Author Topic: Cheap or frugal? Gift for major milestone birthday... :-(  (Read 1752 times)

Kepler

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Cheap or frugal? Gift for major milestone birthday... :-(
« on: June 22, 2015, 05:00:12 AM »
So my mother-in-law's 70th birthday is coming up, and my husband's sibling and his wife want us to pool resources to get a "big" gift to celebrate the milestone.  I gather that part of the motive is that BIL feels guilty for having moved out of the country (we have as well, but don't feel the same way about that decision), and in part because BIL feels like he has skipped gifts for a number of previous birthdays, and wants to "make up" for it. 

We've been ambivalent about this, for several reasons.  They make more than we do - not sure how much, but from various comments they've made it would be at least half again as much as we make.  They also spend extravagantly by our standards.  For all we know they could have a very high savings rate in spite of the spending - no idea, and none of our business.  But their taste in gifts is much more extravagant than ours.

Their notions of /what/ to give are also motivated by a strange patronising attitude toward my MIL (and FIL, but we're not talking about his birthday yet...).  They don't really seem to acknowledge what the in-laws do as being real "work", and so they tend to intervene to try to keep the in-laws "busy" at things they think the in-laws should be doing.  Since both the in-laws are in fact quite busy, this can create some real inconvenience, as they end up having to reschedule things they had planned, in order to dutifully do the things arranged by BIL and wife.

In reality, we should have declined to do a joint gift immediately...  Instead, we've spent the last several months gradually talking BIL out of gifts that we feel would be most inconsiderate, toward things that MIL has some chance of liking.  (These are idiosyncratic: many of the things they wanted to do would have been /great/ gifts for the right kind of person - they wanted initially, for example, to arrange a vast surprise party with all of MILs friends - except that MIL dislikes surprise parties and is friends with a lot of people who don't get along with one another, so just... not a good idea... and also sort of weird to try to do, since neither of the children could actually go to the country to organise the party, and so it would have required imposing on various local friends to get it done...  They went from this to various sorts of cruises and other things - again, all might have been lovely for /someone/, but MIL wouldn't like these things and, in any event, runs a small business that she enjoys and finds a major creative outlet, and is involved in some very time-consuming volunteer work as well - she simply can't leave those responsibilities randomly, on someone else's schedule...)

So there's been this long negotiation.  And on a recent visit we thought we had resolved it by agreeing to pool resources to get MIL something she'd actually like - tickets to a sporting event for her and a friend (FIL hates sports, so MIL almost never goes to live games, and would enjoy it).  I swallowed a couple times at the cost of tickets - for comparison, our birthday gift to FIL consisting of having our kids make a cake for him, which they then delivered virtually on Skype, plus a captioned photo book from his first trip here to spend time with his grandkids...  It cost very little, but took time and thought, and was really well received...  But still, the tickets seemed the best option, and so we agreed.

Now we have a message from BIL.  In addition to tickets, he's expanded it to include a place to stay over, meals at specific places, events at specific places, and some sporting memorabilia - basically something much less flexible and structured, which again could well create problems for MIL's existing business responsibilities.  But the cost has also grown out to $1500... 

Now, this is a low-income year for us: I'm on maternity leave and, while various return to work bonuses will retroactively top up my wage once I'm back at work, only some of the leave is paid at the time it takes place.  We had set a goal of not eating into our savings during the low-income months.  But the reality is, we have savings, and can "afford" this in that sense.  I'm just appalled at the amount - it's more than the entire amount I had notionally set aside for gifts for everyone, for the entire year.  And both of us are upset at the gift itself - we had thought the agreement was to ask MIL to choose a game at her convenience, and we would then pay for her to attend, so she had some control over the timing and the nature of the outing.

On one level, the amount I had notionally pencilled in for gifts is completely random, and the notion that we have "low income months" this year is really a fiction, because I'll receive back pay for those months once I'm back at work.  So essentially this is a situation where I don't /want/ to spend that much money, rather than a situation where I /can't/ spend that much money.  MIL has been very generous to us, and she's a delightful person, so she certainly deserves a considerate gift.  I just don't equate consideration with cash value...  But I'm wondering if this is a situation where I'm being cheap, rather than frugal.  If we could talk BIL into making this a /nicer/ gift by giving MIL more control over when all this takes place, should we just take a deep breath and not contest the cost?  (I'm also a bit worried that spending a lot will result in MIL just gifting everyone back out a high amount to cover the costs - she's done that sort of thing before...  Which makes it all seem even more inconsiderate... But maybe I'm just rationalising my allergy to spending...)

MrsPfennig

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Re: Cheap or frugal? Gift for major milestone birthday... :-(
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2015, 05:21:12 AM »
Tell him it is not in your budget. I too was on maternity leave in the last year and gifts have been reduced. Everyone understands and we dont plan to increase it again.

MsPeacock

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Re: Cheap or frugal? Gift for major milestone birthday... :-(
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2015, 06:00:47 AM »
Just say you had budgeted X because of the discussion of tickets only, and you can't do more than that.

My family never has done these sorts of gifts - but there have been several threads about extravagant gifts for birthdays, weddings, etc. Mind blowing to me to spend $1000+ or whatever on some sort of gift. It creates such pressure on the recipient and on later gift giving.

Rural

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Re: Cheap or frugal? Gift for major milestone birthday... :-(
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2015, 06:33:36 AM »
"No" is a complete sentence, but feel free to explain (again) how much she'll hate it if you want to. The fact that the structured thing she can't do includes a small kernel of something she would like in the sporting events will only make it worse. Why give a gift that will actively make someone unhappy, even if it were free?

Kepler

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Re: Cheap or frugal? Gift for major milestone birthday... :-(
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2015, 06:56:48 AM »
"No" is a complete sentence, but feel free to explain (again) how much she'll hate it if you want to. The fact that the structured thing she can't do includes a small kernel of something she would like in the sporting events will only make it worse. Why give a gift that will actively make someone unhappy, even if it were free?

Yeah this is how I feel as well :-(  It seems like such an awful thing to do, and we just don't want to be associated with it...  Maybe the high cost is a benefit, as it gives an easy way to back out...  Although then they might offer to cover a higher proportion of the cost for the inappropriate gift...  I think we're just going to have to back out of the very idea of doing any joint gift, not even citing financial reasons - it's just easy for me to say, as it's not my immediate family, so my husband has to have the awkward conversation...