Should You Buy Your Kids LeBron X Sneakers?

Follow this advice if your children ask you to purchase this expensive footwear.

The latest in over-the-top gear that might catch a kid’s fancy is Nike’s LeBron X sneaker. It tops out at $270 for the high-end version, which comes with technology that lets users measure things such as how quick they are and how high they jump (the standard model retails for “only” $180). That’s a tad better than the $315 price point that was first reported. But the question remains: How should parents handle a kid’s request for this expensive footwear?

In a word, fuggeddaboutit. Sometimes, in the interest of teaching your children about relative values or just plain saving money, you have to say enough is enough. And $270 (or even $180) is too much.

A teachable moment. When I first started writing this column in the 1990s, the hot product was the Pump sneaker, which was one of the first items of kids’ footwear with a price tag that passed the three-figure mark. What we did in our household -- and what I recommended to other parents -- was to set a limit on how much we would pay for a pair of shoes (about $50 back then, as I recall). If the kids wanted something more expensive, they’d have to make up the difference. That pretty quickly put an end to requests for outrageous footwear. The kids went scurrying either to find shoes that were within their budget or come up with the money themselves.

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So consider this latest marketing outrage a prime teachable moment -- especially if you’ve exhausted your budget on back-to-school clothes. My “sneaker rule” still stands. But take this opportunity to give middle- and high-school students more responsibility for buying their own clothing.

When kids hit their teens, and before they have income of their own, you can expand their allowance to include clothes (see Don't Tie Allowance to Chores). Base the amount on what you’ve just spent (assuming you didn’t bust your budget). You can distribute the money monthly or seasonally -- perhaps starting next spring, if you’ve already covered this winter’s wardrobe, and next fall for back-to-school.

Along with the added cash comes additional responsibility for making their own decisions about how to spend it. Start with these steps:

Discuss with your kids what the money will cover. For example, do you expect them to purchase all their clothing, or is the money for discretionary items while you cover the basics, such as undies and outerwear?

Ask them to mine their closets and drawers to see what’s still usable or can be refreshed. It’s a great way to teach the difference between wants and needs. For example, if they need new shoes and want the LeBron X, they’ll have to decide whether the yawning affordability gap is worth filling or whether they’d rather go with less-expensive shoes and use their cash for other things.

Have them do a trial run online, by comparing prices at Web sites or signing up for sale alerts from their favorite stores (see our 15 favorite sites for finding deals online). And take them shopping with you at least once, so you can steer them to sale racks or introduce them to shopping apps (see Score the Best Deals on Shopping).

Once they have income of their own from summer or part-time work, you can cut back on their allowance.

Either way, paying for their own clothes shouldn’t sound like a punishment that puts them in a straitjacket. On the contrary, you should sell it as a reward that gives them a chance to make their own choices and fashion statements.

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Janet Bodnar
Editor-at-Large, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Janet Bodnar is editor-at-large of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, a position she assumed after retiring as editor of the magazine after eight years at the helm. While editor, Bodnar was honored by Folio as one of its Top Women in Media. She is a nationally recognized expert on the subjects of women and money, children's and family finances, and financial literacy. She is the author of two books, Money Smart Women and Raising Money Smart Kids. As editor-at-large, she writes two popular columns for Kiplinger, "Money Smart Women" and "Living in Retirement." Bodnar is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and is a member of its Board of Trustees. She received her master's degree from Columbia University, where she was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism.