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Generosity on a budget

(16 Posts)
StephanieZinone Mon 27-Jul-15 16:37:22

I am trying to find a balance between budgeting and generosity. We are on a fairly tight budget at the moment and I know – though it has never been said out loud – that my husband would prefer to spend our wages on ourselves rather than everyone else. To put this into context, earlier this year we saved to buy an iPad, which has been very useful (though not essential) for both our jobs. The reason I say this is to point out that we're (fortunate not to be) on the bread line.

However, I feel much more under pressure than he does to give presents – though I admit that this pressure comes more from myself than anyone else. I include in this gifts to godchildren and family to a certain extent, but mostly what I'm talking about is extras: I want to be able to send a lipstick as a surprise to my friend who is having a hard time, or to take flowers AND a bottle of wine when we go to stay with people, or send a present when a close friend has a baby. My husband is wonderfully kind, but he doesn't see the need for these sorts of "extras" when we are watching our income and don't do things like go out for dinner in order to save money.

Last month we went to a wedding 200 miles away, stayed in accommodation etc, so of course it all added up. I put £30 in the card and my husband was a bit miffed because the invitation actually said there was no need to give anything.

But... I think that's the meaning of life, isn't it? To give things to make other people (and you) happy? None of my friends and family would expect it, but, equally, they are very generous to us and I wouldn't want them to see our iPad and think hmm when we don't bring biscuits to say thank you for something, for instance... AIBU? What is the solution?

wickedwaterwitch Mon 27-Jul-15 16:39:29

I used to make presents for people, so a framed photograph, homemade fairy cakes, flowers from the garden, that kind of thing. That would be a compromise.

Theycallmemellowjello Mon 27-Jul-15 16:41:56

There's no right answer, sorry! You have to agree it between the two of you (or you buy presents from your share of the budget if you do it like that). I similarly don't like to be tight so I do get that, but I don't think you get to take the moral high ground over this, and it seems like you might feel like you have it. There's no need for presents to be expensive to be meaningful. At the end of the day, your spending is no more or less frivolous than your DH's. If you can't agree maybe splitting the "extras" budget is the way to go.

SwearyGodmother Mon 27-Jul-15 16:45:10

Do you have a reasonable amount of free time? Either making things as wickedwaterwitch suggests or giving time to help out (babysitting or just catching up over a coffee) seems to go down better than money spent out in my experience.

If you bake you could take homemade cake or similar to people's houses, sending a letter or a card will mean as much (if not more) than a lipstick to your friend who is struggling. I'm at a bit of a loss re the wedding or the baby thing as I would always send a gift in those circumstances (but often buy bigger clothes for babies in the sale as new parents don't need 1000000 outfits for 0-3 month olds, and the right season/size combination is always in the sale).

8angle Mon 27-Jul-15 16:45:19

Hi OP, I think generosity is one of the most appealing and attractive traits in people and something i always strive towards. Only you know the extent of your budget and the overall "cost" to you of your generosity.

Being practical (and boring, and possibly killing the spirit!) why don't you keep a spreadsheet of all the nice extra things you have done for people, and a second column for the things you would have liked to have done. After 6 or 12 months add up what it has / could have cost you, and what you might have done with some / all that money for yourselves.

Then you can decide if being generous has really had any material impact on your lives.

I know this entirely goes against the spirit of "to give and not count the cost" but at least then you can discuss reality rather than hypothetical's with your husband!

For what it's worth IMO generosity to others is the winner every time...

StephanieZinone Mon 27-Jul-15 16:47:44

That's a very fair point, mellow. I don't think I have the moral high ground – if anything, I think I'm probably profligate – but I would really hate my friends to think I (or, perhaps worse, my husband) was tight. However, perhaps that is how he views it, so an extremely useful comment.

Excellent suggestions so far, thank you.

Littleorangecat Mon 27-Jul-15 17:09:47

I think your £30 wedding present was totally appropriate. It would have been mean to turn up empty handed and probably would have been noticed.
I generally think give what you are comfortable with.

CatMilkMan Mon 27-Jul-15 17:11:42

You sound like a generous and giving person maybe making gifts as suggested above would be a good compromise.

StephanieZinone Mon 27-Jul-15 17:16:13

Thank you, I'm not especially generous and I didn't mean this to be a stealth boast: I am just trying to find a compromise and you have all been very helpful. 8angle, your spreadsheet idea is genius.

ppolly Mon 27-Jul-15 17:24:43

I am on a teeny budget too and give friends things like a plate of scones with a pot of jam or some pick your own strawberries. I've made homemade cards or occasionally some embroidery (if I think they are going to like it). I once sent a friend a second hand cashmere jumper that she'd admired. I do send cash for birthdays of older nieces and nephews. It is nice to give things.

IHaveBrilloHair Mon 27-Jul-15 17:29:59

I love giving friends gifts, just because, I never give more than I can afford though and it gives me pleasure too.
I don't really have family, and my friends are really important to me, and given I have a chronic illness I am not really of practical help, it's just my way of saying I appreciate them and think of them.
Definitely make things if you can, I've had homemade gifts which I love, just last week a friend sent me pickachu bunting for pokemon loving dd and I have homemade lime pickle in the cupboard.

KatyN Mon 27-Jul-15 18:13:17

We have a budget for presents. It is pretty ruthless. I am very careful to stick to it for birthdays and Christmas.
If I manage to buy a present in the sale, or save a few quids, I'll use the spare cash for extra presents during the year (not necessarily for that person, for whoever needs it).

I'm also a big fan of the little present to show you care rather than the big ostentatious gift. It's taken some retraining to accept £5 is plenty to spend on a present but I always remember birthdays and Christmas so I think that is more important.

LilacWine7 Mon 27-Jul-15 18:21:19

I think it's about finding a balance. I love giving gifts and tend to over-spend on people or go a bit overboard. DH is more reserved and reminds me to stick to a budget! But I really enjoy that feeling of giving someone something they really love, so I often spend that little bit extra on close friends and family.

One thing I do is collect gifts over the year in sales. I have a gift-bag hidden in my wardrobe, and add to it throughout the year so by the time it's birthdays/Xmas/special occasions like weddings, new babies etc I have a selection of gifts to choose from that I didn't pay full price for. To this bag I also add any unwanted gifts people have given me (labelled so I don't forget who it was) and re-gift them. Eg a couple of years ago my mum gave me a cashmere scarf in a colour I wasn't keen on, but I knew my friend would love it, so I gave it to her last Xmas and she was delighted. You can save a lot of money by shopping in sales and recycling unwanted gifts. A lot of it's about knowing what people like and matching them up with appropriate gifts.

As for giving flowers and wine when you go for dinner, I like to take both too... but I look for special offers on wine and get a nice bouquet from the market rather than an expensive florist. I also like making cakes or confectionary for people, you can make their favourite which makes it more special. Lakeland have packs of lovely presentation bags for homemade edible gifts (coloured cellophane with ribbons).

StephanieZinone Mon 27-Jul-15 18:50:48

Lovely ideas, thank you.

TheseventeenthSixteen Mon 27-Jul-15 20:06:31

I think generosity is about thoughtfulness rather than about the price of gifts. I'm on a very tight budget and struggle. If someone is unwell, offering to do some shopping or making a pot of soup for them is a lovely thing to do and shows you're thinking of them. Can you make biscuits or cake or jam etc to take round if you're visiting or going to someone for a meal? TK Maxx are great for nice but reasonable presents - hand milled soaps, nice baby stuff, toys etc.

Dressing stuff up nicely - a bunch of daffs in spring, wrapped in yellow tissue with a rafia bow etc. There's crafty stuff in Wilko's, some pound shops, markets.

I'm not very crafty, but at Christmas I made felt tree decorations that represented friends' pets - a black cat for one (with a skeleton of a fish sewn on to his tummy), a black and white patched dog for another (with a meat bone shape, sewn on to his tummy). Both friends' were so pleased and keep them on display all the time!!! I made decorative wreaths using metal frames I bought (something like 10 for £3.99 from Amazon and tied blackwatch tartan fabric strips and blue and green silk ribbon strips all through it till it was really thick. So easy but looked really effective. I copied the idea from ones I saw in a posh gift shop. I bought the fabric in the market and 10 wreaths must have cost about £6 to make.

I make cards. I don't like a lot of handmade cards as they can be a bit samey. I do some using different coloured strips of newspaper, magazines etc. Draw or stencil a shape on to the page and glue coloured strips into the shape. Simple but looks different. There's loads of ideas on pinterest if you aren't creative (I have to copy ideas as don't have the imagination to think my own up.)

Plant a lavender plant and dry out the stems. Wrapped in nice paper, they make a nice little present.

When I have spare time I make stuff or look for ideas for home made stuff.

CloserToFiftyThanTwenty Mon 27-Jul-15 21:31:37

I do similar to Lilacwine - I have a present box full of things like tshirts bought for pennies in the BabyGap sale and books from TK Maxx, so that I can usually pull a decent present together at the drop of a hat but with it costing a fraction of the normal price.

I also second going to the market or buying bunches of flowers and making up your own bouquets. You can get twice as many flowers that way, and wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with a ribbon they look really really gorgeous (and generous too).

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