If you are like most families, your kids have enough stuff. As members of the FI community, you likely would prefer to have a longer-lasting gift, such as a contribution to your child's 529, or money towards extracurricular activities.
Asking for money can be uncomfortable, no doubt. It's about setting the stage, let the gift-giver know the reasoning behind the request and what the money will be used for. There are even a few apps that will allow direct contributions into a 529. Giving you an easy way to communicate your request.
What’s So Great About Getting Money?
There are lots of opinions about the good and bad of giving money as a gift–or, gasp, asking for money as a gift. And when done incorrectly, yes, it can come off as rude and selfish.
However, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider foregoing traditional gifts and asking for money instead.
Your Kid Probably Has Enough Toys
Back in the 1800s, kids had like, two toys each. Toys were special. They were cherished and taken care of. Things are so much different today. Most kids have more toys than they could play with in a month. Kids’ rooms and playrooms are a sea of toys that rivals small toy stores.
Life Is About Experiences
After your kid or kids are grown, they might remember one or two favorite toys. But I promise you they’ll remember experiences. Vacations.
Special toys that took months or years to save for like a swing set, above ground pool or trampoline. Special trips or dates with parents or grandparents. Those sports lessons you worked so hard to provide.
These are the things kids will remember when they’re grown. Most of their toys will be long forgotten.
College (And Other Stuff For Kids) Is Expensive
One more note: the stuff you’d use your kids’ gifted money for is expensive. College is expensive. Cars are expensive. Accruing retirement and other savings is a daunting task.
I can just about guarantee your kid will be abundantly grateful you asked for money for gifts for them when you hand them a check that will help pay off a big chunk of their student loans. Or pay for their first car. They'll be thrilled if you hand them a statement on their 25th birthday showing their 5-digit retirement or non-retirement stock balance.
Most of their toys, however, will be long gone. Given to others or dropped off at the local thrift shop. Or worse, taken to the local landfill.
Monetary gifts can be used to create lifelong memories and experiences that will shape your children for the long term. Bonus: Having people gift your kids gifts of money can be a great way to teach your kid about handling money.
So, what are the etiquette guidelines about asking for money as a gift?
How To Ask for Money For Gifts For Your Kids
When done incorrectly, asking for money can definitely come off as rude. However, there is a gentler way to ask for money for your kids’ gifts.
Explain The Reason Behind The Request
It can be helpful to explain the reason behind the request for money instead of toys or clothes. You can do this through gentle conversation or with poems included in the invitation.
Here’s an example:
I’m already blessed with so much stuff
Toys and trucks for playing rough
Friends who spend time playing with me
And an awesome, loving family
So if you come to celebrate
My birthday Thursday night at eight
No gift is needed – I just want to see you
Share a meal and a laugh or two
But if you’re set on giving a gift
I’d be grateful if you give my college fund a lift
College is spendy, but I’d like to pay cash
And toss all those student loan offers in the trash
This adorable little poem invitation gets the message across in a cute and endearing manner.
Another option would be to create a poster board or picture with the child’s dream purchase. You could have a picture of your daughter standing in front of the local ballet studio. Or a picture of your son in front of a picture of his favorite baseball stadium.
The point? You’re asking for dreams, not for money. You’re asking for experiences, not for money. And you’re asking for things that might otherwise be out of reach for your children.
If you can get family members to see your request as such, you’ll likely get a more positive response.
Make Giving Money Fun
Another way to tactfully encourage your family members to give money is to make it fun for them to give money.
There are a few ways you can do this. Here are some examples.
When you use money for sports or other lessons, invite your family members to recitals or games. Let them see the joy your child gets from the activity and know the part they played in helping create that joy.
After your child’s savings accomplishes their dream, send family members a video or some pictures. Let them see your child embracing and enjoying the dream their monetary gift helped achieve. For example, send family members pictures of your child at their dream vacation spot or holding their new puppy.
Ask For Cash Substitutes
Another option is to ask for cash substitutes. Depending on what your savings goals are for your child, you can make suggestions for specific donations that aren’t cash. Here are some ideas.
Donations To A 529 Or Other College Plan
You could give gift-givers instructions on how to donate directly to your child’s college savings plan. Include a cute little note or poem like the one above, sharing how thankful your child is for help with college expenses. Tell the gift giver how helpful this will be in the future.
Another idea could be to request gift cards designed specifically for a 529 plan or other college expenses. The GiftofCollege.com website has gift cards that gift-givers can purchase to give to college-bound recipients.
Your child can use the gift card to save for college or even to pay off existing student loans. Bonus: The gift cards you get through GiftofCollege.com never expire.
Ugift is another option. This site lets family members donate directly to a person’s 529 college plan when the plan is administered by Ascensus. Ascensus holds 529 plans from a variety of plan managers, such as Schwab, Ameritrade, Wealthfront and more.
You will receive a link that you can share digitally that will allow gift-givers to make contributions directly into your child's 529 account. You will also receive a code that you can print on invitations.
Ask For Other Types Of Gift Cards
You can ask gift-givers for other types of gift cards too. There are VISA and Mastercard gift cards. You can ask for gift cards to a store that gives lessons to an activity or sells a high-priced item your child wants.
For instance, let’s say your child wants to play the violin. You can ask for gift cards to the local music store that sells violins. Simply base your gift card suggestions on which stores can help you accomplish the goals and dreams your child has.
Who Is It Okay To Ask For Money?
Most etiquette experts will tell you it’s never okay to ask for money as a gift. However, I’m convinced you can do so tactfully.
You Can Ask Anyone–If You Do It Tactfully
Using the tips we shared above in the “How to Ask for Money” section works wonders for asking both family members and friends.
Some suggest not asking at all unless you’re asked by the gift-giver for gift ideas for the recipient. This can be a great tactic as well.
Remember to explain that your child has plenty of toys already. Tell the gift giver that you’re really hoping to be able to provide something more impactful for your child.
Explain that you’d like to be able to pay for extracurricular activities, a dream vacation, or even necessities like new shoes if that’s the case. Most people will be able to identify with the problem of more than enough toys.
And most gift-givers will see your heart when you explain how you’d like to be able to provide lessons or a vacation for your child.
Be sure to give the gift giver an “out” too. End your request with a statement such as, “If you’re not comfortable giving cash, I totally understand.”
How To Tell Your Kids About The Plan
One last concern about giving your kids gifts of money might be their reaction to it. Is there a chance they’ll be disappointed with your plan?
Our best advice? Promote the idea in a positive way. Help them see “big picture.” Talk about the lessons they’ll be able to take, the vacation they’ll be able to go on, etc.
Help them create goal jars or poster boards and encourage them to keep track of their progress. In short, help them envision the end goal they’ll be able to achieve with their monetary gifts.
Asking family to give gifts of money for your kids can be intimidating. However, with a little forethought, it can be an avenue to a richer, more fulfilling gift getting (and giving) experience.
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