Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shopping with Pepper and Diva

My 2 daughters, "Pepper" (almost 9) and "Diva" (7) are only 19 months apart, but they are so very different! This became all too clear when I took each of them for a special shopping trip. They've been doing activities through the local Recreation Department for the past couple weeks (Diva did dance last week, and Pepper is doing soccer this week.) So it gave me a chance to spend some one-on-one time with each of them. They both had gift cards left over from birthdays and Christmas (!) so I thought it would be easier for each of them to spend her own gift card on her own without her sister complaining.


Pepper loves to read. Actually, that's a total understatement- that would be like saying "She loves to breathe." She reads three or four books at a time; she reads in the car- even at night, with a booklight on; she reads in bed until late at night, until I pry the book out of her hands and shut off the light. (At least, I hope she stops reading at that point.) She loves fantasy, horror, and mysteries. She's read the whole Harry Potter series multiple times and she's been begging me to let her read Twilight. (I've refused, so she's placated herself by reading more kid-friendly books about vampires. And wearing plastic vampire teeth, and painting her fingernails black. Did I mention she isn't even nine yet? )

I love to read too, and I've had to find frugal ways to keep myself in reading material. We're avid library users- we probably take out hundreds of books from the library each year, and I'm always requesting things via interlibrary loan. If there's something particular I want to read that I can't find via the library, I try to find a used copy, usually from half.com or ebay. I very rarely buy a new book for myself in the bookstore. When I do browse in the bookstore, I usually take notes about what books look interesting and try to find a copy at the library. If I got even half of my reading material from the bookstore, reading would be a very, very expensive habit for me.

Pepper isn't overly thrilled with my frugal habits in this regard. She covets books. She insists there is nothing like owning a book for your very own, and smelling that new book smell. Even if she reads something at the library, she wants to get a copy for herself. She is forever cajoling her grandmother and me to take her to Borders and let her buy books. (Admittedly, I should be happy about this. She isn't cajoling me for an Ipod, new clothes, video games, a cell phone... But it is still a form of greediness that I am trying to teach her to overcome.) Fortunately, she got several gift cards to Barnes and Noble and Borders last Christmas, and we still had one left over.

When I told her we were going to the bookstore last Wednesday, I had a vision of us sitting side by side in comfy chairs, perusing whatever books we had found, quietly spending some quality mother-daughter time together. Maybe we'd even get a chai latte at the cafe for a treat. I've spent so much parenting energy in trying to keep her out of the bookstore, when in truth I really enjoy going there as well. I wanted to take the time to really enjoy being there with her, to share a love we both have in common.

Alas. She made a beeline for a table of bestsellers and promptly scooped up a stack of books. "These are the ones I want." She had the first 2 books from the Inkspell series and the third installment of a series called Vampirates. (Seriously. Vampires and Pirates?? Why didn't I think of that? Edward and Jack Sparrow... wait, this is a children's book..)

I looked them over, and pointed out that they added up to about $27.00, when her gift card was only for $20. "Also, they have the whole Inkspell series at the library. Why don't you just get it there? Or just read the first one and make sure you like it?" I also pointed out that she might want to read the first Vampirates book, instead of the third, since she had never read them before.

She refused any sort of commensensical suggestions that I had and insisted that these were the books that she had to have. The sales lady noticed her with her stack of books (they are all quite thick) and told her she needed to get herself a job to afford all her books. (Indeed.) So I told her that she would have to pay me back for whatever the gift card didn't cover, which she agreed to. (I also pointed out to her a quote by Erasmus on a tote bag, which I thought reflected her philosophy pretty well: "When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes." I admit, I used to feel the same way.)

I'm sure she's enjoying her new books, and I will try again in the future to have mother/ daughter bonding time over books. I'm so glad she loves to read, I really, truly am, but I hope she can learn to be more content with less expensive ways of getting her reading material. She also loves to write, but if she ever starts her own blog I'm sure it won't be about frugal living!

Diva has more fashion sense in her little pinkie than I could ever hope to have in my entire life. I can't imagine what her teachers think of her at school, because I don't think she's worn the same outfit twice. She's the littlest in the extended family at the moment, so she's the beneficiary of everyone's hand-me-downs and she has ridiculous quantities of clothing. She manages to combine colors, prints, and accessories in such unexpected and tasteful ways, and she usually looks fantastic. (I have no idea where she gets it- I generally wear some form of jeans-and-a-T-shirt when I'm not working, and I grudgingly dress up a little bit more for work.)

Once, when Diva was a baby, she climbed out of her carriage in the J.C. Penney shoe department and threw herself at the girls' shoe display, squealing with glee. (I often cite this incident as a refutation of all those sociology arguments who say that gender traits aren't inborn but a product of the environment. How could a baby be this fixated on shoes, when her own mother wears the same flip-flops every day?) So she was thrilled when her uncle and auntie got her a Famous Footwear gift card for her birthday. We headed to the mall to pay them a visit this morning.

She has definitely inherited my eye for a bargain, and realized that the super-cute shoes that are $54.99 aren't as super-cute as the ones that are on clearance for $10. So although she tried on some expensive shoes, she decided she would rather find something cheaper and stretch her gift card further. Atta girl!

She tried on these boots.

I know it's hard to picture them on a seven year old, but they looked fabulous on her. And I knew she could wear them, no problem. (This girl could run in heels by the time she was two.) But they were $44.99, so we were just going to forget about them. But then we spied other boots, that were almost exactly the same, on sale for $26.99. Now we're talkin'.

The boots weren't in her size, but the sales girl checked to see if they were in their warehouse, and said they would be shipped to our house for free. Woo-hoo! She also saw these sandals, on clearance for $20:

My mother has the exact same sandals, and Diva puts them on and wears them around the house when she's there. So she was thrilled to have a pair of her own.

I also had a gift card to Famous Footwear, as I mentioned in this post. I found a couple pairs of cute and comfy sandals on clearance (which is good, because I'm still wearing last year's flip-flops.) So between the Famous Footwear Buy 1 Get 1 Half Off sale and a coupon I had for $10 off a $50 purchase, we got 4 pairs of shoes for less than $60- and since we had gift cards, we didn't pay a dime. Granted, my girl didn't get the most practical shoes in the world, but she will definitely wear them and love them.

I don't often shop "for fun," and I venture to the mall only rarely because I don't like it. But it was nice and quiet in the mall this morning- we got there just as the stores were opening- and I didn't mind it so much. I did find myself looking more at new and trendy clothes that were out (is an almost-30 woman supposed to be looking at clothes at Charlotte Russe?) and getting that itchy "wanting things" feeling. I think a big part of being a happy cheapskate is avoiding that itchy feeling of wanting more stuff. When I stay away from the mall, don't open up a fashion magazine or a catalog, or leave the TV off, I am much more content with the things I already have. And as fun as shopping can be from time to time, that's the way to be frugal and content.

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