Mother’s Little Helper

If you didn’t know already, this weekend is Mother’s Day. Typically the busiest day of the year for restaurants and a busy one for florists as well. What?  You forgot? Now’s the time to make that brunch reservation and order some posies for Mom.  Unless you get mom a different gift, in addition to brunch and flowers, of course.

Sometimes it’s easy to go overboard on gift buying, whether it’s Mother’s Day, birthdays, Christmas or some other important day. We tend to equate the cost of a gift with the love and feeling that went into it, and that’s not always the best gauge.

While doing budget interviews with clients, once we bring up gifting, that can blow a balanced budget right out of the water. It goes like this:

Counselor: So what about gift buying? Christmas, birthdays, that sort of thing?”

Client: “Oh. Well. That’s hard to say.”

Then begins the calculating.  How much for Christmas?  $300. Is that per kid or in total?  Per kid.  How many kids? Three.  Okay there’s $900.  Now birthdays.  $200.  Per kid. Another $600.  So now up to $1500 for the year.  Other gifts?  Parents, grandparents, siblings, secret Santa, nieces, nephews, etc.  Maybe another $300 in total.  Now we’re at $1800 for the year. That’s $150 a month in gift buying.  Oh yes, and we haven’t added in Mother’s Day yet.  Brunch out at $15.00 per person and $50 for flowers.

It all adds up.

There are a couple of different ways to handle this.  One is to do some set aside savings.  Take that $150 each month and put it in your savings account or in an envelope and then that’s your gift buying money.  A similar process would be to buy throughout the year.  If we spread out the expense that way it’s much less likely that we’ll end up charging that $1500 on a credit card like we might if we do all our shopping in November and December.

We want to get the kids what they want, but maybe a good lesson is that a thoughtful gift doesn’t have to cost a lot.  I remember from the days as a mom to a youngster that it was hard to draw the line sometimes.  Now, I’m a pretty good bargain shopper, but was still very easy to put things on a credit card and worry about it later. When I was young, we kids each bought a gift for every member of the family. And my parents paid for them all! As we grew and had our own families, it became let’s get gifts for the kids and not so much for each other.

As a relatively recent empty nester, I’ve realized that while I like having a gift to open, the real gift that I get is time with my son.  Our Christmas tree doesn’t have boxes upon boxes piled up beneath it.  We had one gift for each of us, and that was enough. Birthdays are a good homemade meal and a cake and a night of Yahtzee.  My Christmas gift was a pen. An awesome pen with a dancing Snoopy on it!  Some might think that was an inadequate gift for a mom. But I love Snoopy, and my son knows it. Every time I use that pen, I think about him and the wonderful time we had together when he was home. So it was the PERFECT gift. Much better than if he had piled up a bunch of expensive gifts that wouldn’t have had the same meaning.

Snoopy penI’m not expecting a pile of stuff for Mother’s Day.  Nor do I want it. My son is halfway across the country in graduate school, so no brunch together for us. Last year, I told him not to get me a gift. I said let’s have a phone call where neither of us needs to rush off to the next thing and we can talk as long as we want.

So call your mom, or better yet, go see her if you can.  If you’re the mom, tell your kids not to worry about the gift, just share some love and maybe go to brunch.  Let your kids know that they are the real gift.

Happy Mother’s Day.

If you’ve overextended yourself and you want some help, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources are here for you.  Contact us at 1-888-258-2227 or to make an appointment.

Written by Sylvia Selgestad, Financial Counselor and Educator

LSS Center for Financial Resources
Consumer Credit Counseling Service | Housing Resources | Sharpen Your Financial Focus | Financial Fitness Education
705 East 41st Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls SD 57105-6047
605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

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