You Spent HOW MUCH on That???

I received a comment on my Coats of Many Colors post
which suggested that there might be something morally wrong about paying Coats of Many Colors prices for Halloween and/or All Saints Day

They are beautiful
– and how lucky you are that you can afford them. I can’t help but
wonder how other children whose parents cannot pay these high prices
feel next to these luxurious saints! Somehow it just doesn’t seem right
to spend so much on a fancy outfit to wear on a single day when there
are people who have no homes, no food, no jobs.

I’ve seen a similar viewpoint expressed elsewhere, so I thought I’d post my response here as well:

Oh, ready-made costumes aren’t in our budget this year
either. You’ll note I said we were given some of the costumes for a
look-see, and I was all too happy to accept. 🙂 And I was happy, too,
to be able to give a bit of exposure to a hardworking mother of many.
Just because her costumes don’t fit everyone’s budget doesn’t mean they won’t fit anyone’s, and in spreading the word of her business, I am happily doing my bit to support cottage industry.

And as for "it not seeming right to spend so much on a costume" when
others are out of work, etc—well, I think you’re getting into pretty
tricky territory when you start criticizing how other people choose to
spend their income. These costumes, for example, are extremely well
made (I would not have given a positive review if I didn’t mean it, and
I stand by every word of my praise), and will be enjoyed by a whole
tribe of children, both in my own family and among our friends, far
more than "on a single day." Some families, adding up the cost, might
consider the investment worthwhile—just as my family tends to ‘invest’
our money in the books we treasure. And in doing so, we’re helping to
support other writers and publishing house employees. As writers
ourselves, we know how deeply appreciated those rare royalty checks can

Furthermore, it’s very important when passing judgment upon other
people’s spending decisions to consider that there may be many
extenuating factors in their private lives which might justify
purchases that seem frivolous to others. My own family has endured many
periods of extended hospital stays and other medical crises, and during
those times of our life we spent an amount on take-out food that
horrified me then and staggers me now in hindsight. We were coping as
best we could, and those overpriced hospital Au Bon Pain meals were a
necessary evil, at that time.

To that comment I’ll add that as for "how
other children whose parents cannot pay these high prices feel next to
these luxurious saints," I imagine they might feel very much like my
children have felt during years when they wore our cobbled-together,
safety-pinned costumes next to friends whose mothers could sew: full of
admiration and perhaps even longing, but largely unfazed, because
their minds were on the candy! 😉

Something my kids and I have talked a lot about is the danger of
envy and comparison. Our family has taken very, very few family
vacations, and the trips we have taken have been of modest scope. We
have many good friends and relatives who do quite a bit more
traveling—weeks at the beach every summer, trips to Disney or Six
Flags, all sorts of fun things. And sure, my children have expressed
some longing of their own on those occasions. We talk about those
longings frankly. Some of our friends who are able to do more traveling
are families whose baby years are behind them. How grateful we are to
still be being blessed with new babies! A day will come—all too soon;
I’ll be forty this year—when there are only "big kids" in our family.
I’ll hazard a guess that we’ll manage to do more traveling then. Of
course, Jane may well be off to college by that point. Who can say?
Right now, we are the family we are: still growing, still grappling
with medical and other challenges, and with a mom too busy with home
duties to do much in the way of contributing to family income and a dad
in a notoriously low-paying, though undoubtedly fun, line of work. It’s
a fine place to be, even if modest means place limits upon us. I don’t
think it’s doing my kids one bit of harm to hear about their friends’
trip to London or their cousins’ Grand Canyon adventure—any more than
it ‘harms’ me to read blog entries about lovely objects or excursions
that aren’t within my reach at the moment. We count our blessings, and
we know we are very, very blessed. 🙂

I heartily encourage the making of inexpensive homegrown costumes.  I read the frugal blogs and the crafty blogs with
great relish and have gratefully snatched at many a clever idea shared
by these talented and thrifty folks. But I don’t begrudge lovely
purchases of those who can afford them, and if I can help another
family by spreading the word of a home business, I consider that
another blessing to be glad of!

7 thoughts on “You Spent HOW MUCH on That???”

  1. Very interesting comments, the problem with this thinking, is where does it stop. I mean do I feel guilty for buy frozen apple juice when I could grow it, juice and can it like my good friend does.
    What is a splurge to one person is not to another. I know people who think we waste money on things, but there is things they spend a lot of money on, I would never.
    My father thinks I spend to much when I go out to dinner. He goes to cheap places, I favor French restaurants. BUT I go like once a year, he goes 3 times a week. It is what you value and we need to respect each other and that we are all different. Clarice

  2. Well said……..Amen……….
    Envy is a sad way to live when our heavenly Father provides differently
    for different families.

  3. Melissa, I think you handled this beautifully (as always).
    The commenter may be going through a particularly difficult time…or may have someone close to her who is.
    Of course, really, I sometimes think that all of us who can afford to have internet at home, or to drive to a library to use the computer there, are doing pretty well.
    We need respect, gratitude, and trust in God – not envy or concern about others’ choices – in the hard times that everyone experiences…and we need to realize that one may suffer poverty, another may suffer illness or the illness of a child, and that we all suffer something at one time or another.
    God bless you for giving so many people so much joy, and I hope you keep up the good work and “good works”…sharing with others your encouragement.

  4. what a thoughtful, gracious answer. i appreciated your matter-of-fact response that gave a constructive, truthful assessmet without scolding.

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