Questions about getting little bro's 18th bday pressie
August 13, 2013 1:46 AM   Subscribe

My brother's turning 18 on Aug 30. Any thoughts on what to get, appreciated.

So, I was thinking either a phone charging wallet or shares (he doesn't have his driver's licence yet so I can't get anything for a car, and his preferred uni would require moving out which we won't know for another 6 months (and it's a tough one to get into), so I can't get him anything for "surviving outside the nest").

That was before I asked him what he wanted (I have to admit I was secretly hoping he would be like "whatever you want"). He said, in no uncertain terms, a tablet. I asked him why, and he said his current laptop is so big and heavy. I'm concerned that a) it's just gonna be another gadget, and b) shit would absolutely hit the fan (for both of us) if my parents found out I bought him something that they can't see the rationale of (I personally can't either, I think a laptop and smartphone is just fine). Plus I thought of the wallet and the shares because they're both things that he can use for a long time.

However, like I said, he clearly specified he wanted a tablet. Should I just keep my mouth shut and get him one anyway?
posted by glache to Shopping (13 answers total)
I'd normally just say get the tablet. Presents should be something that someone wants after all. Its really nice if you can think of something that they didn't even know that they wanted, but pretty lame if you end up getting them something they didn't really want at all.

The additional element in your question appears to be the finances of it all. Why would your parents get mad? Are you living at home as well? If your income your own? If you're spending your own money then it seems reasonable to get your brother what you'd like, provided you aren't singling him out ( its a large family and you've only spent this much on one of them!)

I know a lot of people love their tablets. I do personally think laptops are fine, but if your bother does a lot fo commuting then the tablet will come in handy. Besides, birthdays aren't the time to make judgment's on people's present preferences.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:13 AM on August 13, 2013

'b) shit would absolutely hit the fan (for both of us) if my parents found out I bought him something that they can't see the rationale of (I personally can't either, I think a laptop and smartphone is just fine)'

Wait, whut? Why is your gift to your brother of any concern to your parents?

FWIW, I found my tablet invaluable when I was doing my PhD. Get a case with a keyboard and it's even a tiny netbook.
posted by nerdfish at 3:25 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

a) it's just gonna be another gadget, and b) shit would absolutely hit the fan (for both of us) if my parents found out I bought him something that they can't see the rationale of...

It's estimated that 250 million tablets will be sold in 2013, up from 100 million last year. That's a lot of people who think tablets are super-useful. Maybe you and/or your parents don't see the value, but hundreds of millions of other people do... including your brother. :)
posted by nickrussell at 3:55 AM on August 13, 2013

FWIW, I have a laptop, and a tablet, and I love my tablet. For someone who commutes, I think they are really terrific. If you hadn't asked him, I think it would be different, but if I were you, I'd give him the tablet.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 3:57 AM on August 13, 2013

When I turned 18, I think I would have been a bit gutted to receive some shares, to be perfectly honest. Plus shares can down down as well as up. Get him an iPad!
posted by derbs at 3:58 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another thought - has he already chosen a career? If he's tech savvy, you could get him a beginner's guide to app programming book to go with it. There's a huge demand for app developers, and will be for a long time. He'd never be short of a well paid job.
posted by derbs at 4:06 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe I am cheap but a tablet seems extravagant pricewise from a brother (I assume you are peers) and also kind of boring/practical. Why not a night out together/weekend roadtrip or a show/concert/ballgame?
posted by headnsouth at 4:07 AM on August 13, 2013

Yeah I say buy him a tablet. Maybe one of the ~$200 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tabs. As a laptop/smartphone/tablet owner.. I've all together stopped taking my laptop places.

The shares will be a great happy 21st birthday sort of gift, I think.
posted by royalsong at 5:56 AM on August 13, 2013

I don't understand why you or your parents would be policing your little brother's college birthday gifts?! Unless he is a drug addict, prone to harming himself or others, or mentally deficient, the idea that the shit would hit the fan if you bought hm a gift he actually wants blows my mind.

If it is a question of frugality, and money is a concern for you or your parents, and neither of you can afford to get him a tablet individually, you might consider pitching in together. Otherwise, cash is always a very welcome alternative for incoming college freshmen. He can pool the cash to buy himself a tablet or use it for school expenses or an emergency fund.

Additionally, many campuses now have textbooks available in e-reader format, which often run cheaper than the dead tree variety. My son's college, for instance, which is hardly on the cutting edge of the technology curve, has ebook rentals that last only a semester or school year. This option is MUCH cheaper than buying even used textbooks and selling them back for a pittance once classes have ended each term.

If you just think your little brother won't use a tablet, I have to say I don't see any basis for this concern. Even without the ebook text consideration, he will get a LOT of use out of a lightweight alternative for his laptop. College students have to schlup a lot of gear around. Having a tablet to take to class instead of a heavy laptop is not at all impractical. Theft is a BIG problem on college campuses. A new frshman doesn't want to call attention to his expensive laptop if he can manage it.

There are also some amazing study aid apps ready-made for tablets. Brainscape, practice tests, flash card makers and cliff notes are just a few that come to mind.

Please do not buy him anything he has never expressed an interest in, including stocks, a wallet or programming books. No, not even if you think it would improve him. In fact, ESPECIALLY not then. Gifts are for the recipient, not for you, not for your parents, and not for the person you want the recipient to be.
posted by misha at 6:37 AM on August 13, 2013

A compact tablet is a great idea. And it's a great idea because your parents don't see the use of it: he wants one (presumably he would get a decent amount of use out of it), his parents aren't going to buy it for him, so it falls on you to do be the one who gets it for him. Your parents can't serve as his connection to the outside world, so that's your job.

Yes, you could get him $300 worth of shares. If things go well, assuming a 10% return, by the end of college, the shared could be worth $450. Which for me would cover 1 month of gasoline plus a few nice meals.
posted by deanc at 6:39 AM on August 13, 2013

Gifts are for the recipient, not for you, not for your parents, and not for the person you want the recipient to be.

The ideal gift is something that a person would like, but would not buy for himself (otherwise he would have done so). I bought my father an upscale, high-quality wallet for one birthday and a custom suit for his next birthday, things that he would never, never pay money out of his own pocket to buy for himself. To this day, he loves them, because he's amazed that his wallet hasn't fallen apart within a year like all of his other ones, and he has to wear suits for work, but he never had a nice one that really fit very well like the one I got for him does.

But this is an example of how I have to "step in" to be the gift-giver for things that no one else will get him. In a lot of families, my mom would be the one to get him nicer clothes than he would buy for himself, but since she doesn't, that's my job.

Even using that standard, the tablet is the correct gift: he would like one, but obviously he can't buy one for himself because he can't afford it. And in most families, the parents would be the ones to buy him that, but since they aren't going to do so, you have to step in.
posted by deanc at 6:45 AM on August 13, 2013

I refuse to buy disposable electronics for the important birthdays. My son wanted an X box for his 18th, I persuaded him to accept a guitar, three years later he is happy with the decision. My daughter refuses to be persuaded away from a tablet for her 18th so I will be allocating some shares. I dont suppose it matters but I like to celebrate these events with gifts that have a potential lofe long worth.
posted by BenPens at 9:54 AM on August 13, 2013

Response by poster: Re: questions on finances. I live away from home, and yes it's my money, so yes you could say I'm completely independent. Mum however has mental issues and just trust me, she would explode that a) he asked me to buy "such a silly present" (in her eyes--for me, I don't understand either but I wouldn't pay him out for his present choices, which is just inappropriate), and b) why did I have to listen to him anyway. I'm not worried about her lambasting me since I'm 900km away (and yes I purposely did not apply for any jobs within a 500km radius of home), but I don't want her to make his life miserable, which she will and which he doesn't need, esp as his final exams are in Oct/Nov.

@derbs: he wants to be a lawyer, so no go there. But that's a good thought, thanks.

@headnsouth: He has had to deal with pulling his socks up academically over the last 2 years, while dealing with Mum's crap alone (also over the last 2 years since I moved out). I don't think $200-300 is too small a reward. I would even be prepared to spend the $500 or whatever it is on an iPad except that a) I think that would be more justified once we actually know if he gets in, and b) Mum would BLOW her top if she knew I spent that kind of money on him while not even giving them a cent. As an example, she whinged that Dad spent $100 to get my brother a cheap smartphone. The roadtrip and shows/concerts etc are great ideas, but he doesn't have any concerts or particular destinations in mind (I do have a few though, for the roadtrip) and it would have to wait till his results come out at Xmas as he's pretty much going straight from exams--fulltime work--end of school celebrations--results (Xmas time).

@misha: I hope the above has answered your comments.

@deanc: it's funny because I was thinking shares would not be particularly useful to him at this point in time, and that if he hadn't said anything, I would've bought him the phone charging wallet over the shares because he's always running out of battery and it'll only get worse when he goes to uni and it becomes both his landline and mobile.

@BenPens: that was what I was thinking. I'm just worried it would become just yet another gadget to be replaced in a few years.

Thanks for all the constructive responses though. I'm wondering if it's better for me just to not get anything at this point until his results come back, or is it a big no-no to have a belated present, esp for an 18th? (by belated, I would say next Easter once he's moved out away from Mum's prying eyes, so that's like what, at least 7-8 months? Thanks!
posted by glache at 1:02 AM on August 14, 2013

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