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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The gift of obligation

First, we'll address the elephant in the room.

Hello, Elephant. Thanks for joining us. On a weekday. And I'm blogging. I realize that's odd. In fact, it hasn't happened since September. Once every six months isn't bad, right? But I'm glad you were able to join us for this special occasion.

Ok, can we move on now? I'd like to have a discussion.

My question is one of gracious gift receiving and obligation.

My birthday is at a time in the semi-future and a family member has sent me a cash gift. This isn't a family member I'm particularly close to in terms of relationship, though the branches on the family tree would indicate otherwise. (I suppose that applies to most of my family.) I say this mainly to indicate that this person is old-school and doesn't send the gift so much because they adore me but because in their day and age (they're older), their social norm dictates that this is the proper amount to send for a gift for me on this occasion. Not to say that I'm not thankful to receive the gift because he isn't required to give me anything and many don't.

His expectation is that I use the gift to buy a fancy dinner for me and my husband (the gift giver emphasizes fancy). It's not a big enough amount to do that - but it is enough that I could spend an afternoon lost in a used bookstore or shopping for myself or doing something else I would rarely do but really enjoy.

So the options are:
  1. Go somewhere "eh" for a meal with my husband that the gift will pay in full.
  2. Put the gift towards a fancy dinner, make up the difference ourselves (we can afford this, it wouldn't be a burden).
  3. Spend the gift entirely on me in some indulgent way that would bring me great joy. 
Which would you choose? I just thought it might be interesting to hear how some of you might handle it. Truthfully, I can say "thank you" and he'll never know the difference. But I'm curious how you feel about gifts like this.

I know as a gift-giver, I may have an idea in mind of how someone would use a gift when I give them cash and I might make a suggestion ("I thought you might want to buy some more craft supplies but know you like a couple of local shops" or "Maybe you'd like to buy a new game for Collin."). But ultimately, it's up to them to decide how they want to spend a cash gift. If I feel so strongly about them spending it somewhere specific, I make sure I buy a gift card to a specific merchant. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Let's chat in the comments!


Melinda Stacer said...

It is likely that the giver was more making a suggestion than telling you how to spend what is now your money. Spend it however you would like. It's yours now after all. A simple thank you without explaining in detail how the money was spent would work if you decide to run wild at the book store. I totally think you should run wild at the book store!

TMC said...

I agree with Melinda. Just say thank you and use it how you like. Since you aren't particularly close to the giver, they probably wouldn't know that you can afford a fancy dinner whenever your like or on the flip side, maybe desperately need the money to keep the gas turned on. I think in most cases (reasonable people) want their gifts to be used in the best possible way, even if that means it's used in a way they didn't intend. Knowing your TBR situation, though, I'd steer you clear of the bookstore and shove you towards the massage place or suggest you put the cash in a safe place and spend it at the farmer's market when it opens for the season.

TBR/Committed Thoughts said...

Definitely use the money in a way that will bring you great joy. If you send the thank you note BEFORE you spend the gift, you won't have to mention how you used it. :)

Rose LeMort said...

I would say thank you and use it in the way that would make you the happiest.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I definitely agree with you about how to do the giving. Either no strings attached, or if you have an investment in how the money is used, buy the gift card. I think it's possible your giver was not so attached as he seemed, just that going out for a fancy dinner is his idea of giving yourself a treat. But you know him better than we do. And yes, since you can get away with saying a nice thank you and choosing your own way to use it, do that. If the person was close enough geographically, or in whatever way, to know, I'd probably supplement the cash and go out for a fancy dinner.

Victoria Zigler said...

I think the meal thing is probably a suggestion based on what he thinks would be a great way to celebrate your birthday. If you were given the money for something spacific at a random point during the year, then you should spend it on that thing. But, as it's birthday money, I think it should be used on whatever makes you happy. I know if I'd sent it to you, then I'd want you to do whatever makes your birthday most special to you. I admit I'd feel much warmer and fuzzier inside if the thing I suggested was also the thing that you decided to do, but I'd still have warm and fuzzy feelings knowing I had a hand in making your birthday special, regardless of how you spent the money. If it was essential that you spent the money in a certain place, he should have given you a gift certificate for that place. Since he didn't, I think you're free to spend it how and where you like.

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Samantha Ford said...

If it were me, I'd probably go out to dinner to a place that we enjoy and pay for it ourselves. Then after dinner spend the money at a bookstore. Don't ask me how that solves the problem. It would just be fun.

vivinfrance said...

Books, books and more books!

John said...

I'm of the opinion that a gift-giver wants to give joy, no matter what . . . so, do what will bring you the greatest amount of happiness. Don't do en Eh dinner -- that's the worst of the options, always.