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Ugg Envy: When Your Child Wants a Name Brand and It’s Just Not in the Budget

By Kelcey Kintner

My 8-year-old daughter recently came home, pointed to her boots and said, “Two of my friends told me these aren’t real Uggs. I want real Uggs.”

Oh man. My daughter’s knock off Uggs are from The Children’s Place. I don’t remember what I paid last fall but it was probably 20 or 25 dollars.

A pair of Uggs? About $120 – $140. That’s a big difference.

And then my 6-year-old chimed in. “Yeah, I want real Uggs too.” (Luckily, my 2-year-old twins were mum on the issue.)

Spending between $200 and $300 for two pairs of boots is not in our family budget. But I understand the longing. I remember as a child wanting a Ralph Lauren Polo sweater so badly I thought I would just die if I didn’t get it. I didn’t get one. I also didn’t die.  But the longing was so real, I can still feel it decades later.

Kristin Kutscher, a Manhattan mom, says her daughter wears Ugg knock offs. “I wouldn’t buy my daughter real Uggs because I can’t afford them – plain and simple.  And I have no qualms about telling her they are too expensive. If I can afford something, and she wants it, then I can try to buy it for her.”

Colorado mom Daphne Biener’s 12-year-old daughter longed for a pair of Nike Free Runners which can run as high as $100. “We did consider it until I saw the insane price tag,” Biener says. They found a look-alike pair for $40 and her daughter was fine with it because they were very similar in style to the Nike’s.

But sometimes it’s not about shoes or a certain clothing brand. Karen from Brooklyn says for her 8-year-old daughter, it’s all about American Girl dolls and they don’t come cheap. For example, Saige (the so-called girl of the year) is $110. “My daughter is obsessed with American Girl (she has one), and obsessed with which friends have which dolls, and she knows exactly how many her friends have, and which accessories. It’s insane,” says Karen.

So what do you do when your child is begging for an expensive item that you simply can’t afford?

Experts says that it’s important to not just say no but explain to your child that the money needs to be spent on food and other needs for your family. Your child will be disappointed and it’s important to listen to their emotions. They should feel heard and loved which is ultimately far more important than any object.

Sometimes a compromise can be reached. If there is some “must have item,” give your child some options.  They can wait for a sale, request it for a birthday or save up their own money.   Some parents will chip in what they were willing to spend and the child has to make up the difference. Once a kid realizes they have to invest their own money, the item can become a whole less desirable.

And another possibility is that sometimes a coveted item can be found second hand through families with older kids or online, which also teaches eco-responsibility.

My children’s desire for Ugg boots seems to be on the back burner for now since it’s spring.  But come autumn, I will likely be dealing with this again. My inclination is to let my daughters have them if they can figure out a way to buy them for themselves and I’ll chip in a small amount.

But enough about my kids. Who is going to buy me that Polo sweater?

Published April 29, 2013. Last updated August 14, 2017.
Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

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  • wendy

    April 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    and then there’s saying no because it’s not in your value system to purchase overpriced name-brand items. this is what i tell my kids when they ask for pricey stuff. i tell them that even though i CAN afford it, i’m not buying something if i can’t see the value.

    and, i remind them that anytime we purchase these overpriced items, we’re reducing the vacation budget (to the grandparent’s house, where there’s a pool!) and that usually gets them to back off. 🙂

    • Isabel


      April 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Wendy, you make some great points. And, I love how you’re teaching your kids about the opportunity cost of their potential purchases decisions.

    • Martine

      January 5, 2016 at 1:17 am

      HAHAA!! I would have sold my grandparents to buy a North Face jacket at that age….at this age too. i generally hate doing anything with relatives that lasts more then a few hours… But yeah. i just bought my kid a NorthFace jacket and Uggs for the simple reason that I wear them. What was I supposed to say? They aren’t really overpriced. Just spend.

  • Ally

    April 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I typically do buy more expensive clothes and shoes for my kids. This is mostly due to the fact that they are young and are very tough on their clothes. They just last longer. This past winter my daughter (3) wanted a pair of $60 boots. I had intended on buying her 2 pairs of shoes. I told her that if she wanted those, then she wouldn’t get another pair and would have to wear them every day. She was fine with that. The thing that I have a hard time with is all the other stuff. My 5 year old is in preschool and he is the only kid who doesn’t have his own I-pad. Even if he saved up his money I don’t want him to have it. 

    • Martine

      January 5, 2016 at 1:19 am

      OOPS..I mean just spendy. NOT just spend, obviously. I don’t usually find that purchasing off brand things is worthwhile. But I am not growing! What can I do. Buy cheaper things for them and better things for me seems wrong.

  • D

    April 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Let the kids sell their old things in s garage sale, then they can decide how to spend the proceeds. Teaches responsibility and declitters your house. Win win!

    • Isabel


      April 29, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      good idea!

  • Robin

    April 29, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you Wendy, the article was missing your rather important point.  I can afford Uggs and American Girl dolls and my kid will still never have them.  The AG doll actually completely creeps me out with their mouths hanging open just a little.  But that’s not the reason.  The reason is because I don’t like the concept of a $100+ doll with clothes more expensive than my own.  Not in my house not even if my girls pay for it themselves.

  • A

    April 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Kudos to Wendy. I also do not buy my kids brand name or expensive items. I can afford it, but only after 7 years of college and graduate school and 10 years of work experience. I want my kids to learn what it takes to earn enough money to be able to blow $100 on a doll or on shoes, so they will be able to decide whether its worth it. Its the values you instill in kids when you spend spend spend versus teaching the value and opportunity cost of money that you need to think about. Not that I don’t know the longing for a high-end item (hello love affair with Coach handbags – which at almost 40, was finally realized, when I bought one gently used off ebay); but it is the self-discipline with spending that I want to instill in my kids, not the use of stuff as a crutch.

    • Isabel


      April 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      well put!

  • Karen

    April 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I’m a not-in-my-house kind of person too. But… I still remember as a kid getting an imitation Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas instead of a real one. I was aware that my parents were either unable to afford or were choosing not to spend money on something that my friends’ parents clearly had or found the money for. My daughter is 3.5 and I’m already prepping her for not have the same things as other kids. Despite the emotional damage inflicted by my spartan childhood (I’m kidding – my spartan childhood allowed me to attend private school and college with no loans), we will not be buying Uggs for my kids but I want to do a better job of communicating on the issue to them than my parents did. My parents are immigrants and I don’t think it ever occurred to them to say anything besides “that’s just the way it is, I never had a new pair of shoes in my life until I got a job so how could you possibly be upset about not getting an expensive pair when at least your shoes aren’t from Goodwill?”

  • nikki m

    April 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Even if we can afford the item, sometimes to me it just makes no sense to spend a small fortune on a fad or non-essential item. Especially when it is for a growing foot as in the Uggs. I have tried to treat my daughter the same way I remember my parents treated me in “must have” situations. To this day I remember saving up for my own television when I was in high school. It was a great lesson for me. My daughter is also saving for items we do not buy for her. She bought her own “American Girl” doll recently. We discussed all the options and she still decided she wanted the doll. I want her to know if she really wants something she has the ability to earn it by saving.

  • Kelcey Kintner

    Kelcey Kintner

    April 29, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    I agree with Nikki M. I may not see the value in an American Girl doll or a certain pair of boots, but if my daughter saves up the majority of the cost, then I think there is great value in that. I don’t want to just say no when she learn a great deal from saving up for something she desires.

    An iPad or an Iphone is a different matter for me because I don’t think it’s appropriate for a 2nd grader to own that. (Although many parents feel differently.)

  • Arnebya

    April 30, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I would totally buy you that sweater, Kelcey, just as soon as you or someone else gets me those Aigner riding boots. I still think about them, just like you remember that sweater. We are in budget hell right now and my girls are getting older so the name brand bug has hit. My oldest, at 12 requested two pairs of shoes for Christmas, one at $120 and the other, Ugg boots, at $144. After I stopped my head from spinning, I worked it out with my sisters to get both between the three of us. But, the caveat was she could not ask for or expect to receive, new shoes until spring (dammit, it’s spring and here we are: sandals time!). I work hard to couteract my girls’ desire to buy something every weekend, the expectation that money is just there. I feel bad saying no (sometimes. Because other times um, I’m not paying $40 for a windbreaker, babe. Or a t-shirt. I will, however, buy you a plain t-shirt and you can use the print machine that’s gathering dust and make your own.) I wonder how it sounds, if they feel like I did as a kid, with my feeling that my parents should have been able to give me whatever I wanted, that it wasn’t my fault they didn’t have the money. I hope they don’t think that. Maybe it’s time for a new conversation, pre-sandal purchase. (Luckily, my oldest adores eBay.)

  • autumn

    May 1, 2013 at 12:26 am

    I’m sooooo worried about this in the future.  Mr Autumn is mr tech geek dude which I’m supportive of cause it pays the bills and lets him be all geeky happy, but he needs to be on top of tech trends.  To keep him in check , I said if he gets a new phone, then I get one.  All fine an dandy, but now our toddler thinks my old  iphone is “hers” Good Lord Help Us

    As a kid, we were fed a big wants vs needs lecture.  and it stuck.  If it was a need my parents would take care of it, a want, well I better have the cash.  I now realized how below their socio-economic status my parents lived to give my brother and I the wonderful gift of 4 years of college loan free.  It’s something I want to pass on, just not sure how

  • Natasha

    May 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    So much is in the presentation. Too many unexplained “no”s, and the kid feels like her needs/wants (conflated in youth, lectures notwithstanding) aren’t respected or acknowledged. That’s how I felt, as a kid. Too many unearned “yes”s and the difference between need and want, and responsible saving/spending/choosing/priorities is lost. The type of communication needed well vary with each parent/child relationship. But it can’t stop at, “I don’t see the value in that, therefore you can’t have it.” It has to include validation that the kid DOES see some value, even if, on balance, the scale won’t be tipping his way on this one. Otherwise the judgment hard by the kid (read: me) is that the kid’s desires/wants have no value, and not that the countervailing considerations outweigh that value. Which, taken with lots of other poor parenting decisions, will lead the kid to just spend all that saved money in therapy years later……. 🙂

    • Kelcey Kintner

      Kelcey Kintner

      May 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm

      You make some great points Natasha!

  • Isabel


    May 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Can I just say THANK YOU to all the thoughtful comments here. So much great discussion about needs vs. wants, values, kids savings, respecting kids and communication. Love it!

    • Kelcey Kintner

      Kelcey Kintner

      May 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      Totally agree! Love seeing all the different parent perspectives on this. Helps us all be better parents..

  • Kim

    May 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

    I have two girls coming up and one is just at the cusp of starting to want name brands and specific toys (here’s looking at you, AG). This article (and the comments) couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve been teaching savings since she could walk, and I’ve started teaching her about sales (buy clearance and you can get more for the money, which she thinks is really cool, for the moment anyway), but I think letting her make up the difference between what I’m willing to spend and what she may want because of the name brand is a great solution for many things (some I still would encourage her to skip because I don’t see the value). Thanks to Kelcey and the commenters!!!

  • Ju dy M

    May 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Interesting discussion. I grew up in a yes-to-everything-your- heart-desires household. My parents chose purchasing over parenting. “Oh course I love you, look what I bought you, run along now.” Then we moved to a neighborhood we could scarcely afford simply for the prestige of the address. Along with that high end address came high end expectations at school for us kids and our parents continued along the same path to keep up appearances. I rebelled though and saw it for myself. Why did I need a pony on my shirt? Why did I need name brand shoes? It seemed so false and pretentious. I didn’t want to be like those people. My brothers lapped it up and to this day still feel the world owes them that they should have anything they want no matter who gets trod upon to have it. Their kids are just like them. No value system, no savings, its all about greed. Kudos to all of those who actually parent their children and pass on those values to their kids.

  • Amber

    May 13, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    I say you should buy kids the name brands things they want, because YOLO! I am a stay at home mom, but my hubby is a doctor, and we can afford all the big time trends plus some! Our daughters, one of who is 4 and the other of home is an adopted 6-month-old baby both have at least 6 pairs of UGG shoes by now, Also, Eva our 4-year-old has 12 North Face jackets, and two pairs of Sperrys. She has got 3 AG dolls, and over $1000 dollars worth of clothes and accessories. Why stop your kids from getting what they want? Admit it you buy more stuff for yourselves than you do for them! Someday they will grow up, and then they will never have had the experience of getting certain things when they were kids!

  • Jennifer

    December 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Amber, I don’t think that being able to means you should. After all, what is the marginal utility of the 12th jacket or 6th pair of ugg boots? I suppose it comes down to teaching your kids about the value of money – not because they need to know how to deal with extreme hardship, but for fear of raising materialistic, ego-centric, shallow and socially irresponsible children. The fact that it makes you feel good to brag about what your husband is able to provide for you and your children is proves my point. There are children dying from starvation in other parts of the world – the money spent on one pair of uggs can feed a whole family in Africa for an entire year. Some values you are teaching your children Amber… Good job!

    Kudos to all the other moms on this forum for putting in the HARD WORK necessary to instill a value system in your children 🙂 you ladies Rock!!

    Kids should be able to say: “I can, but I choose not to” with confidence.!! This is what builds self esteem.

  • Alynn

    January 27, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Look at our society! What a shame it is when we put such a high value on things as petty as name brands!! I’ve raised 2 girls…both who have learned to appreciate the value of a dollar. We have instilled in them modesty and hard work. If everything is simply “handed over” to them, guess who will probably feel like they never have to work in their lifetime? Is that the type of citizen you want for our country?!

    Things are starting younger and younger these days, but 2nd grade is about when girls start to notice brands (assuming it hasn’t been made a big deal at home). To the bratty girls out there that say “those aren’t real UGGs”, are you kidding me?!? I would train my child to say “so what…I like them”. And yes, we can afford all the brands but chose not to. In the end, we have been blessed with 2 daughters who would choose a knock off pair of Tom’s and save the rest of the money!

  • E

    July 3, 2015 at 2:24 am

    I know im probably not supposed to be here, but I’m twelve years old and just wanted to say something. I’m really into dolls. I love collecting and posing them. Some people think I’m weird but whatever. My mother Gretchen lets me do chores and extra work to earn 20$ a week. I save up for even months to go to toys r us to go get what I want. I don’t like to admit this much, but this teaches me patience, persistence, and the value of money. If you purchase something that money is gone. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Thank you.