One thing I love about having lots of children is seeing the things I buy for them get used again and again. I've mentioned (and mentioned, and mentioned) that I enjoy getting things on clearance at Target. Just imagine how much my bargain-hunting soul loves to use those items for several children. Buy a child's shirt for $1.74, then bring it out for the third boy in a row, knowing a fourth boy is coming to wear it next, and right there's a little slice of happiness.
I do buy some things new for each new child. Sometimes it's necessary: my first two boys were born in the winter, and my next two are summer babies, so some of the seasonal stuff is the wrong size: the child needs size 12m shorts, and all we have is 12m sweaters. Sometimes it's a matter of things starting to look dated: the things I bought for my first son eight years ago in the late '90s don't look as cute now. Sometimes things wear out: jeans get holes in the knees, onesies get stretched out and thin and grungy. And sometimes it's just fun: fun to have new things, fun to buy things for the new baby.
I like to shop. I'm saying it right out, because I think people who like to shop are supposed to be embarrassed, like we're Paris Hilton or something. I guess it's supposed to be superficial to enjoy seeking out and purchasing material possessions, and I can see how it wouldn't stack up against, say, working with orphans in an impoverished country. Nevertheless, I enjoy it. Not only do I enjoy it, I will go so far as to say I think it is a worthy pursuit. Shopping is seen as a rich woman's activity, but I see it as a poor woman's activity: Making good choices means you can have the good stuff for the price of the crappy stuff. You can have two of something instead of one. You can have this and that, instead of this or that.
When I shop, I'm looking for things we currently need, but I'm mostly looking for things we will need: the less pressured you are, the easier it is to get what you want for a good price. I don't wait until our sheets are full of holes to look for new sheets, I'm always on the lookout for good sheets at 75% off. We don't need them yet, so I can be picky and get ones I like. I buy clothes for the kids in the next size up, and even the next size after that. Not too far ahead, because fashions change and because it's hard to predict who might need slims and who might need huskies, and because as kids get older they might want some say in what they wear, but I do buy enough ahead that I'm not scrambling to buy them a whole new wardrobe at full price because they've suddenly outgrown their old stuff. Basics like winter boots and snowpants, I buy several sizes in advance. I'm willing to handle a certain amount of storage and organization in exchange for paying $6 instead of $24.
When you save money in boring areas, you have more money for fun areas: save $18 on boring winter boots, and you have $18 more to spend on cute birth announcements, or a pretty green vase thing, or a new book. You also have more money in general: if you don't buy the vase thing, the $18 is just extra in the checking account. When the utility bills come in, or when the car insurance is due, or when somebody needs to go to the dentist, it's good to have those extra bits that wouldn't have been there if you'd bought things full price.
New pair of boots bought in November for $24? Or new pair of boots bought in February for $6, plus new sheets bought for $18-down-from-$72? Shopping is not just the act of putting down a credit card, it's the art of choosing. There isn't a thing wrong with buying the boots for $24, but nor is there a thing wrong with enjoying trying to get them for $6.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...