Overspending On Children’s Basics

The other day a friend mentioned that she was shopping for a new desk for her nine year old son. She mentioned that his current bedroom set was originally purchased at Ethan Allen and that she “did not want to go that route again.” Over the years, I have heard that a lot. Parents have spent a bundle on furniture for young children and then regretted it. I was the same way.

It is very exciting when a couple has its first child. Grandparents overspend. Parents overspend. Friends give great gifts. The baby’s bedroom looks wonderful! Two years later, the baby is a toddler and needs new furniture. The baby furniture is then donated to charity or given to somebody else who is having a baby. In rare instances, the family planned for the transition and has another baby on the way so that big brother or big sister can pass his or her baby furniture on to the new arrival.

Kids are going to grow up. They grow up fast. They break things. It is inevitable. Both of my kids had really nice bedroom sets at every phase of childhood. My elder son destroyed most of his furniture over time. My younger son has taken better care of his furniture, but it really has proven to be too big for his room so a lot of it has been removed as he has required more space.

Of course, the same can be said of clothing. Kids will outgrow their clothing rapidly or they will find ways to destroy it. Buying designer name clothing that will serve a purpose for only a few months is wasteful. I suspect that just about everyone who reads this column already knows that.

The thing is…I doubt many kids will read this column.

In a day and age in which kids tend to have far more expensive belongings than ever before, a child can feel left out or can actually be left out, if he or she does not enjoy some of the status that his or her peers enjoy. I just can’t bring myself to encourage spending on things that will serve a purpose for almost no time. As a result, I turned towards more durable goods that I knew they would enjoy for a long time and that they could continue using for years as long as they did not break them.

I did not hesitate to buy a good laptop when my elder son first needed one. When my younger son wanted an iPod for Christmas, I did not skimp on memory or function. I knew both boys well enough that I felt confident that they would both care for their consumer electronics and use them. That has proven to be the case for years. More importantly, because they both had their toys, I could feel better about not spending huge sums of money on their bedroom sets, which are nice and practical but not expensive. I also felt better about saying no to designer brands when the brand was the only justification for desiring a purchase.

How do you spend when you are spending for kids? Should kids enjoy bedrooms that are practical or luxurious? Do you spend more on your kids than you do on yourself? What things should all kids own?

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10 Responses to Overspending On Children’s Basics

  1. Maureen says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I hope to have children in the future and will definitely not splash out on designer items (especially when they’re young and don’t really understand them) just for the sake of showing off.

    If something is genuinely good quality and will get a lot of wear then I would but as you said kids outgrow things very quickly.

    Recently a friend bought some ‘cute’ Timbaland shoes for her son…he’s just turned two. I have no doubt he’ll outgrow them very very soon.

    I would much rather spend the money on activities for the kids as they won’t (hopefully) be able to to damage activities if that makes sense. With expensive items I would be cautious as it may make them a target for thieves and bullies at school.

  2. Annie Jones says:

    In raising our almost-7yo granddaughter, here’s what we’ve done so far:

    Clothing: We buy good used (any label) when we can find it. When we can’t, we spend on durability in everyday clothing. We buy as cheaply as possible on dress clothing, since it won’t be subjected to every day wear and tear.

    Bedroom furniture: My husband built her loft bed. It’s VERY sturdy and will probably last through her years here and could go onto college with her. She currently has a child’s desk which is really just a sturdy toy and just a nightstand for her dresser. We’ll soon have to replace them, and will look for sturdy basics at low prices.

    Electronics: At her age, the only electronic item she has is a used Hello Kitty CD player. She’s just now beginning to use our computer, which is a desktop. It will end up being her first computer eventually and we will buy our first laptop(s). We’re not yet sure when we’ll allow her to have a cell phone, or what options she’ll be allowed to have on it. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it; fortunately, she hasn’t shown any interest in having one yet.

  3. Leslie says:

    I like this article. I think some things depend on the child. They always WANT the latest and greatest, but if you start on the path early about making sure they understand getting their money’s worth it can be helpful. My daughter has used my bedroom suite from when I was a child since she was born. Its amazing how a coat of paint and new drawer pulls can completely update an outdated piece (the furniture was originally yellow and green a la 1977!)When she was younger she had the iron bed that was first my mom’s in the 40s then mine in the 70s. Now that she is 15 she has the full size iron bed I got in high school. Both beds are beautiful, and have definitely stood the test of time.

    She also takes care of her electronics and in four years of having a cell phone and ipod, she has yet to lose one or leave them in a pocket to go through the laundry. When she wanted an upgrade to the itouch last Christmas, her history of responsibility made that an easy decision… and I “upgraded” from nothing to her old ipod! She knows that replacement for these items if needed due to her own irresponsibility will come out of her own pocket. Its important for kids to know and understand that.

  4. Ann says:

    Must admit that I overspent on my first grandniece! Just this past week, another grandniece and a grandnephew made their appearances. This time, I think I’ll let their grandparents spend the big bucks! LOL

    If I had a child, I think I’d apply the lessons I’ve learned from my workshop clothes — buy sturdy and used ’cause it’s going to get abused and, in their case, be outgrown pretty quickly. 😉

  5. Princessperky says:

    I rarely buy new. One thing I have noticed my boys don’t care if their clothes are patched, and my daughter LIKES it!

    I see no reason to ditch a perfectly good pair of jeans just because there is a small hole in the knee, so we sew on a patch. Plain for boys (unless I happen to have a scrap with a sport logo or animal or something)

    For my daughter we patch with simple shapes or embroidered designs (simple, not an expert here) and she loves them. I swear she wears the pants with patches more than the ones without! (which leads to patches needing patched…)

    Anyway, kids do not need fancy ‘perfect’ and new. Give it one week in a kids room and it looks used anyway so unless safety is a concern (car seats) buy used, or wait for hand me downs.

    I actually feel the same way about electronics, my son uses an old laptop, and I have no intention of buying him a fancy new one (I use a homebrew desktop, as does my husband and his laptop is also hand me down) They all serve their purpose quite well. Cant play the fanciest new games, but then I don’t have time to.

    I figure if an electronic can’t survive long enough to be a hand me down, it wont survive my klutzy family anyway.

  6. teresa says:

    I hate dressers and don’t let my children have clothes in their room. My husband has built sheles by our bathroom, it is much easier to put everthing away in one spot and it limits the amount of clothes they have. So the only furniture they have in their rooms are a bed and a desk or book shelf. All were given to us or made by my husband. My kids would never expect fancy furniture or name brand clothes, we don’t feel it is a good way to spend our money, we talk a lot about time versus money and we all choose time!

  7. Monkey Mama says:

    Good Article.

    I personally find the clothing does not have to be very durable with kids. Though I like to buy clothing that will last “forever” for myself, the cheapie stuff at Target lasts fine for both my boys to wear, generally. They just grow too fast to wear anything more than a few months. I only shopped thrift before we got a Target that always has $4 clothing. The younger one primarily has hand-me-downs (from brother and other family/friends). He prefers it, honestly. I remember loving hand-me-downs as a child, myself.

    Furniture is an interesting one. Older son has more hand-me-downs. We bought him a nice bed when he was 2. Thinking to how my NICE furniture had lasted forever and could even be used by my kids. But, I didn’t factor the “rambuctious boy” factor. Honestly, it’s a miracle the thing isn’t broken. We didn’t spend a lot on it. Maybe I should take a different lesson – that durability is important. We tend to go for nice (non-name-brand) furniture on deep discount or from discount warehouses. OF course, that is how we shop for ourselves. Though honestly, we adults often settle for “cheap” furniture because we are more gentle with it.

    We actually didn’t even buy much “baby furniture,” even planning to have 2 kids. We got a cheap crib (Wal Mart?) and that was it. We bought a nice/durable dresser that was the right height for changing – will last generations. A used toddler bed was used about 5 years and we sold it for $5 less than we paid for it. We didn’t spend a lot on stuff that had a short time frame of use, that is for sure.

  8. Toni says:

    I agree with you on most points. However, as my children were growing up, I found that I could buy things at the “popular” stores (with discounts and sales) for about the same price as Walmart. For my girls, especially the youngest – I could buy her shirts with (20 percent or 40 percent off coupon) for a couple of bucks at Limited Too. She liked the LTD2 and I liked the price. The best part was I got close to my money back at garage sales.

    My oldest – we’d find things at Abercrombie Kids on the 1/2 of the redlines table – close to Walmart but kept them fitting in on the clothes stuff. I was able to sell some of this on Ebay for a good percentage of what we paid.

    I don’t do much consignment because I tend to find it cheaper on clearance.

    On furniture, my oldest has the same Antique bed and dresser my husband had. She’ll probably take it to her home with her when she finishes college. I would like to refinish it this summer. On my youngest, we bought the convertible bed to full size bed and dressers. As she got older, the bed was too big for the room. We eventually sold the bed. The dressers were taken to my mother’s assisted living place for her use. I started working at Pottery Barn Kids and I was able to get her furniture when they would clearance sample it, and my discount would be on top of it. I ended up purchasing items at about 65% to 75% off.

  9. Gail says:

    I must really have been an odd mother. when I had my kids, I don’t remember buying anything for them other than cloth diapers. Every thing else was a gift and all furniture was hand me downs. My children didn’t have new furniture until my husband I divorced and then all I got was two bed frames, a bunky board and cheap mattress and a dresser for them to share.

    Clothes were bought on sale or at thrift stores when I bought them. We were poor and whether the kids wanted ‘status’ stuff or not wasn’t even an issue as there was no money. My kids are young adults now and don’t seem to be carrying any emotional scar tissue from being deprived–maybe because they saw mom was having to sacrifice also.

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