Try convincing your teenager that your $15 jeans – with no rips or embroidered patches – are just as good as the brand-name pair he wants that costs three times as much.
Chances are, you won't win that argument.
It's back-to-school shopping season, when label-conscious teens often nudge, cajole and push every button they can so their parents will spend more on new duds. As many parents know, you can hardly go on such a trip with your children these days without feeling as if your wallet and bank account have taken a licking.
Not only are name brands and logos plastered on clothing, but the market can get just as pricey for trendy shoes, backpacks and even notebooks.
The love of labels poses a dilemma for parents. On the one hand, many teens face pressures to fit in, and what they wear is often part of how they measure their self-esteem. As a friend recently noted, half-jokingly, teens don't seem to care about the color of your skin, but they do notice what brand or logo you're wearing.
But on the flip side, being a walking, talking advertisement for a company's jeans, shoes or dress can get out of control.
How can parents balance this issue of helping their children fit in with the need to stay on budget?
Negotiate. Before heading to the mall, talk to your teen about how much you can afford to spend on school clothing and supplies. This will let your son or daughter know there are limits – even in money-is-no-object households.
Next, create a list of what is needed, including requests of what your children would like.
As the adult, it's perfectly reasonable to tell them they can choose to have no new clothing or the clothing you're willing to purchase for them.
Keep a log. Some family money experts suggest keeping a log of shopping trips with your label-conscious youngster, recording the amount of time you spent shopping, what you were looking for, your estimate of the purchase price and the price you actually paid. Then talk about how much was spent on brand names versus the store brands and about how that money could have been used for other necessities.
Set priorities. If your teen has a summer job and a taste for expensive clothing, make the connection between the teen's work duties and purchases, said Denise Romanelli, a credit union manager in Aston, Pa. Start with a few choice questions: If you wanted to purchase a pair of designer jeans, how many hours will you have to work to pay for those jeans? Are those jeans worth eight or 10 hours of your labor?
Expand their allowance. Put your teen in charge of buying his or her own clothing. Tally up what you normally would spend on school clothing and the like and dole out a similar amount to your teen for a clothing allowance. “Nothing teaches better than experience,” said Elisabeth Donati, the author of The Ultimate Allowance.
Shop creatively. Rather than the mall, check consignment or thrift stores – those high-fashion jeans might be found for much less. Or wait until retailers bring in the next season's lines, when last season's clothes will be marked down.