What is a better gift for my recently laid-off girlfriend?
December 1, 2009 11:09 AM   Subscribe

One for the ladies - should I get my unemployed girlfriend some nice jewelery, or some nice green cash?

So I've been dating my current girlfriend for more than three months now and things are going really well. But, she got laid off a couple of weeks ago, and she's worried about paying her rent come January if she has not found anything.

I have been in the jewelery store looking at some nice things in the $100-$200 range but have not purchased anything yet, her birthday is tomorrow. I am planning on taking her to a nice dinner tomorrow, but now that I've thought about it a bit, she might appreciate a little cash in lieu of a nice pendant.

Just for the record, her job search is going well, she has four interviews just this week. She's never been laid off/unemployed before, but I have and I never got that many interviews in a week. So I'm proud of her. She's been very worried but I have been very reassuring. I know she'll be fine.
posted by smoothvirus to Human Relations (40 answers total)
Take this with a grain of salt because I'm super super practical, but I'd prefer the cash.
posted by Sassyfras at 11:13 AM on December 1, 2009

Well, both of those seem like bad ideas to me (but I personally hate jewelery anyway). How about something useful that she wants but can't get for herself? Like I needed a laptop bag but couldn't afford that and groceries and my boyfriend presented me with one for our like 15 month anniversary (made up a reason to get it for me). Is there something that she needs that you can get her that won't seem like charity?
posted by magnetsphere at 11:15 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think you should still get her a small gift, and offer to loan her the money to pay her rent (but only if you can afford to never see the money again). Giving a gift toward basic life expenses seems risky on so many levels, particularly for such a new couple.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:17 AM on December 1, 2009

What if you do something else for her-- something sort of in between cash and jewelry? If you take care of her groceries or smaller bills (electric/heating/maybe even car insurance) for a month, for example, it would work out to be roughly the same amount as jewelry, but it would free up cash she'd otherwise have no choice but to spend. Not very romantic, but a little bit more personal than just handing over a wad of cash.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:18 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Magnetsphere's idea is a good one. I'd add in a bouquet of flowers to whatever practical gift you gave her, to add romanticism to it.

Have you gotten her jewelry before? There are many women who don't like it as a present.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:18 AM on December 1, 2009

It depends on your girlfriend. Some people will be offended if you try to help them out with things like that.
posted by biochemist at 11:18 AM on December 1, 2009

She might need the cash more, but are you sure she's okay with that? It could make her feel uncomfortable. Like you're bailing her out or something. I think the jewelry would be a better idea. If she WOULD be comfortable with cash, I would split the difference. Give her a little cash and include a present that's maybe not as expensive as what you would've bought before.
posted by katillathehun at 11:19 AM on December 1, 2009

I'm not of the female persuasion, but I'm an eminently practical person and I still say go for the jewelry. Cash for expenses is so fleeting, it gets used up and the bills just come again next month. A piece of jewelry is something she can keep to remind her of your feelings for her, and a symbol of something good like that can be encouraging during bad times. Plus if things get really bad, it has an intrinsic value of its own.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:20 AM on December 1, 2009

I'd say go for the pendant.

Some cash would be nice, but if she's doing as well as it sounds, then it won't really be needed and may even be a little awkward if you really think she's going to get a job soon. Think of it this way: giving her cash speaks against your confidence that she'll get a job soon. Do what you've been doing, be supportive, and give her the pendant as something nice that reminds her of you.
posted by scrutiny at 11:22 AM on December 1, 2009

Also, seconding liketitanic. When you're broke and feel like you can't let yourself have nice things, it can be a real boost to your spirits to have someone give you a nice thing.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2009

A good way to maybe do this is to take half your budget and spend it on a piece of jewelry, and then take the other half as gift cards for things like groceries, gas, coffee, other sorts of everyday expenses. You can adjust the percentage of the budget one way or the other, but this way she'll use the cards for her day-to-day life and have more money to put towards rent at the end of the month. I think helping her out financially in an indirect way is better than just offering cash, that feels a little cold to me.

Also, as others have said, if you're up for it you can let her know that you'd be willing to help her out financially if she has troubles making ends meet until she gets back on her feet. But this is better to be done outside of a gift-giving scenario.
posted by dnesan at 11:25 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't purchase jewelry for a woman you've known for three months. It's unlikely that you are sufficiently familiar with her taste to buy her something she'll truly enjoy at this point.

Why not take her shopping? She might pick out a piece of jewelry herself (and you'll have a great opportunity to discuss what she likes and what she doesn't--Christmas is coming up after all--even if you don't buy anything now), or something else that make her feel more confident at her upcoming interviews.

Talk to her, not internet strangers. Just ask her what she needs; surprises are overrated.
posted by halogen at 11:27 AM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hmmm... I'm in the "something between" crowd on this one. Jewelry seems a little bit too intimate and soon for your relationship but you know her better. I'd stick to the lower end and the dinner is a very nice gift to go with it. Cash is not romantic and when she refuses you are suddenly without a gift in hand. Helping her out with her bills should not be a birthday gift but a separate discussion that goes part and parcel with how you two are progressing in your relationship. You are clearly very sweet so express that with a gesture of sweetness -- the jewelry and romantic night out is very sweet but I'd lean more toward something more practical like the laptop bag mentioned above or a pretty winter scarf. But, that's me! Jewelry is not that big to me and a gift of it would seem like, "whoa... jewelry! Um... whoa."
posted by amanda at 11:31 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get an Amex/Visa gift card. It can be used to pay bills with some providers, and it can certainly go toward groceries. If she's really concerned about paying rent, it'll help make some room if other things are taken care of.

However, financial transactions can do strange things to the power balance in a relationship.

Yes, it would also be cool if you could pay some bills for her, but that means you'd either have to give her actual money or get her account numbers, which I'd certainly never give to someone I'd been dating for only three months.

Perhaps you also should consider making a concerted effort to ensure that you're taking her financial status into account when doing datey things. Do cheap/free stuff, or pick up the bill unless she protests too much.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 11:32 AM on December 1, 2009

Don't pay her rent as a 'gift'.

I had a boyfriend do this for me once - it was his idea, I didn't ask. At the time, I hated him for giving me charity and hated myself for needing it. Later, I hated him even more when he demanded I pay him back after we broke up (it wasn't a loan!).

Go the jewelry or other needful thing route.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 11:41 AM on December 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the quick replies! I think everyone is right about the cash being a bad idea.

P.S. I just heard from her and she just got an offer letter, with two interviews still to go this week.
posted by smoothvirus at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Get her something that she needs that is giftable, but would feel bad buying herself right now under the circumstances. Does she need new interview clothes? Maybe a gift-card/shopping spree somewhere she likes to buy her clothes from? Shoe store? I'm stuck on clothes, but I know there are other better ideas in this vein out there.

But yeah... rent is too close to charity. However, something that she has to sacrifice on in order to pay that rent is not.
posted by cgg at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2009

I'd say buy her something nice (if she likes jewelry, there you go) and not on her birthday, but a few days later (since she's worried about January rent) say "if I can help you out with your January rent just let me know." If that's something you can swing, if not just get her a nice present. If you do help her out with her rent in January, never ask for it back or mention it again. If she pays you back, great, maybe take that money and go out for a dinner with her or something, but don't mention it, those little weird obligations are murder on relationships.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:48 AM on December 1, 2009

What if you did something to financially support her, but that was still romantic? When I was dating my husband a few times I went over to his apartment, stocked the cupboards, and made some food because he was in school and didn't have time to do it himself. A series of small presents - food, fancy coffee, doing her dry cleaning, etc - would be practical and sweet.
posted by christinetheslp at 11:49 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think that paying your girl's rent and expenses as a birthday present is a bad idea. I, personally, would be made very uncomfortable by that offer and would refuse immediately to take your money. Jewelry is nice, if that's the kind of present she wants. My favorite birthday present from an SO ever was a trip to the bookstore, a $100 budget, and the SO following me around and carrying my books for me as I picked them out. MMM. That was so awesome!
posted by dchrssyr at 11:50 AM on December 1, 2009

Giving someone cash as a gift is really lame, whether they are employed or not. It's also incredibly unromantic.

That said, jewelry is also really lame.
posted by chunking express at 11:52 AM on December 1, 2009

To me, being gifted cash with the intention of having some of my bills paid, would make me feel like a "kept woman" and not in a good way. Also, a gift of jewelry after dating for only 3 months seems a bit too romantic for such a new relationship. Imagine what will be racing through her head as she opens a box from the jewelry store...she's going to mentally be wondering (and possibly freaking out) if you have purchased her an engagement ring. So hold off on the jewelry gifts until you've been together longer.

Since it sounds like she is going to land on her feet just fine and get a job, how about something to help her prepare for her new job? A gift certificate for a day spa or a massage would help her relax. Or how about take her shopping and let her pick out a new handbag or pair of shoes?
posted by pluckysparrow at 12:04 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want to offer to help her with her rent, then make that offer, but don't make it part of her "gift". Just make the offer.

I'd be freaked out if someone I was dating for three months gave me a $100+ piece of jewelry, but perhaps you're in a different economic bracket than I am.

Write her a nice card & be sure to tell her how proud you are of her for landing so many interviews. Tie it in with something like "I know how great and smart and creative you are and I'm glad the rest of the world can see it too".

Just buy her groceries sometime. Do you have a key to her place? Just stock the shelves, or, if you don't have a key, tell her you're going to make dinner and then buy far, far too many groceries to do that.

Then get her a less expensive piece of jewelry, or some other practical gift.
posted by anastasiav at 12:09 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like this might be a moot point, since she's gotten an offer.

I think a piece of jewelry THAT big after only 3 months is a bit intense -- but I also think cash, while your intentions are definitely honorable, isn't quite "gifty" enough. Separate the two -- offer to help her financially, but make it a separate thing (and abide by her wishes if she says she doesn't want to take you up on it -- some people feel weird about putting other people out like that).

Then for a gift, make it something stylish but practical "for your new job which I KNOW you're going to get, sweetie" -- someone said a laptop bag, and that would work. A spa visit "for a massage because your'e all stressed out" is also a fine idea. A piece of jewelry in the $100-200 range, though, seems kind of intense.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on December 1, 2009

I like jewelry for gifts. Even at three months. I remember every piece of jewelry I was given by boyfriends, and I still have it. Jewelry kicks ass, whereas rent and groceries are mundane.

Even though the romances are long gone, and some of them ended badly, I think of them fondly on occasion. Go for the bling.
posted by chocolatetiara at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2009

A piece of jewelry in the $100-200 range, though, seems kind of intense.

Really? $100-$200 doesn't buy all that much- we're not talking about a honkin' diamond ring, and if you're going to buy jewelry as a gift, there's no point in buying junk. I think the price range sounds fine. Miss Manners would say that jewelry is an inappropriate gift for a couple who isn't engaged, but in a rare act of disagreement, I'll call her a ninny and say that something simple and classic (I'm picturing stuff like Tiffany's sterling silver necklaces or braclets) could be very nice, particularly during this stressful time in her life.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:36 PM on December 1, 2009

I would agree with TPS on the jewelry front. Diamonds and gems are probably a bit much, but a nice, understated silver something is sweet and tasteful. If she likes that sort of thing, and I'm assuming that the OP knows she does if he's even considering it. Cash is more of a gray area, so I can understand him not being sure about that one.
posted by katillathehun at 12:44 PM on December 1, 2009

Is there anywhere she can eat lunch or get coffee next to her place (or while job searching) that would work for a gift card? When you're unemployed you don't have money to eat out but sometimes it's nice to get out for a few hours. You could maybe get her some flowers to make it seem more romantic.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:48 PM on December 1, 2009

I agree with anastasiav. Don't tie the offer of cash help in with a pre-existing day of celebration. That is if you can afford what sounds like three substantial gifts in one month: 1. Cash, 2. Birthday Gift, 3. Christmas Gift.
posted by spec80 at 12:50 PM on December 1, 2009

Get her a massage! You can do the same range of spendiness (like hot stone massages or other more upscale treatments) without it being an intense overly meaningful gift like jewelry or anything that might not clash with her personal style.
posted by cadge at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2009

I'm a woman and jewelry is my favorite gift. A simple pendant or small pair of earrings is definitely not "too intense" for dating only 3 months.

I would be severely let down by cash. Part of what makes me like getting presents is seeing the thought that the person put into picking it out for me. (I have gotten a lot of dog-motif jewelry!).
posted by WeekendJen at 1:12 PM on December 1, 2009

If it was me, I would appreciate a new interview outfit or something to complete it. You could take her shopping to look around, maybe she just needs a pair of shoes or a skirt to complete the look; whatever it is, it'll be practical and probably something she'll be really thankful for. That way even if she takes the offer she's recieved then she has a really nice outfit for the first day.

As already stated, solid cash gifts in relationships is usually a bit awkward and can be seen as impersonal. This seinfeld episode kind of sums it up.
posted by goodnight moon at 1:20 PM on December 1, 2009

Really? $100-$200 doesn't buy all that much- we're not talking about a honkin' diamond ring, and if you're going to buy jewelry as a gift, there's no point in buying junk.

I just got something lovely for only $30. It looks good, and thus I would hardly consider it "junk". Sure, the "stones" probably aren't gemstones, but it looks good, and that's all I care about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2009

i'm unemployed right now and money (or lack thereof) is all i can think about. wait until she's in a real financial bind, then help out.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 1:46 PM on December 1, 2009

I would be very uncomfortable with cash and hate gift cards. If you give any kind of a gift, it should show that you know her well enough to know what she would find lovely, or laugh about, or whatever.

If you want to tell her that she can count on you if she needs a little help, so that she can graciously reject that offer, that might be nice.

If she really really really needs cash - can't she borrow from a friend instead of a guy she's been seeing for 3 months?

And you're thinking jewelry because you've seen her wear jewelry - right?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:34 PM on December 1, 2009

Best answer: Oooh, Tiffany's! This would be appropriate, and this is nice. Have it gift wrapped so it comes in that amazing little blue box and she'll be stunned.

On the other hand, something like this might be more appropriate since your relationship is new. It is still luxurious, but not quite so over the top.

This is her first birthday of your relationship. It is going to set the precedent for all other gift occasions. She will tell her friends about it, and she's probably going to expect something similar for Christmas. Keep that in mind.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:41 PM on December 1, 2009

Sorry, forgot to say NO CASH!
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:43 PM on December 1, 2009

How bout cash but do something creative with it?
Origami rose made out of a $100 bill for instance.
posted by Redmond Cooper at 6:34 PM on December 1, 2009

When I was unemployed, the next season of my favorite TV show came out on DVD. I really wanted it. But I couldn't afford it, because I was unemployed.

One of my friends bought it and sent it to me as a present, just out of the blue, a complete surprise. When I opened the box, I sat down and cried. It was one of the most thoughtful and awesome gifts I've ever had.

Which is to say: what are the things she loves but is going without while job-hunting? Manicures? DVDs? Going to the movies? Eating out? Starbucks? When you are out together, what does she pick up, look at, and then put down wistfully? Get her some of those things - or gift cards for them that can only be used for that purpose so she won't feel guilty not paying the light bill with your gift.
posted by oblique red at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2009

I know you mean well, but money is the most impersonal type of gift! She's only been unemployed for a couple of weeks so it's not like she's desperate for cash. It sounds like she'll be employed again in no time so I wouldn't worry about it. In short - definitely go for the jewelry!
posted by HStern at 1:00 AM on July 18, 2010

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