The Dark Side of Gift Giving

The following is a Guest Post by CT, creator of Freelance PF, where he blogs about freelance work and personal finance.

“Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.” – Shakespeare (Hamlet).
“There is no benefit in the gifts of a bad man.” – Euripedes.
“What is bought is cheaper than a gift.” – Proverb, unknown.

Presents!! by andrewk100 on Flickr

When we hear the word “gift” it often comes with such a positive connotation. We think of loved ones and holidays; the benefits of gifts received as well as gifts given. Nostalgic feelings of that childhood bike or a wonderful concert with a loved one may wash over us. Along with alcohol, gifts are the main way that we celebrate.
It is how we recognize birthdays, anniversaries, and even religious holidays.

However, we often forget the potentially dark side of gifts. I believe it is Plato’s Republic that warns there are two major types of tyrants: those who exert power by force, and those who exert power through gift.

The Dark Side of “Service” Gifts

By now you may be wondering how this fits into personal finance. By the end of this post I will explain the high price that sometimes comes with gifts and how to protect your autonomy against gifts that, no matter how well intentioned, may in fact potentially be subtle or not so subtle exercises of control.

It is an admirable quality in any adult to attempt to be fully self-reliant. All too often, however, we allow ourselves to become too reliant on others. In doing so, we may be compromising our own ideals.

For instance, it is common for busy parents today to seek the help of our parents in raising our children. Child care costs are expensive and we are living in a world that is more reliant upon both parents working than ever. The solution: we turn to family members to help watch/raise our children.

Our parents or other family members are often outwardly happy to assist. Unfortunately, such an arrangement is not without risks, for either the gift giver or the gift recipient.
The gift giver may begin to feel he or she is being taken advantage of. They may even begin to resent the arrangement but feel guilty about saying anything or taking steps to change it.

Meanwhile, the person whose child is being watched may look the other way when the “sitter” does not watch the child in a manner consistent with the parent’s instructions/ideals. Whenever we are reliant on another person, we are in danger of selling out our ideals or being pushed into a corner by that person. As for the gift giver, as they say: “no good deed goes unpunished.”

The Dark Side of “Possession” Gifts

Recently I was given a nice house warming present. I did not ask for this gift, but I was at the time happy to receive it. However, the gift-giver (a family member) then proceeded to attempt to tell me where I should position this gift in my house. Being that the gift was heavy, I did not want to go along with the gift giver’s vision for my own home. When I held firm with where I wanted it, the gift giver later remarked that I was unappreciative to a third party and has not spoken to me since.

Taking the same issue from another angle, however, as a gift giver, how would you feel if you learned that the person you gave an expensive present too then turned around to re-gift or sell that gift?

I have a friend whose parents bought him a brand new car stereo. A year later he sold the car, stereo included. His parents would not talk to him for weeks, saying he was not “grateful” for the car stereo gift.

When you are in receipt of a gift, and particularly an expensive one, you will never truly “own” it the way you would an item you yourself purchased. This was why my wife and I made sure we did not need any help from our families for the down payment/closing costs on our house.

The Dark Side of Money Gifts

Money gifts can be particularly dangerous, especially if they are recurring. First, as a starting point, how many families have been ruined by unpaid loans? That is why many experts recommend doing away with inter-family loans entirely and simply “gifting” as much money as you are willing to give, if any. However, there is a dark side to this practice as well.

In today’s Great Recession economy, there are more and more people who are in need of financial assistance. Often times, people will rely upon their family members to make up for a tough financial stretch or a monthly shortfall. I see this in particular with recent college graduates who are still living with and/or financially relying upon their parents, hence the nickname “The Boomerang Generation.”

Oftentimes the gift recipient could learn to meet their financial obligations if they were forced to. They might have to give up cable or other such non-essentials, but it could prove to be a learning experience and an opportunity for self-growth. Moreover, if you are the gift-recipient you will feel guilty every time you spend money on a non-essential item. If your dad has just gifted you $1,000 for your mortgage and you then go on an expensive vacation, it is just simply a recipe for a confrontation.

In other words, you will lack a feeling of personal autonomy and dominion if you take money from others. If this can be avoided, it is probably for the better, even if you have to do without steak dinners or cable for a spell.

In the well-known personal finance classic The Millionaire Next Door the authors titled a chapter: “Affirmative Action: Family Style.” This chapter dealt with parents who propped up their children’s bad financial decisions to such a point that the children never gained the skills necessary to stand on their own two feet.

I have a family member who is 55 years-old and still lives with his mother. He has no money in the bank even though he has held decent jobs for long stretches at a time along with hardly any expenses. He spends his money on football season tickets and expensive vacations.

I often wonder if he would have been better off had his parents kicked him out of the house when he was in his early twenties following college? Perhaps that would have been a needed wakeup call and taught him the necessary skills to stand on his own two feet.

Instead, he has remained at home and never learned to be self-sufficient. The family often whispers about what will become of him when his mother, who is now in her eighties, finally passes away. The many gifts that were bestowed upon him over the years: such as the free room and board, the car insurance paid for by his parents, and much more, have weakened his financial immune system, to the point that he now lacks the strength to support himself despite having no real disabilities or encumbrances. That is the dark side of continued financial support.

The Dark Side of Gifts: Conclusion

Who hasn’t received a “gift” that made the gift-giver look worse because it was obviously re-gifted or too insignificant?

Who hasn’t been stressed out by receiving too large of a gift? “How can I ever repay them?,” you worry. While many gifts are given with the best of intentions, we have to keep in mind that personal sovereignty is in most instances the key to a happy life and a financially balanced existence. “Gifts”, whether from the government or from loved ones, often come with strings attached, whether we see them or not.

At the same time, we as gift-givers must be careful to not be taken advantage of or to harm another through the gifts we make. In doing so, we can avoid the dark side of gifts, and focus on the most important gifts we can give: our gifts of friendship and love.

Have you ever received a “Trojan Horse” of a gift? Please share your experiences with the dark side of gifts, both as a gift-giver and a gift recipient.

The above was a guest post by CT, the creator of Freelance PF. CT blogs on the FreelancePF company website about the nature of freelance work as well as personal finance. FreelancePF offers freelance writing, blog development, consulting work, blog creation, and other freelance services. FreelancePF specializes in personal finance freelance work. FreelancePF Blog Network also features other personal finance blogs created/run by CT. To inquire further or hire FreelancePF, you can visit the FreelancePF website.

Comments

  1. Miss Manners makes it clear that once you have given the gift, the givee can do whatever he or she wants with it. Gift givers who try to dictate the terms of the gift are better off not giving at all (and are in a serious breach of etiquette). If everybody lived by Miss Manners, the world would be a better place.

    • Nicole,

      I have missed your comments now that I do not have broke professionals anymore. I agree that Miss Manners should be followed in this situation. That said, I would be kind of irked deep down if, like I wrote in this guest post, I was the parent of a kid who sold his car and included the expensive stereo as part of the deal. I wouldn’t say anything though.

    • I hate to say it but my mother does this. She will give us money and dictate what to spend it on. She once gave me $20 as a gift. I got a new mouse for my computer. I came home (this was in college), she lectures me with the empty mouse container in hand (she dug it out of the trash), stop spending my money on your computer!!

      Two things here I’ve learned. 1 – It wasn’t truly a gift because she called it “her” money and 2 – she put a stipulation on what I ought to have bought.

      In conclusion, I don’t take money from my mother anymore. Nor will I ever. It’s so condition based too.

      nicodemusatnite.com

      • Mike,

        My mom used to do the same exact thing when I was in college. Only in her defense she would complain whenever I went out to a bar. “I just gave you $20.00 two days ago and now your going to go out with your buddies and blow it at the bar.” haha. That’s just the way it is with parents though, and in hindsight I should have appreciated the help more than I did at the time.

    • I agree completely with Nicole… though Miss Manners wouldn’t have a column if people didn’t constantly mismanage their etiquette… just like there wouldn’t be a FrugalDad blog if people always properly managed their finances. :)

      Also, when I saw the title of this post I immediately thought of a recent story that hit my local news:

      http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/7526141.html

      Basically, last year at a baseball game, a man won coupons for doughnuts. He later received an IRS Form 1099 stating that he owed taxes on his prize. Before adding in the 1099 he received, he would have received a tax refund of $302. With the doughnuts added in as income, he said, his refund dropped to $65, a loss of $237.

      That story reminded me of how when Oprah gave all those cars away… how several of the audience members couldn’t keep them because they couldn’t pay however many several grand it was in sales taxes.

      Gifts (and prizes) come at a cost.

      • The prize was valued at $927. A prize is taxable. The recipient’s argument seemed to be that it should have been valued at less than $600, which would have not forced issuance of a 1099; however what he seems to miss is that the prize would still be taxable. (Most people wouldn’t report it unless forced to by a 1099, but that doesn’t change the facts!)

      • I’m not a tax attorney, but it should also be noted that (I believe) the discharge of debt is taxable as well. So, let’s say you a credit card company $20,000 and they decided to be nice (anything is possible) and discharge that debt. What you might find then is yourself as a debtor to the United States Government (although, of course, to a lesser extent I would presume).

        A while back I was offered and accepted a one-year job that came with a $50,000 life insurance policy. I did not have to pay for that policy. However, I knew from law school that it would be considered a taxable benefit. I took my chances and denied that policy. (Luckily I made out in that deal). It’s all sort of crazy.

  2. Or how about the idea that once one has earned and saved a lot of money, it’s now time to give back.

    Give back what? Nothing’s ever been taken.

    It’s your money, you earned it. Don’t need to feel guilty because now you’re financially comfortable.

    • Mike,

      That is so true. Except maybe in the case of lottery winners. I see it in so many families that the most “successful” sibling or whoever is expected to subsidize the others. To give bigger gifts because they have it, etc. It’s fine if people choose to do so but it shouldn’t be expected, in my opinion.

    • Interesting comment. “Give back what. Nothing’s ever been taken.”

      I can’t think of many families or friendship, where people are not given gifts–or help– along the way. Even very poor families. So pretty much all of us have “received” gifts tangible and otherwise over our lifetimes from all sorts of folks, known and unknown.

      Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your comment. I come from a not very close family with some serious dysfunction. I could easily say that very little, if anything, has been “given” over the years but grief and heartache.

      However, at those times in life when I had the resources, and family members had need, I voluntarily (and without being asked or cajoled or gamed or manipulated) provided financial “assistance” and have been known to do a lot of gifting as well. I didn’t think of the financial assistance as either a gift or a loan. Just as something one person does to help another, if you can. None of this could even vaguely be construed as enabling because the needs were very basic and immediate (healthcare, for example) and everyone involved was already doing as much as they could to help themselves. In this day and age, hard-working people need assistance and a helping hand, without judgment or strings.. And no, I would have NOT given the assistance if I was dealing with people who had substance abuse or gambling issues. UNLESS a child’s welfare was involved, but then I’d be more likely to get them professional assistance.

      None of us goes thru life without receiving, whether we acknowledge it or not. Over the years, the most truly generous people (spirit, attitude not just gifts) have modeled the joy of sharing for the sheer sake of assisting others. SO perhaps my take on all of this is to play up the positive even while well aware of the “dark side” (interesting word choice) or the hidden agendas of some folks (or maybe not so hidden).

      And I have also learned how to graciously receive gifts, whether I like them or not. I respect the fact that someone else has taken the time/energy/money (or delegated it to someone!) to do so. And because I am secure in myself, I know that I (my love, affection, etc.) cannot be purchased at any price. But people who are less secure can understandably have a different take on both giving and receiving.

      Personally, I like giving gifts, even without an occasion. This has made some folks uncomfortable (to them, gifting is quid pro quo. It is not.) and respecting that, I refrain from giving. In other cases, I have met people who clearly have issues with both gift-giving and receiving. In those cases, we simply do not have any exchanges. It saddens me, but again, if not freely given or received, it is NOT a gift. My intention may be pure, but if someone feels pressured or otherwise by receiving, I don’t do it. I don’t mind NOT receiving gifts in return at all. Again, that’s NOT why you give gifts. But if someone cannot receive unless they can give, then let’s just bypass it altogether and hang out. It’s the company and PRESENCE that matter far more than any PRESENT.

      And I think that is the real heart of gifts and gift giving. Are you giving of yourself in a way that works for the recipient? Are you trying to “buy” someone’s love, affection, attention? It helps to know your own intention in all of this, whether you are the giver or receiver.

      • SarahA:

        I think those are all good points. You are so right that we are all the recipients of kindness, charity, etc., although for sure some more than others. I think his point was more that he worked hard with the gifts he was given so he should not have to subsidize those who have not worked as hard and were given the same gifts as him already. But I don’t want to put words in anybody else’s mouth.

      • Sarah A.

        I so agree with your statement about receiving gifts graciously.
        I was taught o thank the giver, no matter how I felt about the gift.
        I have a friend that has no compunction on telling me what she doesn’t like about the gift, even down to the wrapping.
        I put much thought into the gifts I give, trying to find things the receiver would not buy for themselves. Perhaps I made a misstep occasionally, or in her case, just about everytime, and it hurts to have the gift you spnd time and hard-earned money on, critizised. Needless to say, this friend is not getting gifts from me any longer.
        Like you, I enjoy giving gifts and behavior like that takes the joy away.

  3. Doesn’t whispering about your family member who still lives with his mother, not to mention posting about him in a blog, put you in the same category as some of the other rude giftgivers/recipients/family members you mention? Why judge someone else’s choices if they aren’t affecting you? And who’s to say he would have been “better off”? Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that life, even if it’s not one you would choose… and probably even other family members are not aware of every aspect of that situation. Food for thought.

    • I tend to agree with Wendy. You have no idea what the mother is getting out of having a son at home. Most of our mothers who are widowed live by themselves in a large house with no one to talk to. This occurrence is only in the last 100 years. Personally, I see it as a sad way to live.

  4. Wendy:

    Thanks for pointing that out. I guess we all have our subtle perspective biases. I blog anonymously and that example was meant for illustrative purposes but I should have looked at it from another angle. Here is my counterargument though: don’t most writers elude to their personal lives? Combine characters and stories? Take sides on occasion? And yes, have their own biases? I think it would be dry otherwise, but I agree maybe I was being a little judgmental. Thanks for pointing it out. Good luck learning French. I am a total francophile so I wish like anything I could speak it myself.

  5. My husband and I were given a timeshare by his parents, beginning in 2017. At the time we were excited, but in the few years since (now that we are finished with school and have started a family and have financial goals of our own) we are really worried about having this $1,000/year obligation. We can’t afford to go to this particular part of Mexico every year and even if we could, we wouldn’t want to. I’d rather spend our hard-earned vacation money on new or more family friendly destinations. Hard to know if we should try to get rid of it now and risk hurting my in-laws feelings or wait for 2017 and hope we can trade/dump our week every year. I try to be grateful, but it’s hard to not feel like giving us this too-generous gift is a subtle way of indicating they would like us to live their lifestyle and value the same things they value.

    • LH,

      I think that is a really great way to express it: “It’s hard to not feel like giving us this too-generous gift is a subtle way of indicating they would like us to live their lifestyle and value the same things they value.” Yet it is so hard not to feel bad or unappreciative for thinking like that. This is an issue particularly when you are frugal minded but have the money. Some relatives/friends who engage in a more lavish lifestyles might quesiton why you don’t have cable or vacation every year, for instance.

  6. Very interesting, thought provoking article. I am pleased to say that I have not encountered any of these scenarios. My parents have always been generous and no strings attached. I have also been independent minded and very conscious of not taking advangtage of my parents!! Once the grandkids came along though I did have to ask my mom to stop spending so much on her grandkids. She tends to not be the type to pay off her credit card bills each month and she loves to shop. I was afraid she’d go broke! Her reply, “I want to see my grandkids enjoy their gifts while I am alive.” Now that is hard to argue against! However, she has backed off considerably, without hurt feelings and we are all happy. I hope I will be like my Mom when I am a grandmother, just with a better handle on my finances.

  7. My godmother was an only child and inherited a very large amount of money from her parents. She was always good to our family, and we truly loved her. When I was raising my own family I stayed close to her and did some shopping and small chores to help her, of course, I was always paid…She began to get very demanding, I stopped more frequently and tried to help her as she became elderly. My husband and I were struggling financially, we had three small children, work was sometimes had to find. She helped us. She insisted that we take her car as a gift. I was saving to buy a car of my choosing. I took the car and told her that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ and never talked to her again….I sold the car. Fourteen years later she contacts me..she wants me to visit.. I go to her house, she is very old now and dying.. She wants to give me her house. I never went back. Am I wrong???

    • Susie:

      I think without knowing all of the facts and the personalities involved it is hard to say who is right or wrong in a situation such as that. It is a shame that it seems your godmother was very lonely and that your relationship, which could have been really positive, instead appears to have become strained over the years. I always knew growing up my parents thing was, “never look for a handout. Take care of yourself.” That said of course I have been helped countless times, even many times I probably do not realize.

      • Really, I don’t “get” your story. You were helping her, she was helping you. I don’t get it? Why would you say,’beggars cannot be choosers”? there must be much more to this….

    • You took the car, and then made a snarky comment to her?

      I’m just not following this story at all, seems like you are the one with a problem.

  8. I always feel sorry for those people because they really don’t know how unlucky they are…they are “stuck” with something that someone else thinks they should have…

  9. Kellinkch,

    Thanks for the encouraging words. I think being independent-minded is the best way to go about it. That way neither side feels bad/taken advantage of. Although it is more difficult to be independent today with only 46% or something of all Americans working, it is still a great goal to have.

  10. Thanks for the article. Certainly struck a lot of nerves with our household. We have been on both sides of the gift giving and receiving and neither one had a great outcome. The conclusion we have finally reached to to never “loan” money to anyone. Either the money is a gift or we don’t give it.

    Family experiences have been filled with difficulties and hard feelings on all sides. The sad truth is that now our family is estranged and no one is speaking to one another.

    • JMD,

      Money has the capability of ruining relationships faster then just about anything else. It is a shame that gifts/loans “poison the well” for so many families, and I am sorry to hear that it has played a part in some family strife you are still dealing with, it seems. Gifts are often given with the best intensions and received in the same way, but there is definitely always some level of stress once a gift reaches a certain level of generosity. Best of luck working all that out.

  11. Yeah I have heard of that story as well. Just like sometimes perceived bad things turn out good in the long run (example: “oh no my car just broke down” then later realizing: “oh my god there was a huge pileup on that road when I would normally be driving on it). or: (“I got laid off,” but it “allowed me to start my own business that is successful and I am now way more happy.” Sometimes perceived good things turn out bad as well. That story with the house really demonstrates that in action.

  12. Thanks for the feedback. In all truthfullness I believe the family issues have always been there and money became a catalyst for it to further implode. I have moved on and just avoid the drama. I can only say that to me it just isn’t worth it.

    For the most part all of us were doing the best we knew how to do but the results didn’t turn out the way we had hoped for.

  13. We have a similar problem in my house, but it is its own “niche” My wife is unable to get rid of a gift. 10 years after we get something (anyting really, toaster, bedding, towels) she is unable to get rid of it. It’s a hoarding thing really, but as soon as somebody takes the time to give it to us, by god she’s prepared to be buried with it.

    • It can be tougher to get rid of gifts than items you buy yourself for sure. Sometimes I even feel bad about throwing away cards. Then I’m like, “when will I ever re-read these cards?” Anyone find it really hard to throw away a gift?

  14. You missed one other dark side: gifts given to hurt the other person.

    In my case, there is the relative who gave my husband “Find the One You Want” by Dr. Phil and gave me an empty box one Christmas.

    She also gave us a very pretty onesie that said “Mommy’s Little Girl” … two weeks after we announced our miscarriage.

    To this day, I can think of no good reason why she would give those items except to wound me. When asked about it by my husband, she told him that she was sorry I couldn’t take a joke. And yet people ask why I don’t do anything with her.

    (Although I have had the others you mention too. Just remember Heinlein – “TANSTAAFL – There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”)

  15. Don’t quite know what to make of this post, but I will say that although I agree with many of the points taken about gifts that can be problematic, the overall tone of this piece seems very cynical and more than a bit negative about gift-giving in general, even without the issues raised. Receiving gifts doesn’t make you dependent or curtail your freedom, it’s a bit more complicated that that. I’m thinking the person who wrote this has had some bad experiences with “gifts with strings” attached.

    As an adult (emphasis on adult), in loving and caring relationships, one both gives and is gifted. That, to me, is a healthy situation. And there is indeed an art to both giving and receiving graciously. Some people are superb at gift-giving, but almost impossible at receiving gifts. Frankly, the person who wrote this seems to be the latter: A person who questions the reasons behind every gift. Sometimes, a gift IS just a gift. Enjoy it and don’t look for anything behind it. And if it comes with strings, you don’t have to keep the gift (free will, mates). And anyone who would stop speaking to you because you did not place a gift where they wanted it? Really, NOT a friend.

    Gifts, in my perspective, are given freely. No strings. No mandates. I give you something, money or an object or a service. You do whatever you want with it, including regift it, give it away, toss it or even sell it. It’s yours to do with as you please. (Exception: Family heirlooms or items that have been passed from generations and you are asking this ritual to be continued. Not sure this is so much a gift as a bequeathing of sorts.) Are my feelings occasionally hurt by a giftee’s response? Sometimes, because of course I want to have given a wonderful gift. But I let it go. And if I learn, over time, that people are what might be deemed ungrateful, then I rethink if/how I may gift them. (I think it’s easier to deal with people who don’t like a gift than those who expect them, quite frankly, and often dictate what it is they want, even if I haven’t asked!)

    If I can’t give you something knowing that you could do any of these things, and if I have conditions, then it is, quite simply, NOT a gift.

    Whether family or friends, we do not have to accept a “gift” if we feel, or it is clear, that there are strings attached. And this is a discussion that needs to happen when even the most well-meaning of folks (parents, relatives, friends) for example, want to help out financially.

    And let’s be clear, every financial gift/loan is NOT enabling someone. You have to look at this on an individual basis and given the circumstances. (Monetary gifts to children whose parents are in dire circumstances makes sense to me, for example. It’s all about the age of kids, the amounts and one’s intention. And also clearing it with parents first. Talking about kids under age and still living at home.)

    Some parents do enable their kids to move back home with no incentive to leave, while others set clear limits (You have one year and in that time you must pay for X, X and X or whatever, that represents a significant contribution.)

    And is it “gifting” when parents pay for a kid’s college education? Society and most kids themselves believe parents of all fiscal situations should pay (I don’t FYI. I paid for my college and fully expected to.) To me, when parents can’t afford it, and they do, this is the ultimate in enabling. But few folks see it that way. I’ve known kids who never wanted to go, did not study and basically put their parents into a lot of debt—then got decent, good or great jobs and NEVER paid the parents back a cent or offered anything even if their parents needed help. College is NOT a “gift” most parents can afford. And this type of “gift” is why many kids don’t really apply themselves. They have nothing invested. (On the other hand, take a hard look at how well kids on scholarship, who work to pay for it and how they do.)

  16. SaraH:

    You had a ton of great observations in your comment. You are also correct that I wrote this post after a specific incident and that at the time I was upset. That said, I have always believed in a lot of what I wrote already. Perhaps I am a better gift giver than gift receiver, as you said. I really liked how you pointed out that the “gift” of college often goes wasted. How are kids or parents supposed to afford college today when almost EVERYONE is expected to go and college has outpaced inflation for decades. It is crazy and I agree it often is not as appreciated as it should be. As with everything in life, I think everything depends on the situation and the personalities involved. A person who might be reasonable about something one day might be “set off” by it the next. A lot of how we react to life has to deal with a ton of little factors. For instance, that bad day at work makes you have road rage on the way home whereas you would have never reacted like that if you were just driving home on a normal day following a normal day at work. It is all really interesting, I think.

  17. I have seen the dark side in a lot of different gifting scenarios. I have been told I am unoriginal in gift giving. I have been told that I am not a gracious gift receiver. I have been told that I am cheap when it comes to gift giving. I was even the reason that we quit the “gift exchange” at Christmas for my siblings and spouses.

    For weddings, I give a C note and tell them to go out to a nice place on their one year anniversary. For Christmas I give all my nieces and nephews a $100 savings bond (I know – not fun) but it will be when they have approx. $5k for a car when they are 16 (which is what I am going for). I have given gifts back when it causes too much heartache based on the expressions of the person giving it to me. If they start telling me what to do with it, I will give it back and say it was obviously meant for someone else, if I cannot do with it what I will. I say thank you if I get something (a call to grandma or some aunt as well). I don’t write thank you notes, I call. The gift exchange was canceled because I frequently asked the person who I drew what they wanted. They thought that was unoriginal and against the spirit. I just thought that it stopped me from buying crap and if I got no good ideas – they got gift cards. When everyone started giving gift cards, people said “we are done”.

    A gift to me is a gift. No strings attached, no hard feelings. It is my thoughts of the person and their thoughts of me. It is what I think they will need or want. If I am wrong – oh well – give it away.

    • Our family started a white elephant gift exchange. It is wonderful. It completely took the strain out of Christmas and provides hours of laughter.

    • Big-D
      I think you’re doing a great job of gift-giving, even if your ungrateful family and friends don’t think so. You are one generous person from what I’m reading. (you call to thank people? How great is that. )

      Only one thing I might suggest: When someone tells you what to do with a gift, thank them and do nothing else except maybe give the gift away. Giving it back and saying it must be meant for someone else is pretty rude and passive aggressive. And not necessary. That seems a bit out of line with the generous nature you have demonstrated. Perhaps you’re just fed up with your family’s rudeness!

      I would have been thrilled over the years to have been asked what I wanted, to get $100 savings bonds, etc. My family is one-way into gift-giving, as in I give, they get, and they don’t give gifts to me (but they do with other family members on the sister-in-law’s side of family. Ironic. Since there is only my brother and myself, so how hard could it be for my nephew and sister in law to give ONE gift a year? I mean really.

  18. Big D:

    We may have the same relatives! lol….The last wedding gift we gave was a visa card with the money on it. The response was that they would try not to spend it all at one time. Ungracious….rude…unappreciated. That is how I felt.

  19. Big-D and JMD:

    People always think I’m an unoriginal gift receiver because if anyone ever asks what I want, I almost always invariably say money. (of course I first say nothing, but when pressed). I don’t buy myself “gifts” so I’m not sure what I would want. What do I really want? To be out of debt. Apparently helping me towards that goal is too boring for the gift givers. Oh well….now I feel ungrateful again. The gift giving/receiving thing is very contentious.

    • freelancepf:

      It is simple for me. If I want something – I buy it. I have no debt besides a car payment and a mortgage payment, and that is intentional, not that I could not pay off either. If I want some DVD, I buy it on sale. So when it comes time for present season, I ask for people to buy stuff from me which I have already purchased, but unopened (think DVD season on TV or something of that ilk). If they don’t? Meh .. Goodwill always accepts things.

      I laugh since my mother always insists, since I was 15 (I am now 37) on buying me long sleeve dress shirts for Christmas and my birthday (they are a week apart). I have not worn a long sleeve shirt since I was 15. I tell her every year that what she buys goes straight to good will as I don’t wear long sleeves. Every year it is a long sleeve dress shirt or some sweater – which I will never wear. December 26th and January 2nd, Goodwill always has a donation from me :)

  20. We basically have been disowned by family since we quit the gift giving business. The only ones that we still buy for are the “littles” and that is it. Not a popular stance but we have done it and suffer the consequences.

  21. I like giving gifts, but have often refrained with friends of lesser means who might feel obligated to reciprocate when they could ill afford to and I did not want them to feel bad.

    As for my family, I always try to buy something nice and personal for birthdays/holidays, but they do not always reciprocate. It can be annoying but I accept that that’s just the way it is.

    This last birthday was weird though, my parents (who have not given me money in a very long time) suddenly gave me a large check. I was puzzled and slightly disturbed by it, wondering what prompted such an unexpected gesture. Overcome by curiosity, I asked them why. They said it was to even things up a bit since they give my brother (who is terrible with finances and has two small children) a lot of financial help. They have reassured me repeatedly that the lopsided state of financial help given to me and my only sibling will be evened up at inheritance time, but really, I don’t care. I am just happy to not NEED any help, to be able to stand on my own two feet and let my parents enjoy their hard-earned money.

    After the latest round of draining financial disaster in my brother’s life, I told my dad, Aren’t you happy that the only thing I need from you is your love? and he said yes.

  22. Tara,

    Interesting, my mother carefully tallies the cost of any gift given to them and then purchases gifts of the same exact value. Strange but true. I am glad that your parents are grateful for love. Not all are. Some truly just want a lot more than that.

  23. Tara:

    I think it is good to see your parents trying to even things out. Some will say that it shouldn’t be about that, but I know I would want to be even if possible. Now if there are health issues or job losses, etc., then it is a different story. I think a big problem is the fact that parents often “reward” the less fiscally responsible party. I’m lucky in that respect, my parents don’t really have anything so there is nothing for my sibling and I to worry about (other than perhaps how we can help them when the time comes).

  24. Man normally I rant about vicious gift giving cycles, I buy you a gift, your grandma buys me a gift i have to buy her a gift untill everyones spent a ton of money with nothing but shitty gifts to show for it.

    I’m kind of at a point where i don’t really want any more stuff. I want less stuff. I wish I could have a mortgage wishing well, where what ever you were going to spend on me you paid down my mortgage in the amount of.

    I think it’s an awesome idea:)

  25. To: Debt Consolidation Predator

    I hear you loud and clear. The unfortunate part of the past gift giving frenzy was that actually no one could afford to do it. Us included. We finally got some sense and stopped. Now we are the social outcasts. Sigh.

  26. Debt Consolidation Predator: Imagine if every time someone bought you a card in your life they instead made the car and gave you the money the card would have cost and put that into an interest bearing account. That’s a favorite of mine. I’m not sure it would add up to much but it would certainly beat the value of those cards all those years. Then take all the money spent on “fake” holidays like Valentine’s Day. You would have a brand new car by your 21st birthday. (or even better yet, $20,000 less in student loans).

  27. I come from a family who never really gifted and if we did it was only for bdays and xmas. Bdays and parties were mainly reserved for young members. I married into a family that has a party for every single persons bday as well as every single holiday. Since my upbringing has taught me spending unnecessary money is irrational, and that cards and calls will do, I find these acts to be very time consuming and money draining. I never received gifts but from really, really close family, and had one bday party my whole life. But this family- Example- in just March alone every single weekend was someone differents bday party. The “gathering place” is an hour away from us so that doesn’t help either. I just can’t fathom why every single person whether young or old should have a bday party. And xmas is a mad house with the norms being each person gets more than one gift. We need to have a separate savings account just to keep for this. They think we’re rude because we don’t always drive out, but come on, every single weekend? My husband thinks having a party every year for someone is fine because that’s what he is used to, unless of course you’ve married into the family, then you don’t get one by the way, however were still expected to give. I guess my point is that I feel like I’m giving so that they’ll like me and everything will be fine on their end.

    • You sound like my sister and her husbands family. They require you to have a part on the persons actual birthday, and then sometimes a secondary party, full attendance required, for everyone. She has 3 kids, all with October birthdays, and she did one big party for them all one year, and the family freaked. She held to her guns and had one party at their house, but the grandparents insisted they have the kids to their house for a weekend to have a proper party each different weekend.

      Don’t get me started on the 5 family Christmases and 3 Thanksgivings. Each has mandatory gifts for great aunt Bessie whom is only seen on Christmas – but the party has to be at her house, 4 hours away. She has to go to 4 other peoples houses, all on Christmas day. One is 4 hours away, then 3 hours back, then an hour to another, then another hour to the 4th. This is all before they have opened any presents at home. Usually they leave at 5 am Christmas day, and dont get home until after 10:00 and then they open all their own presents on boxing day. They spend somewhere around $2k on presents as the family decides how much money each gift is worth and you are measured on how close you hit the mark.

      I guess I sound like the sane one at this point.

      • Big-D,

        Perhaps I don’t feel so bad now after reading what happens to your sister. But in strict reference to the article’s title, I think that being forced to give or else be ostracized from the family is a huge dark side. Although I don’t receive gifts from my in-laws because I married in, I am forced to supply gifts for them. I believe like one other person mentioned that if I were to voice my opinion they would hopefully take it into consideration, however, I have tried that to no avail. The last two Christmas’ I have said that it would benefit everyone financially if we only bought for the children instead of all the adults as well. The reply I received was, “well if you can’t buy something that’s fine, we’re still going to.”

        I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I got pregnant and none of his family attended my baby shower or my child’s first bday party. Everyone had an excuse, but then had these same parties for me (without inviting me) at my husband’s parent’s house which is of course an hour away. Later we found out they didn’t come because it was too far for them to drive to our house. I’ve tried not to be bitter because of these instances, but it remains easy for me to not attend their “every weekend something’s going on” gatherings perhaps because of the memories of those instances. ?

        • Racergurl,

          In my book it is simple, I can tell you months in advance that I am not giving gifts or I am, and here is my limit. I don’t deviate. If people say they want to give you gifts and you tell them in August you are not giving gifts to adults, just kids under 18 in the family, that is up to them and their personal finances, and I feel zero guilt about it. If they don’t buy you gifts because you married in .. then you can return with like kindness by saying since you are obviously not a full fledged member of the family, you don’t feel you know everyone well enough to buy thoughtful gifts :)

          An hour for a grandchild/niece/nephew birthday party, once a year, is not hard to swallow. It is probably a matter of control and tradition. If they get together every weekend, that is great for them. However going forward, you can be stern about the celebrations your child has. Once they are about 2 or 3 it will start to matter as they will start having memories of the birthday parties. You should have one party, at your house, and that is final. If they don’t attend, then let it go. If they say the next weekend they want your child to come up and hour away for their “celebration”, then you say you would be willing to come, but not if it is a birthday celebration as the family birthday celebration has occurred and you don’t want to set the precedent that birthdays are month long parties. If they do the party even when you tell them no, then you don’t go back up the following year. They will learn quickly you will not be a pawn to their whims and if they truly want to prioritize your child’s life, they will get with the program.

          I am not saying you have to ostracize them, as I am flexible and understand others schedules, etc. However if it is all take and no give, then you have to push back. Since this is about gifts, I figured I would tell you about my sister and her in-laws. If you want to just talk about in-laws, my sister’s MIL is a piece of work, and my brother’s in-laws just make me glad I am not married :)

  28. It saddens me to read about how families are treating each other in this whole gift-giving stuff. Families should be able to talk openly and honestly, without recrimination and judgment, about various members’ feelings about this and come to a solution that works for all, without making folks feel shame, bad, guilty, whatever.

    Nobody should be dictated how/when to give and mandated to give. That is NOT giving.

    I often wonder what is really going on with families when they are all spending and spending and spending, and when they get into debt but even if they don’t.

    I have to conclude that in some families, gift-giving is part of ongoing need to one-up others or show off. Yes, there are folks who are just super-generous and over the top with gifts with no agenda. But in some families, let’s be honest, something more IS going on.

    My only real gripe about gifts is when it always appears to be unilateral. My brother (he and I are the only living members left of our family) is married to a lovely woman, who I really like. However, when it comes to gifts, over the years, I have heard: Oh, we have no money for gifts. No problem. (I still give them gifts as they have very little money and I can afford to give them some things they need and help them out during the year.)

    THEN…I find out that they have gotten into debt to purchase gifts for HER family! One that has a huge tradition of giving. A family that they always seem to have money and time for.

    I’ve even said to them: Hey, you don’t have to buy me anything. Just send me some digital pix of my nephew. Just give me a call once a month to hear how you’re doing (I call once every month or so but they are never around and it’s a game to get them to call back.)

    I’d like to say that I’m not hurt when they manage to give gifts to other family, but don’t seem to think I should be included as such.

    No, there is nothing else going on with the sister in law (my brother is just socially ill-equipped) and she and I have an otherwise close relationship. And she had done an incredible amount of stuff for my mother when she was alive, and for that alone, I would be grateful and never require any gifts (which does mitigate all this).

    You just have to decide to let it go. However, it’s far more complicated in some families from what I’ve seen and read here. People are overlooking the spirit of all of this. That’s really sad.

    And when folks ostracize and stop speaking to people over differences of opinion on gift-giving, hello…there is something else going on.

  29. I’ll admit if I have any financial weakness, it’s gift giving! So much so that I found myself charging it on my card to buy gifts for people. I tend to do this for people I’ve known for awhile and I know they already love/like me :P , so it’s not to make them like me better or what not, I just like getting people nice and useful gifts!

    • Hannah,

      I know some people who gift themselves into bankruptcy. I find it much easier to give a larger than average sum to a friend for a wedding than to buy myself something. It is very strange, and I am not even one of the more generous people that I know.

  30. Gift giving is why I can’t even really enjoy the Christmas Holidays.
    Everywhere you go, the small talk starts with “Have you done all your christmas shopping?” UGH!
    Our three kids have everything they need, but I still get so stressed and socially pressured to buy, buy, buy! It is so frustrating.
    I guess the 3 wise men started all this mess when they brought Jesus Christ gifts when he was born :-)

  31. Boy can I ever identify. Our entire mess of a dysfunctional family has made it so we no longer associate with them. Just fighting, bickering, doing a lot of one-upmanship. It became some sort of a contest and we don’t want to play. Maybe we just got old and grumpy or perhaps just “used up” I really am not sure and I don’t spend time thinking about it.

  32. I’m known within my family for being both frugal and on a massive debt destroying path. My goal is to have 40% of my mortgage principal paid off by the end of next year. When Christmas time rolls around, I receive lots of gift cards with the strict admonition to “spend it on myself.” I guess my granny let everyone know that I would use these gift cards on things like groceries, then stick my grocery money in the bank.

    Now I have a pile of gift cards sitting in a desk drawer. I don’t really have the desire to go out and blow these gift cards on a bunch of junk to clutter up my house or to inflate my lifestyle beyond my budget. The result is a stack of unused gift cards totaling between $500-$1000 at any given time, accumulated over the past few years.

    • I have a stranger story than this. I am at the point where there literally is nothing I want. However, certain family members insisted on reciprocating gifts. I asked for money and was told gift cards would be acceptable but money would not. As a grown man I can’t complain, I guess, at least I am still getting gifts (whether I want to or not). So, not having anything I wanted and having to choose a gift card (and at the time not having a house so Home Depot was out of the question), I asked for office max or Staples. I figured at one point I would want to start my own law firm. But now here I am, with a brand new laser printer, an office phone, and a fax machine. I could use them for my freelance business, but that is almost entirely run online. How strange the whole situation is, lol.

    • I’ve never understood when people get upset by a recipient wanting to do something practical with a gift (money, gift card, etc.). It’s pretty sad that as a society we consider responsibility such a killjoy.

  33. This was thought provoking. Sounds like we all have feelings/thoughts that others interpret as petty and possibly are petty.

    My in-laws talk about constant money woes so we pay their travel expenses and try to help them out but then they’re constantly eating out, buying new “toys”. I normally do not give any thought as to the financial status of the gift recipient but I have to say that in this case it really bothers me. I don’t say anything but it is frustrating that because we are fiscally prudent we are expected to pay the expenses for others.

  34. From the flipside-
    My two sister in laws keep trying to cut out family gifting. They tried secret santa’s, yankee swaps, just pick one name no bday parties etc. But at the same time they were spending money on their own families and people they work with. So i think all this crap about the dark side of gift giving is actually more to do with the actual feelings people have about eachother. Meanwhile trying to cut out the parents from gift giving causes them heartache. It’s OK for my sisters in-laws to shell out a grand for their own kids but they get all pissy about $50 for me and my brothers, and my parents? And they try to say that my mom cant give something to her own sons for xmas or birthdays. Bull. People are just getting so freaking selfish its amazing. anybody remember the prodigal son. People give and give hard, so hard that it hurts like passing a kidney stone. Stop being so petty and realize the best part of life is the parts we share with eachother regardless of how unpleasant it can sometimes be. Lead by example. Be the bigger person. Be the one who is not selfish, greedy or judgemental.

  35. Jennifer those unused gift cards are efforts that people are expending to show you that they care. It might not be your way of showing kindness or appreciation but it may be theirs. Sounds like you aren’t using them simply because they’re gifts? If so turn around and give them to the local charities and deduct them from your income tax. Same to FreeLance donate the fax etc. Give it to someone who really needs it to do some good in this world.

  36. I HATE receiving gifts! If I want something I buy it. My husband and I are not religious people so we have chosen not to observe Christmas, Easter, etc. This is heresy to most of our family! I beg them every year to not buy us things yet every year we get gifts we don’t want (and usually don’t like). I graciously accept the gift and stress that they REALLY shouldn’t have! I do not feel bad about re-gifting or donating these items because I make it clear to everyone before the holidays that they will not be receiving a gift from us. Instead of physical gifts we spend time with our loved ones and appreciate each others company. After all that, every year my in laws give us gifts to force themselves into our lives and try to guilt us into doing what they want. I hate receiving gifts!

  37. So much of “gift giving” is really just the hallmark of a consumerist culture pushing unnecessary consumerism upon us. Has anyone ever received a souvenir they really liked? It’s rare. And yet souvenirs are probably a billion dollar industry each year.

  38. My mom has a strange habit. She’ll ask me for my “wish list” around Christmas or my birthday, then she’ll buy me things that aren’t on the list. So as much as I appreciate her kindness, most of her gifts to me end up donated to Goodwill.

    My mother-in-law is an Avon lady, and every Christmas she showers her reluctant family with Avon merchandise nobody really wants. Again, it mostly ends up at Goodwill.

  39. Kelly,

    I had a good laugh reading your post. A couple of years back my mother asked my daughter what she wanted for her birthday. My daughter said that she loved candles so my mom bought her a bed jacket. Huh? It went to goodwill.

  40. My brother and his wife are my only family, and we haven’t given gifts in YEARS. I’m in my early fifties, and they are in their seventies, so we all have all of the material things that we need or want. Instead, each Christmas, we make donations to a charity in the other’s names. Nothing huge, maybe $25.00 or $50.00, but it’s something. We started doing this about five years ago, after we all agreed that giving to each other was pretty pointless. I donate $25.00 to a breast cancer association (my sister in law is a survivor of the illness) and to a veterans’ organization. My brother and his wife give to either a veterans’ organization and/or an animal rights org. (My brother and I are both retired from the U.S. Air Force, and I am an avid “pet person.”)

    Gifting of this nature makes me feel that the gift is going beyond someone’s living room or the next yard sale.

  41. Kelly and JMD,

    People who do that are too funny (unless it happens to you). The funniest gift I have ever received were “Philadelphia Eagles” sneakers. The sneakers were bright green and had tons of Eagles emblems on them. I would have loved them as a child, but as I was17 years old (at the time) they weren’t exactly “cool” anymore.

  42. I am so thankful for anything that anyone gives me. But, most of all, I realize that I am blessed to have been given the best gift from the Giver of all good Gifts….Jesus Christ. He owns it all anyway. I am just the steward of what He has given me.

  43. I am going through the “Dark Side” with my mother in law. She gifted us ( and stated it in a letter that it was a gift) a large sum of money to put a down payment on a house that was 1)out of our price range 2) a house she wanted and 3)within 15 minutes from her house. She protested that she wouldn’t talk to us if we DIDN’T take the money. We do love the house, but we had reservations about living so close to her. Fast forward 2 months, and she is asking us to sign and have notarized paperwork that states that we will pay her back the money she gave, and is coercing me into signing a document that states I will pay her back if my husband (her son) dies or if we get a divorce. She is unrelenting in her demands and has caused sleepless nights for both my husband and myself. We are at the point where we will sell the house right now in order to give her back this money and go rent an apartment far far away from her. She says that we are ungrateful for what she’s done for us ( sleepless nights??? yeah thanks mom!) and that she at least deserves these papers signed- even when we explained to her it would be fraud since she told the bank that the “gift” wouldn’t need to be repaid. Any suggestions on what to do? My husband has called a family meeting so we can talk about the situation but I don’t know what will come of all this…..

    • Brittany,

      I wouldn’t worry too much about this. From a legal precedent, if she provided a letter, that it was a gift, and that provided no terms to repay the loan, then you are in the clear. The definition of a gift is no repayment.

      However this does not help you in your current situation. If she is now telling you to replay you, and you must do XYZ if your husband dies/divorce, tell her “NO”. You have to have your husband on the same page as you so that she cannot pick at him and manipulate him outside of talking with you. This was probably part of some plot to control you from the beginning. Never underestimate the deviousness of someone who has control issues.

      At the family meeting, I can tell you how this is going to go down. You tell your MIL “No” and she will freak out. She might go so far as talking to a lawyer, etc. Then you explain to her what the definition of a loan and a gift are. Tell her that she asked you take it and that she was very clear this was a gift. When she persists, explain to her three things and do not let her interrupt you until you get all three of these points out.
      1) This was a gift, as stated in her letter. There was no repayment or any sort of “loan” language, thus you assumed it was as the legal definition of a gift.
      2) If she insists that repayment is required, you cannot afford to pay it back with what you have and you do not like to have uncontrolled debt above your head. Thus the only thing to do would be to sell the house and move away to replay her gift.
      3) In a legal marriage, upon divorce or death, there are legal precedents that are required that supersede what she thinks is right/fair. All debts are paid from the estate, then the remaining assets are split. Those will be followed.

      What you will find, is that if you tell her those three things, and again – tell them in order and dont let her interrupt you, or leave as she is not listening, and wants to argue, thus nothing productive will be done, you will find the crux of her “displeasure”. If she says you have to do something – point back to which ever point above you made above which applies to her statement. Her next words will be telling. If she wants money since she screwed herself by giving you such a large gift? Tell her you can give her a loan (if you can). If she thinks she has been wronged? Then explain she was very clear with her language. If she wants to control you, then you have to stand up and not let her.

      You know Brittany, do you live in Indiana? My Brother-in-laws brother (whose wife is named Brittany), is going through a very similar situation :)

  44. Brittany,

    Sorry to read about the most unfortunate situation you and your husband find yourselves in. I do have a question before I give you what suggestions I have. Why are you requesting a family meeting? Was the family present for the initial gift giving offer?

    • Sorry, his mom and step-dad are the family so in family meeting I meant me, my husband, his mom and his step-dad.

  45. Ok, just my two cents worth. Since you can’t totally undo what has been done I only see so many options available, some appear better than others.

    1. Immediately list the home and give them the money back.

    2. See if you can get a loan of whatever type and immediately pay them back.

    3. Sign the documents, all of them, but with it in writing that the home will be sold and they will be paid back.

    This is not your home…it is theirs with strings attached. Just pay and move on. A relationship that is controlled by threats, coersing is not a relationship that I would be willing to be in. Better to get it settled now and you and your husband go build your lives as you see fit.

    No matter how it is handled at this point there will be hard feelings on someone’s part. The quicker and cleaner it can be handled will be advantageous to all.

    Good luck.

    PS Don’t ever allow yourself to be in such a mess again. Better to live in a small closet you paid for than this situation.

  46. Well, Big D, that certainly is one perspective on the situation. I for one would not feel comfortable with. However, if someone else does…go for it.

    • I am normally not an aggressive person, indeed many people who know me call me the most generous person with my time and money that they know. I am however the master of my own roof over my head, my time, and the money I earn. No one (person, government, etc.) tells me what I have to do with my possessions. I am very logical and plan for contingencies (and contingencies within contingencies), so to make the best decision possible with the available data. However when someone challenges me, and continues to do it for manipulative reasons, I push back. If someone continues to do things that do not fall into the plans I have, and continues to take those three things away from me (time, money, roof over my head), without me willing to do it, I just cannot stand for that.

      JMD, I see your perspective, however that is a very passive aggressive way to handle the situation. All you are doing is placating someone to manipulate you further. There is no reason you should have to sign a document stating you will pay back a debt if someone dies/divorces, the law is on their side already. There is no reason to pay back a debt that was “gifted”. If this mother in law insists that this has to be re-payed, then sell the house, pay her back and move far away.

      I disagree with you about the house being “yours with strings attached”. The strings were not attached until after she purchased the house and moved in. Again – each person has a different perspective. I just know when you have a manipulative person you are dealing with, and this MIL sounds like one, then the only way to deal with it is to deal with it silently building resentment over time, or to nip it in the bud with direct confrontation.

      The key is what her husband does. If her husband is wishy-washy and capitulates all the time? Then the direct confrontation does not work and the MIL will go through your son going forward as she can manipulate him. That was why I said – get your husband on board to begin with.

  47. To: Big D

    I chose not to make these statements personal between you and me. I am simply explaining my experiences in life and how I live, if others choose differently it is fine with me. Since I was young I have neither had offered nor received expensive “gifts” so I may not be the best one to speak.

    In my opinion whether the “gift” was truly a gift or one with strings attached is a mute issue. It is clear now that the gift was not as it was understood. It would not be worth to me to keep that possession while claiming my rights to something that I did not fully pay for myself.

    So in conclusion, perhaps it is just a matter of perspective and not aggression or passivity?

    • None taken. I was just explaining my position. Having done graduate work and research in the psychology of people, I see it all the time. I can tell you what people who have certain positions, and how they behave even before they will do something.

      As for the whether the issue of the gift is moot or not, I don’t know. It all depends what Brittany wants to do. If her family wants to stay in that house, then it is not a moot issue. If they want to stay, then I would push for the traditional term of gift with the MIL. If she wants to loose money and try to sell that house just a few months after they purchased it to pay back the gift and keep the peace. Fine.

      It is all a matter of perspective and what people are confident in.

  48. From the human perspective, a gift given without any strings attached will always be the truly anonymous gift. It’s only a “free” gift when we are truly free to do with that gift as we will. However, with freedom comes responsibility which is the true mark of respect toward any gift given.

  49. I wish I could have some xmas. I am so poor that I am below poverty level, I cant find a job, I always wake up alone on xmas and feel so alone and left out that I cry. I wish I could get even 1 present. that would be nice.

    • Dear Pam, Let me know the kind of things you like. I just saw your message and althoug my husband and I don’t have a lot ourselves I was struck by how all the other people are complaining about gifts and being ungrateful and how you would have the proper spirit if you received just one. I would so much like to hear from you.

  50. I googled “giving someone’s gift back to them” and was led to several articles, including this one. My father-in-law’s wife started giving things back to me starting this fall on my birthday. She gave framed pictures of my children back to me that I had given her over 20 years ago. These are my father-in-law’s only grandchildren ( just two of them, by the way). Naturally, I have copies of those pictures and was surprised they were returned. Just this Christmas, I opened the box from them and it was a rather elegant, little, bronze holiday wreath I had bought at an exclusive store in our town over 35 years ago. She wrote in the card that it was indeed the gift I had given her right after they were first married and how sweet I had been. This couple is in great health for their ages and they are still in their home. So it doesn’t seem to be a situation of paring down as they head into an assisted living facility. After receiving this last gift back I had given them, I am wondering if there is an issue or problem here I’m just not aware of. Should I ask them if they’re okay (healthwise) or if I’ve unintentionally hurt their feelings? Something just isn’t right about this and it is bothering me. I do try to be thoughtful with the gifts I give and give from the heart.

  51. My parents taught us to give gifts 1. in celebration of happy occasions and 2. in thanks for someone’s graciouness towards us. period….

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