Getting Gifts and Financial Help from In-Laws

by TTMK on March 18, 2013 · 13 comments

Who likes taking obligations from others? Feeling like you owe them something?

Not for me.  This is why the topic of getting financial help from in-laws in one where I have a pretty clear point of view: I prefer not to get it.

First of all, I haven’t had the luxury of getting any financial benefits or generosity along those lines, so I guess I’ve had nothing to worry about:)  However, I’ve seen others whose in-laws have actually provided them with some financial benefits or perks.  Some of these have been pretty cool, when you hear about them.  It seems like a person can suddenly have doors opened to fun experiences if he or she marries someone with in-laws who enjoy giving to their kids.  And, by extension, son or daughter in-law.

A couple of examples:

Free Dinners

A woman with whom I worked a long time ago once told me about her typical weekend with her husband.  They would always carve out time on one evening to go out to dinner with her in-laws.  They bought dinner for “the kids”, and looked forward to it every week.  The in-laws always paid, and they always chose.  Oddly, it was the same exact restaurant nearly every weekend – a local Greek diner that was apparently their favorite.  Every. Single. Weekend.

Free Cars

A friend of mine told me a few years ago that he and his wife get handed a car by his parents.  These cars are more upscale vehicles (Lexus, Mercedes) that his parents want to get rid of after 6 or 7 years when they want a newer car.  His wife smiled and said “yeah, it’s a pretty good deal for us”.

They pretty much only have to buy one car for the two of them.  The second car, a presumably more modest one, is bought by them.  Being a gentleman, he drove the more modest car, and let his wife drive the nicer, upscale (though a bit older) car

His parents apparently like to remind her of their generosity from time to time.

Free Vacations

Another couple went on vacation to Hawaii with her parents.  Pretty good trip, coming from the Midwest and taking the vacation in a cold weather season.  With this couple, the in-laws paid for the hotel room.  I think it was some type of time share condo that everybody stayed it.

Anyway, getting away for a great week and visiting the Pacific Paradise that can be some parts of Hawaii would be fun.  In this case, it meant paying for airfare, but getting free lodging.  It also meant waking up each day and following the agenda of in-laws for much of the time.

My Thoughts on All This

Admittedly, a very small part of me initially gets a bit envious that others have met in-laws who are generous in that regard.  Why haven’t I been treated like that?  After all, I could imagine getting older and wanting to incorporate my kids in to my life in these ways too, finances permitting of course.

However, I then realize that I wouldn’t want to feel obligated to them. Or, anyone for that matter.  I think that quite often, such “generosity” or gifts come with some strings attached.  In the case of the dinners, it’s the woman (and her husband, for that matter) having to eat the same exact place every weekend, never mind that they work all week and would like freedom to do different things.  In the case of the car, it’s the woman getting reminders from her in-laws (probably mother-in-law) about how they’re so generous to her.  With the vacations, it’s the notion that your “vacation” is filled with days where the agenda is dictated by your in-laws.

Again, strings attached.

I guess I’d rather be the one giving, than receiving, even if for my own selfish reasons.  I’d rather be my own person, and have boundaries.  By keeping boundaries, I’m not feeling like I’m owing things – or feeling indebted.  Maybe it’s an independent streak, who knows.  Just seems better that way 🙂

My Questions for You

Have you ever known anyone who gets gifts or even direct financial assistance from in-laws?

Do you think accepting such gifts invites an element of control or obligation?  Does that matter to you (as it does to me), or is it something you’re totally cool with?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF March 18, 2013 at 8:10 am

It’s a good question and one I’ve given some thought to. We do accept most gifts from our parents because they don’t come with strings. We have taken two vacations with my family of origin where my parents paid for most of the trip, but we enjoyed them. We figure that as long as we don’t come to expect the gifts and depend on them, we are free to accept or turn them down depending on what we want. I don’t think I would accept something like a car as it fulfills a need that I would have spent money on, but the vacations I think are okay because we wouldn’t have paid for a vacation at that time. Our parents don’t ‘remind’ us of the gifts they have given us after the fact – they just like to spend time with us!

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Emily @ evolvingPF March 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Oh, I thought of an example of when we have turned down gift money. My MIL has offered several times to pay for flights to her area that we have planned, for instance for Christmas or a family wedding. We’ve never taken her up on this offer because we had already planned to use our savings for the tip and the purpose was not solely to see my PILs but also other family members and college friends. If they had paid for our flights we might feel guilty spending time with other people over them (though they wouldn’t make us feel that way).

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TTMK March 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Emily – that’s a good example, and a good move. Not only for the obligation aspect, and wanting to see friends – but also because it seems honorable. Good for you guys!

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Michelle March 18, 2013 at 8:24 am

I have one friend who takes anything and everything from her in-laws and her own parents. It makes all of us in our group cringe every time she boasts about it.

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TTMK March 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Michelle – yeah, that would be uncomfortable to hear about. I can see that.

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Goldeneer March 18, 2013 at 10:56 am

In one way I feel fortunate that my in-laws have never offered us extravagant gifts where we would have had a hard time to decline, but would have. It would surely have come with strings attached if they did.

They have been generous by hosting us graciously when we go visit them for the weekend and have treated us to dinner on very special occasions. On the other hand, my MIL heavily told us what we should do for our wedding and I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been had she offered us a wedding “gift”.

Like you TTMK, I need to have boundaries.

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TTMK March 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Goldeneer – those stings attached turn gifts into the opposite very quickly, in my view anyway! Boundaries are a good thing, and I can see how that would be the case with a wedding in particular.

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AverageJoe March 19, 2013 at 8:51 am

I think I know the woman who goes to dinner with her in-laws! Is she in the Detroit area? Ha! I’ll bet there are hundred or thousands who go through that ritual….

I made the mistake of taking my family on a trip with my parents once and letting them plan the agenda. It SO clashed with our own that I’m not gonna make that mistake again. Time off is far too precious.

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TTMK March 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Average Joe – Yeah, I agree…there are probably lots of people that go through that type of thing. Same place, every single weekend makes my skin crawl thinking about it. As for time off and vacations, it’s too valuable to be spent following the instructions and agenda of others outside your household!

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SavvyFinancialLatina March 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

My in laws have never offered extravagant gifts. In our first year of marriage, they did continue to pay my husband’s insurance and would give us food and toiletries. This helped because we were both in school and had barely any income.
Now that we are fully employed, I try to limit how much they give us, and they too.

They have never paid for vacations. Never gone on vacations with them.

My parents are very modest and I am the one who gives my mom money.

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TTMK March 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

SFL – that sounds like a very fair approach you have. You’re not taking, but prefer to give.

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Steven J Fromm March 23, 2013 at 9:51 am

As an estate planner, I see this being done more than you think and in some cases in very large amounts. The tax code favors lifetime gift giving. In the next 20 years as baby boomers and others die, there is going to be a mass transfer of wealth downstream to loved ones. These gifts will be either outright or in trust depending on the family situation. The transfer of wealth in this way is very controversial especially when it creates a disincentive for working hard and being independent. This is one of the greatest concerns that are explored during the estate planning process. So you have hit on a very important topic.

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nicoleandmaggie March 24, 2013 at 8:11 am

We let them pay for dinners when we go out, but try our darndest to pay individually at casual places where you order at the counter. We can get away with paying when DH goes to pick up take-out for them. We are also generally more likely to be successful when offering to pay at the end of our stay after they’re a bit fatigued at paying for everything.

I used to try to make sure we paid every other time, but that just got to be far too socially awkward.

We almost always pay for my parents, but they make a heck of a lot less money than we do. We’ll let my mom pay for coffee drinks for DH or ice cream out for the kids.

For a long time my father was trying to give us money because he went to a seminar comparing inheritance taxes to gift taxes (he’s never made a lot, but he makes Early Retirement Extreme look like a spendthrift), and we would refuse, but finally we let him donate money to DC1”s school.

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