A couple days ago I wrote a post about brands and their place in a simple, minimalist life. One of the comments really caught my attention. It was by a reader named Ellen, and I’ve reproduced it here:
I think the issue for me too comes down to buying with intention. However, I also strive (out of necessity) to be frugal in every aspect of my life. Not working with a baby at home makes it tough to be so intentional. If that makes sense? It meas that sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. But, being in that position irks me in that some of the things that I get for free are not things that I would choose to purchase if I were purchasing with my own intentions. So where does that leave me? Advertising the Mercedes dealership on my free coffee mug or having my kid wear Toy Story clothes and other licensed items that I would never choose for him. Two things that I really don’t want to do, but since I didn’t have to shell out any of my scarce $$ to do it, does that make it ok? Can I be comfortable with that choice (or lackthereof)? That’s my dilemma.
I really appreciate the dilemma Ellen is facing. When sincerely-held values clash with the reality of your life situation, it’s tough to figure out the right thing to do.
I’m inclined to say that if something comes into your life without cost, and it’s useful, use the heck out of it and enjoy it. If the coffee mug is the porcelain kind, you’ll probably only be using it at home so the Mercedes logo won’t matter. If it’s a travel mug, the logo will wear off eventually as it gets washed repeatedly.
The same is true of the clothes. If the clothes are free and in otherwise good repair, I wouldn’t let a Toy Story brand dissuade you from letting your kid wear them.
What I would do is figure out how to use the circumstances you’re faced with to teach your kids useful life lessons. I honestly think that the single greatest factor influencing how your kids perceive brands is the example you set for them. Liberally sprinkle the value of frugality and thrift throughout their early childhood, and show them what it means to live those values in the real world.
Explain to them about brands and logos, and why you sometimes choose second-hand clothing. Teach them about reusing things until they’re worn out, and help them appreciate what they have. When the kids get old enough, you can even joke about how crazy it is that a Mercedes dealer spent a bunch of money on a coffee mug that will never earn the dealer a dime in business!
Sometimes it’ll mean Toy Story clothes. Sometimes it’ll mean plain t-shirts and sweatpants. Exercise as much control over obnoxious corporate logos and licensed stuff as you can, but find a way to make use of it all. Have fun with it, and pass on your values. Those will have a far more lasting impression than a few licensed Toy Story outfits, I promise.
As always, I’d love to hear other peoples’ opinions on this issue….let me know your thoughts in the comments!
I'd also really appreciate it if you'd share this post with your friends: