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One of our favorite family things to do is roam around the Village Discount Outlet on half price days.

I was never a good thrift shopper as a teen, even though I tried to be. I know the notion wasn’t lost on me that I didn’t NEED to be shopping at a secondhand store, and doing it to find vintage t-shirts seemed kind of obnoxious.

Half Price days are always pretty crowded. People who have scoped out what they want stand in line before the doors open. Some load up shopping carts full of stuff.

I managed to purchase an entire winter wardrobe a few months ago. My fiance scored a Breville juicer for $35. I’ve gotten 90% of our kid’s clothes from there.

My kid likes to look at the toy section, three long shelves piled with random items. It’s pretty unappealing unorganized and the quality of some stuff is poor. He’s interested in the less obvious things; a pile of beads, a deflated basketball, things that still light up or make noise.

He usually leaves with something. I’ve found lots of V-tech toys that just need a quick wipe down and new batteries. Last week I found a Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle in perfect shape and a large, hardcover Sesame Street book for a grand total of $1.50.

His shelves are full off used books, dollar store coloring and paint books, and some hand-me downs.

He’s content and so am I.

I sort of dread the days when this will no longer suffice. Or will have to suffice.

PBS Frontline recently did a follow up on their 2012 episode “Poor Kids.” I remember watching it then and it was really interesting to see the three kids they interviewed. One of them who was around fourteen at the time had a conversation with his mother about new shoes. His mom said it was because he was older that he wanted things with labels and she wished he would stop growing and be more like his younger siblings who were fine with $5 Walmart shoes.

I felt very fortunate as a kid. My mom drove to Wisconsin to get me a Cabbage Patch doll. I’m sure I would have been disappointed with an off brand Caboodle, but my parents did not disappoint. One year, my brother and I got matching CD player boomboxes.

Even when I know they were struggling with money, I didn’t feel it that badly. Perhaps our lowest point was in a rented house near the airport. It was small and there were cockroaches. But we were there because my cousin had moved in with us and wanted to finish high school at the place she was already attending when she was living with her best friend.  I saved my money and a bought a bike for $47 at Walmart.

I would give anything to make my kid smile. I know I spoil him. He’s too young to really want things.

But that’s because right now it’s easy. $5 is all it takes.

I know this won’t last and while there’s no reason to fixate on that fact, it creeps up on me sometimes.

Tomorrow he’s turning 3. I got a really good deal on Target’s website for a monster truck thing I hope he likes. I spent $10 on an enormous number “3” balloon. We’re taking him to a Bulls game (tickets were $20 because they have the worst record in the league.) This is all money that could be better spent or saved.

I guess I just want to make things special while I can.

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