Thanks for the generous favor
March 30, 2010 8:51 AM   Subscribe

How to thank parents-in-law for a gigantic, monumental favor (of a financial nature) they've done for us?

My spouse and I are in the final stretches of buying a new house. The bank made a large miscalculation our initial mortgage paperwork, which only came to light at the very end as we got the loan letter right before closing. Their mistake, once we pointed it out to the bank, nearly destroyed the purchase of the house. At the last minute, my husband's parents agreed to a HUGE financial gift (many many many thousands of dollars involving sale of some stock they'd held for years) so our loan could be recalculated, allowing us to go ahead with the house purchase. What can we do to thank his parents for such a great kindness? We want them to know how important this was to us. The caveat is that we can't afford to spend money on a big appreciation gift like a trip or even a fancy dinner out. We will be sending them a heartfelt handwritten thank-you card, but are there additional ideas for budget-friendly and meaningful gestures we can also do? (FWIW, his parents don't live near us.) Thanks!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thank them profusely, and then do your best to keep in touch with them. Parents love to hear from their children, and children-in-laws. It makes them feel needed and appreciated. Keep them updated on what you're doing to decorate the house. Send lots of pictures.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2010

Make them grandchildren?
posted by zachawry at 8:56 AM on March 30, 2010 [9 favorites]

Invite them for a stay and plan a beautiful time with them.
posted by Elsie at 8:58 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Take some pics of yourselves in the new house, during the move in phase, etc., and send to them in a small album with some funny stories and memories of the time, so that they feel like they were there with you and shared a part in the joy. Thank them for all they've done to make the dream a reality, and issue a standing invitation for them to visit your town, stay in the great guestroom you've put together, and enjoy a home cooked meal in your dream-come-true kitchen. Make sure this is in the context of a sincere, loving, thank you note.
posted by bunnycup at 8:58 AM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Thank you note now. Then, send cookies or something else that you've baked in the new kitchen. With another nice note.

Also, invite them to visit for a long weekend, if they live out of town. Alternately, if they're local, offer to host a major holiday to-do, if you can do that in a way that doesn't step on your MIL's hostess with the mostess toes.
posted by bilabial at 8:59 AM on March 30, 2010

Give them a room in the new house. Literally, send them pics of one of the rooms and ask them how they want you to decorate it. And then, no matter what insanity they want, you do it. It's the guest bedroom, it's the office, whatever. Send them pics when it's done, invite them to come out and see it (and stay in it, if possible), put up a little plaque or the like on the door.

(and, on preview, what bunnycup said)
posted by Etrigan at 9:00 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't believe I'm asking this, considering how silly I think the whole concept is, but do you scrapbook?

If so, or even if not, make them a book all about the house. Photos and photos and photos. Photograph the empty house, the moving-in, the setting-up. Take copious notes about the process. Give them, in six months or so, a book all about this house becoming your home. Let them look at what they helped you do.
posted by mephron at 9:00 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

@ Zachawry: Making them grandchildren isn't an option. ;-)
Also a little more info: this isn't a new house purchase & we're not young just starting-out types. We're in our late 30s & have been married 13 years.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:00 AM on March 30, 2010

I meant to say "isn't our first house purchase" -- this would be our second.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:01 AM on March 30, 2010

I would say be kind to them everyday. I doubt they're expecting you to buy them a fancy dinner or send them on a trip. I am pretty sure that watching you guys save money and work hard and raise a great family would be a reward enough. If you don't have kids yet, as soon as you get settled financially, have their grandchildren, raise them right, teach them the value of family and don't ask your in-laws to raise them. And occasionally let them know that what you have, family as well as the home you've made is possible because of them and that you are always grateful. If you know that you're not able to pay them back within a couple of years, then what you can do is be kind without having to spend money, call them on their birthdays, cook for them when they're visiting, invite them over to see how you've made the house a home.

So basically the same thing roomthreeseventeen said. As parents get older they want to feel needed.
posted by icollectpurses at 9:03 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, congratulations on your first home purchase!!!!
posted by icollectpurses at 9:03 AM on March 30, 2010

Plant a tree or garden in your yard in their honor - it would be a lovely thing for them to visit, especially over the years as it grows. If possible, pick something with a personal meaning (if the MIL loves roses, plant a rose garden, etc), or most plants also have a traditional meaning that you could use. Lily of the valley, for example, would symbolize your "return to happiness."

A nice engraved bench, etc "In honor of A & B" could also be really lovely.
posted by susanvance at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

If the parent's in law are anything like my parents then:
We're in our late 30s & have been married 13 years.
I would imagine they are probably already very grateful to you.

Anyway back to your question:
Definitely a photo of the two of you in the house, and invite them over. Maybe a video of you walking around the house/moving in/decorating it.

(The extravagant side of me wants to suggest making a scale model of the house and somehow giving them that.)
posted by 92_elements at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2010

I love the idea of planting something in their honor. We were already planning to plant a willow tree in our new backyard; perhaps if we gifted them with a companion tree to plant in their own yard they might enjoy a matching willow to commemorate the occasion. We would, of course, have to find out if they want a tree first! I like a lot of these ideas so far...
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 10:06 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Can you pay them back? My in-laws did something like this for us and we paid, like, a really small amount back every month, a pittance really. It took decades but it was a gesture to show them just because we were not rich, we were persistently committed to paying our bills ... and repaying favors. I think the fact they knew their daughter was in a responsible couple was a gift in itself.
posted by lpsguy at 10:37 AM on March 30, 2010

Short of paying them back (or setting up a payment plan), there is nothing you can do to actually reciprocate at the same level, the way we always want to.

On the up side, this means that literally anything you do can work as an appropriate thank you gift. You could give them a Post-It note, and if you were genuine and heart felt in saying "this is a really small, stupid thing, but it's all we can afford right now, and we want you to know how much your gift means to us," then that would work.

On the flip side, imagine dropping a really super nice gift in their laps, and just being "Yeah okay thanks whatever."

In other words, it's the message that goes along with the gift, not the gift itself per se. A desk-sized photo of the house in a nice frame with a really sweet note is what comes to my mind, but everyone here has given great suggestions.
posted by ErikaB at 11:16 AM on March 30, 2010

After having assistance both financial and DIY from many friends and family, I kept wanting to make up (cheap cardboard) plaques and hang them in the appropriate part of the house, take photos, and give to the appropriate people. Behold, the Jeffrey Coworker washing machine (he helped me fix it), the Molly Mama sofa (gave me a cash gift when I was picking out furniture), the Paul and Sara Inlaws drywall (they visited for 2 weeks helping us get everything drywalled and painted, as well as giving us a large cash gift), the Buddies trim-moulding (had friends over, installed a ton of baseboards, and fed them all pizza). Kept imagining it, but never did it. Would've been fun, though.

But that does kind of downplay the fact that the Inlaws also gave us a lot of money (more than Uncle Sam) to see this happen. For us (first house, young couple) and them (comfortable enough in retirement, say they want to see their sons spend their inheritance instead of just imagining it) the best way of thanking them is to be in touch, tell them what's going on, ask the handyman dad's advice when we have a project, send photos as we finish, and generally just make them feel like we're doing good things with it.

I'm remembering a few questions on the green lately about "I've given this relative money to help them out of a tight spot, and they're totally wasting it on stupid stuff, it's so frustrating!!", as well as "she's spending MY money to give me gifts I don't want!!" Your situation has the advantage that their assistance has gone straight into a solid financial investment, so there's an obvious situation that would give them the impression that you're throwing their money away. I totally don't mean you'd have an obligation to do what they want, but I could see that "MY money" emotion as being a factor in how they'd feel if you bought them something fancy, or did a truly crazy remodel with the house. In some sense, giving them the impression that their money has accomplished good things is the best payback.
posted by aimedwander at 11:58 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Throw a nice tea for them, invite some relatives and/or friends they like - kind of a mini (or maxi if you prefer) party in their honor. Wonderful experiences often make the best gifts.

Also: watch out with planting willow. I love them, but I've heard they can be destructive to underground plumbing/septic lines.
posted by amtho at 1:45 PM on March 30, 2010

In regard to the attempt to pay back, if that's what you decide to do - instead of sending a really small amount every month, I put a small amount into a separate savings account every month, then once a year (on the anniversary of the gift or some other special day) I emptied out the account and sent a card with $500 or $1000 to my mom, along with a nice note about how I was still so grateful.
posted by CathyG at 2:00 PM on March 30, 2010

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