When your preteen daughter asks you if she may go to the mall with her friends, there are two possible answers.
Possible answer #1: “Of course you may, honey! Have fun!”
Possible answer #2: “No way! I don’t want you to develop the bad habit of recreational shopping.”
I did let her go last time I was faced with this situation, and I ended up chaperoning too. At 11 years old, they’re a bit too young to go to the mall all by themselves, but the dilemma is still there. How do I instill values of financial responsibility and frugality, when “hanging out at the mall” is such a huge part of teen girls’ social scene?
Shopping is pleasurable – I think we can all agree on that (at least the females can!) One of my strongest memories as a teenager is looking at a pile of new clothes I just bought, neatly folded in my closet, and feeling a sense of sweet anticipation – oh, how fun it will be to wear these clothes!
Of course, you quickly learn that any pleasure brought on by shopping is extremely short-lived. You revel in your new possessions for a few days, maybe a few weeks, but once the novelty rubs off, the excitement is over. Time for a new shopping trip? Yes, if you’re addicted to shopping. But our goal – mine and certainly yours if you’re reading this blog – is to avoid becoming addicted to shopping, or to stuff in general, because it’s such a huge waste of money.
I used to be addicted to shopping. Perhaps “addicted” is a strong word, but I definitely had the bad habit of logging onto my favorite online fashion outlet (bluefly.com) every morning to see if they have added any new items. Of course, once you’re in the habit of checking for new arrivals whether you need clothes or not, you will end up buying much more than you need – and you will also pay hundreds of dollars in shipping, annually.
David’s Note: I’m glad Vered got out of her ritual of checking the same website for new arrivals daily, but make no mistake, addiction was the perfect word to describe that behavior. If you do something remotely similar, you suffer from addiction as well. It’s of course a personal choice after all, but do know that this is unhealthy mentally and financially.
It took me several months, a few years ago, to finally wean myself off the habit of recreational shopping. And now I am facing the challenge of making sure my daughter does not develop this habit in the first place.
We certainly live in a culture that pushes us to spend. Brands spend millions of advertising dollars on getting us to buy their products, whether we need to or not. We are told that if we only buy their stuff, we will look better, feel better, and become happier. We are taught to consume from a very young age. And when we become teens, the pressure is stronger than ever. Now, if you don’t consume and display top brands, you risk being labeled as uncool.
So what is a mother to do? I wish I had a clear answer to this one, but I’m not sure how to handle it. I would love your input – whether you are a parent or not, I’m sure you can offer a helpful perspective. Should I attempt to teach my kids that recreational shopping is a bad idea, or should I just let them be teenagers for now, and deal with the consequences later?
Btw, there's a pretty nifty tool that motivates your kids to do chores. It's called MyJobChart.com. With a free account, they can earn points for finishing jobs you assign them, good towards free merchandise. Give it a try. It's completely free!