I was recently at a birthday celebration for a colleague who celebrated their 50th birthday. Sadly, he had to work on his actual birthday so we all decided to get together and have a mini celebration in the office to make his day a little bit better.
We did the usual office thing and pooled our money together to get a couple decent gifts for him – some photography stuff (since he enjoys photography), travel books (he travels a lot) and a couple other small items.
While chatting with him I asked him what gifts he received from his family (who were in town the previous weekend so celebrated with him then). He got some cool stuff but he also got some things that will actually cost him money.
One of his uncles happened to realize he is very busy and usually doesn’t have time to clean his house. So he got him a free one-time house cleaning. It’s an admirable gift with good intentions but will leave the guy hanging.
My guess is that he will really enjoy having his place so clean and then want to continue. So eventually the gift he received (with good intentions) will cost him money if he wants to keep getting his house cleaned regularly. He won’t have any more time in his schedule so I expect he’ll end up signing up to have his house cleaned regularly once he sees how clean it can be.
Nothing wrong with that, except that the gift will now have to be added into his monthly budget (assuming he has one – some people don’t).
I recently wrote about how we had a frugal fail and decided to finally get a house cleaner. While it will cost money every month, it’s something we both debated and factored in when making the monthly budget. It wasn’t a gift and didn’t come as a surprise that our monthly costs have gone up.
Another gift he received from his sister was a satellite radio receiver for his car. Like many people in the city he lives in the suburbs and commutes in his car to work every day.
Satellite radio will definitely make his commute more enjoyable since he won’t have to listen to all the commercials on regular radio but after the 3 month free trial ends it will start to cost him money. The regular programming package is about $15 per month right now – not a lot of money, but the small things add up and it’s not something he paid for before.
Again, I expect he’ll enjoy having the satellite radio and will end up paying for it. The $75 satellite radio receiver he got as a gift may end up costing him every month for a long time.
Being in the suburbs has a few advantages, and a nice size yard is one of them. He lives on an older, large lot with plenty of mature trees and lots of grass.
When his family comes to visit they see the potential of the yard but they also notice that it isn’t maintained very well. His wife isn’t in the best of health and he simply doesn’t have time to landscape so much of the yard is untouched.
Another gift he received was a $100 landscaping gift certificate for a local landscaping company, valid for any type of work they perform.
It’s a great gift with the best intentions but like the others, I think he will realize how much better the yard looks when properly landscaped and will want to have it done on a regular basis.
Being a huge movie buff means he has a large selection of older movies – he’s known around the office as that guy who is a master at movie trivia.
So what better gift to give someone who loves movies than a Netflix subscription?
The subscription is free for the first month so he can try it out and see if he likes it. After that he will have to pay monthly to keep his subscription. I don’t personally have Netflix but it will likely cost around $10 per month. Again – not a huge cost but it all starts to add up to the point where he will have to adjust his monthly budget.
Gifts that Keep on Taking
When giving gifts I try to think about what the person would want and how much they would enjoy the item/service. But I also think about whether it will cost them. Not just in money but also time. There’s no sense in getting someone a gift card to a restaurant on the other side of town that they never visit, or tickets to a hockey game that they can never attend due to their personal work schedule.
Then, of course, there’s the money side of things. I try to avoid giving someone a gift that will end up costing them money through lifestyle inflation. Satellite radio and Netflix are great but what happens after the free trial period ends? They’ll have to start paying money to keep their subscription, which isn’t ideal as a gift because the person may not have any room in their budget for extra costs.
Have you ever recede a gift that ended up costing you money?