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Spending Priorities

A new season of shopping has dawned, and I’m finding my approach much changed from seasons past.

When Simon was a baby, and even more so when he was a baby-on-the-way, I was a retailer’s dream. Nothing was too good for my baby. I shopped long and hard for his crib, and I splurged on his crib bedding. I sprung for a custom glider whose upholstery matched the nursery’s color scheme. I lovingly chose his clothes and bought them at full price from high-ish end retailers. I wasn’t keeping up with Hollywood moms or socialites, but I bought the very best I could afford and spent more than was prudent.

This summer, by contrast, “it’ll do” and “good enough” are ruling the day as I outfit Simon and redo his room. That adorable shirt from Tea Collection for $35? Well, Target has a similar one for $12, and while it isn’t quite as nice, it’s certainly good enough. Anyway, for a kid who’s going to be playing in dirt all summer, I’ve decided that stuff from Target and outlet malls will do just fine. Ditto for the car collage I spotted at a local boutique. It was hand made by a local artist and had a price tag to match. I’m sure I can find something else that will do, and how likely is Simon to really care, anyway?

And then there are those transportation themed sheets from Pottery Barn Kids. The organic ones that are sold out online but have the perfect theme and color scheme for Simon’s room and that I dearly love. I held them in my hot little hands Wednesday night, admired them, and thought long and hard about buying them. I pictured them on the bed we’ve ordered, and I imagined Simon smiling and talking to me as he pointed out all the different planes, trucks, and cars on them.

Then I took in their $89 price tag and put them right back on the shelf. Eighty-nine dollars for sheets! I don’t spend that much on my own sheets, and I’m potty trained! So as much as I appreciated their quality and style, these sheets weren’t coming home with me. Not when I have summer camp to pay for. Not when I have college to save for. And not when I want to work on the deck and yard so we can all enjoy the space more. I will find something cute that will do for less money (a lot less money), and they will be good enough.

I wonder how many other moms go down a similar path? It seems hard to believe that I’m the only one who was more generous with her baby and baby-to-be than I am with an active toddler.

But it also begs two much more serious questions. The first being how much this is tied up with gender, and the second being how much this reflects the growing separation between parent and child. If Simon were a girl, would I still assume he’d be trashing his clothes and buying cheaper ones this summer, or would I splurge anyway? And to flip this, if I did spurge on Simon’s clothes and buy nicer stuff, would I then restrict his activity to protect it? A definite maybe, and a horrible realization for someone who considers herself a feminist.

As for the second question, it has not escaped my notice that I was the most generous with Simon when he was an extension of me. Now that he’s becoming his own person, I’m spending less. Or at least, less on certain things. My first thought was that this reflected poorly on me. How awful and self absorbed to tighten the purse strings as Simon becomes less attached to me. But upon further consideration—and I hope I’m not deluding myself here-I think maybe the opposite is true. That when Simon was an extension of me, I spent according to my priorities. And now that he’s developing autonomy, I’m spending on his present and future education and experiences.

That’s my story at least, and I’m sticking with it!

3 Responses to “Spending Priorities”

  1. bethnbobinnc says:

    I was amused to read your post, as I was always the Target mom with Drew and now poor Evan is the king of the hand-me-downs! What exactly does this say about me? I will say that buying more “high-end” for jackets and the like has been a good pay off with two to consider. Have fun decorating. We never did that either…. :)

  2. blg says:

    Good on you!
    I *never* understood paying $35 for a jersey that a kid will outgrow in a few months. “Good enough” and hand me downs are fine.
    I am sure you have thought about what Simon is learning — you clearly don’t want him thinking name brand clothing makes you better.
    And, of course, hand me down clothing is only another name for “reuse” as in “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

  3. tlalbaugh says:

    Nope, it’s the same with a girl. I like nice stuff, but I simply refuse to spend a lot of money on clothes for a toddler. Kira is very cutely dressed in thrift store finds, hand-me downs, Target/Old Navy clearance items, and even the occasional basic piece from Walmart (our shopping is limited here in New Hampshire, but they do have good cheap toddler sweat pants). I will admit to buying a couple of things at the Hanna Andersson outlet–but only on the 75% rack, tee hee. Kira’s usually barefoot, but my favorite places for toddler shoes (I’m picky about those, of course : ) are Marshalls and eBay.

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