Grandparents spoiling grandchildren with holiday gifts? Tips to help.
you welcome in Uncomfortable conversations about money, a new series in which we will tackle money-related topics or situations so well, they make you feel uncomfortable. We will explain the problem and try to give you some usable solutions.
First, we’ll address what some might consider an annual holiday problem: parents and grandparents’ battle over spoiling the grandchildren.
Lots of hot wheels
The dilemma: Grandparents who, against the parents’ wishes, buy their grandchildren extravagant gifts, loud or noisy toys, or simply too much stuff.
Parents’ point of view: Andrew Herzog of Irving, Texas, and his wife, Michelle, have two young children, 3-year-old Patrick and newborn Evelyn. His parents often babysit the kids and Chris Herzog (daddy) is especially close to Patrick.
Although Patrick and Evelyn are the first grandchildren on both sides of the family, Andrew said neither of the grandparents have spoiled the grandchildren excessively — yet. But to make sure they don’t overeat, Andrew, who also happens to be a certified financial planner with The Watchman Group in Plano, Texas, says it’s important as parents to communicate and set some guidelines.
“If the grandparents don’t even know how you feel about loud toys, it’s not their fault,” he said. “You should communicate the guidelines in advance to help grandparents choose appropriate/fun gifts,” he said — and if they still buy a loud toy, send it to the grandparents’ house.
Andrew is not a complete Grinch when it comes to over-pampering little ones.
“There is a great opportunity for grandparents to pamper their grandchildren, as they should,” he said.
But when it comes to toy cars, they’ve become a very good thing.
“We have too many Hot Wheels at our house and at the grandparents’ house,” Andrew said simply. “It seems to desensitize (Patrick) to the gift…when he goes to the store or there’s a certain time of year, he expects cars.”
Andrew prefers that the grandparents find something that is “very meaningful and that the child can enjoy for years to come, not days.”
As a financial planner, he also likes to encourage contributions to a child’s 529 college plan. While he knows this is not exciting for a young child, it will be beneficial for the child and his parents in the future.
He suggests that grandparents can do both: buy a special gift for the child and put the money into a plan that helps fund their college education.
“Communicate and make sure the grandparents get what they want from it, which is the joy of giving,” he said.
“Now… I can see why grandparents always pamper their grandchildren.”
Grandparents’ opinion: Andrew’s father, Chris Herzog, lives in Dallas, Texas. Chris said that when he was a parent, he tried not to spoil the kids.
“But now that I’m a grandfather, I can see why grandparents always spoil their grandchildren,” he added. “I tend to go a little overboard in games.”
He recently realized that Andrew thought there were too many Hot Wheels around. “It’s so easy to be at the grocery store buying another one,” Chris said.
But Chris said it makes sense for Patrick to become “desensitized” to those toys because there are so many of them in both homes.
“A gift doesn’t mean much anymore,” he said.
Chris and his wife, Penny, got the message. They put a little money into Patrick’s 529 for his birthday.
However, Penny (the grandchildren’s nanny) may have difficulty following Andrew’s instructions when it comes to baby Evelyn. She has already purchased a lot for the family’s first granddaughter.
“I expect Andrew to talk to my wife like we do now,” Chris said.
Make a list – and be patient
Experts’ point of view: Nev Persaud, a certified financial planner, agrees with Andrew’s point about communicating clearly with grandparents.
Persaud suggests recording gifts or a wish list that grandparents can use throughout the year — and getting the kids involved, if they’re old enough.
“This is a great way to introduce grandparents to things that you feel would be a good use of their money for your children,” said Persaud, managing director of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.
And if there’s an uncomfortable conversation coming up, stay positive.
“You get more bees with honey than with vinegar,” she said.
If grandparents buy you a lot of “stuff,” remind them of experiences they gave you when you were young that you enjoyed, such as a membership to a museum or zoo.
If Grandpa still wants to be extravagant, Persaud said, he might put a trip to Disney, a ski trip or a beach vacation for the whole family on the list.
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Like Herzog, Persaud also recommends contributing to a 529 plan, especially with a new rule taking effect in 2024 that will allow certain unused 529 funds to be rolled over to a Roth IRA retirement account.
If grandparents won’t listen, talk to the children in an age-appropriate way and make a donation or prepare an expensive gift and use the money for another gift or a 529 plan, Persaud said.
Another key point: If there is tension or an uncomfortable conversation about a sensitive topic, such as gift-giving, make sure both spouses talk to their parents.
“If your in-laws don’t really love you, it’s like fueling a fire,” she said. “Your husband needs to step up and have this conversation.”
But perhaps most importantly, “remember to be respectful,” Persaud said, “that your parents worked hard for their money and they are just enjoying being grandparents.”
Tell us what you think:How do you deal with grandparents who want to spoil their grandchildren for the holidays?
Betty Lynn Fisher is the consumer correspondent for USA TODAY. Contact her at blinfisher@USATODAY.com or follow her on X, Facebook or Instagram @blinfisher.