1968: I am 14 years old. My father is self-employed and his business is doing pretty well, so my mother is also working full-time. This is why I am going to buy my back-to-school clothing myself. In those days, a teenager could proffer a store credit card (visas et al were in the future for most families) and say "My mother said I could use this." In those innocent days, the teenager would be believed.
However, I tried to pay for as much as I could with my babysitting money. I had just raised my price from 50 cents an hour to 75 cents. I had lost a few customers to the price increase, including one family that fired me for not cleaning the house while I was there, but there were lots of children. Even at 75 cents, babysitting was so cheap that many of the moms left for hours on end on school days, often telling me that they were taking a course in "crafts." Or the couples went out at night for 8 or more hours. Little did I know that for some of these families, the 60s had arrived, with a full complement of John Updike-style infidelity during the day and "swinging" at night.
Anyway, I took the bus to A & S, a mid-priced department store that is probably no more. In fact, that whole genre seems to have disappeared. There I bought 4 items: a tan corduroy skirt, a tan and brown diagonal plaid skirt, a cream fisherman style sweater, and a brown v-neck sweater. You can tell that I was trying to mix and match, having probably read an article to that effect in Seventeen. So proud was I of my self-sufficiency that I remember the prices: $6.00, $8.00, $10.00, $6.00, for a grand total of $30.00. Except for the corduroy skirt, these items were probably synthetics, since the natural fibers movement of the 60s did not really hit till the 70s.
In other words, 40 hours of babysitting, which probably took me 3 or 4 weeks.
My daughter was 14 in 2005, owing to my late start on children. There are not too many kids around, so babysitting is in short supply. Happily, some children appeared across the street and Miss Em walked over to announce her availability. We wondered what to charge and guessed that $6.00 an hour would be the going rate. Much to her surprise, before she could announce her rates, she was given $60.00 for her 6 hours. We learned that $10.00 an hour was standard!
If Miss Em went to Target or Ross, she could buy clothing for about what I spent so many years ago. But her 4 items would only have taken 3 hours of work. Is it any wonder that our closets are overflowing and that the floors of most teenage rooms are dotted with clean and dirty piles of clothing?
Is it any wonder also that thrift stores are filled with near-new clothing? When I first went to thrift stores many years ago, the pickings were indeed slim. Now, I must keep myself from overbuying.
Sadly, the things that are really important, education and, most important, health care, are out of reach for many. These don't mess up your house either. Both have risen way faster than inflation, while clothing, plastic toys, and other junk are so cheap that it's easy to accumulate.
Last summer, Miss Em was asked to babysit for two kids while she was staying with my mother in Massachusetts. The east coast rate is even higher: she was paid $15.00 an hour and netted $120.00 for 8 hours of work.