I Love Back-to-School Shopping; My Daughter Doesn’t

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Back-to-school shopping is big deal in some families. According to the National Retail Federation, parents with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade plan to spend $630.35 on average. That shakes out to $217.83 on new clothes, $117.56 on new shoes, and just under $100 on school supplies, according to NRF.

Back-to-school shopping was a big deal for me when I was teenager. I would spend weeks studying the ads in Seventeen, strategizing and imagining my back-to-school wardrobe before heading out to the stores in August. Inevitably my mom and I would argue over what was appropriate, what was too expensive and what I was allowed to buy and wear. I would meticulously pick out my first-day-of-school outfit, and I’d make sure I had something new to wear that entire first week.

In our house, the only thing my daughter and I could agree on was that she needed new sneakers. I would have loved to buy new clothes for her but she is the most reluctant shopper I have ever met. She did not get the shopping gene.

She was willing to shop for sneakers (because hers had a gapping hole in them), but hesitant to try them on (how can you buy shoes without trying them on?), and thrilled when I told her she could have two pair.

What about shopping for pants, shirts, dresses, skirts? Out of the question!

During the summer, she wears cargo shorts and a T-shirt. In colder weather, she wears cargo pants, a T-shirt and a hoodie. She has about 5 different fleece hoodies in a rainbow of colors (no pink, no purple).

Granted, this eliminates the arguments that I would have with my mom about appropriate attire and how much money a reasonable person should pay for a pair of jeans. I don’t ever have to worry that my daughter’s skirts are too short (she refuses to wear a skirt), that her shirt is too low-cut (she won’t wear anything that isn’t a crewneck T-shirt) or that she is baring her midriff (she would cover it over up with her hoodie).

But I do wish she would think about wearing something new and with a little bit more flare on the first days of school. I worry that her classmates and teachers might think we are too poor to buy new clothes, or that I don’t want to buy my daughter new clothing.

To encourage her to shop, I try luring my daughter over to my laptop to show her photos of T-shirts with clever sayings about math, science and Star Wars – all her favorite things. I know better than to try to suggest a flouncy skirt or a ruffled blouse.

Me: “What about this one?”
Daughter: “Naw.”

Me: “This one?”
Daughter: “Everything still fits me. I don’t need anything new.”
Me: “What about a new backpack?”

Daughter: “Nope.”
Me: “New lunchbox?”
Daughter: “I’m good.”

I find T-shirts online with super sarcastic sayings like, “National Sarcasm Society (like we need your help),” “My imaginary friends thinks you have mental problems,” and “Normal People Scare Me.” It doesn’t take much to encourage her to buy them. I wonder if they are appropriate for school, if the other kids will get her sense of humor, and then I remember that the kids she hangs out with at school are just as sarcastic and witty as she is so at least they’ll get the joke. I’m not sure about the rest of the 8th grade or her teachers.

Total spent on clothes is $40 plus $143.07 on sneakers equals $183.07; not even close to the average $630.35 that NRF expected me to spend on back-to-school clothes.