Clothes Shopping with Teens: The Perfect Teachable Moment

I have two boys – and for all the years of buying their clothes they were never into “latest fashions or trends.” I never realized how lucky I was at the time. Our dollars went towards car repairs versus clothes.

In the following article, Mary Hunt, from everyday cheapskate, is again turning a parent’s nightmare of clothes school shopping into an educational moment for the kids – putting the control into the kids hands and giving them the start of basic budgeting skills and learning what values and goals they have with their funds.

Kids’ Expenses Don’t Have to Break the Budget

Dear Mary,

Now that school has started, I dread the thought of clothes shopping for the kids. We don’t have unlimited funds and I won’t go into debt for new clothes. But my teenage daughters have very high expectations. They have certain brands they insist on and I just don’t know how to handle this. Any ideas you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Belinda, Illinois

Dear Belinda,

I have just the idea. Go to the bank and withdraw the cash you have earmarked for school clothes. Get two envelopes and put half of the money in each. Now tell your girls you’re taking them out to lunch. Really build this up, but don’t give away your secret. Act excited. They’ll be so curious to know what’s up with mom!

At lunch, explain to them that you are so proud of the way they are growing into young ladies, and that you trust them more than they might believe. In fact, you trust them so much you are going to allow them to do their own clothes shopping for school. Next, reveal to them your short list of rules. These should include any dress codes their school enforces, as well as your own. Make sure they understand these rules completely. You will have to be very specific and very detailed because kids always look for loopholes. For example, if you have a length requirement for skirts, state that in “inches from the floor” rather than saying “not too short.” Hand them their envelopes and tell them this is their money to spend on clothes. When it’s gone, that’s it until next spring (or next fall … whatever you decide).

Your girls will be in shock. Should they ask for guidance, be there. But don’t take over and for goodness sake don’t comment on their choices, provided they have not broken the rules. And if they do buy things that are not allowed, in the trash or back to the store they go. You will be surprised just how well they will do.

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