Coat Quandary Raises Temperature of Reader

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Dear Miriam,

Last year, I spent an uncomfortable amount of money on winter gear for my three kids. It wasn’t exactly a financial hardship, but it just seemed like such a waste, so this year, we’re making do with hand-me-downs and, sometimes, being a little cold.

I just got a generous offer from a neighbor for a beautiful and warm snowsuit that will fit my middle child, but I can’t justify getting comparable items for the others. Should I accept the item and, if I do, how can I explain it to my other kids?

Signed,

Out in the Cold

Dear Cold,

Suiting up your kids for the weather is definitely an expense, and anything that can ease that should be celebrated. Making do with hand-me-downs shouldn’t feel like a punishment or embarrassment. You can model your values and good decision making by talking with your kids about what items are the most important to your family, about reducing waste, about minimizing clutter and about saving and spending in general.

Maybe you’re doing all these things, and you’re still stuck when it comes to this snowsuit. If you think your middle child will wear it this year, I encourage you to graciously accept the offer. Ideally, your youngest child can wear it in the future and, if the youngest has any hard feelings, be sure to talk about being the beneficiary of older siblings’ hand-me-downs.

If the oldest feels bad, explain how the snowsuit came into your lives. Try to find out if the situation feels unfair because of the item itself, or because of the need it fulfills. If either of your non-snowsuit receiving kids is upset because the middle sibling is the only one who will be warm enough, I’d look hard to find equally winter-appropriate items inexpensively. Thrift stores, Buy Nothing groups and even regular stores this late in the season are all great sources for free or deeply discounted items. Your kids don’t need the latest and greatest gear, but they do need options to be dressed appropriately for the weather.

If anything, I’d guess you’re over thinking this. Try to make as small a deal as possible about the snowsuit. Separately, if possible, ask each kid if they’ve been warm enough so far this winter. Fill in any gaps with items that can be reused or redistributed next year, so consider buying a size up and in neutral colors.

Finally, as you plan for future seasonal gear, remember this moment and be prepared with a budget, a set of priorities and some stock answers to get you and your kids through whatever weather and generous offers come your way.

Be well,

Miriam

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