How I Spent Less On My Teen Girls' Clothing

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By Dannah Gresh, Founder of True Girl 

It doesn’t matter how much your daughter has watched you print coupons or chase down bargains, somewhere around the age of thirteen, many of them will “just die” if she can’t spend something like half the amount of the national debt on a pair of jeans. What’s a mom to do?


I got a bit of a pass on the overtly fashion-greedy and brand-conscious teens. My girls were extra easy in that respect, but they still faced so much pressure to wear the latest trends and be branded. And being branded is expensive. Both in terms of money and their hearts.


Social science offers us a statistical footprint for how a little girl will turn out based on what she’s exposed to and when. About the time my daughter was a tween, a two-year study by the American Psychological Association task force on the sexualization of girls gave me clear evidence that my mother’s “hunch” that I shouldn’t let a nine-year-old run around in a mini-skirt and acting boy-crazy is more than a hunch. The task force’s report stated that music lyrics, internet content, video games and clothing now being marketed to younger and younger girls pressuring them to grow up too fast—while creating no apparent immediate effect—is clearly linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression, and early sexual debut when these girls become teenagers[1]. That was enough for me to become more assertive in what I allowed my girls to buy and how much they spent. It all seemed suddenly very important to me.

I asked a friend who was parenting a few years ahead of me for advice and found the most amazing solution. It was so simple, it literally cut my clothing budget in half, and my girls got just as much…or more…each season.


  1. First, add up what you can budget for this season’s shopping, put it in an envelope and present it to your daughter. (She will smile and be giddy at the thought of how far it will go. Don’t tell her just yet that it never goes as far as you think it will.)


  1. Second, help her establish a list of priorities. For example, if it’s time for back-to-school shopping she might want a new pair of jeans, three great t-shirts, a new pair of shoes, and a sweater. This step is really critical or she will be distracted by the bling on a party dress that she won’t need…ever! Instruct her that she needs to find the priorities and purchase them first and if there’s money left she can get that cute dress.


  1. Finally, head to the mall and hold your tongue while she learns the lessons of money management on the hot pavement of life! Expect it to be a little hard at first, but I can testify that the three Gresh girls cried a whole lot less after we started shopping this way. My daughters loved the sense of empowerment and almost instantly became bargain shoppers. They passed up the expensive brands for more cost-effective options. It was their idea to take last season’s clothes to a local second-hand store to increase their spending power.


Perhaps most importantly, my girls learned valuable lessons in budgeting and saving and our relationship was no longer strained by me saying “no” to things our family could not afford. Let me say that another way: this was one of the BEST things I did for our relationships during my daughters’ teen years.


I remember trying to buy one of them an expensive jacket as a going-off-to-college gift. She gasped when she looked at the price tag, “Mom! I could get four for that!”


Lesson learned!

Dannah Gresh is the founder of True Girl, a ministry that brings moms and daughters closer to each other and closer to Jesus. True Girl provides connection experiences through books, online Bible studies, and live events. You can learn more about her at

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