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Teen Trends: Is Fiscal Prudence the New Cool?

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The recession is now official -- my teenager no longer shops at Abercrombie & Fitch.

Yes, it's true, teens who were once ashamed to be seen in anything but top-label, strategically distressed clothing are now ponying up to the register for $2 flip-flops and two-for-one tees at Target and Old Navy.

A recent New York Times article says teen spending is down by 14 percent. Finally, a new trend I can support. Even if you don't support an adolescent yourself, you should be whooping for joy at this sudden change in attitudes, because it's going to have a trickle up effect on us all.

Think about it: this is the generation of people that is going to be making decisions about your nursing home and your social security. Do you want to be stuck in a dump living on stale bread crusts because they spent all their money on designer purses?

One of the teens interviewed for the Times article, Chelsea Orcutt, 17, a senior at the Mount Saint Mary Academy near Buffalo, N.Y., said, "Labels are becoming less and less of a priority for people throughout my school."

Am I reading right, labels less of a priority in high school?

My own two children -- a teen and a tween who once thought $35 was a fair price for a logo T-shirt -- now actually go online for coupons before they hit the mall. It's kind of weird; when I used to spring for a few new outfits each season, there were never any sales. But now that they're on a limited "fashion allowance," the deals abound. And when I quit routinely handing over $20 every weekend, home movie parties became fun again.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is progress.

By bankrupting our economy with their greed and corruption, the money men of Wall Street have accomplished what Main Street moms have been trying to do for decades. They've shown our kids that consumption does not equate to happiness, and they're forcing the next generation to become more prudent with their money.

My heart truly breaks for all the businesses that have closed, the retailers struggling to stay afloat and the families facing very real financial problems. But if this recession creates a generation of kids who care more about their friends and their families than they do about the brands on their backs, perhaps it will have been worth it.

My own mother, a high school science teacher who wore worn-out elastic waist corduroys and faded eco-message T-shirts to work every day, used to say that if the only way you can make yourself feel good is by buying stuff, then you've given away your intelligence and your compassion.

Can it be that we are now being forced to teach our children a lesson that we never fully learned ourselves?

Funny how the universe works; if you don't learn something the first time, it always circles back, and the stakes just keep getting higher and higher.

For every teen having to cut back on designer duds, there are parents who are having to learn that life isn't dependent on cool cars and granite counter tops.

Accounting for every nickel might not be fun, but perhaps it's time we all got a bit better at it.

Psst, fiscal prudence, it's the new trend, pass it along.


Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, syndicated columnist and keynote speaker. She helps individual and organizations create new paradigms for work and life. Her books include Forget Perfect and Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear.
More info www.ForgetPerfect.com