“In these tough economic times”, what do (should) we give up?

Recently, Beloved Husband said jokingly to 7-y-o Dear Daughter, “If you want to sound intelligent, start every conversation these days with the words, ‘In these tough economic times . . . ‘”. This led to a good, simple introduction to kids on the topic of economy and money. Well, dd understood the concept, and then to be silly, she would start conversations with her BFF like, “In these tough economic times, where did you put my socks?”

Well, in these tough economic times, the good news, according to a Globe and Mail article, is that parents are giving up luxuries such as high-end $600-$1000 strollers (like Bugaboo). You have to admit, whether you’re rich or poor, a designer stroller is one of these things that seems so frivolous and unnecessary in the life and care of a child. I have to admit, I’ve always thought so of the Bugaboos, and felt a sense of satisfaction in reading that article. Now, those of you who have one, or would love to get one, don’t jump on me just yet, and hear me out. My opinion on this is not simply because I’m obviously pro-babywearing, but just because I’m a frugal-minded parent not stuck on brand names. And please don’t think that because I’m a slinger, I know nothing about strollers, or how to judge high-end-New-Zealand-made product versus cheaper made-in-China product.

One defense that people have when buying these over-priced strollers is that they’re better quality, and don’t fall apart like the cheaper ones. I was given two second-hand “cheap” strollers, and though I admit that I only ever put a total of about 2 km on them, they were not cheap things that simply “fell apart”, especially considering that they were second-hand, and had serviced one or two children previously. They were still good enough condition that I could proudly pass them on to other sets of parents who couldn’t afford to buy one. Yes, you do get what you pay for (for example, I buy quality shoes, and don’t buy shoes from Wal-Mart, because I know for a fact that they’re poor quality and fall apart quickly). But you also do pay for status markers, and marketing. Yes, things fall apart, but if you take care of a complex product like a stroller, it doesn’t fall apart as quickly as you assume it will. The curious thing about a luxury product retaining its quality and durability is that when people pay a lot of money for something, and expect that they’ll resell it for quite a lot of money, they take really good care of it. When people buy a cheap product, and go into it saying to themselves, “Well, it’s cheap, it’s gonna fall apart anyway, it’s a disposable, entry-level product”, then they don’t care about kicking it around, because in their mind, “it’s cheap, it’s gonna fall apart anyway”. But imagine what would happen if people bought a cheap product, and took care of it as if it were worth close to $1000 . . . You’d be amazed at how long that thing can last, and you’d have less of an excuse to throw it into the landfill and get yourself something expensive and trendy.

A second defense in buying expensive strollers: “Well, we jog and walk a lot, and plan to put 1,500 km on this over three years, so it’s a mode of transportation for us, and we need the most durable, reliable beast there is out there.” Again, as a babywearing advocate, I’d have to say that unless you have a physical limitation, you can do all that while carrying, or walking with, a child. I’ve heard people say, “Well, if you think that you can walk with kids on a busy city street without a stroller, then you obviously don’t have kids.” But wait. I have two kids. I’ve carried/walked with them on busy streets in downtown Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, New York City, Las Vegas, etc.. I’ve carried them since they were one day old, to 6 years old. I’m a small woman with short legs. And yes, I did have a physical limitation. So don’t tell me it’s not possible. It’s not possible if you’re set on saying to yourself that it’s not possible, or simply because you don’t want to.

Excuse number three: “I put it on my gift registry, because my friends were chipping it to pay for it. So I don’t feel guilty spending that amount of money.” Well then, that’s the worst reason of all. Then you’re buying it because it’s an expensive brand-name that allows you to get in on the trend without worrying about the financial aspect.

Slam me all you want on this topic if you don’t agree, but I’m glad that the tough economy is the impetus for some serious thinking on the place for luxury non-necessities.

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The bad news: The tough economic realities haven’t necessarily hit parents who want to keep up with the Joneses and their kids, when it comes to children’s extra-curricular activities and classes. Taking out a credit card to pay for Junior’s dance class? Maybe not enough of us have hunkered down to think about the life’s necessities after all.

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