By: Revanche

How do you deal with gift money?

January 29, 2018

On occasion, we receive gift money in varying amounts and while I always know what to do with it, I don’t know how to write about that money.

When it’s a $5 or $10 red envelope for JuggerBaby, that’s easy. Savings, call it side money.

But when it’s a substantial gift to zir 529 fund or to one of us from, say, a relative disbursing money ahead of their passing as part of their estate tax strategy, what do I do with that? It feels somewhat dishonest not to discuss it when I talk about our savings and money strategies.

But am I being dishonest if I don’t discuss it?

Would that make sense when, on the other side of the coin, I’ve not talked much about the opportunity cost of the black hole that was my father’s using me? (We’re talking cumulatively mid-six figures over the years. I could be semi-retired RIGHT NOW.)

Mind you, I don’t think I’m owed anything from anyone for the hundreds of thousands sunk there but do money gifts for us represent some balance in the Force? (Honest question because my aunts believe in karma Big Time and are convinced the universe must balance the awfulness of what I shouldered by giving me good children and assured wealth. That’d be cool if true but I can’t stop saving or assume karma will parent or babysit. I still have to do my job.)

Last, because I never expect the gifts and can’t plan for them, they never change how we behave. But they do exist and they can help push us closer to our goals.  No matter what we receive, we consider it a one time windfall, deposit it, and carry on with our usual plan: do our best to pare non-essential expenses to the bone and save as intensely as possible. That’s what I do with any work bonuses since they’re not guaranteed and some only happen once in a blue moon.

Now, if it’s truly a gift with no strings attached and unrelated to work, one thing does change: I automatically increase our giving. It’s not a systematic thing, I just give more. Surprise money creates opportunity and I want to pass that along.

Do these gifts matter from the blog’s perspective if I never talk about the actual numbers of our savings and net worth, and it doesn’t affect our strategy?

Much like how I don’t talk about the amounts of money that I gift to help friends, or the amounts of donations to good causes whether non-profits or not, perhaps what we’re doing with our money and why is more important than how much. Thoughts?


On the other side of the coin, continuing the thread of whether it’s a good idea to discuss charitable giving, what do you think about sharing the names of organizations and people that you support?

This year, in addition to organizations, I’m working on creating a list of people we support on a local or individual level. Whether it’s Andrea at the Manor of Mixed Blessings (Patreon), a fantastic ethical heritage farmer with chronic pain, or one of our favorite artists, Nidhi Chandani at Everyday Love Art, I’d like to start sharing the names of people who are working at something cool.

:: What do you think?

18 Responses to “How do you deal with gift money?”

  1. Some people are jerks when they read about other people getting monetary gifts, which might not be something you want to deal with. (Not speaking from personal experience here, but from reading comments on other people’s blogs.) When the gifts are directly to a child and put in a 529 plan, that’s a lot less controversial. It’s up to you whether or not you want to share that information. You’re not a FIRE prosthelytizer telling everybody to do it your One True Way and then hiding the secret safety net that allows you to do it, so any negative comments are likely to be jealousy rather than anything justified.

    Here’s our charity tag:

    BTW, as an addendum to an earlier comment on an earlier post (that I think was one of yours)… my single utility is suspending dividends for the near future as it waits to be sued for the CA wildfires.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted…I think we’re going to buy a new car: Any advice before we pull the trigger?My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      That’s true – I suppose this post was to ask who would feel inclined to be a jerk about it 🙂 But I could also just quietly lose readers instead.

      Oh and that was me!

  2. Joe says:

    I just put it in Misc income. The amount is inconsequential for us so it’s not a big deal.
    Joe recently posted…Are You Prepared for The Stock Market Blowoff?My Profile

  3. SP says:

    We don’t get amounts that are worth tracking ($25-$50 range). So, it is essentially invisible money in my system. But I also never really “balance the books” to make sure Tracked income – tracked expenses – tracked savings… I just assume that they do, or if they don’t, it is a negligible difference. I mostly focus on tracking expenses and net worth. I’m a little sloppy there, but its close enough for what I”m interested in.

    To answer your questions, I don’t think it matters from your blog’s perspective. I mentioned that I think it is useful to talk about charitable giving to help normalize it, so sharing places or amounts has some value. Sharing that you received a gift doesn’t seem to serve any sort of similar public good.

    Share about it if you want to talk about it or if you think you’ll have something to say that is useful for someone else to learn. Share about it if you feel like expressing gratitude publicly (at risk of people getting jealous/haters). Some people may be haters, but your blog doesn’t seem to attract that crowd. But if you don’t feel like saying anything, that’s fine too – especially since you don’t share numbers anyway!

    And also, you definitely deserve this! Karma owes you, big time.
    SP recently posted…2018 Goals and PlansMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Thanks, I think this makes the most sense – I couldn’t see any public good to be had from discussing gifts but I also felt like it was hiding the truth if I wasn’t acknowledging them. I think, since I’m not benefiting in any way from hiding the gift money, the lack of public good is a much more compelling argument to not worry about sharing.

  4. Kathy says:

    I never tell anyone what charities or people I give to ONLY because I think it should be between me and the person or charity. I know not everyone believes that but I believe in giving quietly and moving on. No muss no fuss

    • Revanche says:

      Most of us do believe that charity is between us and the recipient but one of the reasons that SP, and Done by Forty, and a few others of us believe in talking about it, at least in general terms, is that we talk about money all the time. We talk about saving, investing, spending, but we neglect a very important part of having money – giving back.

      I think it’s crucial to maintaining a balanced life and, really, it’s part of being a good person who understands that we live in an ecosystem that only works when we contribute back to it.

      That said, I’d never call out an individual publicly without their permission as an object of charity, that’s not the point of this. It’s just to normalize the idea of giving because there’s a surprising number of people who don’t believe that giving back has any real value.

  5. When blogging about it? No, you don’t need to go into detail. Heck, I don’t think you even need to mention it since you don’t go into specific numbers usually.

    If you want, you can always mention that a gift from X boosted savings this month somewhat. But if you’re not going to go into numbers, I don’t think it’s necessary to do so.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…From frugal to cheap: An overcorrectionMy Profile

  6. Kris says:

    I think that you should just generalize it on the blog or not mention it at all whenever you receive any type of gift money. Be vague by saying something like ‘a relative contributed to the 529 this month which is always helpful’. We get red envelopes during Christmas and coming up for Chinese New Year so I know all about getting gift money especially for the baby.

  7. I would be interested in knowing the names of organizations you and others give to. As we get closer to debt-freedom and financial freedom, I want to devote more thought towards the types of causes and organizations I’d like to support. I don’t have a fine-tuned policy at this point. Also, I hope that your aunts are right:) I can’t help but think they are. It might be very strange for you to see how quickly your wealth grows now that the black-hole-factor has ended. There would have been quite a bit of interest gained on those six figures. Get ready to welcome it now.
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…In Praise of Snowshoeing: Physical, Financial, and Mental HealthMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I’ll include a few names of organizations when I finish the write up about charity, then!

      The black hole factor has only just stopped, with a slight trickle left, so it will be interesting to see what happens!

  8. Why talk about a gift to yourself or your family at all? It’s not anybody’s business. And bragging about giving to a charitable cause (which is how it would come across on a blog) is tacky. This has been true in Western and Middle Eastern cultures for quite some time: St. Matthew inveighed against giving alms publicly, calling it vainglorious and hypocritical. It would be OK to recommend some charities and explain why they’re trustworthy organizations to support and it might be all right to say something like “this year our main charitable cause has been XXX,” but not OK to say specifically how much you donated.

  9. Neither here nor there, how do you fix commentluv when it has a wrong URL?
    Funny about Money recently posted…Techno-skeptic: I could’ve predicted this…My Profile

  10. Hmmm. That’s a good question. I’m not 100% sure, but since you don’t talk exact numbers on your blog, I’m not sure you need to say anything. Now a list of charities? That’s something I’d be interested in reading for sure.
    Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early recently posted…We Cut Our Grocery Budget By 63% And Eat Better Than EverMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Thanks for weighing in! I was concerned about the principle of transparency primarily but it seems to make sense to most of you that it doesn’t need to be disclosed. Of course it helps that I’m not running for office or anything 🙂

      I’m working on that list!

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