Sunday Conversation#9 – The Money Talks Edition?

Welcome to Sunday Conversation #9! If you would like to participate in next week’s Sunday Conversation, simply ask your question in the comments section of today’s post and I will respond next Sunday. Remember, any subject is on the table (but keep it family-friendly).  All four questions this week related to money conversations, or making money.  Let’s have a look at what’s on reader’s minds.

Foxie asked an interesting question, “I ended up hanging out with some friends on the fourth, and one of the wives in the group mentioned lasik surgery. She continued on to say that she can only get it after her baby is born, her husband comes back from an upcoming deployment, and they get a handle on their credit cards. When she mentioned credit cards, I couldn’t really believe it. I suppose I just have been affected by the money taboo, but it was really unexpected to hear and made me feel rather awkward. (Not to mention I was just meeting most of these people for the first time, and somewhat admiring the house they had. That I knew there was a mortgage for, which I definitely wasn’t jealous of.)

My question, then, is this: Has anyone ever said something about their financial situation that just made you uncomfortable? I was rather shocked that she would so openly admit to having trouble with credit cards, but I suppose that’s the norm in America today, huh?

It is sad when mentioning that you are buried in credit card debt barely gets a reaction from company these days.  I suppose we have all been desensitized to huge debt loads because unfortunately it has become the norm. Think about how many times we read about people in blogs or news segments who are graduating school with $90,000 in student loan debt, or $50,000 on credit cards.  Twenty years ago people would be shocked.  Not today.

I’ve heard things mentioned by people at parties or in casual settings that have made me shake my head, and I’ve developed an ear for it as a blogger because it often turns into a story (with the names changes to protect the innocent!).  Just the other day I was writing at a local cafe and two girls were talking about a guy they both apparently liked.  For nearly ten minutes (it seemed) they went on and on about how much his car cost.  As if being able to go down to a car lot and sign up for a 60 month loan made you a financial catch.  Sad.

Hadias asks the following blogging question:  “What advice can you give regarding making money through blogging? What are some of the main ways that a person could earn money through their blog?”

There are a variety of ways to make money blogging.  Some are more successful than others, but just about all of them require one main ingredient–traffic.  Without traffic it is difficult to generate enough page views for ads to be profitable, either on a per-impression or per-click basis.  My best advice would be to build a strong readership, and traffic numbers, before getting too involved with trying to earn big money via blogging.  I made the mistake of trying to monetize Frugal Dad before it was ready, and by putting the “cart before the horse” I almost became discouraged and gave up, just before things really began to take off.  I’m far from the expert on this subject, but I know a great resource that I’ve used since day one.  Problogger.  I highly recommend signing up at his blog and reading through the hundreds of archived posts, all on the subject of building a better blog, monetization, etc.  Darren really has created a phenomenal resource for bloggers.

Tiffanie asks, “With Christmas approaching (ok…so it’s 5 1/2 months away, haha) and my husband and I on a VERY strict budget with very little to spend…how would you approach buying gifts for immediate family members (9 in all…4 parents, 2 young siblings (4 and 10), 3 siblings 19 years old) without appearing cheap? Is it worth it to take some of what we would send to credit cards in order to buy gifts? I don’t think we’ll be able to afford more than $25 per person! (and 6 of the 9 also have birthdays in December!…) This is the first year we’ve been so strapped for cash (I lost my job) and I’m not sure how to approach this! Any advice would be appreciated.”

There are a couple different approaches to take here.  I’ll describe things we’ve done in the past and you can decide which works best for your situation.  When I married my wife I entered a big family.  At the time my wife had eight cousins she was very close to, three grandparents still living, a mother and stepfather, and four aunts and uncles.  Needless to say, Christmas was a budget concern.  The first year I wanted to make a good impression, so we gave each cousin a little money and bought gifts for all the adults.  This was an expensive approach.

A few years later we recommended all the adults draw names, so each adult would only have to buy one present and then we could all pick up something small for each child.  It didn’t go over very well, but I still think this was a good compromise.  As the kids got older we continued to try to give a little money to each of them, but cut out gifts for the extended adults (and grown kids, 18+).

Finally, I’m sorry to hear of your job loss.  Unless your situation improves greatly between now and Christmas, I think any reasonable family member who knows your situation would understand you not buying them a gift.  There are many things you could do inexpensively in lieu of buying a gift.  Consider writing a family newsletter detailing the events of the past year for you and your husband (and any kids).  Or, perhaps you could put together a family recipe book to give to the adults and grown kids with records of favorite family recipes.  Family pictures in an inexpensive frame are also well-received gifts.

I guess the bottom line is this, you don’t have to spend a ton of money in the name of not appearing cheap.  You know your family’s situation better than anyone, and if you can’t afford to give gifts this year, then that’s just the way it will have to be.  You have to do what’s right for your household.  It might hurt someone’s feelings, but they will probably be over it by New Year’s!

Castocreations asked, “My MIL wants to buy a car. She plans to pay cash but she’s also on a very fixed, limited budget as she is retired with no retirement plan.

And she wants to pay cash for a NEW car!!! I have tried to talk her out of it, and think I’m making headway, but she continues to resist. She’s afraid of a “junker” and seems thrilled with the idea of a brand new car. *sigh*

I KNOW it’s a bad idea and we’re trying really hard to make sure she does the right thing. What are some concrete arguments and reassurances we can give her?”

This is a tough one.  Besides the challenge of trying to convince an “in-law” of anything, curing someone of new car fever is an uphill battle.  I would try to reason that gently used, late model cars are great buys because someone else has taken the majority of the hit on depreciation.  Remind her that a new car is “used” as soon as she drives it off the car lot.

New cars many times (not always) come with higher insurance premiums, which could add to her monthly expenses, something she can’t afford on a fixed income.  Tag fees and taxes could also increase her expenses more than a used car.  Also emphasize the opportunity cost of buying a more expensive new car versus a used car.  Let’s just say the difference is $10,000.  How much would that $10,000 earn if left untouched?  How much more security would she have with an extra $10,000 in savings, not tied up in a car?  And of course if the used car required any repairs she could use some of that $10,000 and still be way ahead.

Thanks to everyone for their questions, and the lively discussion we had on last week’s post.  Remember, if you have a question you’d like me to address next week, just leave it in the comments section.  Have a great week!


  1. This in response to the question about Christmas Presents: Christmas to me is the biggest money spending holiday. I often think many people forget what the true meaning of Christmas is. It isn’t the gifts, the food, etc. it’s time spent with family. My husband and I did not get anything for each other last Christmas, we got our joy out of watching our daughter (only one child last Christmas) open her gifts. Many of her gifts came from other relatives and three out of I don’t know how many were truly from us (one from Santa of course). We enjoyed the day at home, just the three of us, we watched a few Christmas movies and enjoyed our time together.

    If you feel obligated to do a gift, make something. Search through google for gift ideas, craft ideas, etc. there are many ideas out there. You can crochet a scarf for a lot cheaper than you can buy one, the senitmental value for whomever the gift is for will be more than if it was a purchased scarf from some store.

    This year, for my FIL all of us kids are getting together and having pictures done of the grand kids. It will be a $10.00 sitting fee and then $20.00 for the 8×10 photo, were splitting the cost between all of us. A cheap and inexpensive gift idea that we know he will love. Considering it will only cost us $10.00, were even considering taking the photo ourselves!

  2. One of the most memorable Christmases I can ever remember is the year my adult daughter, sole support of two children, lost her job. Christmas is a HUGE event for her and she loves showing her love for her family – through gifts – at this time. However, money was nonexistent that year.

    I told her repeatedly that absolutely NO gift was needed from her, and I really, really meant it. But she just couldn’t stomach the idea of giving us nothing. So she used her digital camera to take some really nice pictures of the grandchildren, and had them printed in color, on regular paper, and placed in inexpensive frames. Total expenditure was at most $5.00, and this was the absolute best Christmas present I ever received from her. I still proudly display those photos on my mantle, and probably always will.

  3. My recommendations for x-mas is to tell the family things are tight and recommend such things as only buying a small something for the kids in the family or do homemade items. I bet others will be relieved that they don’t have to continue gift giving in hard economic times.
    Years ago my sister gave out a tin of some homemade sweet tea that we loved. This is the only gift I can really remember getting that yr. It was the best. Don’t feel bad about these homemade items. Some of us love them.

  4. Hi Frugal Dad,

    Another quick idea for the upcoming Christmas holidays – buy a family gift instead of individual gifts. I have done this many times and people really enjoy it. I live in Seattle and for years, I bought family members annual passes to the zoo, science museum, or the water park. When my son was small, an annual zoo pass was about $35. I would also recommend board games or some sort of basket theme for the family, such as movie night or a craft basket. A nice $50 gift for a family of 5 is less expensive than individual gifts – and the family gets to spend time together as well.

  5. @credit card story – along those same lines, it is not only becoming the norm, but is not becoming “OK” or acceptable to walk away from your obligations either by allowing foreclosure or BK. In some places, things have gotten so bad, that people have rationalized these actions by saying “no one will care it happened to me a few years from now because it is very easily explained” – very scary.

    @blogging resources – is also another great resource. His archives are amazing.

  6. Dear Frugal Dad

    I just found your blog and I am enjoying catching up on all your posts. I was wondering if you might have a suggestion for a website that tracks CD rates. My Mother is a widow who is watching her pennies very carefully now that Dad is gone. She has money that needs to be rolled over and I know that there is a better way than watching the paper.

    I also wanted to comment on the Christmas holiday post. We have encouraged everyone to stop buying for the adults. We still try to buy for the kids but we are working to make the season less about excess and more about being with family. The one thing that we do do for Grandparents is to donate money to charities that help people become self sufficient. Last year we donated for a “flock of hope.” Our children enjoy telling everyone what we got and explaining the concept.

    Thanks! I look forward to next Sunday!

  7. Hey, great advice there. The main reason why I’m writing is to tell you that emboldening AND italicizing those questions, how you did, is hurting my eyes. The leading on the questions is pretty wide, so having it so blocky AND at an angle is causing major visual fatigue. Thanks.

  8. @SJ: You know, I don’t care much for the formatting either, now that I look at it. I think next week I’ll try something different. Thanks for commenting and making me take a second look.

  9. My family knows I have a $10 per person limit – and I have a huge family. The shipping has gotten so expensive on gifts, that the kids far away get checks. Sometimes I go for a family gift of special books or a game.

    Photos/scrapbook pages/baked goods/a freezer meal all go over good in my family. This past year was particularly tough due to the cost of repairs on my house… My adult kids were delighted with huge plates of cookies and cookie bars, family favs, with the recipes for the traditional ones. Plus I started parting with some of my antique books that the kids had been interested in.

    My mom, who lives 3000 miles away, gets a series of continuing scrapbook pages of her great-grandkids, who all live here near me. She says having the photos and journaling is worth more to her than any other gift would be, as she says this way she can share in their lives. I scrapbook very economically – no fancy frills. Because the dates are spread out fairly evenly throughout the year, she receives an ‘update’ for Christmas, her birthday, Mother’s Day, and her anniversary…. she doesn’t want anything else from me and eagerly awaits her next ‘issue’ which she places in 3 ring binders at her house. Each ‘issue’ covers about 3 months in the lives of my kids, grandkids, and myself.

  10. WOW! My question got such good feedback from you and all your readers! I am so very thankful for all the advice, ideas, and understanding pertaining to a frugal Christmas. I’m going to take some of the ideas and probably do homemade family gift baskets with homemade jam and other goodies. (We just started canning this weekend for the first time and I’m really excited to perfect things over the next few months!)

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question!

  11. We celebrate the Hari Raya Puasa or the end of Ramadhan the fasting month.Its about 2 and a half months away.

    I have just asked my wife about our budget for HRP. Married working couples or working singles are expected to give gifts to all, mostly in terms of cash…small amounts though.

    This is the first year we are doing a budget for this, should be interesting. Still the suggestions given for X’mas presents can be applied.

  12. Janelle, check for cd rates, or mma accounts and so on. It’s how I found my mma a couple of years ago, possibly a cd too.

    On the Christmas question, I don’t exchange presents with my siblings anymore, on birthdays either. I told my husband this year that the only mother’s day gifts I wanted were the ones my kids made, so he wouldn’t feel like he had to buy me something on their behalf. My motive is selfish too though: I didn’t want to buy him a father’s day gift! I just get tired of all the commercialism involved, and he’s a hard person to shop for. On my husband’s side at Christmas, we draw names for the adults and put a dollar limit. Usually it’s $50, but this last time one of the family members didn’t have the finances, so we lowered it to $40. The kids get something from everyone. How much to spend on them? We limit it to $25/kid. However, if you get things on sale now, you can get some toys inexpensively, but the value is still good. With Christmas dinner, we do a potluck, so no one has the burden of cooking and paying for everything. Hope that helps.

  13. Questions for Sunday conversation. Where do you get the pictures you use on your blog? I’m working my way up to starting one of my own, but I know stock photos are expensive.

    My other question is this, have you addressed or discussed separate spousal accounts? We do that, and we have a joint account to pay for household stuff. We each get an allowance to spend as we please. Just curious about what you and your readers might think of this.