Monday, November 03, 2008

"Her Parents Gave Her a Clothing Allowance"

I overheard a fun little elevator conversation the other day, in which someone talked about an editorial assistant who always had the latest clothes because her parents gave her a clothing allowance. Several women in the elevator, including me, broke the usual elevator code of silence to burst out with the same reaction: "Whoa-- her parents gave her a clothing allowance???"

Parental assistance is certainly not a shocking innovation here in New York City, and if you're an entry level editorial assistant in book publishing these days, you've got to be getting assistance with something from someone or you're going to be living on bread and water. But when you hear about people's parents giving them money, it's usually talked about as being "help with the rent" or "paying for the plane ticket to come home at Thanksgiving." Money is fungible, of course-- if your overall budget includes rent, clothing, and travel, it doesn't matter what the parental gift pays for, as it all goes into the same pot. But I think most parents provide assistance under the (probably deluded) assumption that the recipient really can't make ends meet without it, and that it will go towards a very stripped-down budget consisting only of necessities.

Clothing is not that kind of necessity. Yes, to work in an office, even a book publishing office, you need to look somewhat presentable, and women don't quite have the easy "khakis and shirt" escape that men do. But I've never worked anywhere where a young assistant had to have a constantly updated fashionable wardrobe or risk never getting a promotion-- I can't imagine that being the case anywhere except maybe at Vogue and other high-end women's fashion magazines. If someone's parents want to make sure they are properly clad for their new career, a modest one-time gift should do the trick.

Who knows what the true situation was-- maybe this girl was living on an otherwise extremely strict budget and her parents just wanted her to have one thing in her life where she could give herself a bit of a treat... but I doubt it! What do you think?

18 comments:

Sallie's Niece said...

Wow, my parents help me out more than I care to admit but it's always so that I can pay my bills on time or for a special treat - not a regular thing for luxuries. Clothes can be expensive though if you are starting your first job and don't have a professional wardrobe. I hope this girl is at least looking for bargains!

Optioned Unarmed said...

I think there is a fine line between "spoiling" a child and "helping" them. I do think things are a lot harder for young people just starting out these days than they were a generation ago...

Anonymous said...

Women's priority is hard to predict. I need to replace my coffemaker. But this weekend, I shopped for a purse instead of it. Do I need that purse? You guess it.
The same thing goes to our car registration. We just spend at least $500 for two car's emission test/annual test/registration. You don't see any outcome as joyful as a new dress.

Suburban Wife said...

When I read your headline, I thought, cool, someone else gives their kid a clothing allowance. We give our 16-yo a clothing allowance and we're very happy with the lessons she's learning. Then I realized you were talking about an adult.

Without more facts about this girl, her situation, and her parents' reasoning behind the allowance, I think it's quite unfair to make a judgement.

I think it's quite possible that this girl's parents have decided to supplement their daughter's income in the most straightforward and honest way possible.

When I was young the situation was reversed. I was working and making a full-time salary. I was living in my own apartment, paying my own bills, paying for night classes at the local community college, and making regular deposits into my savings account. My youngest sister had gone away to a small private college full of rich kids with unlimited allowances. My sister, liking nice things and wanting to fit in, was constantly asking for cash. Never good with money herself (my mom simply cannot deny herself something she decides she "needs"), she'd spend her limited income on herself and send money to my sister leaving her without enough money to pay the bills. Sometimes on a monthly basis she'd come crying to me that she couldn't make the house payment or pay the utility bills and what was she going to do if she lost the house or they turned off the electricity?

What could I do? I eventually gave up my apartment and moved back into the house. Why pay for housing twice? I knew I was being manipulated at the time but it wasn't until years later that I understood exactly how dishonest the whole situation was and learned the long-term consequences of our actions.

Neither my mom nor my sister learned any lessons from those years. My sister insists she paid her own way through college and she has little appreciation for the difference between her wants and her needs. My mom will eventually die deeply in debt.

If my mom and my sister had both learned to put their money to their needs first and use any leftover money on their wants, they'd both be a lot better off.

If the subject of the elevator gossip is spending her own money on her needs (housing, food, hopefully even savings) and her parents are funding her wants (clothing), that would be a lot more honest than other situations where young adults are out on their own aren't willing or able to live the life they want on what they make so they turn to their parents for generic funding on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

I think that most all things overheard should not be repeated.

Anonymous said...

She is my boss's daughter.

frugal zeitgeist said...

Eh, I'm a little hesitant to pass judgment since we don't know the whole story. That is probably colored by the fact that if my parents had not kicked in some money so I could pass my co-op board interview in 2001, I would not have been able to buy my home.

Miss M said...

I think parents are free to spend their money however they want, even on their adult children, if that's what pleases them. But I must say my parents are happy/proud that I don't depend on them anymore and are always telling me how so and so is still supporting their 30 year old child. I learned early that taking money from someone means they get a say in how you live your life, that's why I never ask my parents for money.

Optioned Unarmed said...

Shortly after college, I had a friend whose parents paid for her to live in a nice, giant apartment, gave her a nice car, etc. She was miserable because they used these gifts to control and manipulate her.

She earned enough money at the time to live modestly without any help from her parents, but was unable to give up the "luxuries". So she continued to live in misery, with her parents setting all sorts of rules and restrictions for her. It seemed that she could not imagine herself living any other way.

Middle Class Hick said...

Depends on your parents and such. My parents made me pay rent when I was living at home and going to college. Not much (I think $150/month) - but enough to know it was there. I bought my own clothes (and my son's clothes). They only time they bought me anything was Christmas and Birthday (one week apart :(.

They did however give me one thing for a (HS) graduation present. They gave me a check for me to purchase a car, and I had to cover anything else over that amount. With my Dad's GM discount, I got a car with 38% discount, and under their amount. I had that car for a decade until the engine died.

I ended up with enough money for a down payment on a house after working for many years in college, and that was all me. I have been self sufficient ever since.

Anonymous said...

Interesting since I'm on the other end of the story -- parent with daughter "nearing" the time that she may need additional start up help. Currently while my daughter is in Med School my wife goes shopping for closes and groceries every other month. I think they purchase too much and are above the necessity and healthy lifestyle, but take that with a grain of salt since I'm reading myopenwallet.net. Anyway, we are not far from the residency situation and depending on the match-up, she could end up in a city with high rent for a safe apartment. I'd rather she try to live within her means, but wonder exactly where the line between being a responsible parent and being a tightwad is? (mind you my daughter is being followed by a son who is taking "fairness" notes)

Anonymous said...

I knew too many of those girls in my publishing years, but I can say that I made it through my editorial assistant time without a drop of help from my financially irresponsible mother. I had roommates, shopped for bargains, took a second job, and (admittedly) accumulated a small amount of debt when my paltry paycheck wouldn't cover Christmas trains home, etc.

I'm *proud* of myself. The parents aren't helping her in the long run, since this sort of support/coddling usually ends badly.

Amanda said...

As a 21 year old full-time student who's been working part-time and supporting herself since the age of 16, I don't understand that mentality. Granted, while I pay rent at home, it's hardly the amount I would be paying if I were living in a large city, but even so, I manage to maintain an excellent lifestyle on the little that I do make.

But I hate people taking their parent's money when they're out in the workforce anyway (learn to budget and prioritise people!), so I'm not the best person to ask. :P

mapgirl said...

LOL. My parents offered me a clothing allowance once as an adult when I once remarked to them that I cannot dress like I stepped out of Vogue because I cannot afford it. Hence my lack of marriage or serious boyfriend, I simply do not dress the part. (Context was about having an arranged marriage.) Subsequently for my next birthday my father gave me $500 and my mother dragged me to King of Prussia Mall.

I don't get a clothing allowance and guess what? I'm still not married! LOL.

Anonymous said...

i think it's entirely up to the parents. If they have the money, why not?

mfaorbust said...

I'm actually curious why the person under discussion would ever admit that her parents gave her an allowance specifically for clothing. I can't imagine anyone being naive enough to think that people wouldn't raise eyebrows over it. I wonder if she really does get Barneys-earmarked money, or if office gossip has just run a little wild.

Anonymous said...

seems pretty questionable to me.....Our kids are in college and we still take care of getting undies, 2 pairs of jeans and one pair of sneakers every year. They might get a few articles of clothing for Christmas or birthdays, but they get their own clothes. An allowance? that should stop by the time they're 16 and/or have a job. It's one of the things that shows the child is growing up emotionally as well as physically.

chai said...

In my situation.. while I'm studying all my needs my mom give it to make me presentable when it becomes in clothing but not at all times.. and when I have some money to earn I bought it for me, and from the the time I got work I used my own money to buy my own clothes.. maybe this girl make some deal to his mom.. Like my co-worker b4.. she gives her all salary to her mom and his mom gave her allowance..

For Effective Financial Advice VisitMoneyManager.com - FINANCIAL ADVISORS AND MONEY MANAGERS