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

by Katy on May 24, 2010 · 67 comments

Photo Credit: Leah Nash, NY Times

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”

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacquelyn May 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

If the alternative is borrowing money from a stranger (the bank) and lining their pockets with dollars, then by all means, take the gift from a family member and line his heart with good feelings instead. Independence is great – when it’s a family, extended family, and community being independent from large corporations’ interference in their day to day lives. There is no need to isolate ourselves from the resources of our loving community offered in a spirit of goodwill.


Cathy May 24, 2010 at 11:17 am

Giving gifts is likely a part of his estate planning. Why would you deny him the pleasure of giving you a gift now when he can enjoy it.


Sandy May 25, 2010 at 2:44 am

ditto! I agree with Cathy. What a gift to him to accept his generous offer.


fairydust May 25, 2010 at 8:02 am

Agreed! Take the gift, then he’ll feel good. Put in the bathroom (your husband’s still going to be doing all the work), and hang a plaque naming the new addition to your home after your dad, like the “[his name] Wing” or something (if he’s the joking type, of course)


Cate May 24, 2010 at 11:26 am

No, I don’t think it’s wrong to accept money from family members. I agree wholeheartedly with Jacquelyn! Just this past weekend, my Nana offered us a fairly substantial monetary gift to use for a down payment. She’s elderly and the money is actually part of her inheritance from HER dad. I don’t feel bad accepting her generosity. I sincerely hope that my husband and I can give money to our grandchildren in the same fashion!


lucy May 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

With respect and admiration, let me say: I absolutely don’t understand your quandry. If this is money that you would spend if you earned it yourself, why not accept it? Your father clearly means well by offering it, and if your other siblings have already partaken of his generosity, why would you not? I love your blog and always agree with/learn from you, but this time you have absolutely puzzled me.


Katy May 24, 2010 at 11:49 am


I puzzle myself. I just had a certain idea of how I would pay for the remodel in my head, and it’s taking awhile to switch it over.




Jennifer May 24, 2010 at 11:33 am

Totally take it. I know my husband’s grandparents like to pass on money while they’re living. They enjoy seeing the happiness that it brings their family and would rather see if now than leave a lot of money after they pass (they aren’t extravagant or anything but they will send a $50 check every few months just because). I think the new bathroom would likely make your dad just as happy as it makes you. You can still brag about the bathroom. I’m sure your husband doesn’t think he’s getting off for free.


Katy May 24, 2010 at 11:50 am


Good point on the husband thing.



Carol May 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm

The Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” If you deny your father the opportunity to give you a gift, you are denying him a blessing. Not accepting his offer may even make your relationship somewhat strained. In addition, you mentioned that you were losing heat and cooling through the area of the house you will use for the bathroom. Doing the work now will probably reduce your heating and cooling costs. I believe you should accept the wonderful gift with joy, and when you brag about the new bathroom, make sure to say, “My loving father insisted on giving us this gift!”


Ame May 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I’m going to pile on the wagon saying that you should feel no guilt taking this money for a bathroom. To me, one of the primary points of frugality is the sense of family and community…sharing time, money and resources, helping each other out.

Your family has money that they would love to see you spend on yourself and their grandchildren while they’re still alive to see the benefits to you (i.e. not towards a loan payment). I imagine it’s much nicer than thinking you’ll finally finish that bathroom in their honor if/when they’ve shuffled off. What if it was a gift from you to your own children? You wouldn’t want your son to miss out on his trip to Japan because he felt he should pay for it himself, right?

Really, I think this question isn’t about frugality, but instead the independence that you mentioned. Independence is great, but don’t let it stand in the way of a loving gift between family members.


Rebecca May 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm

We have the same issue at our home, and we are starting our remodel in a few days. We could not afford to do it, and chose not to for quite a few years till our debt was gone and we had saved up. However my uncle decided he would do the work for free, and my parents decided they would pay up to $5000 for the remodel. THEN they told us. it would have taken us over ten years to pay down our debt and save up for the job, so after talking over things, we said yes. It will make a significant difference to us, it is our only bath, and it is falling apart, and has major structural issues as well. So we are going forward with it, I will appreciate it more than the $50 christmas, birthday and anniversary gifts that my folks give that we really don’t want or need.


Jinger May 24, 2010 at 12:40 pm

I say accept with gratitude. After Hurricane Katrina, many friends and relatives sent us gift cards and money. Because I am fiercely independent, at first, I had a hard time accepting these gifts. However, I realized that my friends and family wanted to give to help us rebuild our lives and I needed to accept thankfully.


Glenn English May 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I have some pretty strong opinions on the subjects of independence and interdependence, so I may get off on a little bit of a rant. I actually think that interdependence is a beautiful thing, which has been wrongly stigmatized. It is something that we take for granted, but few people are aware of the history that has shaped our opinions on the issue…

For about 99.8% of history, humans existed in interdependent hunter-gatherer societies without any concept of ownership as we know it. With the advent of agriculture, the ownership of land, objects, an people followed. In Western societies under feudalism, there was a great chasm between the haves and the have-nots. With the Enlightenment came greater specialization, which led to the rise of a middle class (the bourgeoisie). Individually, the members middle class did not represent much of a threat to the ruling class, which was still extremely powerful because of many centuries of domination and exploitation. But then for the first time, the ruling class realized that collectively, the middle class could actually form a threat to their power, so they started a propaganda campaign of sorts. They started hiring poets, artists, and academics to push two main agendas; to stigmatize collective interdependence, and to pit the poor against the middle class. It was an extremely successful campaign, which has had a profound affect on our world view to this day. It has much to do with why we stigmatize interdependence as if there was something inherently wrong with it. The ruling class realized that as long as there was pressure on the bourgeoisie for every man to be an island, the collective middle posed little threat. The forces of capitalism later adapted the meme which stigmatized interdependence for many of the same reasons; because it helped keep the rich rich, and it also meant that there was pressure on everyone to buy their own toaster, plow, car, etc, creating a huge market. It also has much to do with the reason why poor people will celebrate someone dripping in jewels and limos, yet disparage the middle class, and it has much to do with the reason that “bourgeoisie” is generally used as a pejorative term to this day.

People from tribal cultures often view our stigmatization of interdependence, sharing, and generosity as absolutely bizarre. And I think they have a point. Ironically, by and large, those people have vastly better skills for independence than we do. If the machinery of the world shuts down, they would certainly survive a whole lot better than we would. Nevertheless, they see interdependence as a beautiful thing, and I think they are right. I think a world of people as tiny islands of complete independence would be an ugly world not worth living in.

Ironically, stigmatization of interdependence and generosity gives far more power to materialism and consumer culture, not less. Defining success as independently attained material success exalts materialism. It is when we let go of some of our attachment to such definitions that we take away some of the power of materialism and economic coercion. When we blur the lines of “mine” and “yours” by sharing when there is abundance, we strengthen our connection rather than conflating the value of life with material worth.

As far as that translates to your father helping you out with money to add a new bathroom, I think that as long as it is something that he wants to do, you absolutely should. You repay him by being a good person with a generous spirit as well, which you pass on to others. Generosity is not at odds with frugality, and neither is appreciating the generosity of others. Frugality is largely about living a little simpler to escape the shackles of excess materialism. Tying one’s sense of personal success or failure to accumulating money or consumer goods only serves to falsely exalt the significance of material wealth. Interdependence, cooperation, and generosity all serve the same important role as frugality. If your dad gives you that money, it certainly won’t be going to waste or pointless excess. If some publisher comes along and gives you a big pile of money for the Nonconsumer Advocate book, tv miniseries, or home boardgame;) I suspect that you would generously, but not wastefully, put your money to good use for the people that you love as well. Can’t take it with you.


Martha May 24, 2010 at 8:54 pm



Elizabeth B May 24, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Testify! This is awesome.


Angela May 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm

How interesting. I am well aware that I can live a nice lifestyle while being frugal for a number of reasons- and one of them is that my mother is a great gift giver. I often get compliments on items of clothing she has given me, even if it was 10 years ago. She has very good taste.

I think the quandary is what you get from being frugal and how it is part of your identity. This generosity by your father won’t lessen what you already get (the ability to work part time, etc.) but it affects your view of yourself as independent, resourceful, etc.

For many reasons, I would accept your father’s generosity. One big argument is that it will give him pleasure. How lovely for him to be able to offer that, and you can imagine you would feel the same about that coming up with one of your sons many years in the future. Another issue is that it will not compromise any of your Non Consumer beliefs- his gift does not come with a promise to buy tacky fixtures at Wal-Mart or anything like that. Your husband, who will do most of the work, wants to accept, and that is a big factor. And finally, you will eventually do the bathroom, and once you do it you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier (if the answer isn’t money).

That’s my two cents. I dream of such an offer! We’re in the same position (old house, one bedroom) but do not share with two sons. They might be spending more time in that room very soon- DO IT!


NMPatricia May 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Short answer, I believe you should allow your father to give you the money. I had a similar situation years ago. My father wanted to help pay for paving our driveway. I hesitated for a couple of reasons: one is that I like to do for myself and two, my parents usually didn’t give money as gifts because they believed that kids should be independent and they RARELY gave us money not believing in money for gifts. (wow, was that a run on sentence!). However, he wanted to be helpful, made him happy, and would have come sooner or later through the estate. So we accepted the money. My grandmother did the same with we three kids – gave us a chunck of money prior to her dying. She got great pleasure out of seeing for what we used the money. My brother used it for a down payment on a house. I used it to buy my first car. She was thrilled knowing I wouldn’t be leaving my RN job at 11 pm with an unreliable car!


Elizabeth L. May 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I think your main problem here is that your father wants to give you money as opposed to a service. It’s a lot harder to accept money from someone, especially when you are very independent, than it is to accept a service or an exchange. For example, you clean your mother’s cabins in exchange for taking the stuff that is left behind and the ability to use a cabin for a mini-vacation. How would you feel if your mom cleaned out a cabin herself, brought over amazing things for you to have, and told you to take a vacation there? You would probably feel guilty for not having earned that stuff.

I think you should accept the money. You prefaced this story by saying you were talking about estate planning. My parents talk about that frequently with me and have expressed some interest in giving me some money before they die. They want me to have the things I need and they want to see me enjoy it. I’m sure your father knows how much you need that extra space and that you would use the money very well and create a great space on a tight budget. He wants you to have it now, because he knows how much it would mean to you and how much you could use it.

I don’t think being frugal means refusing gifts, especially in this case. Your dad wants to do something nice for you and he wants to give you money for something you need. Take the money and get yourself a new bathroom!


Megan May 24, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I would take it as I think your father is offering the money now compared to waiting until he passes. In this way he will be able to to the fruit of his money and see how it has made you happy. It’s really more of a question of do you take it now when he’s alive and can enjoy it or wait until he passes and can’t?


Alissa May 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I think accepting this gift would only be at odds with frugality if you went well above and beyond your original plans. If the money will help you get done what you already had planned to do, why not just say thank you gracefully?


Jeanine May 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I should have this problem!!!

Take the money Katy.

It seems to be a question only of a matter of when…now while he is alive and can see the results and rejoice in them, or later, when he is gone and couldn’t be properly thanked.

My hubby would be a bit put off by such an offer, but he’d regain himself by showing what a handy man he is, and that the gift was well put to use.

Can’t wait to read of your decision.


Lacey May 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I would accept the gift from your father. He is obviously doing it to help you. As he ages he will get some joy out of seeing what his gift has turned in to. 🙂


Pat May 24, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Take the money for the bathroom. But rethink that 5th bedroom. Is it really necessary? Will it help resell your home down the road? Will you actually still need it in 2 or 3 years or is it only a ‘want’? An extra bathroom is always a need (especially if there is more than one female in the house!). My sister thought we were crazy when we put in 3 baths when we built our home 22 years ago (even before we had kids) but they have been a Godsend. Especially the full bath on the main level – many times we’ve had to wash or just rinse off after coming in from the back field.


Katy May 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm


The fifth bedroom IS absolutely unnecessary, but is a matter of just insulating and dry-walling. This is the area that is contributing the the sieve-like quality of our house. The cost would be around $800, tops. I think we would move ourselves to this bedroom, which faces the back of the house and would not only be quieter, but looks out on our beautifully landscaped backyard.



Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire May 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I’m an admitted spoiled brat. Well, I don’t think I’m a brat, of course, but I’m stinkin’ spoiled by my daddy, and I’m 36 years old! He loves to give gifts. It’s his love language, so who am I to deny him showing his love to us! 😉 Seriously, the computer I’m typing on, the TV I have on right now, my kitchen floor, both of our cars… I realize that probably sounds quite over-the-top, and I suppose it is, but you know what? His blessings to us allow us to live without car payments, have a fancy flat-screen TV, etc. We could totally live without the TV, and I didn’t exactly need a new computer, but he gets such a kick out of giving us this stuff.

I’m telling you all that simply to say, TAKE IT! If you were wanting to give this gift to one of your own kids, wouldn’t you want him to accept it? Your dad just wants to bless you, so I think you should let him, especially as it will improve the function of your home. It benefits your entire family, after all!


Jenny May 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm

By accepting this generous offer, doing it yourselves, already purchasing economical fixtures, and hopefully some eco-friendly or recycled products like marmoleum or glass tile, I don’t see why this can’t be complementary toward a frugal lifestyle. Incorporate some water and energy-saving features in the remodel, and his investment will reap future dividends. If you have any funds leftover, a donation could be made in his name to an organization that provides hygienic bathroom facilities for people around the world, and saves lives in the process.


Karen May 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Take it. It’s really a no brainer. It has nothing to do with your frugality whatsoever. It’s a gift being given by your dad, who I’m sure is more than happy to do so. Think about all the money you’ll save when the space is insulated properly. So, really, if you don’t take it you are wasting money!


deena May 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Part of being frugal is using your resources wisely. If you proposed taking this gift and buying something you really didn’t need, that would be frivolous. Spending it on something that will improve your life in a very real way is not frivolous.

Please try to remember that your feelings aren’t the only ones that matter. Your dad is part of this – it makes him happy to be able to help you, and it will please him to see the result of his gift.

Be grateful that you have wonderful family members who think of you and want you to be secure and comfortable.

Graciously accept this gift with the same affection and love with which he wants to give it.


WilliamB May 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I think you should consider taking the gift, for a number of reasons.

1. It was mentioned in the context of estate planning. If it comes to you after his death then the government gets 50%[1]. If he gives it to you now it’s a tax-free gift. Very efficient.

2. It’s quite possible that he’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of your usage of his gift.

3. He knows this is something you want, that you’ve been working hard to achieve and being sensible about it. The gift may be a “reward” for appropriate behavior. (That probably doesn’t sound the way I mean it, OK?)

4. You would be able to achieve your goal even without the gift, so I don’t think you need fear you’re getting something undeserved.

5. You’re still going to be working for this. The gift does not allow you to do something you weren’t going to otherwise; it allows you to do it sooner.

So these are my thoughts, make of when what you will.

[1] Assuming estate taxes revert to what they were 12 years ago.


Judy May 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm

My opinion is from the perspective of a mother of two adult daughters. Take the money. You can still brag about your new bathroom without saying where the money came from. Besides if you and your husband are doing the work, that’s worth more than the $5000. I’m not sure is it a frugality issue, or more of a pride issue? With two teens you need another bath!
We have given money and heirloom jewelry to both of our daughters. My feeling is I’d rather give it to them when they need it or can enjoy it and not just wait ’til we die.
An improvement in your home is an investment that will increase the value of your home and that is definitely frugal!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl May 24, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I’m with everyone else…let him have the joy of giving that gift to you! My mom likes to say that you need to not only be a gracious giver but a gracious receiver.

So, say, “Thank you!” and go remodel!


Shannon May 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm

I would take it. It’s very generous and I am sure you will extend the generosity back—or forward— in a thousand ways. Enjoy it!


Diana May 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Ok, jumping on the boat! 🙂

He is not just giving you the money. He is allowing you to get ahead with your goals in a way that he knows you have been planning. It also allows him the satisfaction while he is still with you.

You can still take “credit” for the remodel as it sounds like you are planning to do the work yourself and you have already spent money on some of the items. Nobodies going to ask how you paid for it, but they’ll be impressed it was do-it-yourself.

Also, if you had a plan on how to find the money yourself…can that plan be applied to a different goal? If the money is a sincere gift (we all know, or know of, people that gift to control), then by all means let everybody (you, him, your family) enjoy it.


Angela May 24, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Either you take it or your dad & stepmom have to figure out how to keep it from going to the government. I imagine you’re a better steward of your resources than they are anyway!

Enjoy that new bathroom!


Hiptobeme May 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Gee, I wish I had your problem!


Jessica May 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I also do not see the problem. I would take the money. Ask yourself this: Wouldn’t you want to help out one of your own son’s someday?


Scribe May 24, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Thank your father for the money and go ahead with your bathroom/bedroom remodel plans. It sounds as though you are close to your parents/step parents and I’m sure as they age and need a little extra help you will be able to find many ways to show your appreciation for a very generous gift.

My husband and I withdraw money from retirement accounts in January for the year. At the end of the year I divide whatever money is left between our two adult sons. They are free to use it for whatever they feel is a priority in their life. So far they have made far better choices than the government would have made with the money (master’s degrees and a pHD). I take great pride in their choices and I’m sure your father feels the same pride when he sees your independence and willingness to work toward your goals rather than always asking for help.


Marie-Josée May 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I concur with your readership – take the cash. It will make your father happy, your husband happy, and you too, once you have digested this gift. It seems this gift supports so many of your values : once that part of your home is well insulated you will save both cash and energy !


AJ in AZ May 24, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Let your dad give you the money. It will make him feel good, and if he has helped your siblings in the past, it has probably bothered him ever since that he hasnt been able to help you.


Lorna May 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Coming from a woman in her late 60’s….take your wonderful Fathers’ gift and give him the joy of knowing he could do that for you. It’s really no one’s business who or where the funds came from to pay for the remodeling. If you must explain…just say your generous father, not Daddy, wanted to do that for you. I know it is so much easier to give than to receive…it’s a difficult lesson to learn how to graciously receive…one I’m still learning.


BagelGirl May 24, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Are you nuts? ‘ Nuff said.


Martha May 24, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Katie, one argument for taking the money hasn’t really been made…if you wait until you can afford it without your dad’s help, your kids may have grown up and moved out, and they are probably a big reason you have a need for a second bathroom. I agree with absolutely everyone who has written…I hope you will take the money and give your dad the pleasure of seeing you living more comfortably in your house. Yes you are a non consumer and it is still OK to have 2 bathrooms for 4 people–we went from 1 to 2 bathrooms for the 4 of us and it has removed some very real tension in our family (and was paid for by my inheritance from my parents!)

Good luck!


Tony Wolk May 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I’ve just read all the comments and think every one of them is intriguing. When I made the offer, I knew I was on tender ground, since Kate has her own way of living a life, frugally, and naturally I think that wonderful. She had a plan, that was clear, and I didn’t want to get in the way of it.
On the other hand and foot–well, that’s history. Two good plans, and you get to choose. That Kate put the question up for grabs I think was brilliant–that’s who Kate is and what amazes me about her. I tell my students at Portland State University, that when you’re done, ask yourself what the next step might be and then take it.
Kate assures me that she didn’t know what the response would be, that the question was genuine. Fascinating. There’s such satisfaction in seeing wisdom out there.
If you want to see a bit more, I recommend Jose Saramago’s “The Notebook” ISBN 987-1-84467-614-9). It’s his daily essay (or blog) that runs from September 2008 t0 August 2009. As you can see, it covers the election of 2008. In particular the entry for October 29, headed “A New Capitalism?” It represents what “A number of us from different countries and different political persuasions” have to say in response to the recent economic crisis “and the possible solutions being put forward.” Then comes this sentence: “We cannot be complicit.”
The essay concludes with this short paragraph: “The time has come for change on a collective and individual scale. The time has come for justice.”
A small note: Saramago is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature and is from Portugal. I’d also say, he writes good stories, to put it mildly.


Elizabeth B May 24, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Hi, Tony. Bless you for your giving spirit. Katy doesn’t know me from the next gal, but it’s so lovely to see the family ties behind her blog. You sound like someone I’d enjoy taking a class from.

Thanks, too, for the book pointer; it sounds intriguing.


Tony Wolk May 25, 2010 at 10:52 am

Elizabeth, I should have added that the course where I referenced Saramago’s book/blog is part of an interdisciplinary freshman theme labeled Human/Nature–focusing on a disconnect which ought not to be. It’s a year long class, where I get to teach to the same students. And, as you see from the title, it’s wide open as far as the subject goes. So we read Wendell Berry’s “Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food,” Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Buffalo Gals,” Haruki Murakami’s “Underground” (an ethnographic study of the victims of the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo underground), Charles Darwin’s “Voyage of the Beagle,” and much more. Berry references The Land Institute, centered at Salina, Kansas, which is trying to undo 10,000 years of farming practices which are detrimental to the land–one you open up the good Pandora’s box, you come on so many vitial efforts to reverse the centuries of malpractice upon the planet.
Strangely, it’s a coincidence that Kate’s blog, my participation in the Human/Nature course, as well as my own fiction, have all come together in these last few years. Or, it’s a sign of the times, of change.


Elizabeth B May 30, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Elizabeth again, here. Tony, I’ve added Saramago’s book to my wish list so that I’ll have the title handy for whenever my library gets a copy–thank you. Your course sounds completely fascinating. If I were local, I’d see about taking it through an extension program. 🙂 (I can’t afford to matriculate right now.) Alas, I’ll have to content myself with keeping your reading list in mind.


Kate in NY May 25, 2010 at 3:32 am

I think the key issue when it comes to accepting money from parents is this: what is the REAL cost of this “free” money? It sounds as if you admire your father and stepmother and have a strong relationship with both of them. In that case, I would accept the money for what it is – a generous and thoughtful gift. It is only when such gifts have other emotional strings attached – strings of guilt, infantilization, over dependence, bribery, etc. – that taking them becomes more hindrance than help.


Marie-Josée May 27, 2010 at 4:08 am

My thoughts exactly – I was too shy to voice them, and I’m really glad you did.


Marie-Josée May 27, 2010 at 4:13 am

Also, might as well add the remainder of my thoughts: don’t let pride get in the way !


magdalena May 25, 2010 at 4:13 am

Everyone has weighed in on this, including the insightful comment from your father! But,of course, I have something to say.

For years my husband and I were the givers. This is common in those of us, such as Katie, who are in the helping professions. We raised money for missions, fixing roofs, food banks – we drove people places, bought grocieries and medications. Then Nicholas had a stroke, couldn’t work, and our small resources very quickly evaporated. We had to be receivers rather than givers.I can honestly say that we were in danger without the generosity of our friends and even strangers. It was hard for us to accept; my father was able to get us some funds to keep us going. Being on the receiving end of generosity is hard for those of us trained to give, but it is part of the equilibrium of the universe.

Your father’s gift has many practical aspects to it – it will help increase the value of your house, it will make your daily life more comfortable, it will give you added guest space so you can perhaps host an angel unawares. But one of the valuable lessons of receiving generosity is humility, the acknowledgement that we simply cannot do everything for ourselves. and that God calls to recognize the unique beauty and gifts of others.


LeShea May 25, 2010 at 4:28 am

I have found over the years that receiving is a gift to others in some ways….how can anyone give if no one receives? Think of all the people you have helped…what if they all said “no thanks” and “I can do it myself” etc?

Let your daddy love you while he can and while he can see you smile from his gift. Don’t let your pride in independence get in the way. He knows you are capable of waiting; you don’t have to prove yourself.


tammy May 25, 2010 at 5:09 am

You are blessed to be a person whose father could offer such a gift. Remember that is what money is. A gift.


Laura from beautiful West Michigan May 25, 2010 at 5:20 am

Speaking as a mom with grown kids, please accept your dad’s gift. When we were young parents, we had to carefully watch our money to raise our family. Now that we are empty nesters, it gives us great joy to be able to help out and give gifts. I was always grateful for the help my mom and dad gave me and I love passing it on.


Leah May 25, 2010 at 5:55 am

hi Katy–Pam and Marc’s friend Leah in Brooklyn here. I think you should accept it. My mom has being making similar offers over the past few years to me and Dave as well. I think part of the reason is that she wants to see us enjoy gifts, but I think at least a little of it is for family parity. She has invested a lot of $ in renovating my sister’s house, and helping them out financially as well (she moved in with my sister’s family a few years ago). Even though she benefits from the investment in Amy’s house, I think she feels like she is still giving them more support than she gives me, so it makes her feel better to even things out a little.


Beth May 25, 2010 at 7:41 am

I also don’t see how frugality would enter the equation, unless, as Alissa in #20 commented, you used it as a reason to enlarge your plans. Acceptance of a gift does not seem opposed to frugality, just opposed to asceticism, which isn’t your thing.

Asceticism would mean one shouldn’t accept generosity from others, because it’s about how one views money, possessions, and life generally (living large is to be avoided on principle). Frugality is choosing to use wisely the resources given (living large is to be avoided if you/others can’t afford it responsibly) and if one can make more of what one has or receive more from the generosity of others, great!

Wealthy friends took my husband and me to dinner and a performance we’ll never be able to afford in our lives (from where we sat, we could have touched the conductor!) We live frugally, but we weren’t going to turn down the invitation. It was a lovely evening out with friends who chose to bless us with a gift. This doesn’t make us less frugal, or more extravagant, or anything else, just fortunate to have generous friends.

Kudos to a generous father! Enjoy your remodel–both the process and the product! (I mean it…remodeling is rumored to be a huge hassle, but surely you’ll get a sense of satisfaction out of the DIY aspect).


Deb May 25, 2010 at 8:17 am

Do for yourself what you would do for others.

Put yourself in your father’s shoes way down the road – if you were in a position to do something wonderful for your kids financially, wouldn’t you want them to accept that gift? There’s a difference between independence and stubborness. It’s absolutely fine to accept this wonderful, loving gesture from your dad.

When I graduated from college, I was dead broke and driving a beat up car which embarrassed me to no end because my job involved traveling in my auto. My mother gave me her second car, a gorgeous sporty little Honda. It was extremely difficult for me to accept because I was fiercely independent, and because my mother was not a woman of means. But, it made her incredibly happy to give me a much needed gift, and I was in true need of it. I’m forever grateful.

Your dad sounds like an all around awesome man! Have fun with your remodel. At least you won’t have to go without a bathroom in the interim!


CC May 25, 2010 at 9:04 am

In our family what goes around comes around. My mom and dad helped us when we were young. We are now able to help our son. My father told me once that his father had helped him. To me money is useful but not as important as other things. I like to think more than money that is passed on in out family.


Lisa May 25, 2010 at 10:00 am

TAKE THE MONEY, HONEY! Put in that second bath and add some insulation rather than build another bedroom (unless you really need one). Use any leftovers from the 5 grand to pay down some debt. Look at it this way, you’re receiving your inheritance a little early…while Dad’s still around to watch and enjoy your spending it.


Melissa May 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm

He’s trying to do something nice for you and your family. Let him. Even if it’s hard for you.


Jodi May 25, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Accept it while he can hear you say “thanks.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with accepting your family’s generosity if you are spending it on something thoughtfully planned that will increase the value of your home. Blowing it on fancy cars or other objects that will depreciate? No way.


Rabbit May 26, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I just found your blog 2 seconds ago via Cate @BudgetConfessions, and I am a lurker on her blog, so all the stops are coming out tonight! 🙂

I struggle from time to time with accepting gifts, especially from my parents, well, really my mom. My dad doesn’t always know what my mom does. [DH just has a dad now (mom has passed) and he’s not the “gift giving type.”]

Anyway, I feel almost like a child still, in the “I’m 30 yrs old, married, with my own house, I should be able to buy/do XYZ or save up enough money until I can pay for something.”

My mom always tells me, “I want to see you enjoy things now, when I’m still here. I have the money now. There might come a time when I’m not here, or that I don’t have the money to buy you things. There were times when you were little and I couldn’t afford to buy you a $2 trinket at the grocery store. I can now help you buy a $500 used dining room set.”

So I accept her/their generosity. It’s not as though I was calling htem up every week when I was away at college, asking for more spending money, or got into bad debts on my own. I’ve been very responsible with money. My parents are pretty frugal themselves, and that’s rubbed off on me. I see it as a quasi-reward–although that might sound funny to hear. They aren’t bailing me out, they are giving me gifts. Not all parents want to help out their adult children, some can’t for whatever reasons. Like so many of the above commenters have said, enjoy the gift and share it with your family.

And then, pay it forward when you are your dad’s age 🙂


Marie-Josée May 27, 2010 at 4:17 am

Katy, that’s a lovely picture of you.


MoneyGirlDC May 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I’m only semi-frugal, but accepting money from family works for me. I hope that some day I am in a position to help out my family as much (or more) as they have helped me!


Ruthie May 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I am also highly independent and find it hard to accept gifts, especially when I see my siblings as being babied by my parents.

I refuse gifts a lot, and it’s not because I want to hurt the gift giver, I just feel like it’s a true tribute to how frugal/financially sound that we are that I can say “oh no no, we’ll pay for half of dinner” or “let me fill your gas tank up” when I’m out with my folks. I feel like I’m proving myself to be the perfect daughter. Look, you raised me so well I can take care of myself! (And secretly implying “I am definitely doing a better job at it than my siblings…”)

But then I realize that it is only me who complains about my parents helping my siblings out, and although I know they are very very happy for me, it’s only me who is tooting my horn about being so financially secure. And I realize to that sometimes they LIKE to cover a meal out, or some building materials for our own remodel, or even (gasp) our fridge and stove when we moved in, because they have done so much for my siblings, they want to do something for me too.

:0) I just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone.


Jason July 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

This may have already been said but, here’s the best reason why you should accept your father’s gift:

It will obviously bring him joy to see his money spent on something that makes him and his family happy rather than never seeing it put to use and going into an estate (the distribution of which he won’t get to see).

I know I hope to die broke, knowing my money is going to help build a sustainable community for family and neighbors.

Take it!


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