Giving the gift of cash
July 30, 2015 8:02 AM   Subscribe

My sister had a baby. My brother and I are giving her a larger-than-normal for our family chunk of cash for her birthday. Please help me write a card that doesn't make me sound superior, or her obligated.

I'm worried that giving cash could send a lot of different messages, that I want to avoid. Such as:
* we make more money than you
* this is all the help you're going to get
* you can expect similar gifts in the future
* we think cash is an appropriate gift in lieu of xyz
* we want to control how you use this
* we expect you to reciprocate in any way
* we think you complain about money

The message i want to send is that we love her very much, we expect having a baby can bring up surprising, unexpected expenses, so we want to give a bit of cushion here and there.

Here's the message I have written in my head. Please give me suggestions:

Sister, brother, and daughter,

When you need some time alone, some quick food, some emergency baby supplies, or a date night movie, you can use this cash. If it survives 18 years you can give it to daughter to pay for college or for a horse or something. We wanted to be generous as soon as possible, because you never know when stuff might happen. Best wishes - brother and brother.
posted by rebent to Human Relations (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You already did this yourself above. How about:

We love you very much, we expect having a baby can bring up surprising, unexpected expenses, so we want to give a bit of cushion here and there. Best wishes - brother and brother.
posted by tomboko at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2015 [38 favorites]


Your note is great.
posted by samthemander at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2015


I'd shy away from suggestions on how to spend it or speculating how long it will last. If you're worried about them thinking this is all the help you'll be providing, you might want to include a line about how they shouldn't hesitate to call if they need help.

(NB: I come from a culture where gifts of cash are not at all a faux pas and oftentimes appreciated more than stuff-gifts so grain of salt.)
posted by griphus at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2015 [25 favorites]


Agreed with tomboko. I might add something from your note too like "we hope you can use this now for help with things like emergency baby supplies, a quick meal when you don't have time to cook, or a date night; or use it later for the expenses that might come with a bigger kid like camp or lessons or college. We're so excited for you as you start out on this new adventure!" That way you're making it clear that you're giving the gift with no specific expectations for it's use, but also that it is not something that you'll keep repeating as a gift which might make them feel uncomfortable or beholden.

Congratulations on your new niece!
posted by goggie at 8:16 AM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


The one limitation that you have in your bullets that still exists in some forms is that you are still controlling how they could spend the money.

It does seem a lot friendlier and easier to limit their spend as much as possible - at first I thought you meant that the money should only be used for the baby - college, babysitting, food for the baby, and so a question you may want to ask yourself is if that limitation is one that would be a good one to imply.

Another way that may seem like a limitation is the way it's set up like a "emergency fund" - does that mean they shouldn't just deposit into their bank account? Or in their savings? They have to save it for when there's stuff that came up, not just stress and need to get away? I've been short on money before, but I wouldn't ever have said it's an "emergancy".

Either way, I think you're on the right track and I like the other suggestions in here too!
posted by bbqturtle at 8:23 AM on July 30, 2015


When my grandma gives us cash gifts, she always adds a line of "absolutely no obligation to spend this in a particular way!" which I think is nice. I also like goggie's wording.

I'm also curious, though -- is your list of things you don't want to say actually things you THINK? I would not have anticipated many of these (i.e. a gift of cash vs. something off their shower registry seems obviously "we don't want to control how you spend this" - otherwise you would have just gotten them a physical gift). If the idea that you sister complains about money a lot or that you all have unequal incomes or that she expects cash from you are ongoing points of tension, you might rethink the gift and, say, purchase something off of their registry.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:24 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I agree with griphus's suggestion to remove examples of how they can spend it (as it might be perceived as you making rules about what they do with it). I bet they can come up with plenty of ideas without your help. I do like the "We wanted to be generous as soon as possible, because you never know when stuff might happen." as I think it addresses many of your other worries (about setting up expectations or gripes).
posted by aimedwander at 8:27 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


"We know that expenses and surprises will come up in the next few years that we won't always be around to help with in person. All our love BRO & BRO llc"

I'd otherwise leave out specifics, as I could see someone latching onto something jokey and feeling hurt.
posted by French Fry at 8:37 AM on July 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


You know that by giving actual cash though (of which I am a huge fan), you actually are saying by your actions "We think cash is an appropriate gift in lieu of xyz," right? But definitely give her the cash, it's a very helpful gift.

I know you mean super well, however... the wording of your note sounds a little bit controlling and does not really send the message that you "love her very much." So say that: "we love you very much!" Get rid of the second and third sentences, where you wonder if "it survives 18 years" (by "it," do you mean the cash or the baby?) and strike the part where you call yourselves "generous."
posted by hush at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


Keep it simple, keep it short.

Dear [first names of relevant recipients],

We expect having a baby can bring up surprising, unexpected expenses, so we want to give a bit of cushion here and there. We hope you use this however you'd like.

Lots of love,

[Your names]
posted by Mizu at 8:42 AM on July 30, 2015 [29 favorites]


This is a birthday gift for your sister, correct? Here's your note.

"Dear Sister, // it's her birthday, not baby's or brother-in-law's
Happy Birthday, new mom! // Acknowledges that it's her birthday, and that it's slightly different this year
Enjoy!" // This puts no ideas in her head about how to spend the money.

You're good people, rebent and rebent's brother. :)
posted by kimberussell at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Here's a little gift to help out with your little gift"
posted by TheAdamist at 8:58 AM on July 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm with kimberussell. I think what you wrote gives them more opportunity to read into it. I'd write "Happy birthday and congratulations on the baby!" and enclose the check without any reference to it at all.
posted by metasarah at 9:00 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It is inelegant and awkward to mention money at all. Focus on the birthday and the fact she's a mom and also mention how thrilled you are to be uncles.
posted by Dragonness at 9:04 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I actually like your note a lot. I would send it as is. It gives good context, and this gift is better than putting them in a spot where every time their kid wants to go to ballet camp or whatever, they have to ask Auntie Rebent if she can help out.

I'm sure there will be a point where you talk to your sister in person or on the phone and she says, thank you! how helpful! And you can say of course! Feel free to spend it on whatever you need, no obligation. But the note you wrote contextualizes the gift and communicates what you wanted to communicate.

Frankly, when I receive cash as a gift, I do feel an obligation-- to spend it in a gift-like way. I buy something I wouldn't have otherwise bought, or use it toward a purpose I think the giver would admire. So you're doing a helpful thing, I think, by clarifying that if they use it to order pizza for two months or save it for a pony or use it toward a new house, they ARE spending it in the intended fashion! And if they tell you later "heyyy thank you SO MUCH it was wonderful to have an emergency fund for diapers" or "wow it was great we ate Thai takeout every night because we could not handle cooking on top of everything else," that you'll be happy about that.

I disagree that you shouldn't focus on money in the note-- that comes off as even more awkward, I think, if you make more than them and this is an uncommon gift amount.
posted by easter queen at 9:14 AM on July 30, 2015


I like a "please feel free" wording more than "you can use". The latter sounds a bit more like it's laying down the law, if the reader is sensitive that way.
posted by puddledork at 9:22 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Similar type situation with friend who is so close she's like a sister:
"Contribution for (baby name's) first pony request*" followed by a more traditional:
Best of luck with the munchkin and any costs that she brings you. Love you
posted by TravellingCari at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you don't want to sound controlling about the money that you are giving, do not even imply how they could spend the money and just clearly indicate that the choice is absolutely theirs. If you want to say that you love her very much, say that you love her very much.
posted by jessamyn at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2015


I like a general, "Cash is great for the unexpected, so here's a pile of it" idea.
posted by xingcat at 10:01 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


You say this is to be a birthday gift for your sister, and yet you anticipate that it will be used for your niece. Poor new moms already get ignored once the baby comes, why are you giving the baby a gift for your sister's birthday?

Give your sister a normal birthday gift, and send them a separate (larger; monetary) gift for their newborn baby. Don't even mention the money or amount in the card, just say something like, "For our beautiful new niece! We adore you already!"
posted by amro at 10:02 AM on July 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


Give the big gift to the baby, not the mom.

Definitely don't list specific uses or speculate if the money will go unspent for 18 years.
posted by salvia at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I misread and thought this was a gift for the baby. I would keep this separate from your sister's bday gift.

Unless this is the baby's bday gift? Not sure.
posted by easter queen at 10:27 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


As someone who did the mom thing and had less money than other relatives because of it (etc), I will suggest you emphasize that this is a gift for HER, not the baby per se, but that you recognize she might spend it on the baby. Something like:

Dear Sis,
We love you so much. We wanted to reduce your stress during this big transition. So here is some latitude for your life in the form of a check, so you can take care of yourself first and foremost and also your loved ones. We realize taking care of yourself and taking care of your family cannot be neatly separated. A well cared for mom is a better mom and a well cared for baby makes mom less stressed.

The Bros

I would also include a book about women's finances. When women get large gifts of cash, it tends to be treated like family money, not her money. Women are often screwed over by this fact. It ends up in the joint checking account and hubby spends a lot of it on himself and it gets handled in a really shitty way that undermines her independence, agency, etc. I would not care how SHE spent it. But I would be in danger of being arrested for assault if I learned hubby basically stole her money.

It might help if you gave her stocks in her name instead of a check. That puts a small barrier between her money and hubby treating it like it is his. It might go a long way towards protecting her interests. People feel differently about stocks than about cash and are more hesitant to just piss it away if they have to first liquidate it before partying with it. It still gives her the leeway to dip into it if she wants, but it makes it more likely there will still be money for college when baby is old enough without you having to explicitly suggest that possibility.

(Yes, I once had stocks in my name that a relative gave me. I am not just pulling this idea out my butt.)

Anyway, warm fuzzies for being good bros. :-)
posted by Michele in California at 10:29 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


i think you're mentioning college because it's a big sum of money and you're trying to justify a little. so here's my attempt, including that, based on tomboko's text:

We love you very much. We expect having a baby can bring up surprising, unexpected expenses, so we want to give a bit of cushion here and there. So we hope this is OK - if you don't have any use for it, maybe it could go into a college fund? But that's just a suggestion - do whatever you want, really! Best wishes - brother and brother.

that way you kind-of explain the large sum, imply they don't need your money, ask for forgiveness, and tell them they can do what they like!
posted by andrewcooke at 10:33 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


[gift] noun
1. something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.

Gifts are not expected to need disclaimers. This is what I recommend. We are so excited for you! We love you so much, and are thrilled to be uncles.

If you absolutely must say more: We are so excited for you! This is for surprising, unexpected expenses, a bit of cushion, whatever you need or want. We love you so much, and are thrilled to be uncles.

If you would like to be snarky, which I would, add: Of course, you'll be naming the baby rebent brothername, right? Right???

Things that are supposed to be understood or not discussed:
* we make more money than you
* this is all the help you're going to get
* you can expect similar gifts in the future
* we think cash is an appropriate gift in lieu of xyz
* we want to control how you use this
* we expect you to reciprocate in any way
* we think you complain about money
posted by theora55 at 10:36 AM on July 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yes! Use theora55's script. Love, excitement, and (if you want to say more), use this for anything you need or want.
posted by salvia at 10:39 AM on July 30, 2015


I agree that a more general "Here's some cash, use as needed!" wording is better.

And while you're avoiding specifics, I would specifically avoid the part where you mention needing food - because "We are giving you this money in case you need food" implies exactly all the things you are trying so hard not to imply.
posted by kythuen at 10:48 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


The proverbial rich uncle in our family used to say write something like, "I've had a good year and I want to spread it around" when sending an "oh, wow" sized gift. In this case I'd probably put something like, "Happy birthday; this is my way of celebrating your fantastic year." The idea being that you are doing it because you like doing it. If she gets back to you with comments about how much it is, that might be the point to say you hope she'll spend it on whatever floats her boat.
posted by BibiRose at 4:02 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thank you everyone! The text I've landed on says:

"Happy birthday!
This is our way of celebrating your exciting year,
In case any more exciting opportunities or expenses appear!
Much love, brother and brother"
posted by rebent at 7:02 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


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