I feel like a scrooge for asking this, but I don’t know who else to turn to. I want to be the cool Aunt and give generously to my nieces and nephews, but I’m trying to pay off my student loans, support my two kids, save for retirement and start a college fund.
Our family designed a budget back in 2008 after my husband lost his job. We allotted $50 for each child on their birthday, because that what’s my sister always sent and what I always sent her two boys. Eight years later, I’m divorced and still desperately trying to save, but now there are eight (count ‘em!) eight new kids in the family.
I love them all dearly, but the budget no longer works. To make matters worse, my sister and now my brother are still giving my kids the same amount. I can’t keep up and achieve my financial goals, but I’m embarrassed to admit that. What should I do?
Gift Giving On A Tight Budget:
First of all, I applaud you for having a budget to begin with. That puts you in a stronger financial position than a lot of families still struggling to recover after the economic difficulties of 2008. Most people say, “Oh, it’s a birthday!” and they go out and spend. It’s good to look first at what your family can really afford, because the consequences of a poor buying decision will come at the mercy of your kid’s college fund or the security of your retirement.
Gift Giving In General:
It’s about the relationships. Have a conversation with your brother and sister about what you can afford. Be honest. Be authentic. In the worst case scenario, if someone doesn’t understand, then the bigger issue at hand might be that you have a toxic relationship with that person.
What Makes a Good Gift?
When people say it’s the thought that counts, what they are acknowledging is that you took time out of your busy day to think about this person. Your time is a gift, too. The best, most thoughtful gifts don’t have to just be about money. Consider the following gift-giving tips that are kinder to the wallet.
- Spend some time. What really makes your niece or nephew happy? Is it feeding the ducks? Running a 5K race with you? A ride on your four-wheeler? Taking a one-day pottery class together? These unique experiences will mean more to your niece or nephew than an envelope with a check for the prescribed dollar amount.
- Have fun. If you can’t buy the ultimate gift that will serve them for the rest of their lives, make them smile. At my family gatherings, the gifts that we had the most fun with were the .99 cent toys that came from the Dollar Store.
- Get creative. Handmade gifts personalized with the child in mind are another excellent way to show that you care. Learn how to make or grow something: a bean plant, a blanket, a painting. These can be the kind of gifts that become family heirlooms.
Bottom Line On Gift Giving:
Giving comes from the heart. Talk to your family and share your ideas about giving unique experiences and gifts of time to make family birthday celebrations even richer.