An Attempt to Curb Teen Excess
Posted on January 7, 2010 by Ellen Wein
In the early days of 2010, I am reflecting on weaning two teens from a consumption mindset. It’s been interesting. For starters, there were no allowance increases in 2009. I urged my two girls to share more (as if that would happen, with bickering daughters) and to babysit more (as if the local families with young children could afford to go out). My older daughter even returned to work at the day camp she loathed when there were no minimum-wage jobs to be had last summer. Thanks to her advanced math skills, she calculated that she made about $1.75 an hour. But she had the wisdom to save most of her earnings.
I made valiant attempts at cost control. I took a hard-line stance on texting overages (“You’re way under on your minutes, so use the phone, not your fingers!”). Along the way, a news story cropped up that I hope they never see: the one about the California teen who downloaded his way to a $22,000 phone bill for dad, which Verizon benevolently forgave. Does that mean Verizon will forgive my kids’ overages too? They were only in the hundreds of dollars—a downright bargain for Verizon to pardon.
My younger daughter deserves a medal for the inventive way she and her inner circle are managing the crucial matter of keeping the pipeline of shoes, clothes and accessories flowing. You see, once I turned off the spigot, necessity was clearly the mother of invention. Imagine a half-dozen girls all close enough in shoe and clothing sizes that they essentially run a garment and footwear exchange in their spare time. It’s so bountiful and efficient that my kid can nearly complete the entire school year without repeating an outfit. And I only bought maybe a week’s worth of clothing. Talk about return on investment! Come to think of it, my daughter and her friends can even share the medal!
There’s also the matter of the insatiable appetite for Uggs, which I don’t allow my girls to swap, although I’m sure they have a work-around on that. Even with each daughter financing a pair last year just to prance in, they both just had to have—although I believe they said “need”—the Bailey Button style in black (try saying that three times fast). In this case, they decided to share a pair. But this decision wasn’t inventive, it was downright idiotic: My older daughter leaves for college in August, and neither child is an internationally ranked hop-on-one-foot-er.
Before they start venturing out into the world, I am also reflecting on everything under the sun I’ve tried to teach them before they’re no longer under my influence. So when they asked me what I wanted for Hanukkah, I replied that the greatest gift of all would be some of their time, and I qualified that: minus the computer screen, the TV and the pitter-patter of texting. They got the significance of what I had asked for—which was a gift of its own.