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On Parenting
Posted at 01:07 PM ET, 08/09/2012

Dressing our kids into bankruptcy

The vast majority of mothers admit to spending more on their kids clothes than on their own wardrobes this time of year, according to a new survey on back-to-school shopping.

On the scale of revelations, the news from the 2012 back-to-school spending report from Citi’s Women & Co. and Parenting.com is not a tremendous shocker, but it is part of a growing body of evidence that suggests we’re getting carried away with how we dress our kids.

The survey found that of the 1,000 mothers asked, most said new clothes will be the biggest expense this season, with, on average, families planning to spend $131 per child. They spend an average of $48 on school supplies per child.
(mike sonnenberg)

A whopping 91 percent of the mothers also said they spent more on their child’s wardrobes.

“If budgets are tight, parents are less likely to cut back on spending for their kids than they are on themselves,” said Linda Descano, President and CEO of Women & Co.

Of course, kids outgrow clothes and shoes much faster than adults. Still, wardrobes are generally a discretionary expense. There isn’t a tremendous amount a child or teen needs in the way of a stocked closet.

But, for some reason, we are finding ourselves more concerned about what they wear.

Mark Wildman, the Vice President and Group Publisher of the Parenting Group said the number of visitors to Parenting.com looking for kids’ fashion-related content is nearly three times what it was a year ago. That means parents are paying more attention than ever to those pint-sized fashion spreads.

Why?

Part of the trend is fueled by marketing. Luxe brands like Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana have all recently introduced kids’ lines. These brands jumped on the fact that children’s clothing was one of the few recession-proof retail sectors.

Analysts have said that it’s likely that parents find it easier to spend lavishly on a child’s couture outfit because, though a ridiculous expense, it costs far less than an adult version.

Consumers still want luxury, however small, the theory goes.

The profusion of Hollywood stars showing off their fashionable kids for the cameras, too, has introduced the idea that the best accessory is a well-turned out child.

I suspect there’s something else too. Personally, I find it much easier to justify an extravagant purchase when that purchase is made for one of my daughters.

I budget myself closely. I have an arched eyebrow at the ready for my husband’s purchases. But my daughters’ expenses fall into that ungoverned territory. It’s like when I eat that free muffin sample at the coffee shop, it doesn’t really count.

I’m fine to slouch around in Target separates and, when called upon to step it up, my threadbare 10-year-old Banana Republic dress (purchased on deep discount, by the way.) But my daughters really would look devastatingly cute in those new Tea dresses, no?

They, after all, are the ones who will be featured in all the snapshots that will be e-mailed and Facebooked. (To those of my friends who have signed up for Unbaby.me, you’ll miss some great fashion.)

Plus, and this may because I’m the mother of girls, I find immense joy watching them proudly wear a new outfit, without any of the body issues that plague their mother. They do not yet believe that if something doesn’t fit right, it’s because of their own failure.

Oh, but those little outfits can cause big problems.

Descano said it’s essential to make a budget for the kids too, and stick to it. That’s “one of the ways that you can avoid the risk of spending more than you should and amassing a level of credit card debt that would be significant enough to do any long-term damage to your finances,” she said.

What’s your spending strategy for back-to-school?

Do you also find it easier to indulge the kids than yourself?

Related Content:

The back-to-school spending assault

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The new back-to-school accessory: a kid tracker

By  |  01:07 PM ET, 08/09/2012

Tags:  Back-to-school

 
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