What’s wrong with Hand-Me-Downs?

I’m a godparent to two of my best friend’s children. They are 2 and 3. As much as I love my friend, there is one thing we disagree with: clothing.  For some reason she and her husband are really into dressing their children in expensive name brand clothing. This wouldn’t be much of an issue(even if I disagree with spending that much money on children that grow very quickly) if she had the money to invest in this sort of clothing. But she doesn’t. For all intent and purposes she is considered “poor”.  She is still in college and works part time, her husband is unemployed. They barely make ends meet for there three children, and themselves–especially in expensive Chicago. But when they do get any sort of income(whether it be taxes, student loan money, or money from parents and friends) they often spend it on their children and buy a ton of name brand outfits.

When I was growing up, my parents weren’t nearly as poor as my friend is and yet my mom had no problem taking her hard earned cash to a second-hand shop and buying us nice “hand-me-downs”.  In her mind there was no point in spending a ton of money on our clothing, especially when you consider the fact that most children grow tremendously from the time they are born until they are 6 or 7.  Buying a ton of name brand clothing that will only last for 6 months just didn’t make sense. Yes every now and then she may go on a splurge and buy one or two outfits that were outside of the budget, but for the most part there wasn’t an emphasis placed on “name brand clothing” in our home.

And up until my best friend got married, she didn’t really wear name-brand clothing either. Yes she WANTED to but could not afford name brand clothing and her parents weren’t willing to buy it for her either(even when we were in high school). So where this mindset comes from–I’m still not sure, but I can only think that it’s a result of the man she married who places a large level of importance on his kids ONLY being dressed in name brand clothing. Which is a shame since they can barely afford to put food on the table half the time.

Nonetheless as a Godparent I love to spend a little cash on my Godchildren and with their birthdays coming up I’ve decided to buy them winter coats since my friend has stated that they really need coats at this time. When I asked her how much I should budget for, she told me $80-100 should be fine. When she told me that I nearly reeled in surprise. And of course she made a point of telling me the store where she would prefer I buy the coats from (a store notorious for name brand clothing). I was baffled that she was asking me to spend that amount of these coats when clearly she wasn’t able to spend that much herself. But anyway I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll be going to Target, TJ Maxx, Walmart or a second hand store(all of these places offer coats for $20-25 per kid and will last the kids through the winter and through next winter).  My budget is  between $45-55 for the GRAND TOTAL of both coats. When I told her this she was offended and a bit put off. She also didn’t appreciate me telling her that she should consider second-hand stores for clothing since she is broke. This really made me wonder: what is wrong with hand-me-downs if that is what you can afford?????

Maybe I’m too frugal when it comes to kid clothing, but I’ve always wondered why there is such a negative stigma to buying inexpensive “used” children’s clothing.

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How has this economy impacted your back to school experience?

In the last two years we’ve seen how the recession has had a large impact on employment, finances, homes, and families. People have had to cut back on expenses in several ways–they’ve also had to re-prioritize the way money is spent. Families have had to come together more–financially and emotionally. Lay-offs, spending hours applying to jobs–some where we are very overqualified–and typical one income families turning into two income families based on a financial squeeze. Needless to say the economy has effected all of us, one way or another, and though the impact has not quite been the same for each and every person, we all KNOW that the economy has posed a variety of issues for MOST. We also know that economy has had a direct effect in education–from declines in fundraising, to schools filing bankruptcy, and so on. And with school starting this month, I’m curious about how the economy has impacted the “typical” back to school preparation.

Back to school season is a time where adults are gathering school supplies, hauling kids to the mall for clothing, and/or going to bed bath and beyond and Kohls for dorm shopping. Or so this is how it was when I was still in school. Nowadays especially with the economy the way it is, I wonder how many families can afford to spend money on the school supplies needed for their children to attend class, or buying the furniture that their first time college child needs for his/her dorm. I wonder how many students are starting the school year in a brand new outfit?

Thinking back to when I was a child, I remember that I hated when school was getting ready to start, but I enjoyed shopping for clothes, school supplies, and preparing for the “big” first day. And when I entered college, every August I was at Bed Bath and Beyond looking for a cover, towels, a shower tote, and a cute chair. No matter how old I was, I was always at the mall–weeks prior to the school season starting–shopping for at least 7-10 new outfits so that I start the school year off with a “bang”.

But looking at my younger sister who is starting school in three weeks, as a college Freshman, her experience is vastly different from mine. She doesn’t have as much money as I did to “shop”. My parents have placed her on a budget–one that will make it difficult for her to everything she needs. On the other hand, last weekend stores were allowing students to purchase clothing and school supplies without taxes as long as the student had a student I.D. additionally there seems to be a flurry of savings and “sales” that are available to her that weren’t available to me.

Since I’m not in school and haven’t been in a couple of years, I’m curious as to how the economy has impacted your back to school experience.