Designer Labels and the Economics of Parenting

by Samantha on December 12, 2011

I went shopping the other day.
I figured I would buy my eight-year-old daughter a new coat. After all, it’s winter, it’s cold and the really bad weather hasn’t set in yet. Sounds like a good plan, right?

I wasn’t prepared for some of the prices that I encountered. Call me sheltered, or perhaps I’ve just spent too much time in discount department stores buying kiddie clothing. That along with coveting hand-me-downs wherever I can. 
But I digress.

This particular coat caught my eye. Red. Shiny. Slick
I loved it and I thought my daughter would too.

There was no price tag to be found. 

There was, however a chain that was attached to the coat, running down to the floor. That should have been my first clue.

When I was younger, one of the best lessons my mother taught me was one that at once came to mind as I pondered what the price of this item could possibly be. My mom always said “If there’s no price tag, don’t bother asking. You can’t afford it.” (I may be paraphrasing, but that was the basic gist of what she would tell me. This advice was particularly compelling when I was a teenager making minimum wage but wanting clothes with maximum clout - which meant a price tag that I could not afford). 

Anyway, back to the story at hand.
The jacket shown here had no price tag attached. The jackets behind it didn’t, either. 

There were all, however, chained to the floor.

When I realized that no price tags were to be found, I became obsessed with finding out what the price was, as I realized at once that the jacket might have been out of my price range. Just might.

Was it ever, and then some.

When I tracked down a sales person to ask the MSRP, she advised me that the said coat was $645.00. Yes, that’s six-hundred and forty-five dollars. Not including tax, thank-you (the tax would add another hundred bucks or so, but who’s counting?).

Silly me, it was a Moncler jacket; I should have known better.

I kept going; the jacket wasn’t in the budget.

Which made me think about who these jackets and similar items are really targeted to, and who are buying these items?

Very wealthy people, one would assume, but I’m not sure that’s the case.

I’ve certainly seen many a child that I know does not come from wealth, sporting items of clothing or otherwise (tech toys anyone?) that are beyond the financial ceiling of the child’s parents. 

How can this be?

Is it a case of maxing out the old credit card in order to give the child something that the parent, perhaps, could not afford, or didn’t have as a child?

Is it a case of parents living vicariously through their children via clothing and conspicuos consumption, in order to show everyone in their immediate neighbourhood that they can indeed afford such items (even if they can’t?)?

Is it a devil-may-care attitude on the part of the parents that throws caution to the wind when it comes to finances, letting the financial chips fall where they may in the name of “style” for their little darlings?

It may very well be none of the above - I don’t know, though I suspect that it may be all three.

We live in an age of “designer” this and “premium” that and it’s hard to live within our means sometimes. Many of us try to do so - myself included - and fail miserably. How can we not, after all? We are surrounded by images of beautiful items, whether they be clothes, shoes, household goods, or otherwise. Kids pick up the messages about “top-of-the-line” goods pretty early. Once they’ve learned through osmosis, there’s no turning back. You’re stuck.

So what’s a poor parent to do?

Buy the expensive items and go into debt on credit or otherwise, or take a stand and say “no” as hard as that may be?

I know that I’ve given in on many occasions (perhaps not to the degree of $675, but still).

We want our children to have nice things. We want our kids to look good. We somehow feel that the less that they have, the more that their dearth of “stuff” is of a reflection on us. Though we know intellectually that this is not the case, emotionally we can’t help ourselves.

We judge ourselves based on others and what they have, and we shouldn’t. Easier said than done in this materialistic world that we live within. 

Unfortunately as a result, our children suffer and so do their parents. They bear the brunt of the stress felt in spending money that we don’t have then scrimping, complaining and worrying about how we’re going to pay off the subsequent bills. They also bear the brunt of the unrealistic situation that we have set up based on “stuff,” as it’s a slippery slope that’s hard to get off. Once one starts buying the expensive items, be they clothing, tech toys or otherwise, it’s very hard to take a step back and tell the kids that the gravy train is off the rails for goods. We are our own worst enemies.

So I’ll put this question out there this week:

Do you spend more money on your kids’ “stuff” than you know you should? If the answer is “yes,” why do you think you do so? Does guilt play any part?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar championm2000 December 13, 2011 at 3:14 am

Yes, I spend more money than I should…not to the tune of $600+…think Gymboree, Janie and Jack, Target, Carter's…

For me, it's not guilt. It's savoring the experience. These babies are most likely my only ones. And I know they won't let me dress them forever, so I am having my fun now.


avatar Samantha December 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm

@championm2000I think we all spend more than we should but to what degree? I think $700+ for a jacket is outrageous…but that's just me. But I'm guilty as charged on a lesser degree. Guess it's part and parcel of being a parent.
Thanks for commenting!


avatar Anonymous December 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm

For Heaven's sake… where were you shopping - Holt's??? Call me naive but I think $700 is completely outrageous for a child's winter coat. Truly appalling. For people so obsessed with fashion that they would actually bow to this extortion… hmmmm…. a rather foolish example to set. Good for you for saying thanks but ahhh… NO.


avatar Samantha December 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm

That was my response as well. $700?? Insanity. I wouldn't pay that even if I could afford it! Craziness.


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