Does Frugality Mean You Shouldn’t Accept Generosity From Others?

by Katy on April 2, 2011 · 14 comments

The following is a reprint from a previously published post. Enjoy!

I am an independent person. I like to do things for myself, and can become quite bristly when others try and take over on my tasks. I do believe that this tendency has stood me well through the years, and has been a key aspect of my successes in life.

My husband and I have been working hard to eradicate our consumer debt, and have been putting off doing any more home renovation until that debt is a faint memory. The specific project that’s next on our to-do list is to add a second bathroom to our enormous house. This will involve finishing off an unfinished space in the back of our second story that currently functions as extra storage, as well as my indoor clothesline. (See photo above.)

I was out with my father a few weeks back, when he brought up the subject of his estate planning. Although my father, (a still working college professor) is a fit and vital 74 years old, he and my step-mother have been discussing the specifics of how their assets will be distributed. (I have a half-sister and a step brother on that side.) At the end of the conversation, my father offered to pay for the cost of adding another bathroom and bedroom to my house. (We already have 4+ bedrooms, but the unfinished space freezes us out in winter and heats us up in the summertime.) My father offered $5000, which should cover the job, as my husband would do the work, and we already bought most of the bathroom fixtures a few years back when we had a false start.

My first instinct was to say no to my father’s offer.

I like that my husband and I are able to take on our projects independently and to not depend on our parents to pay our bills. However, some of my other siblings have been on the receiving end of significant financial assistance, so there is already precedence.

I have talked this through and through with my husband, (who is on the side of accepting my father’s generosity) as well as with my friends and co-workers. So far, everyone has agreed with my husband.

I told my father that I was going to hold off on accepting any money for now, even joking that I felt “demasculinized.” How would I brag about my new bathroom and bedroom if my daddy paid for it?

As you can see, I’m a bit conflicted.

Should I accept my father’s generous offer, or put off that second bathroom for a couple more years? Luckily, this offer does not come with a deadline, so I can take all the time I want to mull things over.

Do you think that diehard frugality come with an “accept no money” clause? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

Note: We did accept the money from my father, and have started on the bathroom, but stalled out a bit. An architect friend drew up plans *for free* as a thank you for coaching his son in soccer. (Hooray for community involvement!) My husband will start back up again when it stops being rainy and dark all the time.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

kh April 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I think turning down your dad’s offer would be wrong. Here’s why:

1 – It’s not something you asked for – it’s something he offered as a gift. Being frugal shouldn’t mean pushing a gift back in someone’s face

2 – This isn’t something that you are going into debt to do or spending money you don’t have on frivolous things. You’re not going to take his $5k and blow it on lottery tickets. You’re increasing the value of your home.

3 – This is the most important one for me because we dealt with it with my parents and with my XH’s parents: At a certain age it becomes more financially beneficial to everyone involved to begin accepting small financial gifts from elderly (financially stable) parents. Anything under $10k is exempt from gift tax. It’s a way that parents are able to distribute their wealth BEFORE they die so that their heirs don’t have to pay inheritance taxes, estate taxes, or have the money go to probate and lawyers. Plus it lets them enjoy what they can give their children while they’re still alive to see it.

Personally I’d say take the money. If your parents are financially stable and have it to give, and if they’ve given similar amounts to other family members, then you’re not being frugal by refusing the money. You’re just being stubborn. 😉


sandy16502 April 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Your father came to you with an offer. You did not go to him with a request. He wants to help you, his little girl. Don’t let your pride deprive him of the joy of helping you. Think of it from his perspective. Also, think of it from the perspective of you helping your children sometime in the future.


Mandy April 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I *hate* accepting things from people, especially money, and especially from my parents. This stems from me being so stubbornly independent though, and wanting to either handle things myself or not at all. That being said, I also understand that some people express love by gift-giving and truly are hurt when those gifts aren’t well received, or received at all. I don’t know if that is the case with your father, but I can’t help but get the vibe that it would really make him happy to be able to do that for you. So I guess it would boil down to this: would looking at the finished room make you feel kinda bothered that it wasn’t you that completed it, or would you look at the room and be happy that you let your father be a part of it?


Martha April 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I’ve been in this situation….My mom wisely said, ” how you accept a gift is more important than how you give a gift”. Graciously modeling generosity helps our children know how to accept help when they need it.


Melissa B April 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Well, I don’t know exactly what “Dave” (Ramsey) would say, but since it is a gift and not a loan I think he would be O.K. with you accepting the offer. I personally would only take the gift if I knew there would be NO strings attached. You would hate for that much money to be a burden on your relationship down the road.


Jenny April 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I have that same knee-jerk “No, I’m independent” reaction. But I think you should take the money unless for some reason you think it will compromise your parent’s finanacial security.

Seems like your dad has offered freely and I bet he would like to enjoy seeing you complete a useful project while he is still here to enjoy it. Plus you say that other siblings have received help so it is unlikely to cause hard feelings there.

Learning to accept help graciously is a big part of life, and one most of us struggle with!


Rebecca Ross April 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I think you should graciously accept the money, and let your dad and your step-mom be the first ones to spend the night in the completed room!


Deb April 2, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I heartily agree with all of opinions above. You would be giving your father joy by allowing him to make a meaningful gift to your family.
Be gracious about it, you owe him. :o)


sos April 3, 2011 at 12:34 am

I would suggest accepting your dad’s gift graciously. He offered it, you didn’t ask for it. Though it would hurt my ego to take money from parents at that age too, non consumerism doesn’t mean you reject abundance that comes to you and you are spending it on something’s you dad after all not some stranger.


kelley April 3, 2011 at 5:43 am

I’ve been in the same position several times since buying my first home with my mother. She’s been kind enough to offer to help pay for everything from flooring, to professional painters in order to help my husband and I get things done. All offers I’ve declined because of a knee-jerk reaction that I don’t want anyones help in doing this. I took the same stance when purchasing the house and planning & paying for our wedding. I also know she has made similar generous offers to my older brother who has accepted (without hesitation it seems).

My mother has always said well you can take the gift now or when I’m gone. However she’s not yet even 60 so I say she should hold on to her wealth, treat herself to something – she hasn’t has a vacation in well over a decade. Or simply use the extra money she has to allow her to retire sooner. She went back to work about 9 years ago when she and my father divorced and I know she’s grateful for the job and income she has but she truly dislikes what she’s doing.

My husband and I have good, steady incomes and a growing savings account and we will get around to our larger projects when we have the time and have saved whatever money we need for it. I keep hoping that instead of trying to do something for us she’ll do something for herself.


Anne April 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm

You should accept his offer. He has made this offer thoughtfully after reviewing his estate plans, so he is comfortable that he can afford it. It will surely bring him joy to know that his gift will improve the quality of your life substantially.


Dianna April 4, 2011 at 5:36 am

I think you should accept the offer. Obviously he has looked at his finances and knows he can do this for you and obviously wants to. I think it is great that he can see the benefits of his “estate” while he is still here.


Elaine April 5, 2011 at 4:37 am

I agree that it’s good to be independent, and I also try to do everything by myself (no husband or partner here). But what I see very often are people so determined to be independent that they view any kind of help (aside from some type of trade or barter) as a debt that they incur. That’s the old John Wayne/Clint Eastwood cowboy-alone-against-the-entire-world viewpoint. Actually, we as people are interdependent, albiet some more than others. And part of that is being strong enough to accept a loving gift, and allowing someone else to be generous.

I’m so glad you did!

Your family will benefit greatly from this, and your father and stepmother will have that good-inside feeling of helping you. And you will have something very special to remind you what wonderful and generous people they are.

Enjoy your new bedroom and bath!


Kate April 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I am TOTALLY the same way about accepting money and stuff like that and I am like “NO I want to do it myself!!!” but I agree with all the PPers and given the situation I think I may be able to calm my pride down enough to accept. Besides, you don’t have to tell anyone your Daddy paid for your bathroom 🙂


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