Saturday, April 11, 2015

[Un] usual spending on clothes

Here is what Mint just told me.  Mint just told me, "You have unusual spending on clothes this month:  $436 in the last 30 days."  That amount is just insane.

What is even worse, though, is the line below it:  "You usually spend $50".  To which I say, the heck I DO usually spend $50 on clothes!   I happen to know for a fact that since yard sale season ended last September 2014, six or seven months ago, I've spent a total of $5 on clothes (for a math conference t-shirt I was sort of peer-guilted into buying on Pi Day).

No, the target of this particular little statement about usual/unusual clothes spending is not about Miser Mom; it's about Miser Mom's husband.

And we might have mentioned a time or two before that her husband is not a Miser.

Of course, I brought this up with him.  My goal is to practice a Don't-Drive-Them-Crazy kind of frugality, so I tried to be as neutral as possible ("Hmmm . . . Guess what Mint just said?"), but of course any money comment from me comes automatically charged with deeper meaning.  My husband's reaction began with denial.
"I didn't categorize it correctly in Mint yet."  
"Well, it wasn't really all clothes; it was sports stuff." 
And it turned slowly to justification.
"J-son needed to dress up for school".
My poor husband.  He's married to a woman who believes that, even though money doesn't grow on trees, clothes do. Or is it that they grow on sidewalks?  Some of my favorite articles of clothes are things that I found lying on the ground while I was out running:  a decent pair of running shoes, a gorgeous sweater, a t-shirt, and of course the amazing flaming glove.  (No, seriously, I love that glove).

Indeed, one day after my husband took his credit card to the mall, a friend dropped off two humongous bags of clothes for our boys.

Free.  With really nice clothes inside of the bags.
So the whole four hundred and thirty six bit -- not to mention the you usually spend fifty bit -- well, that's the Stuff of Insanity.

But is it, really?  My husband, he's got his feet planted on opposite sides of a chasm.  On one side of this chasm is the Miser Mom he loves dearly.  On the other side is the rest of the world.  In particular, the other side contains the Lacrosse team and the parents and kids from J-son's new Quaker Local School.  The coach tells my husband, "We're glad to have J-son on the team; he merely needs [this list of very expensive equipment]".   The team says, "as a bonding and belonging thing, we are all purchasing [these costly jackets] that will identify us as an enviable social unit."   The parents say, "now that we have all watched our children play their game, we will drive together in our SUVs and minivans to a restaurant where we will turn twenty dollar bills into snacks".

And for my husband, what he wants most of all, is for my sons to belong.  My guy remembers being teased and ostracized in high school; he does not want to see the same dreadful fate rain down onto  these boys of ours, these boys who have already proved themselves to be at risk of falling into bad crowds.  I, with my overwhelming confidence, can afford to be a little counter-cultural, but my husband needs to pay dearly so that my sons are not.

And can I scoff?  I am, after all, the person who points to peer pressure and belonging as the reason I squandered my entire winter wardrobe budget on a Pi Day t-shirt. A $5 t-shirt, mind you.  But the reasoning is the same.

It's a tough question.  It's not that my husband and my boys love things for things' sake (well, okay, maybe the boys do); it's that the clothes and equipment they are buying are the tokens and symbols of the community they are glad to embrace.  There are ways to accumulate these tokens without spending money and time at a mall, but not everyone is as good as sidewalk harvesting as I am, I know.

But still.  $436.  Sigh.


  1. Eeek, that's a lot of money. It's a problem living in the world with signalling left and right. I wish there were a way to signal that I'm not signalling - an opt out signal. Very hard to get the balance right with kids, but if anyone is managing I think you are!

  2. My HS softball coach did that stuff, too. We had to do fundraising with these incomprehensible scratcher cards -- here, person, scratch off a dot to see how much you can pay me. It might be a penny, it might be $10! either way... you owe me? -- in order to buy warm-up suits and fancy gear bags. I did it because I had to, but even then I was annoyed at the waste.