No more gifts please!
November 9, 2012 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Would it be acceptable if we ask people to deposit money into an account for our son's education instead of giving gifts?

So we have a 7 week old and already we're accumulating too much junk. Most of the gifts are things that we're probably not going to use. Would it be weird if we ask people for money for a college fund for him or something of the sort instead of giving gifts? Best way to set this up?
posted by no bueno to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I guess I wouldn't even say no gifts, but at least offer the fund option or strongly encourage it...
posted by no bueno at 5:29 PM on November 9, 2012

No. Asking for cash is trashy.
posted by downing street memo at 5:35 PM on November 9, 2012 [23 favorites]

I think it is all about how you ask. If gifts are unsolicited you don't really get an option, but a lot of times people will ask you what you need. I think if they ask it is perfectly appropriate to mention education money. Fully expect that they may not take you up on it, however.
posted by aetg at 5:42 PM on November 9, 2012

Sorry. If someone asks what you need, you can suggest $$ for education, but I don't think that it's polite to ask. Also, people like buying baby stuff.
posted by murfed13 at 5:42 PM on November 9, 2012

Yes, to close friends and family members who would not be offended. If a friend of mine wanted cash instead of a toy, etc, I would be glad to do that - but if a casual acquaintance co-worker at the office baby shower asked then it would feel a little odd. (But I'd probably do it - no point in giving people things they don't want.)

Anyway, the people who you can really be honest with and share things with, people who care about you [semi] unconditionally - ask them. That will at least cut down on the number of plastic oddments.

(I add that although I was a big fan of Miss Manners as a child (we had the books and I used to love to read them) I don't understand why anyone would not want to give a close friend the most useful and wanted possible present. It seems silly to get "offended" because you don't get to pick the precise form of a present.)
posted by Frowner at 5:43 PM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

What kind of folks are giving you these gifts? Friends or family?

Friends? No.

Family? Yes.

And I have thought a few times about returning some gifts and putting money in her education fund but, uh, it never really works out that way.

I have sent round to the grandparents instructions on how to put money into my daughter's 529 fund and also let them know that they can start one in her name in their state for possible tax breaks. As far as I know, to my puzzlement, they have declined to put anything in.

If you get too many toys, donate them or give them to a friend with a less generous circle.
posted by amanda at 5:46 PM on November 9, 2012

Ignoring the manners/cultural issues and answering the how: You can set up a 529 which people can contribute to via UGift. I know that Vanguard, and probably many other brokerages, make this pretty easy to do
posted by gimletbiggles at 5:48 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Absolutely. It's a noble cause.
posted by fullerenedream at 5:51 PM on November 9, 2012

Best answer: Ask someone else to tell folks about the UGift account you've set up. Have your mum tell her sisters and brothers, your dad tell his sisters and brothers, your best friend tell other friends, etc.

Sending your folks an email saying "We've heard from so many people asking what we needed for baby Quintillianus! We're more than set for toys and clothes, but one thing that would always come in handy is a gift to his college fund. So if Uncle John or Aunt Mary happen to ask, it would be great if you could pass along the info" would not be at all uncouth.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:53 PM on November 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


If someone tells you they want to buy a present for the baby, just say, "oh thank you so much for the thought, but we already have all the things he needs and then some! Onesies piled to the ceiling!"

If they then ask how they can contribute towards little Mergenthorpe's future financial well being, you can beam at them and say that would be most appreciated, but even at that point proffering a direct debit form would be out of line. And I don't think many people are going to offer monetary gifts, to be honest.

It's really something of a loss of perspective to consider doing what you're doing. Anybody who is close enough to want to contribute to a savings account for your kid will also probably have set one up already. This is the kind of thing an aunt or grandparent would do of their own accord, not something you ask of your top 500 Facebook friends. For everyone else, they're too busy paying off their own student loans and asking MeFi if they need to go to the doctor for coughing up blood, or can it wait because they have no insurance?
posted by tel3path at 5:56 PM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

You may find that as your baby grows, his gifts get way less useless. At seven weeks, he can't actually do anything, and most of the things you do use are practical and not fun to give as gifts. As he gets older and interested in toys and books, you will start to appreciate the gifts more and more. Sure, some of them might be large or noisy, but some of them will also be your son's favorite things.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:07 PM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Plenty of people have families where it's perfectly normal to prioritize giving money for education over giving THINGS (anyone else remember savings bonds? no?). You are the only person here who knows what kind of friends and family you have.

In my friend group, and particularly among certain friends, I would be totally thrilled to put money in a 529 instead of or even in addition to whatever I might otherwise choose to do on my own. But again -- you are the only person with enough information about your friends and family to decide if it's weird or normal.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:13 PM on November 9, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry, guess I wasn't really clear. I'm not going to go around asking people to give to a fund but more if they ask what he wants/needs tell them that is what we prefer.

I'll look into the 529 plan, thanks for that. My wife and I already had a general feeling about our family but weren't sure if we were totally off base or not.
posted by no bueno at 6:20 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

We set up a 529 right away and said we'd prefer a donation to that in lieu of toys or presents or whatever. And we donated that money to it.

Even with that we have a house FULL of stuff now at 16 months. Grandparents don't care. They will give money AND give big toys. I have no idea what we're going to do this Christmas. I can't fit all that stuff in my car, or my house.
posted by sanka at 7:02 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Money is frequently a tricky thing to ask for--the suggestions above have great guidelines for spreading politely through family and how to phrase your request. And although money is more practical than clutter (and I would prefer education gifts to toys--I'm very sympathetic), here are some perspectives you might want to consider if people don't react the way you'd like.

1) People want to feel helpful. They want to help you feed or clothe or entertain your new baby. A request for money and no gifts is basically saying that you don't need their help now, but cash is great, thanks. Some people don't react well to that.

2) Some people find babies adorable and want to give a little something for the sweet newborn, and instead parents ask them to give a present to a teenager they might not know in 18 years. They aren't interested in the hypothetical teenager; they like the baby.
posted by studioaudience at 7:15 PM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, go ahead and ask. If anyone complains that a seven week old baby can't appreciate a college fund, explain to them that a seven week old also doesn't have any concept of "toys" beyond gnawable crap to take up space in the crib; by the time no buenito can appreciate them, he'll already have outgrown anything currently safe to give him.

If people don't want to donate to a college fund, hey, no problem. Just tell 'em you don't want more crap, so thanks anyway. That said, others have pointed out a more diplomatic approach to this - Clothing the li'l kipper can get expensive, so ask for clothes and deposit the savings.
posted by pla at 7:28 PM on November 9, 2012

Answering as a person who has had friends with babies/kids over the past 10 years. I sometimes give gifts just to acknowledge a new baby and/or get something fun for a child. But i will be honest and say that the last few years, for close friends I have wondered this same thing: I would love to give a small amt of mony towards the child's educational or economic future, but I have hesitated because I have not known how to ask this question and/or would they think it was weird. By the same token, if an acquaintance who was not a close friend just told me this option, it would bother me.

Here is the approach that would make me comfortable and want to give $ towards a child's education: For get togethers where gifts sometimes happen (ie baby shower, child b-day), an email or invite stating "A few pple have asked about gifts, and although we would prefer and just want your company, if it is very important to you here is a link to a registry." Include the typical baby stuff that you need or want, but as an option, you could list donation towards x, with the link to the place where you want this.

This would make me comfortable and even want to donate, but cant speak or others. It would not be tacky because it is not mandatory or expected, and there are other options, too.
posted by Wolfster at 8:13 PM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I actually PREFER to give money, whether it's college funds or cash, because it's way more useful than the kid having three sets of the same dump truck/doll house. And more convenient for me. I understand why you wouldn't want to ask, but certainly tell your folks to spread the word and tell any who ask. There's no better gift than education in these times!
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:16 PM on November 9, 2012

Best answer: Some of the best things I read and did as a kid came from creative friends and relatives. Bookstore gift cards, experiences like learning to snorkel or ride a horse, etc.

You may find that in a few years the ideas your friends have for ways to give something cool to your little one are much better than your own! So perhaps ask people to give experiential gifts for things your child can do or experience rather than something he/she can own.
posted by mdonley at 6:39 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ditto two lights above the sea. I would much rather have someone (family, close friend, acquaintance) whose baby I am showering tell me that they'd like a cash donation, rather than make myself go shopping for baby gifts and sit there wondering if they already have three of the onesies or blankets I'm looking at. It may read as "trashy" (ugh) to some people, but some people will always find a way to take offense.
posted by psoas at 8:16 AM on November 10, 2012

I think it depends on who you're talking to, i.e. the amount of money they would be spending ordinarily. For your parents and siblings, for your best friends, for people who would probably be buying big gifts anyway, then yes absolutely tell them that the baby has a 529 and that would be the perfect gift.

But for, like, people in your office, for whom you're probably just another shower they have to attend and shell out for this year -- those people are going to be uncomfortable with a cash scenario because they were hoping to find something on sale at Carter's which they'd take the price tag off of. So for them, maybe suggest clothing in larger baby/toddler sizes, so you don't get a bunch of useless Newborn size stuff that your kid will promptly grow out of.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:58 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

The solution to this is for people who want to give a cash donation to say, "I would actually really like to make a small monetary gift, perhaps for little Mahershalalhashbaz's savings account or a gift card or whatever he happens to need?"

Then you don't have to ask, and they get to give the gift they actually want.

I think people should be able to find it within themselves to be assertive enough to offer money if that's what they most want to give - the burden of asking shouldn't be placed on you.
posted by tel3path at 3:20 PM on November 10, 2012

Wow, threads like these remind me of the cultural differences between (Far) East and West.

If you have Asian friends (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese etc...) you may mention a red packet/envelope or hongbao would be welcome in lieu of presents. Giving money as a gift is never uncouth in many Asian cultures, especially when it is an elder giving to a younger person.
posted by Alnedra at 5:37 PM on November 10, 2012

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