What do you want for your birthday?
My wife is constantly asking me this question. Weather it be my birthday, Christmas or fathers day my answer is always the same and it pisses her off “nothing.” And every time she explodes with frustration. This is particularly annoying to her at Christmas when it is almost expected that gifts are bought for everyone in the family weather people want them or not. I know that the family is asking her what they can get me, and I don’t do it to be an asshole but most times there really isn’t anything that I want. And when I receive something like another piece of clothing, or a collectible or a gift card I ask; what am I going to do with this?
I take great joy in giving gifts to family and friends. But only when I know the gift is really going to make them happy or when it’s something that they really want or need or cannot afford. Not just because I feel obligated or because its tradition or because somebody will be angry if I don’t get them anything.
“But it’s the thought that counts.” Bullshit. Too often people give and receive gifts that are worthless or thoughtless. The gift may have increased your credit card bill by $50 and within a week it is underneath the couch covered in dog hair. This is especially true of gifts for the kids. We go through this cycle over and over with the kid’s toys. The kids receive gifts of toys from Grandparents and birthday parties from other kids. They also occasionally pick something up from the thrift store for cheap on one of our financial learning outings (other post). A few months later as the toys and games pile up, we clean out the kid’s room to make space for all the additional stuff that has been acquired and get rid of it.
For mothers day this year the kids and I built a flower box for mom with scrap wood found in our shed. *The kids then painted it with old paint we had left over from when the house was painted and we filled it with dirt from the garden. This was a simple gift that cost virtually nothing and the kids learned something in the process. I also got do what I want to do more of what I love to do; spending more time with my kids.
Recently I have started answering her question by asking for tools. I figure that this will teach me to be handy around the house and in turn save money. It will also help me to be creative with the kids. Next time one of them asks me to help them build a tree fort, a go-cart or a birdhouse I will have the tools needed to help them get it done.
We need to teach kids that spending money just to satisfy a craving or a tradition is unhealthy. Kids watch everything that we do and so when I say I don’t want anything it’s because I am happy with what I have. Let’s be positive financial role models for our kids. I have a wonderful family and kids that constantly want to dig in the back yard with me, have me take them bike riding or play the troll game. I want them to understand that they don’t need physical things to be happy. And I try to be around as much as possible to show them that.