they want.

You don’t simply have to buy a truckload of new “hot this moment” items for your child to wear each year. Instead, put some forethought into it and some limits. Let your child be involved in making the tough choices. After all, budgeting, planning, and making hard choices is part of growing up.

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  1. meinmillions says:

    Oh Trent… you clearly do not have teens yet. Thrift stores are so not cool. However, if you have a consignment or resale shop around such as Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange, you might do much better with getting a teen to shop there. They have all of the teen brands (Abercrombie, American Eagle, Forever 21, Hollister, etc.) at good prices.

  2. Lauren says:

    You might want to try to find a Plato’s Closet near you. They are kind of like a thrift store that specializes in name-brnad clothes (like Hollister, Abercrombie, etc …) Everything is used, but much more affordable than at the mall. It also doesn’t have the “my mom made me buy this from Goodwill” feeling to it.

    I buy a lot of my clothes at discount chains like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Burlington Coat Factory. I’ve found great deals there. My husband just got a Columbia ski jacket for about 70 bucks! I’ve bought 7 and Micahel Kors jeans there for under 40 dollars. I’ve also found Nine West and Steve Madden shoes for affordable prices.

    It isn’t name brand, but Target usually has really cute clothes that are especially cheap when they go on clearance. It is great for basic stuff like solid color sweaters, cardigans, and t-shirts.

  3. Johanna says:

    I predict that we will soon be inundated with comments of the form “If she wants expensive, trendy clothes, she should get a job and pay for them herself, the lazy bum.” And…I’m kind of inclined to agree. Although maybe that’s because I never picked up on the fascination with expensive, trendy clothes when I was a teenager, so it’s easy for me to be dismissive of people who do.

  4. Daniel says:

    Haha you beat me too it, meinmillions, let me echo your comment. If you bring your child to a thrift store when she wants trendy back to school clothes, you may have to file a missing persons report soon. Near my, Marshalls has brand names for cheap.

    At a certain point, they’re going to need clothes, so doubling up helps a little, but they know how much they need. I suggest having a second daughter, at least you’d be able to save money on her clothes. I lived with hand-me-downs for years and was very content emulating my older brother.

  5. marie says:

    I completely agree with the person who said that if a teenage wants expensive clothes, then they should work for it and pay it themselves. If they are in high school, they have no reason not to work.

    Also, I find that this whole situation is very unfortunate because it first comes with parents who DO spoil their kids, and then other kids see it and want the same thing. If every parent put their foot down, then nobody would have expensive clothes and therefore would not feel the need to have expensive clothes.

  6. Gena says:

    Sounds like this mom has done a poor job of managing her child’s interest in clothing and expectations for clothing in the past few years. My parents set limits for individual items – for instance, they wouldn’t spend more than $X on a pair of jeans or $Y on a tshirt. Anything that cost more wasn’t purchased.

  7. getagrip says:

    Reasonable comments, and I think most folks will find they do some combination. We limit the budget and retain veto power on their choices, and the pickier they are the more likely they are to go shopping with us so there’s no returns on either side. I find if you don’t work with them, chances are they’ll buy one or two things that are unbelievably expensive, and then nag you for the next three months to buy them something else because the glitter has worn off after the third wash. One perk we had was one child started doing their own laundry because doing it weekly didn’t allow them to have their “cool clothes” on the weekend. Another is they start to become careful in what they buy because they know it’s got to last. Otherwise, we’ve used birthdays and holidays to supplement the wardrobe need, and encouraged them to begin working if they’re so desperate. I don’t think there is really an “easy” win/win here. They’re going to nag because typically nagging is the easiest and fastest way for them to generate income.

  8. Chelsea says:

    What I don’t understand is why she needs any quantity of new clothes for back to school. If she’s over the age of 15 or so she isn’t growing any more. Let her start learning now that grownups buy one or two nice pieces occasionally that they take care of and keep for a long time.

    Plus, realizing you aren’t going to buy any new pants any time soon gives you an incentive not to gain weight.

  9. Jessie says:

    This is such a non-issue. When I was a teenager, my parents bought me the things I *needed*, plus presents on my birthday and Christmas. I worked to get the things that I *wanted*. Just be careful that you’re not setting a double standard with the clothing that you buy for yourself, and it will work out just fine.

  10. Joanna says:

    I really like the idea of giving her a back to school budget, especially if she’s 16+. It seems like a good way to give her some autonomy and let her make real world decisions in a time when she can make a mistake or two without any big consequences. Although I do think that I would want to have say over certain items. i.e., No hoochie mama clothes allowed. ;-) Perhaps she controls the budget but Mom goes shopping with her & pays directly.

  11. Emily says:

    I think all of us should step back and remember what it was like when we were teenagers. It is extremely important to “fit it”. It may not seem important to us as adults, but it is.

    That being said – I also don’t think we should go in debt for our kids wardrobe! I like the idea of a clothing allowance, and working for the money. Even if you’re not old enough for a job – you can babysit, mow lawns, etc. There are lots of stores that have name-brand clothing at good prices – you could also try ebay and see what they could find.

  12. Dan says:

    Isn’t the real problem that regardless of how you “get the clothes”, you are still buying into consumerism? The real lesson should be about teaching WHY the teenager SHOULD’NT want the clothes.

    That being said, our family grew up on the budget system- so much allotted for clothes, otherwise you wear what you already have. That was for a couple years until I got my first job, then learned what it was to spend your hard earned money for something trendy that benefitted me for one season.

    Yeah, there were a couple years where my peers “judged me on my kmart clothes”, but looking back, where are they now? I have no clue, because those people meant nothing to me anyway. So who was I impressing?

  13. As a 20-something who had a mother that spoiled her when it cames to clothes, I now wish I hadn’t. I have poor spending habits that could have been taught when I wanted items. Now I do buy brand-name clothes on occasion, even at full price, but I do so with my personal money, and I know what that’s worth. My jeans, for instance, are usually designer, an they cost $200 a pop. Not cheap. But I wear them a lot. I follow the “how many times are you going to wear this” calculator for the worth of an outfit. Jeans are worth more to me than a dress I’ll wear once, even if I may be inclined to pay more for a nice dress versus jeans. I try to get dresses on sale for events and buy nicer jeans. That said, as a teenager, you don’t need brand-name clothes. I agree that if your teenager has time to work, have them get a job to pay for the difference between clothes at Target and Nordstrom. Even have them help around the house and pay an hourly wage for tasks that you’d have to waste your time doing.

  14. Kathy says:

    When I was a teenager, there was a set amount my parents would spend on clothes. If I wanted something that cost more than that, I had to pay the difference. Plus they had veto power. If I wanted my own clothes, then I had to buy them myself and when you only have so much, you learn how to find a bargain.

  15. dangermom says:

    A friend of mine with young teens attached their back-to-school clothing budget to work done over the summer. Every job they did around the house contributed a teeny bit to the total (the goal was, I think, $150–after that they were on their own).

    It’s nice if the kid can get a job, but in the current market, that’s not always very easy. I live in a college town as well, and the teens I know who want jobs don’t always get them. (And they’re willing to do some pretty nasty hot sweaty work!)

  16. Sara says:

    I’ve got to chime in in defense of thrift stores – when I was a teenager I wouldn’t have been seen dead in the cloths with labels that all the posers wore! Digging through the racks at St Vinnies was something my friends and I did for fun. Cheap cloths and we got to showcase our individuality, which I think is important for young adults.

  17. NZ Chick says:

    Interesting comments!!
    When I hit 13 my parents gave me a monthly allowance instead of pocket money, which had to cover all clothes, going out to movies etc. The only thing they still bought was underwear. Great system as I had to save up or ask for Xmas/Bday for things I really wanted. We were also lucky enough to have hand me downs from older girls down the street, so I often had ‘cool’ clothes without having to pay anything!

    I’m not much of a clothes person so the money tended to go into doing things rather than buying clothes.

    I think this really helped with my budgeting skills (now I’m an accountant…) as I had to shop around for what I wanted, and save up. I still only buy clothes on sale over 10 years later & always shop around first!

    I even shop at Salvation Army stores and other 2nd hand stores now for the kids – they love seeing what I come home with and trying the clothes on!

  18. partgypsy says:

    #8, um kids are still growing at age 15. Besides we are assuming the daughter is a teenager. The original poster didn’t mention the age of her daughter.

    I used to have a couple sources of hand me downs for my older daughter that dried up, and feel like I’m having to constantly replace clothes. Not just regular clothing, but coats, socks, underwear, shoes, things that can’t necessarily be gotten in thrift stores. I like the suggestion of parents covering the basics, but stuff beyond that reserved for gifts or earned by chores.

  19. Chris says:

    DO however, go on “window shopping” trips with your teen before the holidays/birthdays, so you can see what styles gets her excited–even let her try on a few items on these scouting trips. Then you can go back for them, OR find nearly identical things at Target/Kohl’s/TJ Maxx, or pick them up on sale.

    Her style probably isn’t “brand name only,” she may just not have the patience to trawl bigger stores for cute things. Encourage her to start a “look book” from fashion mags. And never underestimate gift cards!

    At one point, my mom seriously just gave up on trying to figure out what I liked, so we’d go on buying trips, after which she would stash/wrap the items until the gift-giving occasion. That also doubled a great incentive for me to be very nice/do all my chores, because she could always threaten to return things, or hold onto a birthday gift until Christmas, etc!!

  20. Michelle says:

    My parents told me what she was willing to spend on clothes and if I wanted anything more expensive I had to earn the money to make up the difference. Of course, I could sew so I ended up spending my money on fabric to make my own shirts/dresses, and only used my mom’s money on pants. I fully intend to teach my kids how to sew, I loved playing fashion designer when I was teenager!

  21. Robin Crickman says:

    I find it rather sad that nobody even suggested
    having the daughter design and make her own clothes. Yes, some won’t turn out terribly well,
    but the learning curve will eventually let her
    produce what she wants. I was lucky that I started
    learning to sew from preteen onward. A good thing,
    too, as I am not quite 5′ tall and nothing off the
    rack ever fits me without alteration.

  22. bethh says:

    One thing my mom did that worked well: she and my sister and I did a pre-Christmas trip to TJ Maxx, and we’d select a cart-ful of clothes we liked/wanted. Then she’d send us out to the car, and she’d purchase from our selections.

  23. kristine says:

    I set a limit for the type of clothing: 25 for jeans, say. If my kids want jeans that cost more than that- they pay the difference. I will allow them to work for me to make money, but I will NOT give them the money first and let them work it off. That’s a credit card mentality.

    Back to school is not a wish list time. They 1 or 2 new special things, then wait till they grow of stuff, as usual.

    Thrift stores? OK for me- my daughter would sooner be dead. Clearance and TJ Maxx.

    When they grow out of clothes, they get a budget, and they budget carefully, to get the most bang for their buck!

  24. Lynn says:

    I still remember the day when in 7th grade I wanted a red sweater from the Gap. She asked how much it was and I said $39.99. Her response: “I will not pay that much for a sweater and if you want it you pay for it yourself.” From that day on, I paid for all the name-brand clothes myself. I would go shopping with her to the places she wanted to buy things and she would buy the clothes. But if it was something I wanted, I would pay for it myself. It definitely taught me the value of clothes and whether something was worth it or not. BTW, I was never given an allowance and all the money I had was from working or gifts.

  25. Stacy says:

    I think if you’ve been shopping at thrift stores already the daughter may be ok with it. I didn’t really discover thrift stores until I was older and making costumes and buying my own clothes. Nobody can tell the difference. At the same time I do remember giving my mother some grief, because I was actually allergic to clothes at walmart/target/kmart. I would seriously get a rash after trying them on. So I was always having to shop clearance rack at department stores. But I was never huge into fashion or brand names. After I discovered thrift stores, I was really happy because I could get cheap clothes that I could try on without a rash. So I probably would have been ok. Also, you can point out that a lot of celebrities shop at trendy thrift stores – not to mention that all the different fashions just rotate, so what ever is in style now was probably in style a few years ago anyway. I always thought people who bought Super Name Brands were stupid in high school anyway. Who cares if your white tank top has a tag that says ‘Abercrombie’ or ‘walmart’? You could always talk about using the money she’d save on NOT buying those clothes and use it on something she’d really enjoy. Does she have budgets for school trips or spending money, etc? Just take the extra out of that.

  26. Ryan says:

    There is almost no way that a teenager is going to be into shopping at a thrift store without some serious persuasion

    As it is, I like to have name brand clothes, but I have limits. 80 dollar jeans from Abercrombie? No way.

    But 2 pairs for 40 from Aeropostale? Or 10 dollar T-shirts from American Eagle? Yes! And with jeans, it’s hard to tell what brand they are.

    Then…I’m more willing to spend more on things like outerwear, nice jackets, nice polo shirts, etc.

    This way, no one is going to make fun of you (I know, those people won’t matter in 10 years..blah…blah…blah) but you also didn’t spend a fortune to look “cool”.

  27. Nicole says:

    If the 80s are back in clothing-style-wise, can grunge be far behind? Best style ever… cheap comfy over-sized clothing that gets worn until it falls apart. Why did I ever have to grow up?

  28. kat says:

    Being different can be deadly in high school, but there is one thing that has not been mentioned in the previous posts. Many of the brand names mentioned have been or are in trouble because of the way they treat their retail employees or garment workers. Have the kid research the in brands, and maybe she will feel it it more cool to not support companies that exploit others.

  29. Susan says:

    As a high school administrator, please, whatever you buy and wherever you buy it from, ensure that your children are modestly dressed. The adults who work and visit our building are not interested in seeing your child’s underwear, butt, belly, back or boobs!

  30. Mneiae says:

    The kid should definitely get a clothing budget. Some of the earlier commenters said that it was fairly easy to get brand name clothing at a cheaper price when you get it somewhere other than their store. This is true and definitely the route that I would suggest.

  31. FrugalZen says:

    Interesting post.

    I guess I’m one of the really weird ones…I never cared to shop for clothes when I was a kid and Mom alwas bought everything and brought it home and I just wore it.

    As an adult I generally go for the better grade (thus more expensive) clothes as they last longest…I have 15 year old Eddie Bauer Polo Shirts that I’ve worn extensively that are just beginning to really show wear.

    That said if the shirts have to be for dress then I do shell out for a semi-custom set up…and yes I have paid more than $100 for a shirt…but I also like cuff links and what is termed a “French Cuff”…they have NO buttons and are solely for use with cuff links. (Look at pictures of Nicholas Sarkozy the French President for an idea of what such cuffs look like…its all he wears)

    But again they fit the bill of what people call “Classic” and can be worn from year to year as they don’t go out of style.

  32. Shevy says:

    Yet another reason why I love schools with uniforms! The only things left for the kids to obsess over are shoes and accessories, like hair scrunchies.

    Although, I have to admit, my Number One Son went through a period when life was not worth living unless he had $150 sneakers. Too bad but I couldn’t afford that when I was a single parent with 3 kids and he survived.

    One thing to be aware of, kids who are still growing (particularly ones going through growth spurts) will need clothes fairly frequently. My first husband went through a spurt where he grew a shoe size every *month* until he hit size 15 at about age 14.

  33. Maggie says:

    My kids both require clothing from the big/tall department, so they get what fits them, which is pretty much never the trendy item. My younger son goes to a school with uniforms now, and by the time he gets done with school and sports, he has no time for clothes besides pajamas!

  34. KED says:

    I have to say I have been blessed with kids that love a good thrift store. Age 6, 15, 17, and I might add all girls!! They think it is crazy to pay 40 or 50 dollars for a sweatshirt that has a certain “brand name” when they can easily find one thrifting for a dollar or two. Often with tags attached.

    When given the opportunity to pick what that wanted to do one of my days off this summer all three agreed on a thrifting day ending at “98 cent” store, and including a walk on near by beach. As adults we lead by example and so far this one is sticking.

  35. almost there says:

    We started giving my son a clothing budget when he became a teenager. He started working for a major Dept store and spent a good deal of his check on clothes and shoes. Being in my early 50s, I pride myself on paying no more than what I paid in high school for a pair of bluejeans. $10 won’t buy Levi’s now but it will by kmart’s legendary gold jeans when they are on sale. I am retired, so jeans and hawaiian shirts is as good as I dress. Dockers and suits for more formal of course.

  36. Kai says:

    If she’s old enough to start wanting expensive clothes, then she’s probably old enough for an excellent lesson in budgeting.
    Take her on one big shopping trip to show her what can be found at thrift stores, upscale second-hand stores, and department stores. Then stop buying her back-to school clothing.
    Instead, give her a monthly clothing budget, and let her spend it however she wants. She’s not going to be left naked if she makes a mistake, merely untrendy. It’s a great way for her to learn that if you want to buy a $200 pair of jeans, you’re not going to get anything else for a while. Leave it for her to decide whether she’d rather have a couple expensive items, or a wardrobe of cheaper varied clothing.
    Then just buy her the odd nice, long-wearing item for christmas.

  37. Des says:

    “Being different can be deadly in high school.”

    Oh, please. I do not understand parents’ obsession with their kids “fitting in” with their peers. What message does that send? “You want to make sure you keep up with the Jonses, Honey. Otherwise, you’re a loser.” How about teaching kids to think for themselves? Maybe that will be harder, and your teenager won’t think you’re their BFF, but the lesson will be much more valuable in the long run. High school is temporary, adulthood is forever.

  38. Mike says:

    FWIW, when I was a teen less than ten years ago, my mother was one of the mothers that would only shop at the thrift store, nowhere else, no argument. It didn’t really teach me anything. Heck, all it taught me to do was to go buy my own clothes without her, and yes, they were all name brand (fortunately I started working at 16). She’d often deride me for riding the ever-changing wave of trend and style.

    Well, now I’m in my twenties and in college. I still like to have nice clothes, but I don’t spend so recklessly – I look for sales and use the price per wear calculator outlined in post #13 above. When I buy an article of clothing, I expect it to last; and what I’ve found is, often, more expensive clothes are more expensive because they’re higher quality. I’d rather buy three nice, if a bit expensive, t-shirts that will hold their color than ten cheap ones that will begin to fall apart after a few washes. I’d rather buy one $50 pair of jeans that’s made with quality denim than 3 $20 pairs that look and feel like they’re made of dollar store cotton.

    In a nutshell, I guess I still have my old habits, but now I look at buying clothes as an economic equation rather than a necessity to stay in style.

  39. Noadi says:

    Consignment shops are wonderful, lots of high quality clothes there. Same for chains like Marshalls. Get the trendy stuff for reasonable prices. I also have to agree with the posters who said it’s a good time for her to learn budgetting. Give her a set budget for back to school clothing amd she has to stick to it or pay the difference. Then get her one or two nice things as Xmas and birthday presents.

    BTW 15 year old girls are still growing, they may not be getting taller but you’re still “filling out” in some areas. I pretty much hit my full height by 14 but as my dad put it “flat as a beanpole”, the curves took until I was 18-19 work themselves out. Clothes fit much differently when you have hips.

    Now I was one of those teenagers who didn’t want to fit in so I enjoyed thrift store shopping and learned to sew so I could modify my clothes. Still do since I like to occasionally buy an expensive piece of custom made clothing I can’t do myself or hard to find vintage item and have to keep it in my budget.

  40. Jules says:

    The main problem I have with thrift stores is that they NEVER have clothes in my size. I’m short, which makes clothes shopping difficult already, but I’m also not a size 44 (European), which eliminates 90% of the clothes in the thrift stores. Ditto for Salvation Army–when I was in the US, all they seemed to have were L, XL, XXL–oh wait, there’s a M! But that was after the clothes companies decided to resize what was a small, medium, and large, so a medium is actually a large…

    I am in love with outlet stores, though, and if you can find them, they ROCK for finding chic clothes at rock-bottom prices. Although many chains manufacture low-quality stuff for sale in outlet stores, some of them actually do put all of their unsold merchandise into a box and stick a $5 sign above it.

  41. Denise says:

    I have always taken my daughter shopping at thrift stores and consignment stores. When it comes to back to school clothes shopping, we figure out what she needs, not wants, then I scour the flyers and sales and give her the money for her items at those prices. Anything else comes from her work/allowance. I do buy underwear, bras and contribute a fair ammount towards shoes and boots. She has made mistakes, in the past, but she has learned from them. As long as she is dressed decently and warm, the rest is up to her. And yes, as a mother, I have veto power over possibly inappropiate clothing.

  42. deRuiter says:

    We LOVED the thrifts as teens! You could have any designer thing or vintage item which suited yur fancy. We became addicted to fine quality clothing from buying resale. Of course you want your child to fit in at school. Save being an independent loner for adulthood. Give your child a budget, take her to thrifts, introduce her to the tailor who givs a chic, custom fit to your your own resale stuff, and let her go. Lead by example. Let her make her own mistakes. If she wants $200. jeans and can afford one pair, well go for it. For many years after the war in Europe, many of the men had only three white shirts. One was being worn, one being washed, and one was starched and ironed, stored in the closet. Better your child chooses a few things she likes and wears then a bunch of tacky K-Mart stuff which screams “cheap” and makes her unhappy. Set a budget, give her the money and let her choose. If she wants more, Johanna’s comment is right on the money, let her drop soccer and get a job.

  43. It is completely beyond me how much teenagers these days “think” that they need compared to how much I had when was a teenager (I’m 43).

    I completely understand that times have changed and all that, but I still don’t get it.

    I think that the whole “go out and get a job” theory is great, it just doesn’t seem like it will work in this day and age. It seems that too many teenagers out there now think that the latest in clothes and a cell phone and an Ipod are some kind of right and not a privilege.

    I still have years to contemplate the topic, but I think I would agree with a combination of the commenters.

    I KNOW I will have to spend more money on my chid than my parents did me, but I will probably buy a certain amount for him and after that tell him that the rest is on him (meaning, if he wants more, then go out and get a job).

    The thrift shop thing is a great idea, however, it is way too “pie in the sky”. I would imagine my child would disown me for a stunt like that, as much as I agree with the concept.

  44. Lenore says:

    I’d sell the ungrateful/materialistic kids and buy myself better clothes. ; )

  45. Beth says:

    When I started wanting clothes different from what my Mom picked, we came to the agreement that the buyer got to choose the style. So I started babysitting and buying my own clothes (understanding that they still had to pass my parents’ decency test). If I wanted Levi cords in every color, I could have them as long as I paid for them. If I didn’t want to pay, then I had to accept my Mom’s nerd selections. It was the first stage of learning self sufficiency and accountability.

  46. womanofthehouse says:

    When my daughter was a teenager, we gave her a monthly clothing allowance that was to cover all her clothing expenses. We left it up to her to decide what she needed and how much she was going to spend on it, though we did hold the power of veto. It gave her the chance to think through her choices and learn from her mistakes. She’s never been adverse to buying from thrift shops or lower end stores. We never emphasized name brands ourselves, and neither did her friends. She couldn’t care less what label something had. Now she’s a married adult having to balance an extremely tight budget, and I’m sure that the lessons she learned as a teen are serving her well.

  47. carmen says:

    @ Marie – post no 5
    There is nothing wrong with expensive clothes, although brand name trendy clothing which is expensive, sadly isn’t particularly good quality! And please show me any parent that doesn’t spoil their children (in the western world.) This is simply about choices, balance and perspective. For the record, I don’t wear particularly expensive clothes.

    Only a very small minority of parents buy their kids everything, or nothing that they want. They are extremes and I have yet to meet a single one.

    I don’t have teenagers yet and like Johanna, brands were unimportant to me growing up. But I have friends who suffered immense peer pressure and to whom specific brand named clothing was incredibly important for their self esteem. As adults, they still have a real issue with being bought supermarket jeans instead of Levis for example – and are now going the other way with their own kids!

    Part of being a parent is to realise what you’re dealing with. Our responses should be individual to our own circumstances and family or child. Who cares if other people wear expensive clothes. They usually look a lot nicer than cheap ones ;)

    As long as we give our children the opportunities to satisfy whatever needs they have (or the most important ones), it doesn’t really matter how they are satisfied. For instance, I know some families who do not allow their children to work because they go to expensive academic schools and grades are the primary concern – no time for (low paid) work. If that was my parenting stance, I think it is only fair that those children do not miss out on SOME things due to lack of income. Only a cruel parent would insist of having it both ways.

    Personally we’ll deal with this using an allowance and gift opportunities such as Christmas. They can also get a very part time job. It shouldn’t be a huge battle.

    When my eldest was about 7, she learnt that I am not wasting money on clothes that she doesn’t wear. I had to tell her that I didn’t mind whether she liked something I liked or not, but whatever we bought needed to be worn. So I wouldn’t waste money on 20 items of cheap clothing if they would rather wear 2 more expensive items. People can manage on very few clothes. I am in my 30’s but can still vaguely recall having 3 outfits: one on, one in the wash and one in the wardrobe as a young child.

    Teenagers need to have a say in what they wear. It’s all part of growing up. If we want them to behave like adults, we need to treat them like one and vice versa.

  48. CathyG says:

    The whole thing about thrift stores is to be able to see what is there and imagine what it could look like when combined with other things. When I was young, my mother shopped at thrift stores and we (I have 4 sisters) HATED it. Tired, worn out, old styles. My daughter on the other hand LOVES thrift stores. She has a quirky unique style, and an air of confidence that makes anything she wears look fantastic. She digs through the racks and picks the most interesting things, then combines them together to make fantastic outfits.

  49. sbt says:

    My daughter just turned 20 and so I have been dealing with this for a while. My best tactic has been to hand her the cold, hard cash that I am willing to contribute to her clothing budget. We go shopping. She makes her decisions, and it’s amazing how frugal she can be with “her” money as opposed to mine. She gets to keep anything she doesn’t spend. This tactic helped her discover that JC Penney has great clothes for way less than Abercrombie, and they actually come in sizes that fit people who are not shaped like twigs.

  50. Beth says:

    My sister and I love thrift stores. We recently took her new hubby and his sons (15,8) with us on one of our ‘scrounging’ trips, and they came out of there having more fun and buying more clothes than we did. The oldest son was amazed at the cool jeans and shirts (he loves long-sleeve tees). His mom had always spent a lot of money buying them name brand stuff and she was mortified when he came home sporting his ‘thrift store finds’. I think it just takes a good eye to pick the diamonds out of the rough. My daughter was absolutely adorable in a new (with tags) down vest that I got for $1.

  51. Ellen / MoneyLounge says:

    I think the idea of giving these clothes as presents is a good option. Maybe also setting a school budget that can be increased with the completion of extra chores or something of the like. When I was in high school the phrase “save your allowance” was common in my house, and that shaped a lot of how I handle my finances. It’s good to start young with these lessons and not give in to every want and desire of your child.

  52. Nancy says:

    Assuming teens won’t be caught in a thrift store is yet another preconceived notion that lumps all teens together. Yes, some kids would run and hide if their families suggested shopping there, but my teenage daughter loves thrift stores, Good Will, Salvation Army, rummage sales, etc. She’s also a huge fan of Plato’s Closet. If we are shopping in a “regular” store, she goes only to the deep clearance racks. she won’t even consider buying (even with my money) full price anything–even if I encourage her and offer to pay for it. She loves putting together her own unique style and also picking up a few trendy things super cheap. We both get a thrill out of a great bargain over the “right” label. She rolls her eyes when she hears her cousin will only wear Hollister. In fact her aunt took her to Hollister for her birthday and told her to pick out anything she wanted. She struggled and struggled to find something that didn’t offend her sensibilities about price and/or taste. Finally came home with an inexpensive (by Hollister standards) tank top. She wears it occasionally but I see her in her bargain clothes much more often.

  53. Jonathan says:

    @12 – I completely agree about the consumerism side of this. If kids have been taught that material items are not important, then this should not be a big issue. If it is an issue for them, then as others have suggested, paying for the clothes themselves or receiving them as birthday or Christmas gifts seems a good compromise.

  54. Amy says:

    Maybe the daughter is focused on name-brand clothes because she doesn’t know how to pick out things that will look good on her, and name-brand at least seems like a safe choice.

    I grew up in a very frugal household, but my mother did understand how tough it is to be a teenage girl – the constant messages that your worth as a person is tied to your appearances, the insecurities, the difficulties of dealing with a changing body, dating for the first time…

    One thing that she did for me, which I’m sure some people here are going to see as the height of crazy consumerism is arrange for me to have a session with a fashion consultant. It was a small group session, so while I’m sure it wasn’t totally cheap it probably also wasn’t ridiculous, and the consultant helped me figure out what styles and colors would look most flattering on me.

    As a result I started to understand that it made more sense to spend money on some nicer pieces that looked really fantastic on me, but that the brand name wasn’t as important as the style flattering me.

    The other point I think is important to make is that teenagers don’t have much money, but they do have lots of time, and if you’re willing to take the time to pick through the sale racks, and keep coming back to find the deals, you can find high-quality clothes cheaper than anywhere except a thrift store. So if she wants to put that time in, she can probably find the labels she wants without spending tremendous amounts of money. Maybe you can drop her off at the mall, and she can put on hold anything she wants to buy for you to finally approve?

    Oh, and finally, if you want to buy a few full-price pieces for her as gifts, I’d focus on relative basics from the names she likes that will stay in for several seasons. For super-trendy things, it’s not that tough to find cheap knockoffs. They’ll last for three washings, but they’ll be out of style by then anyways.

  55. Sheila says:

    When I was a kid, if I wanted trendy clothes (and of course I did), I had to buy them myself. Since I didn’t get that much money from babysitting or an allowance, I sewed my own clothes. I’m betting that’s not something kids do anymore. My own kids sure didn’t.

    I remember a coworker telling me that she would get boxes from the expensive stores and then buy clothing at the cheaper stores. While I don’t think it’s a great idea because she’s lying plus it doesn’t teach the kids anything, still, it was rather innovative. Maybe she was trying to let the kids down gently because her husband had been a high-powered executive before he was laid off.

  56. jana says:

    We have been giving our kids a clothing allowance since about 5th grade. They get $40 a month and they must buy all their clothes. This works great….they usually save it up and buy lots of items all at once. Once they hit 16, that money goes towards car insurance and they are “encouraged” to get a job. If they have a special need-such as ski clothes or a suit for mock trial-we purchase these items…sometimes even at a thrift store for the fun of it even though we could afford more. After several years of buying their own clothes, they do a great job of choosing and maintaining their wardrobe.

  57. Misty says:

    I suppose I was an oddball teen, I positively refused to wear anything with a namebrand or logo on it (I still don’t, don’t want to pay to be a walking billboard), but I grew up in a fairly poor family and by the time I was 15 had my first job and bought everything I needed (aside from food and shelter) for myself. I think that to some extent teenagers should be partially responsible for their expenses as it gives them a better perspective for adulthood and a greater appriciation and respect for the material items that they own.

  58. Jonathan says:

    “They get $40 a month and they must buy all their clothes.”

    I realize that I’m way out of touch with what normal people spend on clothes. If $40/month a normal amount for a clothing budget?

  59. Sydnee says:

    If there is a tight budget to follow or very little money sit the teens down and tell them. They are old enough to realize that if they want to eat you only get this amount for clothes. Don’t hide things though might as well tell them everything. How much comes in each month and how much goes out for each area. They will get a handle on things and understand that you are not being mean by saying no.

    I second having them design clothes. But if you are not careful that can get pricey too. Will fit their body better then something off the rack.

  60. This is all so true. Teenagers cast off clothes like crazy, as they are so concerned with their appearance.

    Thanks, John DeFlumeri Jr

  61. Mister E says:

    A MONTHLY budget for clothes?

    Wow, when I was a kid (and it wasn’t SO long ago) we got a couple of things for back to school and a couple of things for birthdays and Christmas. New clothes “just because” absolutely did not exist EVER let alone every month.

    I’m an adult making a decent living now and I buy myself clothes roughly once per year and only because that’s about the length of time I can get out of a pair of work-suitable pants before I’m forced to replace them.

  62. cv says:

    For those who don’t believe in helping kids “fit in”, I think there’s a huge range of situations and in some cases it does make sense. Whether their school has uniforms, whether it’s urban, suburban or rural, how big it is, what the income distribution is, etc., all affect social dynamics. At my large high school in a small city, there were so many different kinds of kids that finding a social niche didn’t require wearing certain clothes. At a small, generally wealthy suburban school it might be a different story. I don’t believe in shielding kids from all difficult social situations, but making them stand out too much isn’t doing them any favors, either.

    And for Amy (post #54), not all teenagers have tons of free time. Given a choice, would you have your child give up AP classes, the debate team, the school play, working on the yearbook or playing a sport in order to spend their afternoons shopping? Schoolwork and activities are what will help them get into college (and get scholarships), find their passions, learn to work with others, and many other important things. Yes, sometimes the reality is that kids need to get jobs, which do teach them important lessons, but many teenagers aren’t sitting around playing video games or hanging out at the mall all day.

  63. Sharon says:

    For those trying to compare amounts for monthly clothing budget…give up.
    There are too many variables to compare two families, esp on the internet. Is your child 10 years old and living in Florida’s almost one season. (One wardrobe with a bit of layering) or 15-yr-old having a growth spurt in Alaska where a lack of very careful thought to clothing can result in death.

  64. Georgia says:

    I do not get the idea that costlier clothes last longer and are of better quality. I bought about 20 Tshirts at P.N.Hirsch (now Dollar General) over 20 years ago for $5 apiece. I am still wearing them now and they were all I wore over my slacks when I worked for 18 years in a mental institution. I am messy, so I did mess up a few of them or would get a run. Those I set aside for everyday use and when I clean, etc. When they are no good for even everyday use, I will use them as rags. To date I still have 1/2 dozen that are still good to wear.

  65. LC says:

    What about a JOB? If teenagers want to spend their paycheck on expensive clothing, it is fine with me.

    64 comments, and nobody mentioned having the kid get a job? Is this what we look forward in the next generation?

    I certainly didn’t have anyone buying my clothes when I was a teenager. The idea of Mom & Dad paying for my clothes embarrassed me greatly.

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