The Gift Conundrum

The gift conundrum, it happens every year at least a dozen of times. Both for gifts received and gift to be given. Here is what we do, let us know how your system works!

The Gift Conundrum

Mr. CF celebrated his birthday last week, well not really “celebrated”, but it was my birthday. I received a couple of gifts too, one was in the form of beer the other in the form of cash. A liquid gift is always nice and I have no issues with those. It’s a consumable, does not take up much space and it’s hard to go wrong.

The cash gift this year came from my parents and my grandma. Grandma is not that mobile anymore, so I’ve been getting cash for decades now. It’s always welcome and I usually buy something useful with it. Next, I go and visit grandma and show her what I’ve gotten for the money. She’s always happy with the visit and It’s fun for us to visit her too, double win here!

My mom also called to ask if there was anything I wanted, the answer was “nothing really, well maybe….”. Actually I’m in need of some new cycling gear (helmet and shorts, the current ones are too old/worn). But considering I had not done my research yet on what I want, I just got some cash to go and get what I needed. It’s been going like this for years too. Getting (cash to buy) practical gifts is great actually.

Getting random “stuff” not so much (still have a unopened gift from last year sitting in the garage, no use for it….). If we do celebrate a B-day, we usually ask friends/family to bring themselves, and no gifts. It’s slowly getting better! But some are still stubborn.

The Gift Conundrum - Birthday Gifts for kids
The Gift Conundrum – Birthday Gifts for kids

Savings Rate

On the note of cash gifts, how to deal with this “income”? So far we have left it out of the budget and treated it as a non-cash gift. The reason is that if we would add the cash to the budget, and spend it all, this would draw down the overall savings rate.

On the other hand, if you add the cash to income and would not spend the money but invest. This could artificially increase your savings rate. Again, this is not really an appropriate way to deal with this in our minds.

Funnily enough, in both scenarios the money does aid your path to FIRE. In the first case because you don’t have to spend the money yourself from your income on the gear/materials/products you “need” (“wants” are a different story). This will leave more money for investing, as would the second option to directly invest the money. Either way, it will take a long time before you can buy this sub at $15M.

Gifts to be given

We are trying hard to not give “stuff” unless specifically asked for. We try to give experiences where we can, especially for kids. For them we try to take them on a day of fun to a zoo, play area, museum or other activity. For adult birthdays we usually show up without a gift, or just a bottle of wine or case/six-pack of beer/book. With parents we usually plan an outing, such as a a restaurant visit. Sometimes we do this in combination with an activity such as bowling, cycling, theatre performance, out-door activity or similar.

It really depends on who’s birthday it is, what their attitude is around money and time available. However, we are starting to see that more and more people appreciate you just coming over for the fun, even without bringing gifts. There is still hope 😉


How do you deal with gifts and your savings rate? Do you invest cash gifts? How about gifts you give?

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  1. I’m huge on not giving stuff either, or if it is stuff, it should be consumable. My mom loves to get souvenirs for me when she travels, and I have told her I prefer consumable souvenirs, but she got me a Quebec City tea towel on her recent trip. At least it is useful I suppose 🙂 Cash is always appreciated 🙂 Even for our nephew and niece (5 and 3 years old) we don’t get them stuff, we give them cash for their post-secondary education. We did get them an annual pass for Science World too.

    1. I like the idea of a annual pass for educational or recreational purposes! Got to see if there is an opportunity here for us, thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I wish my two Dutchie friends had more of your mindset, Team CF. Both love their speedy cars (BMWs, Corvettes) and big houses. There’s so many toys (for the kids) you’d think it was Christmas every day. Goes to show our gift giving and consumerism have no bounds. Peace from the US!

    1. Hey Cubert,
      Apparently the Dutch millennial are as bad as their parents (in terms of cars, houses AND gifts). It really makes a difference to what you are exposed to when you are a kid.
      Thanks for the pretty cycling pictures on twitter, glad to see you enjoy the bicycle on the other side of the pond!

  3. Gifts are just exchange of politeness without a real purpose. In my mind you are better of not participating, but it has to come from 2 ways otherwise you look “cheap”.

    About including money gifts in your income. I believe you should include it. It’s money that comes into the household, no matter how it comes in. And it has an effect on your goals. Therefore it should be included. The fact that it has an effect on your savings rate is not important. A company also has to include costs or tax refunds even though it effects their net profit.

    We include every cent that comes in and every cent that goes out. No matter from or to which source. It gives you a clear total picture. And in the long run, everything evens out.

    Just my 2cents. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the honest comment. You are probably right, but we would have to back-track what we got last year(s) and correct. Perhaps a good idea for the budget of 2018. It’s not going to make that much of a difference anyways.

      And, we are already considerd “cheap”, so no issue here 😉

  4. I hate to get gifts I’d personally never buy and it only takes up space in our house. Liquid gift or money is always good indeed. The gifts between the two of us have also changed to experiences and it might be a good one to do that for the little one too.. I’m a bit afraid of those child birthday’s with loads and loads of toys…;-)

  5. I’ve been transitioning from gifts to experiences as well. In the old days I really wanted stuff like DVD’s etc. Now I would rather go for an outing with the family.

  6. It depends a bit to or from whom it is. But we do always give something that the receiver cares about, and I think of more functional gifts in return.

    I don’t get that much, but I also don’t really celebrate my birthday at all. I don’t really care about it anymore for a long time now. Partly because it’s in the midst of december (too busy with other holidays), and partly because I don’t like the hassle. I invite my parents and sisters over for dinner at home, enjoy their company a lot and get a few gifts every year. That’s it.

  7. We eliminated gifts between us. Only with the parents it remains. Frankly, I would rather eliminate those too. Never been a big fan of it. If I want something and it is not too expensive I buy it. If it is too expensive (like the Vespa) I can’t ask it as a gift either because it so expensive. So what remains is getting money. That works for me. But me giving the parents money would feel strange. And they really don’t need more stuff. So for me it is always difficult to find something for them. Last time we took them to a restaurant for my mother’s birthday. And my dad seem to have developed a taste for gin-tonic. So liquid gift it will be!

    1. Funny you mention gifts between the two of us, we stopped that after year one, been together now for 12. Has been cheap birthdays 😉
      As to giving your parents money, yeah, that must feel strange (never tried it).

  8. I got my dad nothing but a card for his birthday. We did go mini golfing. I was going to treat for that but my sister nabbed it. So I treated for dinner. My dad is retired, and doesn’t need work clothes (I used to get him khakis for Father’s day or birthday or Christmas). He is exercising less than last summer, so his work out socks have lasted. I know he pared down his closet in the spring, so I didn’t want to get any clothes. My sister got him a new bird feeder for Father’s day. I was at a loss.
    My mom is trying to pare down so she is difficult to buy for as well. Thank goodness she wanted a vacuum last year so there was a big box under the tree at Christmas.
    I keep suggesting outings to my family, my dad lives in NJ, so a trip to a museum in NYC or Philadelphia would be a great day trip.
    We do Christmas wishlists, and last year I asked for socks. Even with asking for things, people get me other items. My main gift to people last year was ‘fancy’ olive oil & balsamic vinegar pairs, because it is consumable.

  9. My mom gives cash. What I do depends on my current needs and wants. Last year I added to my option account!

    My godchild gets experiences. Like a day to an adventure parc, swim on tropic pool and silver coins to spark an interest in investing.

    We ask experiences for our kids. Low success so far.

  10. Princess Muffins and I give one another the same hundred dollar bill back and forth for birthdays. In general, I don’t want any more stuff. I guess that’s a good problem to have. Everything I need, I buy… and I don’t want stuff I don’t need.

    But then there’s the well-meaning family member who gives “stuff” that just doesn’t work for me, like a kitchen unitasker, or some piece of clothing that doesn’t align with my lifestyle… that’s rough. I’m not very “good” socially, so I’m happy to express myself and my needs, but I understand that this is not socially standard, so I store crap I have no need for or interest in, so that I can always have it on hand in case I’m gift-audited (which has yet to happen).

    1. Agree that the social part is rather difficult. That is why we started to emphasis up front we don’t want stuff, and we do this very vocally (to avoid misunderstandings). Still to come through on the threat that we will give the gift back…..

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