Parents are ashamed to buy second-hand, even if it could save them thousands. (Photo: Stocksy)
It’s back-to-school season, and parents are once again forking over enormous amounts for new outfits and school supplies, even if they don’t necessarily feel they can afford it all. According to a report released today, over a third of American parents spend 30 percent of their income on their children (that’s excluding daycare costs), and 39 percent feel it’s difficult to meet their children’s expenses.
The report, called “Buried: The State of Stuff and Stress,” comes from a survey of 4,000 people that was funded by OfferUp, a mobile marketplace app that connects individual buyers and sellers. Though the company certainly has an interest in promoting the idea of buying used goods instead of new ones, the survey’s findings do seem to highlight something interesting about what motivates parents to spend more than they have to on their kids.
Of those surveyed, 47 percent said they thought it wasn’t important to buy new things, but only 9 percent reported buying their kids’ back-to-school supplies used. When asked why, 7 percent said they were too embarrassed to buy second-hand. Twelve percent of parents said “buying brand new items for their kids is important because they don’t want to be perceived as poor,” and 15 percent said they wanted their kids to be popular, “and having brand names is a part of that.” Yet, 21% think they could save at least $1,000 by shopping second-hand. Parents aren’t just concerned about their kids’ peers: 45 percent said they cared about what other parents thought of them, too.
There is some good news when you look at the other side of those numbers — if 15 percent of parents want their kids to be popular, that means 85 percent aren’t so concerned with that. At the same time, the whole survey reminds us of a larger factor affecting parents today: shame.
“Parental shame is feeling that others might think you are inferior in your ability to take good care of your kids and to give your kids what they need to be successful,” teen and child psychologist Barbara Greenberg told Yahoo Style. “Every parent wants to be perceived first and foremost as being a good enough parent.”
But being a good parent does not necessarily mean buying the “right” things for them.
“It’s more important to send kids to school who are comfortable in their own skin rather than comfortable in a name-brand pair of jeans,” Greenberg said. Though some kids who show up in used, outdated fashions might be bullied, clothing isn’t necessarily the deciding factor on who fits in and who doesn’t.
“Not every kid who’s wearing the wrong clothing gets picked on,” she explained. “In fact, a lot of poor kids are popular. If you don’t have a lot of money for clothing, what you focus on is building up how good that child feels about him- or herself. Teaching them empathy skills, kindness skills, comfort with others.”
To do that, she suggested focusing more on activities that interest children and build their self-esteem than on buying them things. They also need to avoid showing their children that they feel competitive with other parents or anxious about their own clothing — behavior kids easily pick up on and copy.
When that shame creeps in, Greenberg advises parents to remember: “The best barometer of what kind of parent they are is that they have a happy kid not a well-dressed kid.”