Every year I see a few discussions around school uniform and other children’s clothing around the time children are returning to school.
If you’ve never experienced poverty, or living month to month, it might be that you don’t understand how your well-meaning advice is misplaced.
If somebody is telling you they can’t afford something then telling them ‘it’s an investment’ or ‘it’s good quality and lasts’ does not suddenly make them able to afford it. Suggesting they ‘save a couple of pounds a week’ to be able to buy something you can purchase without a second thought is not cool. Saving is not an option if you are using the last pound you have for food shopping.
Telling your kid that they can’t have a coat until you save up for a better quality one is not reality. Sometimes you need to get what you can afford there and then. Please don’t tell people that they can find bargains in charity shops. THEY KNOW. There is a huge difference between popping into charity shops every few weeks to find a cute vintage bargain and not being able to shop anywhere else (clue, one is fun – one is not).
Living in poverty does not render you unable to be able to determine the quality of products and need advice on that, it just means that sometimes you are forced to choose items of inferior quality by your budget.
It’s a well-known feature of poverty that people living in poverty pay more for items (shoes etc) over a period of time because they have to replace more frequently. It’s something that whilst you’re in that situation you’re aware of and do not need telling ‘buy cheap, buy twice’
And lastly. Because somebody has a fridge/tv/tattoo/designer handbag / has been on holiday and is living in poverty does not mean they need lessons on budgeting. Poverty is not always a constant, situations change. I have walked round in Gucci sunglasses on weeks I have eaten beans on toast every night so my kid could have all the veg. I have lived in beautiful rental houses and had £6 a week of disposable income. When I bought the sunglasses I was in a two income home and could afford it. When I picked the rental house I didn’t know I would be leaving my job. Being poor does not open you up to financial scrutiny from others, ever. Living in poverty makes you a bloody expert on budgeting and being told that having no money is your own fault hurts.
Parenting can be so classist – before you post about how you’ve bought XYZ for your child because you want ‘the best’ for them please consider how this is telling another parent that they don’t have the means to provide the best for their children.
Sarah is a mum of three from Sheffield, a Research Coordinator in the NHS, red wine and meme enthusiast.