Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bargin Basement Mommy

So...I just got back from my mother's house in North Jersey. Emmy and I had a (mostly) lovely time, what with the excess of grandma love that spills out like a torrent and covers everyone in a warm and comfortable goo of teddy bears and jelly beans.

I also got a chance to drop off a bunch of clothes Emmy had out grown at the local consignment shop which was awesome because those bags had been sitting in our hallway for months. My mother came with me to the store and while I wanted to look around for a while, she kept frantically shifting her eyes to the door and asking me if I wanted to leave and go Kohls, the massive department store my mother would move into if it was permitted.

I tried to brush her off, but she kept insisting and made it clear that she was quite anxious to leave. I finally gave in to her persistent questioning and agreed to leave the store empty handed. When I asked what made her so nervous (maybe there was a killer robot I didn't see, or a lion hiding behind the door) she told me that it made her upset to think of her granddaughter in second hand clothes, that Emmy just deserved better than that.

This threw me for a loop.

I am a big fan of doing some bargain basement, consignment or thrift store shopping for kids, and cannot, for the life of me, understand why people do NOT take better advantage of these great resources. I'd say at least two-thirds of Emmy's wardrobe are either hand-me-downs or something we purchased second hand and she looks great.

I never thought twice about this topic until my mother said something.

Am I doing wrong by my baby by refusing to pay retail?

After a couple of days of tossing and turning over this offhanded comment, I've come to this conclusion:

I love my mom, but she is wrong. Wrongy, wrongy, wrong.

My husband and I aren't poor, we aren't starving, and Emery has everything she needs and many things she doesn't. We go to baby yoga, baby music class, and she tends to get lost in the piles of toys and books that are slowly taking over the space we once used for things like our sofa and our bed. We are constantly taking trips to farmer's markets and have never, ever left without bags and bags of delicious treats. She has great medical insurance, fancy strollers, and a mom who doesn't have to work and stays home to bake challah.

How do we afford so many extras?

Because I don't have to use all our disposable income buying her new pants every two weeks.

Anyone who has had a baby knows that children have a closet full of clothes they have never worn. People give you gifts without gift recites, sleepers that are too big, onesies that are too small, or cable knit sweater that your baby will grew into around July. Or maybe you did what I did, and stocked up the wardrobe with newborn sized clothing only to have a baby the size of a Volkswagen.

And what did I do with all those too small clothes? I offered them to friends and turned over the rest to consignment store for resale.

I think the stigma that seems to attach itself to clothing and other stuff you get from a second hand place stems from the idea of purchasing something that someone else has thrown away or deemed not worthy for THEIR consumption.

I think this is ridiculous.

How many people buy used cars?

If you shift your perspective and look at places like consignment and thrift stores as a communal resource, a place to pass on the good stuff you've received and no longer have need/room/patience for, the "ick" factor fades away. We've picked up high end, major label clothes (Janie and Jack, Baby Dior, etc...) for peanuts and you can bet that when we're done with them, we're packing them up and passing them on.

So what do you give up when you do some shopping at thrift store? Well, I guess you don't get the mass size selection. There is only one of each item (unless someone had twins) and sometimes its a hit or miss selection, but I think that's all secondary to saving an incredible amount of money on adorable stuff for your child.

And naught for not, but if you ARE in a situation where you're struggling to put food on the table, its nice to know that getting a winter coat for your baby isn't going to ensure that you and your family have to eat oatmeal for two meals a day for a month.

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