In continuing our series about how to stay sane during the onslaught of marketing over the course of the holiday season, here is our second tip:
Before you buy something, do the one-year test. This one is pretty self-explanatory. It means that, any time you’re about to make a purchase, think about where that item will be one year from now. Maybe your child absolutely has to have the pricey toy today, but one year from now, it is likely that he or she will have moved on to something else. Or that sweater you’re coveting–will it still be in style in November 2010, or will you consider it dated and stuff it in the deep recesses of your closet?
Of course, especially when shopping for the under-18 crowd, the rules change a little. It’s part of figuring our your own personal identity to go through phases, and denying your teen the ability to experiment can be harsh. And for younger kids, it’s a fact that they will have outgrown those clothes by next year, but they still need clothes. Toys are designed to stimulate different age groups, so it’s unrealistic to expect that a puzzle which fascinated your two-year-old will still hold his or her attention at age five. In cases like these, it can be helpful to consider two things: durability and excess.
For example, those clothes–are they made well enough that they might be suitable to hand down, or give to a Goodwill or the Salvation Army? At the very least, look for things that may have more than one life in them. And for the teen, it’s okay to indulge their punk rock phase, but to a point. They don’t need every album or every t-shirt, and it’s ok to ask them to prioritize. Perhaps this is lofty, but giving kids the “perfect Christmas” with their entire, completed wish list under the tree, might not be the healthiest thing in the long run. It’s good to learn that you can’t always have everything.
So when you’re waiting in a checkout line, resist the urge to buy all the little things they try to get you to buy on your way out, like purse-sized perfume spray or a Lego accessory. Those impulse buys add up, and when you find them stuffed under the bed or in your junk drawer a year from now, you’ll wonder why you ever bought them in the first place.