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Kids And Finances

Is Overspending Worth It To Help My Son Fit In?


Have you ever have an experience that reminds you instantly of something that happened years ago?

My son and I went shopping for new baseball cleats at a sporting goods store that was having a 20% off sale. Looking down the isle of baseball shoes, youth sizes were on the left, adult on the right. Over the past year my son has grown quite a bit (as teenagers tend to do), and we quickly found he had finally made the leap into adult sizes, which of course are more expensive. We paid $44 for the shoes (regular price $55) and walked out the door. They were major name brand shoes, seemingly of good quality, but it was the most I had ever paid for a pair of baseball shoes for him.

A few days later, I was walking through Walmart when I noticed baseball shoes for under $20. When I returned home, I mentioned to my son that we should go check them out because they were so much cheaper.

The look on his face instantly reminded me of an experience of walking through the grocery store with my mom when I was twelve years old.  She had just placed a bag of off brand of potato chips in the cart, and all I could think of was the embarrassment I would feel if I offered the funny looking bag of chips as a snack to my friends.    For the rest of the time we were in the grocery store I gave my mom a hard time trying to guilt her into putting the off brand back on the shelf.  She didn’t give in.

His facial expression said it all. It said, “Just once can we not get the cheapest that we can find?” and “This year I was finally hoping to walk on the baseball field with the same equipment that everyone else has.”  As a teenager, he is now hypersensitive to being like everyone else, and even if there were other kids on the field with the same shoes from Walmart (which I’m sure there would be), he would feel out of place not having the cool name brand shoes like the premier athletes. Everything his face said went against my adult feelings of anti-peer pressure and consumerism.  It also brought out that inner voice of the young man walking through the grocery store with his mom.

So I caved in. We never went to see if the shoes that were less than half the cost of the ones we purchased at the sports equipment store would work. I almost talked myself into believing that we kept the more expensive shoes on the grounds that you get what you pay for.  But I know that we really kept the shoes because I wanted my son to fit in, and because I didn’t want him to feel embarrassed by his frugal dad.

What would you have done?


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  • I think balance is key. I don’t think you get the ‘cool’ thing for them every time, but you can’t deny them every time either. I think somewhere in the middle is the right way to go.

  • One thing I try and do is find the cool name brands on sale at stores like Marshall’s.

    My boys have “cool” baseball and soccer cleats for this season and they cost under $30 each. Even my 11yo who wears almost the same size shoes as me now!

    I wouldn’t buy them $100+ shoes to be cool unless that was their only gift for their birthday or a Christmas gift…

  • To me, this is classic “keeping up with the Joneses” spending. I wouldn’t have caved, definitely. But at that age, he’d be paying for his own clothes (through his allowance, etc.), so hopefully, he’d figure out that if he spends extra on X, Y will be unavailable to him.

  • Brock,
    I’m nowhere near having a child, but I battle with the off brands myself. Will people judge me for having an off brand? As an adult, I know my friends are more mature than that. But certainly as I child, I remember loathing taking my lunch to school in a plastic bag instead of a brown bag.

    Also, it’s OK to splurge once in awhile. As long as it’s not a habit, it will not harm your budget overall.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  • @James Messick – you’ve touched on something that I hoped someone would mention. He actually did contribute some of his own funds. On that day we bought a new bat, cleats, and glove oil. He contributed about 1/3 of the total price from what he had saved with his own allowance – which is actually one of the reasons why I didn’t push too hard to go look at the cheaper cleats.

  • @James – that’s awesome that you’re able to find great sales, I admit that we probably should have looked around a bit more (including Walmart) and seen all of our choices and then made a decision. Lesson learned for next time!

  • @Jenny – I don’t think I agree that this is exactly like keeping up with the Joneses. In the typical “keeping up with the Joneses” scenario they Joneses don’t ridicule you for not having all the same stuff they do. Kids can be cruel…I’m not saying that necessarily justifies the purchase (which is the struggle that caused me to write the post), but it is an additional factor to take into consideration. Thanks so much for your viewpoint though – great discussion!

  • @Christian – I don’t struggle with off brands as an adult very much at all. But being a teenager is a very different world. I agree that splurging every now and then is OK, as long as it’s within your budget. The total cost of the items we purchased that day were actually below what we had budgeted (we got a killer deal on the bat), but there’s always that voice inside me that wants to save even more! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • I had a deal with my parents that they would pay for the no brand clothe and if I wanted a brand I’d have to work for it. Hope you make the money back when he is off to college on a full basket ball scholarship :).

  • @Pauline – that would be awesome if he could get a sports scholarship to college. 🙂 I like the idea of having kids pitch in if the want more expensive items. As my son gets older and looks for his first part-time job, the plan is to have a budgeted amount for clothes for him. If he wants to spend more, he’s gotta kick in his own fundage! Thanks for your comment!

  • I am a Nike Junkie and I’ve turned my kids into Nike junkies.. However, when I do go shopping with my daughter, clearance is our first stop. Just last week she found a handful of shirts on the clearance rack for 3/each and I told her she should get a pr of capris to match her shirt, her response “Mom, they are not on the clearance rack”.. she’s 15.. Would I spend money to help my daughter fit in and would it be worth it. Yes I would, she has struggled her whole school career with a learning issue, being held back and 8th grade is kicking her a$$, and she will be a Freshman next year.. why make life harder, as kids can be cruel, then it needs to be.. if I have the money set aside to get her that Brand name then by golly I’m doing it! The only Brand name she really knows is NIKE!

  • @Trudy – thanks for your support, I think it goes back to what @MoneyBeagle said – it’s all about balance. Budget and cost conscious while still trying to give your child the best chance at being accepted with his peers. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • @Teresa – That’s awesome that your daughter is that mindful of the cost of items (whether it’s on the clearance rack or not) at the age of 15. As I mentioned in my previous comment, balance between being cost conscious and giving your kids the things they want is key. It’s a fine line, and a difficult line to walk – but as parents we have to learn how to navigate it successfully. 🙂

  • I have a 16 year old boy and I am a single mom.So budget,budget,budget is huge in my household.I always say if there is a will there is a way…lol.He is a basketball player and he wears all the clothes brands that are in style that people have paid a fortune for.I am the jedi mom and taught him from young I did.Thrift shop is where you turn your money. 50.00 shirt that someone previously bought and either outgrown or just doesn’t want anymore is now yours for the low price of 3.50.He wears the same brands that his classmate sitting next to him has but he only paid 3.50 instead of 50.00.Plus he is recycling,and depending on the thrift store we shop the money we spend actually helps handicap individuals in our area.So I say win,win all around.Not only good for cloths thrift shops are but they also sell furniture and everything else people don’t want anymore cheaper then cheap.So go find your local thrift and look around and save,like you never thought possible.

  • @Colleen – There’s actually a new kind of thriftshop in my area that ONLY sells currently trending namebrands. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I wonder if they’d be as cheap as your traditional thriftshop? Probably not….

  • I bought my 10 year old nephew $100 shoes for his birthday. I walked around the mall with him and he found shoes that he sort of liked but was persuaded by his older teen brother to get the one that was more expensive. Ok, so it did look “cooler” but the price tag was way above my budget.

    I caved in too seeing his face when his older brother told him it would be cooler to wear. Anyhow, the shoes lasted him about 6 months and he grew out of them literally.

    It’s a hard balance trying to help kids “fit in” and being savvy with money. But, now I’ve learned the importance of teaching how you can mix style with money-savviness.

  • @Jason – Kids that age (as well as my son’s age) are especially tough because they grow out of things so quickly, as you found out. At the age of 10 my son wasn’t quite as aware of the “coolness” factor of different things and it’s only been recently that this has become an issue.

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