How to deal with other peoples' perceptions of your income level and their expectations? Advice and commiseration welcome - Mothering Forums

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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There is a little bit of this discussion going on in the other thread and I thought it might be good to start a seperate thread so the other thread doesn't get too far off-topic.

 

So I'm relatively new to having a higher household income and I'm learning how to navigate relationships with certain people who have less who feel that we should be able to afford them things.  This issue really hit me this Christmas season, because the list of gift ideas some people sent us were just ridiculous, like a gift card to super-fancy-high-end-handbag store or an iphone.  These lists have changed from the past Christmases, when gift ideas were more reasonable.

 

I have a family member who turned 60 this year and even though it was a milestone birthday and we were willing to spend a little extra, his gift ideas were impossible.  One idea was to send him and his wife on a trip to see the Masters.  So when I can't fulfill any of his wish ideas, how do I not come across as a cheapskate?  Especially when later in the year I might take my own little family on a vacation?

 

How do you not become resentful when people expect these things out of you?

 

And do you ever worry about setting a precedent?  Like every year we take a small trip with my FOO and split the cost of a house rental.  This year, because of various circumstances, we might cover the cost of the whole rental.  Is that a bad idea?  Could it come back to bite us the following years? 

 

Please share any advice or experiences you have :)

 

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:24 PM
 
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I had a long, very bitter post typed out but essentially my advice is put yourself and your family first.  Invest your money, donate to your charities, save for something you want, and don't ever start picking up the checks because everyone will come to expect it.  For heaven sake, do not start making loans. You'll never see it again. 

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:30 PM
 
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Well how do these family members know of your new higher income?  Have you told others? Are they witnessing your fortune or just assuming off the bat that you are more well off?  I don't tell anyone, family included, about my money issues/problems/income, etc.  However, alot of people around me assume we have money because a) we don't  tell them otherwise and b) I do my best to get things I need cheap or give up things I want to afford the more costly things. 

 

I would just get gifts according to how much you want to spend, and do not let others dictate your spending limit, regardless of what is on their list.  You're right though, your family is not entitled to your money and should be grateful if you give them anything at all.


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Old 12-29-2011, 12:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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NiteNicole, I'm really sorry you're going through all that.  This is one of my fears surrounding this issue.  Just because we have this income now, doesn't mean it's a sure thing a 5, 10, 20 years from now.  And I want to be able to retire some day, ya know? 

 

I'm just waiting for the day that MIL is no longer able to leach of her parents and the family will expect us to take care of her.  It's already happening.  We haven't spent anything on her, but people are talking and looking toward us.  There is just no way we could support another adult.  And MIL is not just someone who needs help, she is truly a parasite. 

 

People don't know our income, they assume.  That's why I used the word perception in the title of the thread.  We are not flashy people.  They make this assumption based on the industry DH works in and the fact that we are paying a mortgage and we are just able to do more things.  I'm paraphrasing my comment in the other thread, "it doesn't matter how much more, it's just that more is more" and that's all they see.  Seriously, we have been asked, "So how life over there, making your millions?"  All we could do is laugh, it's so NOT true.  Even if they were exaggerating, that question is very telling of their perception.

 

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Old 12-29-2011, 01:03 PM
 
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Maybe the birthday gift was to be a combined gift from the whole extended family.

 

 

We often do family vacations where not everyone contributes.  We are just happy to be with everyone.


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Old 12-29-2011, 01:08 PM
 
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My only comment is that It's shocking that someone would ASK for an iphone or handbags, or a trip somewhere. That's amazing. I don't have any of those things although I suppose if our priorities went that way I could swing some luxuries. But if I don't splurge on them myself, I am damned sure not going to expect someone else, family or not, to foot the bill for it. And really - purses and iPhones? Wow.

I suppose if they did that I might have gotten them a gift certificate - in an amount you were comfortable giving. One that wouldn't cover a full handbag at all. Like a few bucks to contribute to it - then they can save the rest themselves. Though I'm sure they'd be huffy about that, but who cares?

I think it's tacky to ask for anything specific, but that's just me. If you say "well, we'd be really happy with a gift certiicate for a place to eat" then it's at the giver's discretion to give t1 10 dollar certificate to Starbucks or $200 for a fancy place. Or a housewarming present would be nice - it could be a set of napkin holders or a freestanding fireplace. Or the daughter likes Barbies - you can get the $5 basic Barbie or the $300 uber special Barbie house or whatever. But when you send the model number, color, and financing info... that's just, bleh.

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Old 12-29-2011, 01:22 PM
 
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That is tacky, yeah. We do wishlists with my inlaws (and I'm onboard; I like asking for something I can use rather than getting more Body Shop crap) and the requested items are things like paperback books, CDs - FIL even specifies that used is fine with him (and that's true with me too). An iPhone? OMG. Handbags, I don't have a clue what they cost, but I'm going to  guess they are expensive too.

 

I don't think there is a way to "handle" it - that is, any magic words - just rest assured that you are not obligated to satisfy greedy people. I think most people have a gift limit that works for them - it's $20-25 for us - and you give that. Nobody has any right to dictate their gifts. As I said, I love wishlists because I'd rather gifts be wanted, but if nothing on the wishlist fit my budget, I'd either cut a check and mark it as "toward" something, or I'd just pick another gift altogether (probably a bottle of wine if I wasn't worried about alcohol abuse).

 

As for precedent... hmm. Yeah, I'd be afraid of setting precedent. The only way I'd do it is to announce that it was a "just this year" or "one time offer" kind of thing. But I'd only do that with reasonable family. With greedy people? No, not once.


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Old 12-29-2011, 01:24 PM
 
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Dh's sister once asked that we just give her 200 for her birthday... like I was going to spend that anyway?  My mom asked for a coach purse and she made sure I knew she didn't want a knock off from korea... but they make such nice ones.  I gave her a Dooney and Burke and that wasn't good enough... because who knows what that is?  Everyone knows the status symbol of a coach purse.  Grrrr!  Our families really think we're rolling in the dough.  I tell DH not to say one word about what we buy or where we go.  As it is we can't go on vacation without them complaining we didn't come and visit them.  Not one family member will come here without us paying the bill.  NO JOKE!  "Well I'd visit more, but I can't afford it... maybe you could spring for a ticket?"   We don't buy anyone gifts anymore especially the last three years.  Now that I make more they are asking for gifts again and DH's sister is hinting she wants to visit but she can't afford the ticket... can I find her one... as in can I buy it?!   

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Old 12-29-2011, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by chel View Post

Maybe the birthday gift was to be a combined gift from the whole extended family.

 

 

We often do family vacations where not everyone contributes.  We are just happy to be with everyone.



 

I decided to organize a group gift where anyone can contribute whatever they wanted and it ended up being thousands less than a trip like the one he wanted.  He was still happy with his gift, so that's good.

 

 

 

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Old 12-29-2011, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

Dh's sister once asked that we just give her 200 for her birthday... like I was going to spend that anyway?  My mom asked for a coach purse and she made sure I knew she didn't want a knock off from korea... but they make such nice ones.  I gave her a Dooney and Burke and that wasn't good enough... because who knows what that is?  Everyone knows the status symbol of a coach purse.  Grrrr!  Our families really think we're rolling in the dough.  I tell DH not to say one word about what we buy or where we go.  As it is we can't go on vacation without them complaining we didn't come and visit them.  Not one family member will come here without us paying the bill.  NO JOKE!  "Well I'd visit more, but I can't afford it... maybe you could spring for a ticket?"   We don't buy anyone gifts anymore especially the last three years.  Now that I make more they are asking for gifts again and DH's sister is hinting she wants to visit but she can't afford the ticket... can I find her one... as in can I buy it?!   


Your mom really turned her nose up at a nice purse just because it wasn't Coach?

 

Oh, this reminds me, someone asked for a pair of really nice slippers for Christmas, because the cheaper ones he's been buying haven't lasted very long or there has been this or that problem with them.  So I think, "ok, I can manage that."  I find a pair of UGGS that I think are really nice and they come at around $100.  Christmas morning comes around and he's very happy with his new slippers - hooray!  Well, before he leaves our house, he throws away his old slippers.  They are at the top of the garbage, so I happen to notice the brand.  His old slippers were UGGS!  So I guess I got him "cheaper" slippers.  Oh, well, at least he looked happy.

 

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Old 12-29-2011, 02:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

Everyone knows the status symbol of a coach purse.

lol, you can assure her that not everyone does... I just had to look it up to see what the fuss was about, as I'd never heard of it before. smile.gif

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Old 12-29-2011, 03:54 PM
 
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Yup.  The only reason I know what it is is because my mom got one as a really special gift from her dh.  Personally, I would rather have just about anything else, lol.  Buy me a nice case of canning jars...

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lol, you can assure her that not everyone does... I just had to look it up to see what the fuss was about, as I'd never heard of it before. smile.gif


Anyway, asking for a specific gift, unless you are asked to be that specific is just really tacky.  I would ask my kids for a specific list, but if anyone else gave me one I'd likely get them squat.  Really if they can't handle a nice jar of home made jam or vanilla I probably don't care to associate w/them anyway.

 


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Old 12-29-2011, 04:07 PM
 
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Ugh, I'm totally on the other side of this.  I am a really really really picky person about stuff and have told family over and over and over again that I do not want gifts unless it's something they REALLY want to give me.  My family gets this, but DH's family does not and are constantly asking for Christmas and birthday wish lists, so finally we just gave them the link to our family's Amazon wishlist, which has a lot of stuff we hope to someday save up to buy, including expensive stuff.  So it's not like we ASKED them for those things, but they were on the list.  I really would rather no one give me anything at all BECAUSE I am picky person.

 

And then we are saving up money to take the kids and new baby down to visit my family.  My MIL offered to help with our tickets down there for what I THOUGHT was a Christmas gift, but I guess it wasn't a gift, but rather she felt obligated to help, because later when she found out we were planning to go to Disneyland with my parents she got really upset.  Disneyland was something we were already talking about doing even before she offered.


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Old 12-29-2011, 04:12 PM
 
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If you pay for the vacation house there is a good chance they will come to expect it.  My sister makes a very nice living.  Way more money than my dh and I, but I will be the first one to admit she works way harder at her job than I do at mine.  So through a series of bad decisions, her MIL is pretty hard up since her FIL died.  It was her year to go to my sister's for T-giving.  But, apparently her house is BORING.  She didn't want to stay there she wanted to spend T-giving in Las Vegas.  So my sister, BIL , two teenaged Nieces and MIL got to Vegas all expenses paid by my sister's family (BIL works and makes a nice living but makes about 30% of what sister does).  You know what she did.  She sat in the sports lounge for 4 days and watched TV.  All day, every day.  Sis has 3 good sized TVs at her house which she could have watched for free.  Took her to a great steak house where she ate turkey and complained that my sister didn't.  Wanted to see a show (at their expence) but all the ones less than $200 a ticket were BORING....  My sister packed her ass up and went home.

 

 

And her prized posession? a Dooney and Burke purse ;-).  Although she really likes the socks I knit her for the holidays...

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Old 12-30-2011, 09:15 AM
 
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I'm paraphrasing my comment in the other thread, "it doesn't matter how much more, it's just that more is more" and that's all they see.  Seriously, we have been asked, "So how life over there, making your millions?"  All we could do is laugh, it's so NOT true.  Even if they were exaggerating, that question is very telling of their perception.

 

 

That's pretty much our exact situation. 

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Old 12-30-2011, 10:01 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

 Everyone knows the status symbol of a coach purse.  

We are decidedly middle class here, though maybe a tad on the upper end. My daughter has a coach I found at the thrift store.. I kid you not.. I paid 4$ for what I thought was just a nice leather purse and her friends seem to think its proof we have money.
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Old 12-30-2011, 10:24 AM
 
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I had several coach purses back in the day when I was single, working full time and they were made in the USA. Now, they are made in china and I cannot get past that. Dh now uses my coach

briefcase I used to carry. I had a few Dooney andBourkes when I was a teen. Again full leather purses and made in the USA. I might still have one and its still perfect along with a few coach ones as well. They are all about 20 yrs old and I guess they might come back and then I can be one of those people who suddenly have tons of money! LOL

 

Again, as said on the other thread I think its our business what we do with the money we have. For the OP, I am wondering because your family thinks you have money or are just free loaders?

 

As for the vacation home: if you can afford to rent it yourself do it. But as already said, the expectation will be set even if you just invite your family members to come and visit you.

 

 

 

 


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Old 12-30-2011, 10:29 AM
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The author of Eat, Pray, Love wrote this in Oprah magazine about her new-found wealth:  "Never give people more than they can handle emotionally, or they will be obligated to hate you for it."  So she talked about paying off mortgages for friends who then subconsciously hated her for it, and she lost the friendships.

 

So yeah, be careful.  Your situation is probably on a smaller scale, but I'd still be really careful about doing things like paying for the entire rental.  Can everyone else handle that emotionally? 

 

Even if (and sometimes especially if) they are asking for things, don't give them more than they can handle (or more than you can afford!)


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Old 12-30-2011, 12:03 PM
 
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Well we are lower income but that doesn't mean that there aren't those out there lower than us. Like my sister and more recently my mom. I think sister is the most insane. She actually thinks because we can afford Oil. we should give her money! LOL We kind of need it here in Maine.

My favoritre however is my MIL. FIL just passed away and now MIL is in a pickle financially. Sad thing is she actually makes more than us just makes stupid choices with her money. Like she has her sears card maxed right out. Yeah guess who is paying for her 8 cords of wood this winter. BLAH!


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Old 12-30-2011, 12:47 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

My mom asked for a coach purse and she made sure I knew she didn't want a knock off from korea... but they make such nice ones.  I gave her a Dooney and Burke and that wasn't good enough...



You got a D&B when she asked for a Coach?  I'll be your mom!!!!  :-)


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Old 12-30-2011, 05:07 PM
 
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I'll second all the others that say not to pay for the vacation. It just sets the stage for expectations and hurt feelings later.  If you want to pay for stuff then I'd do paying for a surprise dinner here and there or discreetly paying for a portion of the rental house and saying you got a really good deal on it this year. 

 

 

I do resent expectations and work hard to prevent that. DH has a harder time not saying yes to every little thing. My FIl is an expert at showing up at DH's work the day before a bill is due with a sob story. All it took was that one time where we "loaned" him money and then he started asking more and more. BIl used to do this as well before DH finally realized he was just being used. We do make good money but our family, DH, I and our kids come first. 


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Old 12-30-2011, 11:22 PM
 
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This is why I'm not big on gift exchanges in general.  I'd personally rather spend time with people as "the gift" than give something, or I'd rather be very thoughtful about the gift that I'm giving.  Giving other people lists of stuff to get is weird to me, but we've never done that in my family. 

 

DH makes good money, and while we could afford to give each other and other family members gifts that cost hundreds of dollars, we don't, because we're not materialistic.  And that's precisely what I would tell someone who would have the gall to ask for an expensive gift from me.

 

I refuse to set precedents when it comes to money, because I'm always the one that gets burned.  I've watched it happen to friends/family members as well, and it ends the same way every time.

 

I wouldn't cover the whole cost of the rental home.  Nobody needs to know that you can, and once you do, you'll likely be expected to do it in subsequent years.


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Old 01-01-2012, 06:45 PM
 
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I have come to be a big fan of anonymous giving. You could anonymously send in money to cover the rental or something. Send anonymous gifts when you feel compelled to give something pricey... then no one will have any expectations of you & you will still be able to give/help friends/etc.

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Old 01-01-2012, 07:04 PM
 
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When I was going thru a terrible custody battle a very generous cousin gave me 2,00O for my rent for 4 months, 2500 for a lawyer than 5000 for the lawyer for the appellate court. Without this generosity I would not have my kids today. I have been able to pay all but 2000 of it back-  not a dime was given with a loan agreement or me being asked to pay it back.

I was only told to pay it forward. After paying them back with a settlement I received I have indeed paid it forward. I don't ask for what I have given to be paid back- only that it be paid forward.

I feel that all money I have given is seen by God and will be paid in full in its due time- from many of God's sources.

That's how I see it.

Do onto others.


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Old 01-01-2012, 07:59 PM
 
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That's pretty awesome!

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When I was going thru a terrible custody battle a very generous cousin gave me 2,00O for my rent for 4 months, 2500 for a lawyer than 5000 for the lawyer for the appellate court. Without this generosity I would not have my kids today. I have been able to pay all but 2000 of it back- even tho not a dime was given without a loan agreement or me being asked to pay it back.

I was only told to pay it forward. After paying them back with a settlement I recieved I have indeed paid it forward. I don't ask for what I have given to be paid back- only that it be paid forward.

I feel that all money I have given is seen by God and will be paid in full in its due time- from many of God's sources.

That's how I see it.

Do onto others.



 

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Old 01-01-2012, 08:58 PM
 
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I am starting to have this problem with my mother.  She seems to think I have a very high income (which I don't because I am a grad student with a small stipend, alimony and child support).  She is always complaining about not having enough money.  But they actually have about the same income as I do but do not spend wisely.  I don't even have cable tv (partly to save money although it is also a choice) and I keep my electricity bill and every other bill very low.  But I do have my kids in private school (with financial aid) and carefully save up money to do some things with my kids.  So I must be able to help support them, yes?  Well, actually I live on less than half of the median income in my area and therefore my low rent actually gets me housing that is only kind of acceptable.  My mother decided she wanted to maintain this giant house and keep on buying expensive clothes from catalogs and running up credit card bills, etc. although we buy clothes and household items used from yard sales, etc.  I must make other choices than they do, like saving my money for retirement and so I have an emergency fund and because I actually save money for a house down payment. It is annoying. I know that she is going to cost me lots of money eventually.  Mostly because she does not take care of herself physically or financially.  So everything is a crisis at all times.  I don't ever buy her gifts anymore because nothing would ever be enough.  My sister runs herself ragged taking food to my mother because she is always complaining she doesn't feel well enough to cook but then my mother complains about the food not being good.  You really just cannot make some people happy, so why bother trying or feeling bad about it when you can't?  Take care of yourself and your family, buy normal gifts like a book or something if you want.  Odds are the coach purse you might have picked out wouldn't have been big enough or lavish enough anyway.  No way you are going to please these people.

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Old 01-03-2012, 07:47 AM
 
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I agree with your post. People like that are NEVER going to be pleased. I had a grandmother like that and I learned at an early age, there is no satisfaction, happiness etc, so I would save my time energy and most important money for other things. If I got any flack from anyone like this- I tell them flatout- You were very unhappy with what I gave you last time, or you hate such a horrible time, or you had such unkind things to me, I just figured it would be easier to skip it since we obviously dont bring any happiness to you. Its amazing how much back peddling is done with such replies or trying to turn it around. But I have no time for anyone like this anymore. Besides, if you just drop buying anything, doing any favors etc its amazing how they are not there to ruin events, make you feel bad etc and its much less toxic.

 

 


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Old 01-06-2012, 06:16 PM
 
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It is astonishing to me that adults would not only expect gifts, but specifically ask for expensive items. In my large extended family including my large extended family in-law, we only give gifts to children. And as the children age we tend to buy less expensive rather than more expensive gifts. Usually we spend between $20-25 for each child. I spend more on my own kids. We may give gifts to our adult immediate family, but depending on my mood they might get a homemade baked good (because I am a very excellent baker) or a (hopefully) thoughtful gift usually not exceeding $50 but including an obvious gift receipt in case my thoughts didn't quite meet the mark. 

 

I don't expect my family to buy me gifts, and while most folks buy my sons gifts for Christmas or birthdays, I don't expect them to be expensive and the only guidelines I give may be if I am asked what characters or themes the boys may like at the moment or what size they are wearing.

 

My mom's side of the family are poor immigrants and my dad didn't have much due to the untimely loss of both his parents. My in laws are both poor immigrant families too. I know we were poor when I was little but over time life improved. Everything that any of us have now came from old-fashioned hard work and a belief that America is the land of opportunity for anyone willing to put in the effort.

 

Our household income is in the low-mid six figures and while my immediate family knows exactly how much we earn the extended family infers this based on what I do for a living and where we live. As for lifestyle, we are not flashy. My only personal luxuries are Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags, but that is because I actually feel very self-conscious if I carry even Coach or Kate Spade, or Burberry . (I know, issues, but it is what it is, so those bags just sit in my closet and I use the Kate Spade dust bag to cover my sewing machine and my mom has one of my Coach dust bags with a piece of foam in it as a seat cushion for her sewing chair, LOL, I can't give them away, no one wants them!) My parents make about as much as we do (mom still shops at the second-hand store and pay less shoes), and one cousin makes much more than we do (she dresses super, super casual but loves to travel and eat out), otherwise we out earn the remainder of our family. But never have we ever been asked for or expected to buy expensive gifts for others, we are seldom asked for money, and if we are going to eat and there is a possibility that we may offer to treat, then I am picking the place, otherwise we split the bill. If we are perceived as cheapskates then I am blissfully unaware, and I am perfectly happy not to be put in the position of having to think of others as mooches. My above mentioned cousin likes canning, so she will make homemade jams for gifts, kind of like me and the baking. I would rather have her jam than an expensive gift, because it is delicious, and made with lots of love. 

 

I would find it offensive if my family, who is supposed to love me, just looked at me and saw $$$ (dollar signs) and heard "cha-ching!" My advice is don't spend money you don't want to on people with a misplaced sense of entitlement. Let them work and save for for their luxuries. That is the way it should be.

 

I will say, growing up, that when I saved and saved and saved to buy my first Swatch watch (because my mom would have bought me an A-Watch, by Armitron, according to her $30 was too much to spend on a watch for a child) and Esprit tote bag they were way more prized and meaningful than other expensive (to me at the time) items that may have been received as gifts. I still have that very Swatch in my box of important childhood relics. 

 

 

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Old 01-06-2012, 06:42 PM
 
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EmsMom, your post totally struck a chord with me.  My parents are both really bad spenders -- lots of credit card debt for things like the bowflex they "needed" etc.  My dad actually tried to bill me for what he spent on me raising me as a child (!!!!).  Anyway, my mom is currently going through bankruptcy, losing "her" house (I put it in quotes because she never really owned it... it always belonged to the bank, you know?), and continuing to spend spend spend.  The thing is, she wants my brother and I to bail her out.  If I thought she had learned anything from the past, I might even be tempted, but the way she told me she was walking away from the house was, "You know Anka, I just want my freedom.  I don't want to be stuck with a mortgage payment.  I want to go to Australia for vacation.  I want to see the Grand Canyon.  Heck, maybe even Bali."  Meanwhile, I line dry my clothes to save an extra $10/month to put to my student loans, etc.  It's just really offensive.

 

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Old 01-07-2012, 12:01 PM
 
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VERY OFFENSIVE!  That kind of stuff really gets me.  My dad wanted to borrow money to fix his A/C... My A/C died this summer and I bought two window units just to keep it below 80 in my house so we could sleep.  Yet he just emptied his 401k for gambling.  He should never tell my brother anything!  My brother called me as soon as dad told him he would be calling to see if he could borrow the money.  HA!  Gotta love the sibling that cares!
 

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Originally Posted by AnkaJones View Post

EmsMom, your post totally struck a chord with me.  My parents are both really bad spenders -- lots of credit card debt for things like the bowflex they "needed" etc.  My dad actually tried to bill me for what he spent on me raising me as a child (!!!!).  Anyway, my mom is currently going through bankruptcy, losing "her" house (I put it in quotes because she never really owned it... it always belonged to the bank, you know?), and continuing to spend spend spend.  The thing is, she wants my brother and I to bail her out.  If I thought she had learned anything from the past, I might even be tempted, but the way she told me she was walking away from the house was, "You know Anka, I just want my freedom.  I don't want to be stuck with a mortgage payment.  I want to go to Australia for vacation.  I want to see the Grand Canyon.  Heck, maybe even Bali."  Meanwhile, I line dry my clothes to save an extra $10/month to put to my student loans, etc.  It's just really offensive.

 

Anka



 

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