'Presenting' Your New Beau & Cash Under The Tree

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DEAR CAT: I’ve been dating a guy for about six weeks, which means about two months by Christmas. There is a gift I want to give him, something I know he really wants, but we’re not “serious” yet and I don’t want to scare him off. I don’t know if he’s planning to give me a gift. If I knew that it would help me decide. Would you give a big gift to a guy you’ve only been dating a little while? — NEW GIRLFRIEND

DEAR N.G.: I don’t advise giving a big gift in a new, casual (so far) relationship. It’s somewhat inappropriate because unless he gives you something equally “big,” he might feel awkward (or pressured) accepting your gift. There’s no good way to find out if he’s giving you a gift, and it’s too pushy to ask. Just play it safe and get him something small, maybe even funny. Cat’s Call: If all goes well, you’ll have plenty of time to shower him with big gifts down the road.

DEAR CAT: My wife and I are considering giving fairly large cash gifts (4 figures) to needy family members for Christmas but we’re concerned about problems it might create. Will they now rely on us like a bank when they’re in trouble? Will they be insulted by perceived “pity” or “charity?” Will our gifts be viewed as showing off? We are not rich, but we do well, and we would just like to help out family members that we know could use extra cash to pay the bills. They’ve never asked us for a penny. There have been subtle clues from other family members that we’ve interpreted as resentment because we are financially comfortable. We don’t want to create or feel resentment, feel “guilty” for having money, or feel pressured to share what we’ve earned. We love our families and spending time with them are some of the most precious times of our lives. We’ve always heard that money and family don’t mix, and would be devastated if this would turn into a family rift. What are your thoughts? —SKITTISH SANTA

DEAR SANTA: If you suspect Aunt Jenny is already resentful of your wealth, just wait until she opens her present to find sock slippers and Cousin Bob gets two grand in cash! It’s a lovely thought to help family members at Christmas – wads of money are always a hit. If you’re set on giving it, do so privately and quietly. With so many looming doubts about the consequences, consider carefully how generous the gifts should be, and what form they should take. Instead of straight cash, perhaps pay utility bills for the winter months, take care of a car payment or two, help with rent or mortgages, or make investments in their names. If these were big cash gifts to your own kids, that’s a different story. In this case, there’s a chance cash will look like a pity handout. Cat’s Call: If you’re very worried about how a gift will be received, give something else.

  1. Giving cash at Christmas is never a good idea unless it’s to your kids. Giving it to someone else looks bad. It does not matter if the couple is doing ok and the other ‘needy’ family members are suffering through this economy. The whole family would be talking about the big cash gift for years to come.

    — T.H. (Pgh PA)    12/23/2008    Reply

  2. I hate buying gifts for people when you don’t even know if you can call them your GF or BF yet. There’s so much pressure. Cat you’re on the mark with just giving something funny because then it doesn’t look like you’re trying to hard.

    — anonymous (Orlando, FL)    12/23/2008    Reply

  3. Two thoughts: never give a new significant other a big present because you will scare them off. Second: giving cash is not classy. Yeah we can all use it but it’s just not classy as an xmas present.

    — cellie, dallas tx    12/23/2008    Reply

  4. I agree with the last commenter about giving cash for xmas. About the other question, if I got a big gift from a girl I’m not serious with I would think she sees me as her boyfriend. That happened to me one time and I didn’t know what to do. A guy only does that when he’s really into the woman but women do it all the time.

    — joe erie,penn    12/23/2008    Reply

  5. Dear Cat – Regarding today’s column I had the same situation. I solved it by purchasing a Christmas stocking and filling it with fun things that I knew the man would like. This went over beautifully as he never expected to receive something like this. Some time after this I did the same thing for another recipient, only this was an Easter basket filled with candy. Again the man was very surprised, not having received an Easter basket for thirty-some years. You simply can’t go wrong, and the happy look on their faces is worth all the time and effort it took to put these things together.

    — Carol    12/23/2008    Reply

  6. We have a family member who is, by their own design, in an unfortunate situation. People use the excuse of, “We are giving them money so the kids don’t suffer.” Well, these people are not grateful and their hand is always out. The family has extended one more financial gift and it is the last. Everyone works hard for their money and a couple of people have limited incomes. The gift recipients seem to have no concept or idea of what it takes to be responsible. Even though the thoughts are good ones and it is wonderful to help others in need, giving a large financial gift may leave you open to greater and more frequent expectations. If you do wish to help, I would suggest gift cards to the grocery store or other stores so they can get what they need.

    — anonymous    12/23/2008    Reply

  7. I agree that if you are going to give a large amount of money for christmas to family members who need it, you should do it in private. Perhaps ask them what they need help with, a bill, car payment or food. Sometimes when people get cash in their hand they don’t always spend it on what they need but instead, on what they want and then they are still in the same boat as before.

    — Mindi    12/23/2008    Reply

  8. Holidays probably ruin more dating than anything else. You have all this pressure to give gifts but you never know if they’re giving you a gift, then you feel like you’ll overdo it (or worse underdo it). If you’re comfortable with the person you should give whatever gift you want, as long as you don’t expect anything in return.

    — Z4 (pgh, pa)    12/23/2008    Reply

  9. If the intent for giving a cash gift is purely to help out the recipient the best way to do it is to talk to them, not just give cash. Tell them that right now you are in a good place and feel that helping family is the right thing to do. Then ask them if they need some help and how you can help them. Preface it with a statement to the effect that with the economy hurting that you felt you should help people. Let them know that you want to give to a charity, but as the old saying goes charity begins at home. Let them know a top amount you can help them with and here is an important part – you will be donating to an outside charity (whether you do or not is up to you) in both your name and theirs. You will be surprised that most will be willing to take just enough to catch up on some bills or get something special for the kids, spouse, etc. Then they can assume that the rest of the money has gone to others who are in need through these charities. It is fair to let them know that you will be asking the same of other family members, with the same limits, but that you would like to keep it quiet, but not necessarily a secret (cause that does breed resentment if someone not offered finds out). Make sure they know it was all going to a charity, but you love your family and want to help anyone in it who needs help.

    — Matt in Fla    12/23/2008    Reply

  10. Good call on the girl not giving extravagant gifts to the new boyfriend. Over the years I’ve bought expensive gifts for boyfriends (DVD players, iPods, etc) and they’re all now enjoying them with other girlfriends. My advice: save the expensive gifts until you know YOU’RE going to be there to enjoy them

    — Meredith in L.A.    12/23/2008    Reply

  11. Hey Cat, how about combining the two questions into one ‘call’: don’t give cash or big gifts to anyone except your spouse, charity, your kids or closest friend but nobody else. Then there’s no unfulfilled expectations or resentments and people can just enjoy each other’s company.

    — DPLee (nyc)    12/23/2008    Reply

  12. I’m conflicted about the advice for the person who would like to give cash gifts to certain family members. I totally agree that it should be done very quietly, explaining that you feel very fortunate and blessed and it’s important to share this bounty with those you love. But I don’t think I agree about paying a bill for them. That implies that you don’t think they would use cash wisely. Plus it definitely comes across as charity. It might be best, if paying a bill would help, to do it anonymously. The writer doesn’t say if this would apply to all family members. I think that’s also a sticky situation if only certain family members would be receiving this generosity. I’m a big believer in being fair with gifts. If this largesse wouldn’t be given equally to family members, perhaps it should not be given as a Christmas gift, but as an “I love you” gift separate from the holidays. And, as you say, quietly and privately.

    — Mickie (KS)    12/23/2008    Reply

  13. My call is: Don’t ever give a big expensive gift to someone you’re just dating. Let’s say you give him a great gift and he gives you nothing because you’re not his girlfriend. Maybe he takes you to dinner which takes no thought at all (yes it’s a nice gesture but not like a thoughtful gift). What if he’s dating someone else at the same time and you don’t know it? He’s “allowed” to do that because you’re not exclusive, so he gets to enjoy your big gift when you might not ever hear from him again! This happens with men and women but it makes women look worse. A guy who did this would look romantic.

    — pittsburgh guy    12/23/2008    Reply

  14. Cash for Christmas is nice…if you’re getting $25. I suggest gift cards. You could get a couple hundred dollars worth of grocery gift cards or gas gift cards. I think that its very helpful of skittish santa, but you dont want to do it the wrong way. At one time, my family needed help and a family member went to a grocery store and bought us tons of canned foods and snacks. It really helped my mom out. Good luck and Merry Christmas!

    — Pgh    12/23/2008    Reply

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