cash as a gift in the US
December 24, 2011 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me understand why cash is not considered an acceptable gift option in the U.S.

Reading through AskMe, when somebody asks a question about giving presents, invariable there is an answer that says to not give cash. I come from a country where cash is the right gift for occasions such as weddings, funerals, and birthdays (and of course, the money given out to children on New Year's Day). Research appears to indicate that people prefer receiving cash over other gift alternatives. So this unacceptability of cash as a gift in the U.S. is puzzling to me and I would like to understand it better.
posted by needled to Society & Culture (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The US is too large to make that kind of generalization. I'm happy to receive cash as a gift. Cash has utility. Other Americans aren't.
posted by dfriedman at 9:25 AM on December 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

I would prefer to receive cash too since I buy anything I may want & have no wishlist to speak of and have become less materialistic in my later years.

However it has the stigma of not having had any thought put into it. Especially if you're giving gifts for someone who's your senior or has more money than you - Parents can give cash to their children because their children could us it, children aren't supposed to give cash to their parents because it undermines the cash they just received.

And if two peers give cash then it's a net zero, or even worse, one cash gift may be greater than the other.
posted by MesoFilter at 9:28 AM on December 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

Personally, I prefer receiving cash, but cash doesn't require any thought on the part of the giver. It reduces the act of giving a present to a transaction, and some percentage of people don't like that as they feel that giving gifts should be something more personal.
posted by willnot at 9:29 AM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think a big part of it is that cash is totally impersonal. Ideally a gift is "thoughtful" - it shows you have some understanding of the person you're giving to and what sort of thing they like. Even a gift certificate has more of that specificity than cash.

There are also some taboos around discussing money in general - it's considered crass to talk about how much money you make, and putting a dollar amount on a gift is rather tacky - hence the need for "gift receipts" that allow you to return a gift but don't actually indicate how much was spent on it. This is really a polite fiction, of course, since if you return it of course you'll find out how much it's worth, but it satisfies propriety.

dfriedman is right, of course, and this varies subculture to subculture across America, and person to person - I don't mind a check for a present from family, but would be surprised and a bit put off to get one as a present from a peer. It's just too mercenary to really feel like a "gift." (Of course I have a whole set of twitches about presents in general that are another story.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:30 AM on December 24, 2011 [10 favorites]

I think the distinction is that cash is more acceptable when you're not exchanging gifts. For holidays like Christmas, if you give each other 20 dollar bills, the exchange is hardly exciting. And if the exchange is lopsided, this is much more apparent and depressing to both sides when done via cash.
posted by pwnguin at 9:31 AM on December 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

The older you are the less likely that cash is an acceptable gift.

This is because it's not personal. There's the idea that a good gift should be picked out by the giver specifically for the receiver. That the giver took time, slaved over it, and picked something that the receiver would enjoy. Cash is none of those things, it's quick and says "I didn't think too hard or try too hard. Here, have what's in my pocket."

On the other hand that's exactly why giving cash is becoming more popular in the US. Most people have the major things they like and want. Giving a gift that's wanted, needed, and appreciated is getting very hard for a lot of people. Cash on the other hand is always welcome.
posted by Ookseer at 9:33 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's generally considered to be tacky. Gifts are "supposed" to be about the thought behind it. "I saw this, and I thought of you!" or "I knew this would be something you love!" So, especially for Christmas, the gift is meant to be an expression of love and affection, not a particular value. When giving a gift, you're supposed to rub off the price tag, or otherwise make sure the recipient can't tell how much it costs. Why? Because the amount of money isn't the point--it's the thought that counts. (Granted, you can generally get an idea. There's a difference between being given, say, a book and being given an iPad. But those are just generalities.)

A gift of cash makes perfectly clear what the monetary value of the gift is -- because it's money! And, it's generally considered that cash doesn't have the thoughtfulness behind it that other gifts have. You can't say, "I saw this, and I thought of you!" about a wad of twenties. So, it kind of goes against the whole spirit of gift-giving.

Granted, under a lot of circumstances, people look the other way about this. If you're having a really tough time (lost job, etc), then money really is a thoughtful gift. It should also be noted that gift cards have been becoming more and more popular with time -- they're like straight up money, but with a "I know you like this type of store/product!" angle.
posted by meese at 9:37 AM on December 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't think anyone (generalization, I know) in the US expects cash at a funeral. Contributions to appropriate charity, flowers, etc., but not cash to the family. The polite fiction that people can afford to pay for a lavish wedding or a dignified funeral does seem to permeate most of the general culture of the US (ethnic enclaves notwithstanding.)
I married into a very WASPy family and the only person who gave us cash was my husband's god-father. And he handed it over, just like in Goodfellas, in the receiving line.
Cash gifts are also showy, and you can too easily compare who gave more, where with goods--well, Aunt Mamie could have won that Kitchenaid at bingo and regifted.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:40 AM on December 24, 2011

Greek godfather.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:41 AM on December 24, 2011

For some people, it's fine. Parents to children, me to my younger brother who has less money, holiday gift to secretary. Thinking about it, I feel for a cash gift to make sense, there needs to be a pretty clear, established and accepted power/authority/seniority/money-making/gift expection/etc. imbalance to exist. Absent that, you run into the potential problem MesoFilter identifies - I give you $20, you give me $20... thrilling. Also, there's something a bit patronizing about a cash gift from a friend - not to say it might not be wonderful, but absent an established imbalance between you, it sometimes feels like they think you can't afford what you want to buy. Imagine a friend who always insists on paying for dinner - it can be uncomfortable. I think it's a bit like that.

But beyond that aspect of it, I think the problem is that cash fails to capture the gift-giving imagination. For the gift-giver, how much fun is it to imagine the gift-receiver getting cash? For me at least, not much. I treasure the idea of having picked out a great piece of jewelry, a wonderful book, a perfect trip/experience, a great cd - something that the other person loves and uses and that I see them use. There's a true pleasure in knowing that no matter what happens in life, you've given someone something that they treasure and the thought that when they use it/remember it, they will think of you. For the gift-receiver, the same is true. You might be happy to receive cash, but it's not going to alter your perceptions of the world, introduce you to something amazing, change the way you perceive something, give you a tangible memory to associate with another person. I remember getting a kindle as a gift, having thought to myself I would never want one and that I would never give up physical books. Once I got it, though, I fell in love with it. So that gift-giver introduced me to something I may never have experienced or tried out otherwise, and she's associated with that gift everytime I use it.

Cash is a fine gift, but it's bland. The problem with non-cash gifts is that they are hit or miss - many are terrible, but some may be far better and more meaningful by far that cash could ever be. As both a gift-giver and receiver, I think it depends whether you strive for a good gift that someone appreciates somewhat or want to shoot for the extremes - love or hate. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of honest feedback when it comes to gifts - it's hard to tell someone you didn't like their gift, and so when you praise the first nutcracker you get as a gift, next thing you know it's 20 years later and you have a collection.

Now I'm rambling. Great question, though. Lot to unpack.
posted by slide at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

It absolutely depends on the situation. Cash is almost always okay for a grandparents->grandkids gift, for example, I think because cash has novelty for kids. You can go buy your own things! Very exciting for kids. I also give and receive gift cards from my friends & family members all the time and don't feel weird about it.

But there are some situations where cash would be weird. First, it implies that the receiver needs cash because they're hurting for money in some way. It can imply some weird differentials where there may not be one; I have enough cash to give away, and you need cash. Again, this is fine for a grandparents->kids/grandkids gift because that "I will take care of you" dynamic already exists, but it'd be weird if you flipped it.

Second, it says "this is exactly how much you're worth to me" as a gift, which is bad if it's an overly high or low amount of cash that doesn't meet expectations. Too much and it makes the recipient uncomfortable, too little and they get offended. I do feel some pressure every year to make sure I get friends exactly the same amount in gift cards that they give me, even though we don't make the same amount of money -- if I hand them a gift card for $35 and they hand me one for $60 both sides end up unhappy.

Third, it feels like it takes all thought out of the gift, that the giver doesn't know you well enough (or doesn't care enough) to spend time thinking of a real, thoughtful gift for you. In that situation money can say, "I know I'm supposed to give you something but I have no idea what so why don't you go buy something and pretend it's from me." This is why I would flip if my boyfriend gave me cash as a present, but it'd be okay from older family members (who I rarely see or who are out of touch with what's cool these days).

Gift cards are somewhat an exception to the guidelines, because you do need to make some personal decision in where to buy the gift card from. So there's still some amount of thought ("I know you absolutely love this store and so...") some amount of intangibility ("I know you love music but I can't wrap mp3s so..."), and can skirt around the money differential if you're smart ("I know you've bought everything you want from the winter collection, so hang onto this card until spring so you can go crazy with the new collection!"). But, gift cards do go stale if you give them year after year after year because that does strip all thought out of it.
posted by lilac girl at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing that it depends on the occasion. If you are giving, not exchanging, it's fine. For example, as a wedding present, birthday present (with a caveat -- this is generally reserved for someone younger than you in your family), a Christmas present to someone younger than you in the family who you don't expect a return present from, etc. If you are exchanging, like for Christmas with siblings or at work or with friends, it's not really appropriate. However, you can usually get away with a nice gift card to a restaurant or something and it becomes okay because it turns it into an "experience" gift.

But really, there's no hard-and-fast rule. People have different relationships and expectations and it really has to be judged on a case-by-case scenario.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:45 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh gift cards - love that topic as well. People malign them, but they avoid one problem that cash has - they have to be spent on something fun (well, not one to home depot I suppose). I'm lucky enough to have more than enough money to buy pretty much what I want when I want it - so when I get cash, I just add it to savings, it probably gets invested or spent at some point, but it's fungible. I don't treat gift cash any different than any other income - I don't think I'm going to spend this $50 on fun - it just goes into the pot. Whereas gift cards don't give me that option - I have to think about what I want from best buy or b&n, then go there and shop and buy something fun. So I appreciate that bit of motivation to spend even though it means I buy things I probably wouldn't have purchased with cash. It's fun. But again, that's all because I have enough cash to buy what I need/really want - if I didn't have that, I might find a gift certificate a less entertaining present as I'd be thinking why not just give me cash.

I also give gift cards to my family members for holidays for the same reason - it encourages them to go out and spend when they normally wouldn't. Efficient, no. Fun, well, we think so. But I don't buy gift cards for anyone else that often, unless it's meant to be funny/ironic, for the same reasons I mentioned in my last comment.
posted by slide at 9:49 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cash is generally acceptable in the US as a birthday gift for children or a wedding gift. Funeral "gifts" are generally not given, but it is not unusual for cash contributions to be given to charitable organizations or foundations in memory of someone who has just died. In cases where the death has left the deceased's family in financial trouble, it is usual for a memorial fund to be established to pay expenses and support the family. Mourners will make cash contributions to this.

It would be weird to give cash as a birthday gift to an adult, or to a peer on a "gift exchange" occasion like Christmas.

But there are many occasions where cash (or money, most often in the form of these weird things Americans use called "checks") is perfectly acceptable.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:50 AM on December 24, 2011

Cash implies one of two things:
1. Initimate knowledge of your needs (g: parents give cash if they know their "adult" kids are trying to make a big purchase.)
2. Complete lack of knowledge about needs or wants (eg: often grandparents who live far from grandkids).

For anyone in between those two relationships giving cash is often taboo.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:07 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cash (well, checks) is, for what it's worth, the most common bar/bat mitzvah gift in the US.
posted by silby at 10:08 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am American - and cash is an acceptable gift for all occassions in my family. And it is the expected gifted for some occassions, like weddings and first communion.
posted by Flood at 10:10 AM on December 24, 2011

This is really variable between American subcultures and families. I grew up in a family where cash was almost never given as a gift (though gift certificates were occasionally given); cash would only be given in specific circumstances such as parents wanting to give a teenager new clothes but not knowing what to get that would suit the teen's sense of style. I was floored the first time one of my college friends, referring to the upcoming wedding of another friend, said "we'll just give cash, that's what we always do." I thought giving cash for a wedding gift would be unspeakably tacky, but I've come around to see that it's actually very common in a lot of other families/subcultures.

I also learned the rule that the recipient of the gift should never know its cost. Obviously that rule goes out the window for gift certificates.
posted by Orinda at 10:38 AM on December 24, 2011

My husband's paternal grandparents give us a check for birthdays and Christmas. They're very "proper" Southern people, the kind who are quite conscious of etiquette and behavior. I do think the cash stigma is there in American culture, but it certainly isn't a generational issue. It just depends on what the gift giver is comfortable with.
posted by litnerd at 10:39 AM on December 24, 2011

Along with the stuff mentioned above, if you give a friend $50 for his birthday, and he wants to give you cash for yours, he's obligated to give $50 back. It's like nobody got a gift at all.
posted by Adventurer at 10:49 AM on December 24, 2011

Imagine you got your way.

Suddenly, everyone decides that cash is a great gift.

What would happen?

I (30 years old) would give my brother (28 years old) cash for Christmas. "Here, Brother, here's a $100 bill." My brother would give me cash for Christmas. "Here, John, here's a $100 bill."

Now do you see the problem with giving cash?

It would be equivalent to giving no gifts at all.

Well, maybe giving no gifts at all would really be better!

There's an economist, Joel Waldfogel, who has passionately argued for exactly that conclusion.

He's studied this, and he's determined that exchanging gifts is irrational. He says that gift recipients, on average, value their gifts at less than the cost to the givers. He's figured out the lost value and says it amounts to billions of dollars a year. (Here's his book, Scroogenomics. Here's a PDF of an academic article by him: "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas.")

I think Waldfogel is missing something. He's ignoring the economic concept of signaling. Signaling happens all the time — for instance, when you apply for a job and submit a resume listing your academic degrees, you signal: "I'm intelligent, I'm a hard worker," etc.

Giving a gift sends a signal: "I care about you. We have a bond." etc.

This isn't my own original insight. See this blog post in the New York Times. The writer, Edward Glaeser, expands on the signaling concept:
Signaling has many virtues, and it is hard to think of anything more valuable than showing affection for others. In the schooling context, signals allow the matching of people to jobs. In the context of gift-giving, providing presents increases the welfare of others by giving them the sense that they are loved.

We could certainly celebrate the holidays by cutting checks for our parents and children. Such transfers would entail none of the deadweight loss that Mr. Waldfogel perceives. The recipients could then spend the money on exactly the things that their hearts desire. But by choosing actual gifts, we are trying to show that we care enough about the recipient to do some extra work, and that we know them enough to choose gifts that are not totally off base. Inevitably, I’m an imperfect buyer, but I like to think that the recipients of my gifts value the knowledge that I care, more than they feel the welfare loss from my mistakes.
Another economic concept: money is fungible. My $100 bill is exactly equivalent to my brother's $100 bill. If each of us gives our $100 bill to the other, the exchanges cancel out, as if we had made no exchange. So if people of more-or-less equal status give each other cash, it's the equivalent of not exchanging gifts, and they miss out on the opportunity to signal how much they care about each other.

The exception is if cash has an extraordinarily high value to one recipient. For instance, when I was a little kid, getting a $20 bill for Christmas or my birthday (from relatives in my extended family) was very exciting. Owning what I saw as a huge amount of cash, to do whatever I wanted with, made me feel rich, grown-up, empowered. Today, I'm an adult; I carry around 20s in my wallet all the time and think nothing of it. So I would feel insulted to get a $20 bill as gift. It would not be a positive signal. It would signal "I didn't bother to think of what you'd want" or "You can use this money more than I can."
posted by John Cohen at 10:59 AM on December 24, 2011 [20 favorites]

This practice varies across subcultures. It is ok to give money when it is considered acceptable to acknowledge that money is needed-- eg, weddings, for grandchildren, bar mitzvahs, etc. But the stereotype associated with giving money is a thoughtless husband who hands his wife a wad of cash and says, "here, honey. Buy yourself some nice clothes."

I guess now when I think about it, money is an acceptable gift when it's a one way-- when the gift giver is acting as the recipient's patron. It's thoughtless when it's intended to be part of an exchange of gifts between equals.
posted by deanc at 11:09 AM on December 24, 2011

Cash is given as gifts in the following countries:

1. Poorer nations: cash is king, gift giving is a utility, not an exercise in luxury such as in the U.S.

2. Status-centric nations: richer Asian countries. There, cash trumps individual expressions; money and status is chased with such fervor, cash becomes an easy "gift" to "help" those on such a pursuit.

In America, "richness" is associated well beyond money, rather much more with individual thought and uniqueness of the expression (cash is the opposite of unique).
posted by Kruger5 at 11:41 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

John Cohen has a very nice summary, and our family did not give cash...but let me tell you, when I was just out of the house and really struggling, the most thoughtful and joyously received gifts I ever got were cash. A good (older and well-off) friend gave me a Christmas card in it one year with $100 in it--I felt like I won the lottery.
posted by maxwelton at 11:47 AM on December 24, 2011

As Marcel Mauss argues in The Gift, gift-giving is part of a culture of reciprocity, where what is being given is 'not exclusively goods and wealth, real and personal property, and things of economic value' but symbolic objects, services, rituals and courtesies 'in which the market is but one element, and the circulation of wealth but one part of a wide and enduring contract'. The gift of money threatens to commodify that culture of reciprocity by expressing the gift in purely instrumental terms of status and power. It's only acceptable, therefore, in situations where there is already a recognised inequality of status between giver and recipient: e.g. patron/client, parent/child. It's not acceptable in situations where the giver and recipient regard themselves, or choose to be regarded, as roughly equal in status: e.g. friends, neighbours, colleagues.

Every gift confers an obligation. But by giving money, you are quantifying that obligation, as if to say: "Your friendship is worth precisely $20 to me. How much is my friendship worth to you?"
posted by verstegan at 12:10 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

John Cohen has a very nice summary, and our family did not give cash...but let me tell you, when I was just out of the house and really struggling, the most thoughtful and joyously received gifts I ever got were cash. A good (older and well-off) friend gave me a Christmas card in it one year with $100 in it--I felt like I won the lottery.

Yes, and that's another example of the exception I described. I gave children as the obvious example, and someone who's temporarily struggling financially is also within that exception. Nothing wrong with that. Notice that this only works as long as cash is not the norm. No matter who the recipients are, if the cash is exchanged in both directions, the gifts cancels out (at least partly) because of the fungibility of money.
posted by John Cohen at 12:34 PM on December 24, 2011

Not only does a thoughtful present say "I care about you." A really thoughtful present is something that you would not have bought for yourself but would have liked to.

Sometimes that's something you simply did not know existed, or did not know worked well -- e.g. a breadmaker, a pressure cooker. But sometimes it's something you know, and want, but wouldn't permit yourself.

I would not buy myself a new camera, even though I want one that's better at low-light. It's just too much of an extravagance. If someone bought me one, I would be super happy because I really want one. If that someone gave me $300, I'd put it in my wallet and use it to pay whatever comes next.

Ditto fancy scotch. Or gourmet jelly bellies.

The best presents are not only "I thought of you," but "I know you'd never buy this for yourself, but here you go."
posted by musofire at 1:08 PM on December 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's not true that cash is never acceptable as a gift in the U.S. For children or teenagers, even at Christmas, cash (or gift cards) are almost always acceptable. I almost always give my younger teen brother cash or a gift card, because I find his tastes impenetrable and ever changing and he always seems extremely appreciative.

For people graduating high school or college/university, cash is the de facto gift. The idea being that this person is going to need ready money very soon (for textbooks/tuition, for rent, to move to a new place, for a work wardrobe, etc.) and so giving them cash is giving them "a start" in life. The same goes for weddings among many Americans, although it's my understanding that the higher social classes frown on money as a wedding gift. Among my working/middle class relatives, it was the norm.

But yes, there are situations where it's not really acceptable. I wouldn't give my parents cash. I did give my mom an Amazon gift card one year because she specifically asked for one, but I also gave her a regular gift that I put some thought into. It seems like the unspoken idea is that you owe at least your elders the thoughtfulness of picking them out a gift, instead of just handing them a wad of bills. The same goes for gifts to friends. It'd be strange to give a friend money because the fact that the person is your chosen friend and companion makes the thoughtfulness of actually choosing a gift for them necessary. Also see the cancelling nature of an even cash exchange mentioned above. Also seconding musofire's assertion that cash gifts to responsible adults often become just another way to pay bills or household expenses, which doesn't make for a very fun gift for the recipient or the giver. If I gave cash to my mom, she'd definitely just use it to buy groceries or pay the light bill or something. If she actually needed help with those things, cash would be acceptable I suppose, but she can afford those things without my assistance fortunately. I'd rather get her something she wouldn't buy for herself. Gifting is just as much about the giver's pleasure as it is about the recipient's.
posted by katyggls at 1:49 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Unacceptable," such an interesting word. You are right that it's frowned upon, but by whom? I don't know of anyone who would refuse a gift of cash. And if a third party looks down on you for it, so what? There are a lot of possible offenses in modern life. "Gives cash as a gift" is surely one of the least objectionable.

I think a cash gift is something we have been acculturated to think is tacky or gauche. But inside, we are all happy to receive money instead of something that (statistically speaking) we do not want or need.

Just look at the immense market in gift cards. These are simply a way to give cash, without actually giving cash.

Which brings me to my final point: if you want to give cash, just buy a gift card which is targeted towards the recipient's interests. But your best bet is an Amazon card, because Amazon has everything.
posted by ErikaB at 2:18 PM on December 24, 2011

"Unacceptable," such an interesting word. You are right that it's frowned upon, but by whom? I don't know of anyone who would refuse a gift of cash.

Oh, I do! Elaine Benes, for one.
posted by John Cohen at 3:23 PM on December 24, 2011

Just look at the immense market in gift cards. These are simply a way to give cash, without actually giving cash.

Actually the fact that there's a huge market in gift cards just goes to show how averse people are to giving cash as a gift — a gift card is so much like cash, yet people go out of their way to give the cards rather than cash. A gift card isn't cash. You can use cash anywhere, but you can't use a gift card anywhere. A gift card might appear to be blatantly irrational: spending $100 on a gift card that can only be spent at Banana Republic gives you something of less value than $100 in cash. The cash allows you to buy whatever you would have bought at Banana Republic, but with the option to spend it somewhere else if you want. Yet people still give Banana Republic gift cards because it signals: "I know you like the kinds of clothes they have there, so pick out a sweater or something you like, and think of me when you wear it."
posted by John Cohen at 4:15 PM on December 24, 2011

I receive and give cash as a gift. I think gift cards are a bit silly, but that is personal, not cultural.

U.S., born and raised.
posted by Leta at 5:13 PM on December 24, 2011

Here's the difference for me - when someone gives me a thing, I get pleasure of thinking of how I will use it and when, what are the opportunities that this opens up. So, a new pressure cooker? Wow! I've always wanted a pressure cooker but, not having used one before, don't really know how to pick one out or whether I'll use it enough to buy. But now that I have one, I can try it out! Even with simpler things, ooh, this necklace is so pretty, I have this dress that it'll go just great with and I'm looking forward to wearing it. And every time I use the pressure cooker or wear the necklace I'll think, wow, it sure was nice of Aunt Martha to get me this!

Cash meanwhile - having more cash doesn't really open up other possibilities for me. The difference is really clear looking at old thank-you notes I wrote. As a kid, I could say "Thanks a lot for the money, there's a CD I really want" or "Thank you so much for the money, I'm going on a school trip soon and I'll use it to buy some souvenirs!" - but now it's like... there's no difference for me between using 'this money' versus using my own money now that I have some, so I'll probably just save it. And since it just goes in to the money pile, there's nothing around to really remind me of the gift.

That said, my family + friends are very much gift-optional; if you "have to" give a gift to every cousin or anything like that then cash and gift certificates become really useful (and it's nicer to receive cash than to receive something completely off target, like a duplicate of something I already own).
posted by Lady Li at 11:50 PM on December 24, 2011

This is why I have an agreement with most people to not give/receive gifts. It always ends up being some sort of cash exchange and then it seems kind of pointless. Now, I understand some people are very giving by nature, so homemade food always works in this case.
posted by eq21 at 11:43 AM on December 25, 2011

Ideefixe: "I don't think anyone (generalization, I know) in the US expects cash at a funeral."

My family is going through this right now, and Jesus Christ, it's expensive. Fortunately, we're in a better financial position that most right now, but even a year ago, it would have been a massive hardship for us.

Long story short: Cash or gifts of any sort at a funeral are a bit weird. However, if you know that the Final Expenses are being covered by a friend or relative who might not be in a position to easily pay for them, it's totally acceptable to offer to pay for some of the costs. If the deceased was the primary breadwinner in a family with young children, it's also perfectly normal to give money in the form of a 529 Plan, Savings Bond, or trust fund.
posted by schmod at 8:35 PM on December 25, 2011

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