Is a car a good gift?
Under the right circumstances it is, but you'd better know what the recipient likes.
Several questions come to blogger Abigail Perry’s mind when she sees one of those commercials with a car in the driveway topped by a big bow. You know -- where the wife goes outside and there it sits, all nice and pretty.
Abby (the daughter of MSN Money "Living With Less" columnist Donna Freedman) wonders how the car got there without the wife noticing. Did they bring it in the middle of the night? Did they check with the husband to make sure she’s asleep? “Does that mean the husband gets a walkie-talkie and gets to say things like ‘The bear is in hibernation’ and ‘Roger’ and ‘Over’?” Abby writes at I Pick Up Pennies.
OK, that’s the silly stuff. But Abby also raises some good questions. Is a car really an appropriate holiday present? No, she says, and here’s why not -- from the hypothetical wife’s point of view:
- When you bought me a car, you spent several thousand of our money on a down payment. Are you sure I’m OK with that? (Besides, you had to be sneaky to do it -- not cool when we co-mingle accounts.)
- You, sweet lips, have increased our debt. That’s not a gift; it’s an obligation. “You're not really buying a car. You're buying debt,” Abby writes, “albeit in a very attractive form. (And most debt won't get 0 to 60 so quickly! Unless you're talking about a credit card's APR.)”
- You probably didn’t get a very good deal. If the salesman knew it was a gift, you lost bargaining power. “It also means you'll be hard-pressed to deny a lot of the extras. No one really wants to say, ‘Merry Christmas! Look how generous I am! Oh, but on-board GPS was extra so I told them not to bother,’” Abby says.
What do you think? We think the gift of a car would be nice, if your spouse or significant other makes enough money so that the purchase doesn’t adversely affect your household budget. Better yet if the SO pays cash.
- Bing: Best used cars
Several of Abby’s readers shared their thoughts:
- Kids going away to college will always appreciate a car, even a used one.
- Adults said they'd prefer to be involved in the purchase.
Here’s a lovely scenario from Christina:
My dad has purchased a car to surprise my mother several times over the years for Christmas or her birthday, but I don't pretend that they are the norm as he always pays cash for it from an account that she probably won't be looking at.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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