Gift advice for kids: 1 of 4
August 1, 2022 4:57 PM   Subscribe

I hope this is the right way to go about this! I'm looking for gift advice for my friends' 4 kids, posting four separate questions. Budget around $50/ea but not a hard limit. One of four: 15-year-old, just got a learner's permit, interested in investing. Obviously I can just give cash but $50 doesn't seem like much.
posted by HaveYouTriedRebooting to Work & Money (15 answers total)
A while ago, I gave up on giving presents to my sister’s kids, and instead, I gave them tickets to plays or games. Gifts are always going to be tough to get right, but treating them to experiences is always a hit, esp. when it’s something their parents wouldn’t do for them. Maybe there’s an experience you can give them rather than cash or stuff?
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:22 PM on August 1, 2022

How practical do you want to be? Because a gas gift card is a traditional gift for a new driver, but not very fun.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:22 PM on August 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My teenagers insist that cash is the best present you can give to a teenager. To me, a gift of cash feels like you didn't put much thought into it and it also feels boring. It seems to me like it would be more fun to get an actual thing (or opportunity to do a thing), especially something you weren't expecting and maybe hadn't even thought of. But they don't feel the same way about it at all and they don't seem to think any teenager would.
posted by Redstart at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

In my teens I LOVED getting cash. I vote for cash! Heck, I'm no longer a teen and I still love cash.
posted by spraypaint at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Give them a share of a tech stock. In this case I would give them a share of an ETF, ticker: ARKK, the ARK Innovation Fund. Here is a link to the fact sheet they put out. (pdf).

Top 3 holdings are Tesla, Zoom and Roku. It is managed by Cathie Wood who is somewhat controversial in that she has her supporters and detractors. It is irrelevant to me because I think the important part of the gift is getting the 15 year old focusing on investing. Let them come to their own conclusions.

I was given 1 share of Disney in 197?. I still own it although it has split many times and increased in value such that I could sell them for real money. The point is that I started reading the stock tables everyday to see how my share was doing. (Back when reading the stock tables in the Wall Street Journal was the way to find out what your stocks were trading at.) It got me reading the WSJ. I think my father gave me a subscription to supplement/compliment the share gift by one of their friends. Long story not so long, I ended up with a career in trading stocks and options. Floor trader on the CBOE for a while and upstairs trader for many many years.

Would I have rather the cash at the time. You bet! But, in hindsight, it was the greatest gift I got before the age of 21. I still remember the husband and wife that gave it to me. They are long gone and even my parents (also long gone) could not remember them, but I still do.

I have a friend now who gave another friend's son, a "Get out of jail free" card from a monopoly set with handwritten on the back a note that said, "One freebie. Call me anytime day or night and I will get you out of trouble and not tell your parents if you don't want." It was wrapped in a $50 bill. The kid is now in his late 20's and on his birthday, he posted a picture of the front and back on social media saying, "Still have. Just in case."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:05 PM on August 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

Cash is boring to adults because they typically have their own money, and the novelty of the freedom to make one’s own purchases hasn’t worn off. You might come up with a better gift, but if not, don’t feel bad about cash. $50 seems pretty substantial to me.
posted by Comet Bug at 6:23 PM on August 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

You could probably combine the other 3 kids in a single question if you want, I'm excited to answer now
posted by spraypaint at 6:53 PM on August 1, 2022

Cash depends entirely on the budget of the teen/child. If they don't usually get money and have to use their own money or gifts to buy what they want, then, yes, cash is a great gift.

If they can just spend mostly whatever they want, use the parents' credit card, then cash is not so much of a treat.

If, in this case, cash is not so much of a treat and the parents don't have ready ideas for you, then I like the idea of tickets to a show or concert or something similar. $200 is a family membership to a local - museum or zoo or botanical garden - plus a gift card to use at the cafe. But that's only a good gift if they don't already have full access to go wherever and whenever.
posted by RoadScholar at 7:01 PM on August 1, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks all so far! FYI I am having some technical difficulties posting questions 2-4, is possible that I confused the metafilter filter (is that meta enough). Interesting perspective about the cash option, it is a while since I was a teen myself.
posted by HaveYouTriedRebooting at 7:04 PM on August 1, 2022

I vote for cash! With a nice card, but honestly, cash is the best gift for any kid under 25.
posted by decathecting at 7:26 PM on August 1, 2022

Yeah, I saw my then-15-year-old get cash and they were thrilled. To adults it would feel like someone didn't put any thought in the gift, but for them it's freedom! A nice crisp $50 bill is impressive, or you could go weird and give it to them in $2 bills and 50 cent pieces, etc. Money leis are also nice.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:47 PM on August 1, 2022

A bunch of us (teenagers and adults) went indoor skydiving last year and everyone thought it was really fun. (It's not really all that much like skydiving and it's not as scary as it sounds like it might be. I think most people would enjoy it.) That's something you could consider if you're willing to spend a bit more than $50 per kid. (I assume you'd want to pay for all four kids to do this, not just one or two.) At iFly, the cost varies with location. I selected a few different ones and saw prices ranging from $55 to $85 for two flights for one person.
posted by Redstart at 8:02 PM on August 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've started just asking: "Hey, what do you want for your birthday? the budget is $50." This allows me to let go of the need to surprise and delight, along with the fear of falling flat. Now it's very consistently no surprise, just delight.
posted by dum spiro spero at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2022

Cash is super exciting for (most) teenagers! $50 is at least 7 hours of work at the federal minimum wage (this figure doesn't include taxes). Cash also allows teenagers to meet their savings goal faster. And if they want to spend their birthday money on frivolous novelties, then that's 100% okay too. Giftcards / prepaid debit cards seem like they are a bit more personal, but that's a good way to give free money to our corporate overlords.
posted by oceano at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2022

interested in investing

A book and some cash? I feel like books on famous scams and con jobs might be educational and helpful here, to help build a nose for bad investing, but I'm not sure offhand what titles make for good layperson reading. (I haven't read "Wizard of Lies" about Madoff although I've heard about it, but something like that, maybe?)
posted by rmd1023 at 1:09 PM on August 2, 2022

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