Gifting relatives: When to quit?

At what age should you stop putting presents under the tree for nieces, nephews and other young extended family members and close friends?

By MSN Money Partner Dec 14, 2012 1:18PM

This post comes from Len Penzo at partner site Len Penzo dot Com.


Len Penzo dot Com logoWhen my daughter, Nina, was still measuring her age in single digits, I'd tuck her into bed every evening and, just before kissing her goodnight, ask her to stop getting older.


Image: Gifts (© Image Source Black/Jupiterimages)She didn't listen.


The truth is, kids are always in a hurry to grow up.


Unlike many adults, who prefer to stop counting at 39, kids proudly embrace every new candle on their birthday cake as a badge of honor.


Why else would they typically go out of their way to volunteer that they're not just, say, "six" --but "six and a half"?


Nina officially became a teenager last summer. Never mind that she had been telling anybody who would listen that she was "almost 13" only a few months after celebrating her 12th birthday. (For Nina, getting to her 13th birthday was especially important because that was the milestone we established she had to reach before she could have her own Facebook account.)


Of course, every kid also looks forward to their 18th birthday because that's the day they officially become adults. Hopefully, upstanding responsible ones.


Not coincidentally, age 18 also happens to be the last time my nieces, nephews, and other young family members and close friends get birthday and Christmas gifts from their Uncle Len. After that, I still mark those occasions by an appropriate Hallmark greeting card -- but sans cash, gift certificates or gift cards.


If people think that makes me a penny-pinching curmudgeon, so be it.


As I see it, you have to draw the line somewhere and, frankly, I have no intention of sending a 30-something niece or nephew who's earning a six-figure income a birthday card with a sawbuck in it.


Come to think of it, I see no point in sending a 30-something niece or nephew who's earning almost zero income a birthday card with a sawbuck in it either.

Of course, if not handled correctly, that kind of gift policy can become an extremely delicate situation, especially when you have multiple nieces and nephews still living in the same house who are on both sides of 18. That's when things can get really . . . interesting.


I found that out the hard way a few years ago. The Honeybee and I ran afoul of a 19-year-old relative after she opened up her Christmas card from us and found no cash or gift card inside. Her disappointment then turned to resentment after she saw that her younger siblings still got their gifts.


What soon followed was some very, let's just say, unseasonal holiday "greetings" sent in our direction. Over time, I think she eventually came to accept our household gift-giving policy -- but not before she regretfully expressed a lot of hard feelings.


That little incident taught me the importance of giving my teenage nieces and nephews -- and their parents -- a friendly reminder of my gift-giving policy at least a year or two before the annual gift door closes. That way there are no surprises.


And before any of you fire off one of your own nasty-grams telling me what an inconsiderate cheapskate I am, you can rest assured that all my nieces, nephews and other close relatives will still be receiving gifts for their high school and college graduations, and their weddings and baby showers too. Assuming I get an announcement, of course.


See there?


I may be a crusty curmudgeon, but I also have a heart.


More on Len Penzo dot Com and MSN Money:


Dec 14, 2012 8:28PM
I quit giving to nieces and nephews when they quit saying "Thank you".
Dec 15, 2012 12:41PM
We also quit the gifts to nephews nieces etc when they fail time after time to say "Thank you", as soon as they can write their name about age 4 they can sign a Thank You card, blame the parents in the early years for not teaching them. After that they can (should) be able to put a few words on paper themselves by the third grade, pick up the phone or they all know how to email or text. By about 10 it is getting kinda late to start teaching them common courtesy. I never got nasty-grams when I cut out the gifts they just never acknowledged we existed after we closed the wallet.    PS Adults should also follow up with a Thank You note or email etc to the young folks for gifts, set the example and practice what you preach.
Dec 17, 2012 1:22PM

My mother was German and this is how it worked.  If you were under 18, you got a toy.  If you were over 18, you got a good meal and a few drinks.


If you were over 18 and we hadn't seen you for an entire year, you needn't bother coming over at all.  The only exception was if you were in the army.

Dec 16, 2012 1:27PM

I cut nieces and nephews off when they became teenagers.

When the hints for gifts went from Tonka trucks, or Barbie doll clothes to expensive teenager clothes, I could not afford their expectations. I did announce well before hand what my Christmas giving was going to be, so there was no surprises, but it still was not taken well.

Dec 16, 2012 11:09AM
Never, let them bleed you dry.LMAO.
Dec 17, 2012 9:20PM
I follow my mother's rule of thumb (she had LOTS of nieces, nephews, and godchildren, and then great-nieces and  -nephews).  It is pretty much the same as Len's:  the gifts stop when you graduate high school.  College graduations, showers, weddings, special events still warrant a gift, which we are only too happy to give.  This is done even without receiving thank yous in some cases, because I/we want to do it.
Dec 17, 2012 6:06PM
What's the rule for adult children?
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