Valdosta Daily Times

Business

May 19, 2013

Brittany's Budget Diary: A moose on your chest doesn’t scream you’re cool

It screams: ‘I like mooses!’

VALDOSTA — If you haven’t watched the YouTube video called Abercrombie & Fitch Gets A Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless, then you are missing out. This guy single-handedly fights back at Abercrombie & Fitch’s stance to not make XL and Large clothing for women in an effort to only market themselves to “cool kids.”

Basically, he goes and buys Abercrombie clothes from Goodwill and gives all the clothing away to homeless people in an effort to make Abercrombie the official brand of the homeless, thus eternally ticking off Abercrombie’s CEO.

While this video is hilarious and the cause is nothing other than epic, it made me start thinking about the sort of values we are teaching kids and how it relates to budgeting. I know I have written articles in the past about teaching budgeting and finance to your children, but somehow when those kids grow up to be bratty little 12-year-olds in middle school, they get sucked into being popular and forget about your budget in an effort to plaster some stupid moose or bird across their butts and chests.

In the big scheme of things, what does that moose and bird mean? To a parent, it means you broke down and bought your kid a $50 shirt that was manufactured by a 5-year-old in Thailand for 2 cents a day. However, to a kid, it means acceptance.

I know this, because I was one of those kids that tirelessly berated my mom to buy me name-brand clothing. Why? Because that is what all the cool kids wore and I held an empty aspiration to be just like the “Bring It On” cheerleaders. Luckily, I had a mom who could find anything on sale, so while I looked expensive, I was as cheap as a dishrag.

Sure, the clothes did help me succeed in my social climbing, but it didn’t help me at all once I got to college and realized that no one cared that I had Juicy plastered across my rear-end. For years, I had attached my self-worth to my possessions. So, in college I wasted money on Coach bags that I didn’t need, new dresses every time I went out, and $200 hair appointments every eight weeks. Where did that get me? In a lot of debt, thus resulting in this column that takes you along on my journey to never be that person again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade, but I now love them in a healthy moderation after I learned to love myself more than what I wore.

Most of you are reading this and saying: “I am not that parent, my kid is not that child.” I hope that’s true, but for a lot of you, it’s not. It’s an important realization because it is the root of everything I have been trying to teach my budgeteer tribe.

In school, peers are teaching your kids that they have to have iPhones, UGG Boots, eagles plastered on every polo and glistening C’s annoyingly fashioned on every bag. If they don’t, they are outcastes or labeled as “poor.” But kids aren’t just pulling this belief out of thin air. No, they are learning it on television, in the movies, in magazines and even from home. First, it starts with snubbing Walmart shirts and then it morphs into bullying, ungratefulness, and a disconnected view of money.

You have to break your kids free of brands or else they are going to continue to break your budget. Even if they are using their own money, they need to know that life holds more important things. I recently had a reality check. Me and the hubs are in the process of entering a contract for our brand-new home, and already I’m having flashbacks of all the things I wish I never bought, and all the money I could have saved. It was sobering.

So after my lecture, you may be asking: “Oh wise one, how do I break my kids of brands?” I’m glad you asked. Here are my tips:

• Don’t call it “thrift store clothes”; call it “vintage apparel.” Vintage is in right now, so you are at an advantage. Get them excited about being unique by watching movies such as “Pretty In Pink” or “16 Candles.” Molly Ringwald was all about creating her own look and is a great role model to young girls with a creative edge. Even Audrey Hepburn’s character in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” hailed to the thrift-shop-put-together. Guys are a little trickier to influence, but believe it or not, they have role models, too. Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, even Adam Sandler. Those guys have more money than they know what to do with, but when you see them, they are always dressed very down to Earth. Basically, the “I don’t care” look is way hotter on a guy than some jerk that has on Ralph Lauren everything and gels his hair, topped off with Ray Bans. Yuck.

• Use fashion magazines not as a wish list, but as inspiration. My mom and me love looking at high-fashion magazines and then going into bargain stores or thrift shops to mimic the looks. Nothing gives us a greater sense of pride than finding a $50 ensemble that mimics the $2,000 one we saw in Vogue.

• Understand your kids’ concerns. When they tell you, “Mom, all the kids will laugh at me if I wear that,” listen to them. Don’t judge them, don’t scold them and don’t blow them off. They are not ever going to listen to you if they think you are not “with it.” Instead, note what they are worried about and then find solutions. Whether that is showing them how to shop the sale racks of their favorite stores, or showing them that no one knows their Hollister shirt came from Goodwill, your kids have to learn behavior somewhere. Would you rather it be from you instead of their snotty, brand-hoarding BFF?

• The biggest tip I can give is to talk to your kids about money. This concept is a little taboo, but honestly, it’s the modern thing to do. Your kids don’t need to know exactly how much your bringing home, but you do need to make sure to discuss budget with them. My mom always told my brother and me what her Christmas budget was, so we knew not to ask for unattainable things. This didn’t crush my spirit, but instead, taught me how to prioritize my wants and needs.

Well, my dear budgeteers, that’s all the enlightenment I have for you today. Don’t forget to like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanyDenneyMcClure and follow me on Twitter @BudgetBrittany.

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