How to Bless the Less Fortunate Without Making Them Feel Like a Heel (Part 1)

how to bless the less fortunate 1

The following is a guest post from a reader who asked to remain anonymous

Growing up, my family vacationed in 5-star hotels and spent more at a single meal in a gourmet restaurant than my husband and I currently spend on groceries for an entire month!

Needless to say, the disparity between my financial situation and that of others in my family has led to some pretty awkward situations. While my own struggle with contentment is something I need to put in perspective, I’m pretty sure my family would do some things differently if they understood.

If someone you love has far less income than you, or is simply in a financial slump, they’d probably like for you to understand these concepts, too.

Remember that I Need To Plan Ahead

What seems like no biggie to you may be huge to me.

Let me give you an example: One year, my parents, siblings, and our families were together for a rare long weekend. Someone suggested that every family unit could pay for a couple meals throughout our visit. Sounds fair, right?

The problem was that my family rarely eats out on our own, especially at sit-down restaurants. And even when we do, we plan ahead, have coupons in tow, and usually drink water. We simply could not afford to foot the bill for 8 adults, plus children.

The situation was awkward, to say the least! Others footed the bills, and we felt like absolute heels. However, we simply couldn’t justify dipping into our meager savings or going into debt over a family get-together.

Let Me Serve You, My Way

The next time a family gathering was planned, I suggested (plenty of time ahead) that each of our families take care of two meals, however we wanted to do it.

For our part, my husband and I cooked up a pretty impressive breakfast — if I do say so myself! I was able to make room in our budget and pair coupons and store deals to purchase the needed groceries ahead of time. I also used some Crystal’s freezer cooking strategies to reduce my time in the kitchen that week!

Everyone was impressed, and I was glad to be able to do my part. Some of the others did take everyone out to a favorite restaurant, and that was okay, too.

Realize What I Can (& Can’t) Give

Even if I realize that I make one tenth of what some others make, giving them a $10 gift when they give me a $100 one feels crummy. Seeing my kids receive more gifts from extended family than they do from me is difficult, too.

My one sister was out-giving me with my kids at Christmas — in a big way. I told her how I felt, and that I wanted my kids to receive more from their parents than extended family. She completely understood but didn’t want to spend less on my kids than she did her other nieces and nephews.

She now gets my kids each a gift (usually after asking me for ideas, first), and then buys them savings bonds with the remainder of what she wants to spend.

Know that Conversations Can Easily Exclude or Embarrass Me

I’ll try to be excited for you when you tell me about your home renovation or trip to Bermuda, but I just won’t have much to contribute to the conversation. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t share your exciting news with me, but please realize that if everyone else is spending a lot of time talking about things I don’t have or can’t do, I’m going to feel left out.

I’m not trying to be antisocial, but I’m pretty sure that saying “My husband glued down the part of the Formica countertop that keeps popping up,” wouldn’t quite fit in.

And then there’s Christmas.

In our own home, we try not to make Christmas about the gifts or money, but when you tell me what you gave your kids and ask me what I got mine, it’s hard for me not to feel like a bad mom. It’s also a little embarrassing when people ask my kids what they “got for Christmas.”

I do try to make our celebrations enjoyable, though, so I’d much prefer that we be asked what our favorite part of Christmas was, or something like that.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to be seen as “the poor one” or pitied for my (current) lot in life. I just want to be loved and appreciated and included in the festivities.

The author is a freezer-cooking , baby-wearing, stay-at-home mama who does some freelance writing while her 3 young kiddos nap. She’s married to a wonderful man who’s the pastor of a small country church and prefers to remain anonymous due to the content of this post.

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Comments

  1. cherie says

    This is a good post :)

    I think the bottom line through this and through the comments I read however is that there are all kinds of people – and those who truly mean well would be helped by a post like this but likely won’t ever read it – and there are plenty who don’t – who have no empathy and are differing levels of self-involved and materialistic – they’re not going to change – and they don’t care how it makes you feel.

    On the side of uneven gifting – I’ve been on both sides. We’ve been uber tight in our early years and we’re quite comfortable now, but always there were people with so much more than us that we couldn’t really feel in the same ball park at all. And at some point I just decided to stop worrying over it – I think it came when we started to have ‘more’ than some we exchanged gifts with – and you know what? I got what I thought was appropriate and could afford and I tried to be thoughtful of what would be useful or enjoyable for them. I gave not one iota of thought to what they might be able to give back. Then I realized that those I was worried about being too ‘poor’ a gifter to didn’t care either – it truly was the thought that counted – even if it was just a pleasant call to say thank you.

    We’re all different. We’re all at a different stage in our journey. Try to appreciate those that are trying even if they’re failing. Ignore those that are being hurtful or unkind.

    And a note to those parents worried that others are ‘outgifting’ them with their own children. First of all, your kids will never care or probably notice, at least till they’re MUCH older. And second, being a gracious recipient is an important lesson to teach them too – by not getting stressed over the barbie over the top house that showed up when you were making home sewn hand puppets. Guess what? Those puppets just got their dream home – kids don’t care about price tags.

    • Anne says

      Thank you for your wisdom. We have a one-year old and live in a small condo. We have been feeling stressed because my in-laws are giving our daughter an expensive rocking horse for Christmas and we don’t want it because of space, our daughter’s lack of interest, and the extravagence, They are retired and my husband doesn’t think they have much money saved… just pensions and Social Security. so partially we are worried about their financial health. We also don’t want to be outgifted by them but I recently said to my husband that teaching gracious receiving is more important than how we feel about the gifts they choose.

  2. monica says

    Awesome. I can relate to some of these situations. This may help some realize there not alone. Thanks for sharing. Have faith. Stick to your beliefs. Christmas seems to lose meaning each year. Its very sad. I just think people aren’t genuinely happy so they have to spend money. Once you’ve found true happiness you have a different outlook on what you spend. A homemade gift means so much more. Its sad people have to feel bad for the “value”. One person can make a difference. Imagine.

  3. J in VA says

    I can identify with this post as well.

    For many years, my dh and I consciously had a much smaller gift budget that anyone on either side of the family. Both sides were over the top and, my in-laws especially, gave us things we could never and would never use. Even when asked, they never followed our suggestions and could not understand the difference between one well made shirt and 6 cheap, trendy shirts in an unfavorite color.

    Two different years, we tried to suggest that since there were no children (or latter only a couple) that we should just stop the gifts (at least for the adults) and enjoy each other’s company and a nice meal. That suggestion went over like a lead balloon. Finally, it got to the point that we were all just swapping gift cards. Our requests to have donations made to charitable groups were also ignored.

    My dh and I prayerfully pulled out of the whole gift exchange and told everyone that we were not shopping, that we were giving money to a charitable group that gives to those with nothing and did not wish gifts. Our dd was old enough to understand that when she needs something she can ask and we will provide it if appropriate.

    It has been a great relief not to participate in the commercial side of Christmas and just enjoy the reflection on the Savior.

    However, because our families chose to continue not to join us, we can’t visit on Christmas as we live far enough away that an overnight stay is needed and we are not going to be present for a gathering that involves gifts. It’s sad when gifts are chosen over relationships. All these *adults* could buy for themselves the gifts they are receiving and instead receive the gift of family fellowship.

    I don’t want to be heard as complaining or sound bitter because I am not. I just grieve the self-centeredness, the willingness to put things over people and the loss of relationship/memories for our daughter.

    My family gatherings as a child were about relationships. The small gifts were just extra.

    Something to pray over and think about……………………………………

    • Anon says

      Something from the otherside: you are choosing to miss out on the relationship because of the gifts. I’m not judging you, I just think it’s sad that you are choosing to let the gift thing big you so much you won’t spend time with family at Christmas.

      As a family, we stopped doing a gift exchange at the Christmas party and instead we get two kids names and wishlists for a sub for Santa.

      • J in VA says

        There is no real relationship. They don’t really care about seeing us the other 10 months a year except to whine that we can’t come at T-giving and Christmas. The primary reason is because of dh’s work schedule and his inability to have vacation this time of year. They are not pleased that he gave up his white collar job due to excessive stress and God’s leading and took on a blue collar job instead. In the past when we’ve tried to go on a week end some other time during this part of the year, everyone else “was too busy” to come by so we’ve stopped trying. We’ve invited them here but “they don’t have time.” These are retired folk and teachers with weeks off so…….

        I know that some say that the gift thing is because the wisemen brought gifts to Jesus, but mostly it is commercialism and an unnecessary stress to an already emotionally charged time fueled by media.

        Jesus never told us to celebrate his birth, with or without gifts, and if a group of adults can’t have family time without gifts, that is a big reflection of childishness. Study the history of Christmas –all this gift stuff is very recent and not something the early church fathers or apostles would have encouraged.

        That said, if all are in agreement with exchanging gifts that is a choice and something that should be pleasant not a burden.

    • Anon in MT says

      I am saddened by your post. Why would you ask your extended family to change their ways to yours, and then be disgruntled when they didn’t. Christmas is about our Savior, but it is also about spending time with family. That is something you are taking away from your family and your daughter. Participate or don’t participate in the gift giving, but I bet your extended family sees your family as the selfish ones.

  4. J in VA says

    Another thing to think about…………………

    A woman I know recently told me she was working overtime because her two sons wanted the latest electronic gadgets that are in the $500-600 range (one for each!)

    She said that they were scaling down the holidays. How sad that a gadget is more important than time with a mom that works fulltime and further separate them when she is home.

  5. TopPic says

    This post really hit home for me. It actually made me cry. The author is a strong person to be able to be with her family given her situation and feelings. It is too hard for me to be with my family (except my mom since I have lost my job). There are no gifts for me to give my daughter this year and she understands. If you are able purchase your child even one gift, do you know how blessed you are to be able to do that.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      And I’m sure you’d much prefer to be given money to choose a gift for your daughter instead of having someone else giver one, wouldn’t you? I just wish people would understand how it feels so they can be a better blessing to you and others in your shoes.

      I’m praying you can enjoy some sweet time with your daughter and giver her the kinds of gifts that far outlive anything you wish you could put under the tree.

  6. says

    As a Preachers’ Kid, we grew up without a lot. But we didn’t know it. Our parents loved us, and took care of us, and some of my favorite meals now are the simplest things my mom mixed up with what we had on hand. (like “pizza” made on plain white toast with ketchup and garlic salt and american cheese slices.)
    One of the biggest blessings we received, was at Christmas, when the church members would “pound” us. Each family gave us a pound of some type of food. And usually a Sunday School class would go in together to buy us a ham. It was wonderful. If you have a need in your town, consider this idea. It was not as hard for someone to give food as it was to ask everyone for money. A couple of cans of soup were well appreciated by our family, and noone was embarrased that they couldn’t match the twenty-fifty-hundred dollar donation of someone else.

  7. Erica O'Hara says

    To whomever wrote this article, God bless you my dear!!!!!! We have the same situation. What beautiful and non-confrontational way to voice your feelings. I do know that my children are much better in all aspects of their lives than my nephews. They understand work, responsibility, accountability, forgiveness, caring, sympathy, empathy, the list on and on. Keep up the good work! Merry Christmas!!

  8. Ann S. says

    It’s always interesting to me how people see these situations so differently. With my husbands family, we are the “poor” ones, yet it doesn’t bother me at all. I hear the other family members talk about their big trips, buying their newest vehicle, all the toys and things their kids get and so on. My BIL recently spent $15,000 on some old sports cards as an impulse purchase for a collection he’s working on. While I wish I had that much extra money lying around to spend like that, I know he works very hard for his money. I see their huge house, expensive vehicles, and nice stuff, but I’m content with my small home, old vehicles and less stuff. Someone out there will always make more money and have more stuff that us and someone will always make less and have less. Rather than comparing myself to others and feeling bad that they can afford more, I look at all the blessings I have in my life. And it doesn’t bother me at all when I hear about a family members big trip to the all-inclusive Caribbean resort. I’m happy for them and then I happily share our family camping trip where we cooked all our meals at our campsite and spent our time hiking in the woods, playing in streams and enjoying beautiful nature. Our trips don’t compare at all, but we all both created happy memories and that’s all that matters. And if someone wants to look down on me because my financial status is not as high, then it’s their problem, not mine. But I also don’t mind if others want to buy more or spend more on my kids. It’s their money and they can spend it how they’d like. I make sure my kids are gracious and I teach them that when they take care of their stuff, whether given as a gift or something they purchased themselves with hard-earned money. I’m not putting anyone down who feels the same way as the poster, I’m just saying that our society seems to spend so much time comparing ourselves to others and should instead focus on ourselves. It’s amazing how freeing that can be.

    • says

      Thank goodness! Someone who feels the way I do! I hear this kind of thing on FB all the time! People are so resentful and jealous that they can’t even rejoice when someone else has a blessing in their life.
      We don’t know how long that person has worked or saved or prayed for that blessing, so to do anything other than rejoice for them, is self centered.

      And, it seems that this author is trying to control what others can talk about or share about their own lives, so that she won’t have to be offended.

      This is a heart problem to me.

      • an says

        Exactly. To me this is a matter of the heart. It’s time to change this culture of giving to extend beyond “special” occasions. You can change the culture by giving throughout the year. It can be something as simple as a baked good or a dollar store find. Giving throughout the year will bless you and help you change your attitude about receiving gifts. There shouldn’t be this much of a pride issue in giving or receiving gifts graciously. Your attitude is what matters to God not the gift. It’s not our place to judge the motives of the person giving us a gift. If we can’t receive material gifts graciously, what does that say about us receiving God’s gifts?

      • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

        I think you misread some things, but thanks for your input! The idea was that if everyone else is talking about things one person can’t afford to have or do, that person will naturally feel isolated and will not be able to meaningfully participate in the conversation.

        My husband, who comes from a very different background, was seen as “antisocial” because everyone was talking about their favorite gourmet restaurants, and he’d never been to one, so he didn’t chime in! ;)

        The idea was to inform those who would want to understand someone else’s perspective and be a blessing to them, and I hope it helps some to do just that. :)

        • an says

          I disagree with the premise that a person should feel isolated. Why can’t it be seen as a cultural learning experience. My foreign born friends have very different backgrounds than I. When in groups, if they begin to speak about customs unfamiliar to me I receive it as an opportunity to learn. A person doesn’t have to travel the world to be genuinely interested in the experiences of others. Never having been to a gourmet restaurant doesn’t keep a person from learning how to cook gourmet meals. Never having attended the symphony doesn’t keep one from appreciating the music.

    • Jill says

      Exactly!! Why let money strain relationships with the ones you love? It’s all about attitude, and I like yours!

    • Amy R says

      Thank you…thank you…thank you!!! Having money does not make me evil or materialistic. I consider myself a funnel. God gives through me.

      I have been on both sides of this story, and to me, this original author sounds almost ungrateful. Maybe right now, in her current situation, God’s way of providing is through generous family. Why resent that?

      For years, we made very little money. I heard other friends and family speak of their financial blessing often, but not once did I feel the way this poster does. I rejoiced for them. This post makes me feel like when we see my in-laws for Christmas (who we haven’t seen in two years) that we shouldn’t share our pics from our Disneyworld trip (which was paid for all by money I earned taking surveys!!!) just because my brother-in-law may not be able to afford to take his kids.

      I think it’s all about perspective! There are blessings in every stage of life. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find them rather than envying the blessings of others.

  9. Tawna Jones says

    Very refreshing! As a mom of 4 little ones 7, almost 5, 3.5 and 18 months with a 5th baby due next a month, I totally get this. Love being a homeschooling mom to 2 of our kids & playmate to our other 2:)

  10. Hope says

    I grew up very poor and family get togethers were awkward, especially when my parents siblings who made more money found it difficult to relate to my parents’ situation, not to mention my cousins who would sport the newest gadgets or talk about cable television programs I didn’t know existed. This is a great posting to remind others that there are creative solutions to problems that are created by money challenges. Kudos for the article!

  11. says

    What a great post, something we all need to keep in mind year round. My husband and I were trying to establish spending quality time/going on a weekend get-away with the family instead of gifts for Christmas. We rented a lake-side condo last year (off season=affordable) and had a great time. We have a small family with 7 adults and no grand-kids yet. But this year we moved to the United Kingdom… will be here for 3 years. So instead of gifts, our family members are saving to come see us in the next 3 years and we are saving to help them with their vacation to come see us.

  12. says

    The heart of this post and other comments like this that I see on FB at times, really sadden me.

    Each of us are supposed to be content with the blessings that God has given us, in different seasons, and yet, I read people’s comments and now this post, about how others are not supposed to share their blessings (vacation, new car, etc.) because it might offend someone who has less than them.

    This is totally self centered!

    We should rejoice when others are blessed! We should truly be happy for someone else’s profitable season (unless they robbed a bank or something).

    Further more, this kind of attitude filters down to our kids and they become bitter little brats, because someone else got something that they didn’t. (My kids have witnessed these kids).

    How would you feel if God truly blessed you with something you had been praying for and then when you told someone, they chastised you or showed no joy for you at all?

    When others share their blessings, we don’t know how long they’ve waited for that trip or that car or what they sacrificed to get it. It’s really not up to us to do anything but rejoice with them.

    My intention is not to hurt this woman, but hopefully to shed light on it from a different perspective. This is a heart issue.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      I’m sorry you took it that way. The aim was to help others who haven’t “been there” understand how to be a greater blessing to family members or friends who are less financially well-off. I hope this post helps even just one person to be more considerate toward others.

      I did not say people shouldn’t talk about their blessings in front of me, just that if everyone else is talking about extravagant vacations or up-scale remodels, I won’t be able to relate or participate meaningfully in the conversation. From the comments, I’m clearly not alone in this kind of scenario, and I hope some people will read this and think twice before unwittingly leaving others out.

      The assumption is, as I mentioned in the article, that if my family realized how certain things came across, they would do things differently. I choose to think most people don’t intentionally hurt or isolate others–including myself. ;)

      If I had wanted to hurt my family members or just “rant,” I would have used my FB page, not posted anonymously. ;) I want to help others avoid having similar situations.

      • Melinda says

        I for one would like to thank you for your post. I am one that will (I hope) be more considerate of others after reading your post. My husband and I are the well off ones on my side of the family; admittedly it can be hard when my siblings make comments about how much money we have. (My husband is a hard worker and works many hours [and currently two jobs]).

        Your post had (I believe) its intended effect with me. I know there have been many times I have wanted to help my sister and her family . . . because I love them. Yet I am not sure how it would be received. I don’t want either her or her husband to feel like we offer to help because we think they are not doing an adequate job caring for their family. I appreciate the ideas for how to be loving and sensitive.

  13. says

    I think you should add: Try not to make your family member feel crazy! I can’t tell you how many times our family makes us feel like complete whack jobs! “You’re adopting more kids? Why on earth would you do that?” “You’re only eating 7 foods for a month? You’re crazy.” “You only spend $300/mo on groceries… what do you eat? Ramen and mac n cheese?!” It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even discuss many things with family or friends anymore because we feel like loons!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      Oh, dear! Yes, it is a good “survival mechanism” to just avoid certain topics.

    • Guest says

      To be fair, those actions are pretty different than our typical culture. I am all for living counter cultural, however, I don’t think that it is fair to expect everyone around you to understand. It can be a catalyst for discussion (or not!)

  14. April says

    Can we all just agree to stop asking *anyone* what they got for Christmas? Most of the people in my circle all agree that Christmas isn’t about the gifts, but still the question comes. Not only does it contradict what we *say* we believe about the holiday (whether that’s the birth of Christ, being with family, helping the less fortunate, etc.) but it puts undue stress on members of our society that struggle financially (which is MANY). I love the idea of asking what your favorite part of Christmas was because I’d much rather talk about the night my family took a trolley ride to look at lights or how my daughters and I spent the day baking cookies and delivering them to friends and family. THOSE are the things I want to share, not the things I unwrapped.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      I couldn’t agree more! I think my kids (and most kids) enjoy the preparations and festivities for the season at least as much as opening gifts–which they sometimes enjoy more than the gifts themselves! ;)

    • Jennifer B. says

      Thank you! That doesn’t seem to have been addressed in the comments until now. I know for us, especially when my son was younger, it was the “What did *Santa* bring you” question — even at church — that was the problem. We chose not to “do” Santa gifts and have focused on the real meaning of Christmas instead. So, imagine the reaction when the asker heard my son say “nothing.” c:

  15. Veronica says

    Thank you for sharing!
    This sounds like my actual situation. I’m SAHM dealing with economy as many people.
    But his morning, as always, I thank The Lord for my three kids, for their beautiful hearts, their healthy bodies. I give thanks for a caring husband that works hard to provided for his family of five, I’m thankful for the warm house, for the love in our family. We eat three times a day. I don’t think in things that I don’t have, or others have and I can’t afford, that’s useless. My lord has giving me enough, just what we really need, and I think we still have more than that. About Christmas, remember, Jesus is the reason if the season!
    May the love of Jesus full your hearts and bless your families.
    How could I be poor if I’m a king’s daughter!

  16. Di H. says

    The meals I totally get, but gifts and conversations I completely disagree with the author and many posters. I believe that too often our pride gets in the way. Yes that P-word! God has given us all different gifts and talents. For some it is the gift of giving. When we say things like no one is allowed to give more gifts to my kids than I do? What are you really saying? Even though God has given you the gift of giving, you love us, and can easily afford these gifts without going into debt, but it might make ME look bad, so I’m not gonna let God bless you by your giving to me. Plus we are also saying to God, you can’t use them to bless our family. Whoa! That is incredibly selfish and self-centered Perhaps we need to put our pride aside and graciously just say “thank you”. When done in love it’s not a competition. Let God reign! Let him bless you how He sees fit!
    Just because you might not go on extravagant trips there is no rule you can’t learn and see what it was like by asking questions and looking at their pics. I have relatives who have let me “see” Alaska, Spain, Greece, Germany, Thailand,South Africa and more. I will never probably see those places in my lifetime in person, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy them and learn about them. Use these opportunities to learn about things and places you don’t know about. Why must one feel like they have to contribute or be center of attention?
    If we choose to join others and go out to eat, we pay our own bill. If someone sneakily pays our bill, we simply and graciously say “thank you”! If friends want to pass on outgrown clothes and toys, we simply and graciously say,”thank you”! If anyone loves my family and gives of their time and/or money, we don’t begrudge them for it. We are so grateful for all we are given. God uses others so often to take care of our needs and many of our wants. So we tell them “thank you” while allowing God to bless them in their giving and tell God “thank you” for using them to bless us! This is what God has taught me thru sermons and His Word and I felt it needed to be shared.

    • Kimberly says

      I read with interest your comments about pride and the kinds and amounts of gifts. We have many times asked our family members to scale back, but it has more to do with guarding our children’s hearts… helping them see the true meaning of Christmas (Jesus) and not about all the stuff. We are a little more flexible with birthday gifts but the excessive gifting from some of our family members was more than our 700 square ft apartment (for a family of 6) could handle. We really push for experiences…. a special date or overnight with just one kid, museum or zoo memberships, or a box filled with all their favorite snacks I won’t or can’t buy on a regular basis.

      • Di H. says

        Kimberly you have made some great points. You have brought up that sometimes it’s not the parent’s pride that is an issue but rather the kids’ pride. God has given us each the children we were meant to have and the responsibility of guarding their hearts. I feel that there are many ways in handling that rather than saying no to others /God. In addition to celebrating with family, We celebrate as our own family unit and put the emphasis on Christ’s birthday, sing Happy Birthday to Him with bday cake and all, we hang out as a family doing special fun things like baking, crafts, etc. Doing an advent that puts the focus on God all month long. Santa is not celebrated. I feel that using Santa makes kids think they deserve the gifts when in fact gifts should be what they are defined as: undeserved, unearned favor or kindness. That is how God’s greatest gift of salvation is given – it’s not earned. We write thank yous to the people who give the gifts so kids do not take them for granted or feel a sense of entitlement. I want them to be grateful to the giver for the gifts as we are thankful to God for His gifts!
        I understand about small spaces we are in same boat as we are in 600 Sq ft rental for 4 people but we are happy cuz we know we are where God wants us at this time. I agree with you in that I too offer suggestions of “experiences” and those are awesome gifts! Donation towards ballet classes, zoo or museum memberships have been wonderful gifts!
        No matter how tight things get, we found there are always people who have less than we do and whether we take the excess of what we have been given or buy something as simple as coloring books and crayons from dollar store so another family can have gifts for Christmas, I want my kids to be a part in the giving as well to also help keep them from becoming “me-centered”. I let them help make the cookies and wrap the gifts for others. Allow them opportunities to give and serve others.

  17. cwaltz says

    I guess it’s all in how you define “less fortunate.”

    Quite frankly, I would tend to consider myself fortunate if I had family that tried to help fill in the gaps because I was unable to purchase things that my family might want or need. And Lord only knows there were times when my household was surviving on a wing and a prayer.

    Then again, I tend to define my fortune by people who care for me then by income levels or who has what.

    I understand that material things can make people maudling. However, they’re just that. Instead of looking at someone as “outdoing” you, you might consider they are trying to help. A good portion of people who have the means may have at one time struggled and may just want to do something nice now that they can afford to. So I would caution that some of the holiday shouldn’t be about how it makes YOU feel (when people give or talk about things)but how it might make the other person feel as well. Sometimes it’s important to be a grateful recipient and remember that the feelings of the person giving matter too.

    • Laura says

      Such a wonderfully written post! I am a writer and can appreciate the humor in the sentence about the Formica. We, too, are struggling financially and Christmas seems to resonate that fact. To those who were offended at this post, in this society, where “things” matter, it is very hard to enter a conversation about renovations or vacations without feeling snubbed. I have experienced small wealth and now I am experiencing the other side of the coin. This too shall pass, and when it does, I will have obtained knowledge on how to help others in need, because if you have never been there, you truly cannot know.

      • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

        Thank you for getting” my Formica comment! ;)

        I grew up on “the other side” and now understand some things I never realized probably hurt or offended others.

  18. Jennifer says

    I think this sums up the situation…”While my own struggle with contentment is something I need to put in perspective, I’m pretty sure my family would do some things differently if they understood.”
    I think we have to own our own situation and bloom where you are planted. Like us, they chose to have more than one kid and be a SAHM with a husband that makes a modest wage…because of that you have to make the best of it or change the situation. Unless her family is being rude or degrading…then it’s her issue and her responsibility to share with them the changes she needs made to the holiday routine. I think it’s great that her family is understanding and caring and cheerfully and lovingly tweak their traditions and habits to accommodate all the families in for the holidays. Many families would not. It sounds like she has more of an issue with her situation than they do though. It sounds like when she simply shares her thoughts and her situation…they are understanding. It’s tough to make yourself vulnerable though.
    If it were me, I don’t think though that others should have to stop talking about their trip to Paris, but bring the pics along for me to enjoy too. I think though that my other family should take interest in the funny quips my toddler has shared or the highlights of my husband’s ministry. I have family in college and yet I don’t have to be in college to enjoy the conversation. I have family that travel the world for their job but I don’t have to be the same to enjoy the convo. I give her credit for indentifying an area that she is grappling with and I credit her for being honest with family and saying, “Hey, we can’t afford 2 meals out but we’d love to serve in other ways.” Her family would have to know that a country church pastor is not going to make the same money as others in the family, but they aren’t going to say, “Hey I bet you guys can’t afford dinner out” and risk offending them. I know that it would be very uncomfortable to ask a family member if they could swing something. I’d wait for them to initiate so I don’ hurt them.
    For us, while Christmas is going to be slimmer this year, I am not hurt by others gifts but instead I am glad that while I can’t provide the big ticket gifts, my kids will feel the blessing of others that love them. Kids don’t care who provides the gifts…they just enjoy them and want them! It sounds like they’ve worked out some great compromises though.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      I really appreciate your insightful comment and perspective. I guess I should have been clearer in saying that when everyone else is discussing their extravagant vacations, etc., it can be isolating for someone who couldn’t afford to take one this year. I just think a lot of people don’t even think about it and unwittingly leave others out, sometimes.

      As far as gifts go, I do understand your point. However, let me give you another example. A few years ago, my hubby was asked to work some overtime around Christmas, and he didn’t tell me, but he used the extra money to buy me something I really wanted but figured I’d never have–a Keurig! (It costs far more than we typically spend on one another or our children.) He was planning to surprise me with it for my birthday, the week after Christmas.

      However, an extended family member (with whom I wasn’t even close, at the time) gave me one for Christmas–and it was a nicer model than the one he had saved up to buy for me! As you can imagine, the wind was kind of out of his sails. I guess for some people, gift-giving is part of their love language, and it does end up tied to people and emotions, etc.

      Thanks for “listening.” ;)

  19. Nicole Duval says

    Wow, I completely identify with this! As a single mom, my daughter always receives more presents from grandparents and family than I can give her. I normally can give one or two present and some stocking stuffers, but this year I can only afford one due to my christmas money I put aside all year, went to a major last minute car repair. I can afford to go out to eat once or twice a month with her , and always have water with a meal and a coupon! I see friends posting on Facebook about all the trips they go on, and the last one I went to was a small road trip. Sometimes I hide those posts-hahaha.Glad I am not teh only one who feels this way!

  20. CarrieM says

    It didn’t sound like she was unhappy for her relatives successes. I thought she just wanted to have something in common to speak to them about, which is my situation also. I disagree with less fortunate. Maybe less affluent. I don’t mind getting expensive gifts knowing I can’t reciprocate monetarily. Prayers and support are wonderful gifts you can give them. So are photo and handmade/meaningful gifts. Definitely don’t like when people focus on what they got for Christmas, but that’s just how they do Christmas, and sometimes it’s not for a bad reason. They want to bless their kids and each other.

    • cwaltz says

      I think a lot of this is going to depend on perspective. It sounds like the poster has a really nice and generous family that doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the cost of things because they can easily afford items. It’s easier for the OP to understand the price of items because with her budget cost does matter. Their perspectives are different, not necessarily their values IMO. Still I do get that its sometimes hard to let go of the idea that income brackets don’t need to define who we are necessarily in a society that is often centered on money.

      I’m going to admit to being a tiny bit jealous of the OP. I grew up in a dysfunctional household where I was pretty much all I could rely on(and I can count on two hands the number of times my kids once they came into the world even got so much as a phone call from “family” on important days like Christmas or their birthdays). So I think it’s pretty wonderful that her family tries to take her feelings into consideration and that they try to share and make time for each other.

      My perspective is definitely colored by my experience.

  21. Cathy G says

    Great post!! It is such a refresher to realize other people deal with the same things. Sometimes it is a matter of choices, yet other times it is simply out of our control.

  22. Kimberly says

    I am rather surprised to find this post on MSM. Generally speaking, I think the readership here is more like the author and less like the rich family members referenced in the post, so it is kind of like preaching to the choir. This post comes off as a little short on grace (which is usually here on MSM in abundance) and rather defensive. It would have been better to have more practical suggestions and less “poor me, why do you treat me like a heel?”

    • says

      The followup post today is from the opposite perspective and I think you’ll appreciate it. :) We have a very diverse audience here, so I thought it’d be great to have both sides of the coin shared.

      Thanks for your input. And my apologies if it seemed lacking in grace… I don’t believe that was the author’s intent at all.

      • Kimberly says

        Great! I will look forward to the next post in the series. :) I have such great respect for the way you manage MSM and how gentleness, generosity, and kindness oozes from the pages here.

        • says

          Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement! It’s a learning process… and I often make mistakes. But I’m grateful that gentleness, generosity, and kindness are what you are feeling here as that is so very much my heart. {hugs!}

        • says

          I just was editing the guest post for today and realized that I misspoke above. It’s from a different perspective, but not necessarily the opposite perspective. However, I think it will be really helpful to people — especially those who want to bless someone who is in a rough season but don’t know exactly how to do so.

          {Just wanted to clarify that since I hadn’t read the post in drafts since it had been submitted and should have re-read it before I told you what I thought I’d remembered it was about! I need to learn to stop relying upon my faulty memory!}

  23. Ashley says

    Thank you for this!
    I take the route that many commenters have taken in regards to others giving big gifts. My mom is buying the “large” gift for my son this year. I was telling her that his brother was getting a larger gift- a scooter (just an example of how Christmas gifts are small at our home too). I didn’t want my older son to feel that he was only getting smaller gifts. She is having us bring his LeapPad home to open on Christmas morning, even though she won’t be here to see him. She was happy to know he would be pleased and she didn’t even need to see him open it! It warmed my heart.
    I had to remind myself the other day that I am VERY happy with our choices and the position we are in. When I hear of the gifts my in-laws are getting their children, I first feel a little mean that we are choosing (we could afford more) to not give my children a million things. I then remind myself that next month, they will literally not remember what they got. I have had a huge shift in thinking in the last year as I think about what I want my sons to remember about Christmas, Santa and Jesus.
    My sister-in-law recently got a new SUV which leaves me the only one who doesn’t have a nice, spacious car. I was pretty sad. BUT, here’s the kicker, WE are the only ones who have savings and money in the bank. My SIL who works full-time and has a seemingly lavish lifestyle- she did not have money for a recent $5 swimming pool entry. They are living way outside their means and it is so, so sad.
    We have more than enough and a nice home. I don’t think the comparisons ever stop, no matter how much you have, because I know what drives my in-laws is “keeping up with the neighbors”. I am learning to embrace this stay-at-home income life for the true gifts and blessings it brings to our family. That is worth much more than money.

  24. Heather D. says

    “I’ll try to be excited for you when you tell me about your home renovation or trip to Bermuda, but I just won’t have much to contribute to the conversation. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t share your exciting news with me, but please realize that if everyone else is spending a lot of time talking about things I don’t have or can’t do, I’m going to feel left out.”

    This was one part I didn’t agree with and makes the OP sound resentful. Vacations, home remodeling, etc. are the stuff of their lives. You don’t have to compare to be in the conversation. “Bermuda sounds amazing! What was your favorite part of the trip?” would be an appropriate reaction. When people ask you about your summer plans, you could talk about the fun camping trip you have planned, or the story-telling festival the kids really love. Sitting their silent and brooding confirms to them that you are POOR. Not financially poor, but poor in spirit. You have obviously chosen your life. Let them see that your kids aren’t poor unfortunates, but kids with loving, involved parents and a wealth of experiences money can’t buy.

    • Allison says

      I agree! Participate in their conversations, don’t poo-poo everything that doesn’t directly connect to your life. That is what family and friendship is all about.

  25. Deanna Morris says

    I wasn’t sure if the FB page would get to the writer of this brave post, so posted my comments both places. Sorry if it’s redundant. It was a good post. I guess I look at it more like……”This is our life, sorry we aren’t in a position to more, feel free to do what you would like.” I do understand that it was “her family” and I’m amazed she could be so open with them without huge hurt feelings, that’s great. But tell the kids that not everyone has “money” to spend/blow. God is taking care of ALL your needs. HE brings people, family….into your life for help and support and life lessons. Maybe have them think of someone that they could wrap something back up to give to someone in your church that might not be as blessed as they are. If we are trying to teach our children about the TRUE gift that came to earth for us, what better way. Do it anonymously if need be. That lets them see that ALL GIFTS are from God and that sometimes the gifts, money, cars, legos, clothes that someone gives us, can be passed on. We don’t have to keep them and feel responsible for not being able to “match” it. I think if someone gives something to me I may not need or think I need, I am SURE to know someone who does. Why not share my bounty with others. And as far a the meal thing, don’t feel badly. Your family should know your situation and not put you in an awkward place, but not everyone is sensitive to others, especially family it seems. So, just say proudly and maybe with a little happy laugh, that the Lord hasn’t seen fit to give us MORE than we need, so we can’t participate in that, but feel free to go out and have a great time, we will stay here. Or doing what you said works great to. It’s NOT YOU. It’s God. Don’t ever, ever, ever be ashamed at where the Lord has you in life. Hand me downs, food banks, 1991 Ford, 6 bedroom 4500 sq. ft. house, or Mercedes. I don’t know WHY God chooses to give some more and some less, but that’s for HIM to decided, and for us to accept with grace and dignity and PRIDE that we are in the Lord’s will and He knows best. Hold your head up and say thank you. Prepare the kids in advance to be thinking of someone they might could give some of the gifts to….(but make sure they don’t share that info. with the family ;) We have been where you are, we have been richer, poorer, sicker, healthier, our Spirituality side has been tested in many ways, but THIS WAY, is small. I would take it over cancer, children dying, life time of pain any day of the week. Embrace where the Lord has you!! Grab hold of it and PRAISE HIM. Never apologize for being in the middle of God’s will. NEVER feel badly about being in the middle of God’s will. If we know that we are right where God wants us, WE SHOULD REJOICE ALL THE TIME.

  26. ARC says

    Savings bonds are great, but I’d also suggest a college fund. Anytime they want to give more than the amount of gifts deemed reasonable by you then they can contribute to the college fund! Giving the children the ability to attend college without fear of how to pay for everything will be an investment that will return to them everyday for the rest of their lives plus continue through following generations. What other investment gives that much return?

    • Celeste says

      I really enjoyed this article and could totally relate! A few years ago, things were really tight for us and I knew they were tight for my sister and her husband as well as for my parents, so we decided to set a $5 limit on all gifts. We had the most enjoyable Christmas that year and have decided even though we may be able to afford a little more now, to still continue the tradition. We have found that we are much more intentional about what we give, we shop earlier, we make gifts homemade and we receive less clutter. It is so much more meaningful than just picking up a gift card at the last minute.

  27. Nichole says

    I can relate to this so much it almost made me cry. This was my family for 4.5 years after my husband was laid off from his job and became a stay at home Dad to our son overnight. We were not financially prepared for this sudden loss of income which caused stress in itself, but then we had to adjust to a different lifestyle (of much much less). As a side note we were also the first in our group of friends to get married and have a child.

    We slowly lost most of our “friends” and even upset a lot of family members because we had to say no to almost invite we got. It was too cold to take the baby out, the place wasn’t kid friendly, we didn’t have a babysitter and couldn’t afford one, we needed to be home at 7 so the baby could go to sleep, etc. Bottom line was we couldn’t afford to go out to eat, we couldn’t afford to use the gas in our car to get there (saved for to/from work), etc and people just didn’t understand the financial situation we were in. At first we were so embarrassed, but eventually we had to spell out to people that things (like eating out) required planning and we couldn’t just go when we wanted. You shouldn’t have to explain to people, but sometimes you do. It was hard for us because of the sudden loss of income and I made just enough to not qualify for any type of assistance. In the end we just did without and bought what we had to (my husband and I didn’t buy new clothes, didn’t eat out, walked to the store, drank only water and saved milk for baby, etc). Thank you for sharing your story and know that you are not alone. Happy holidays!

    • April says

      Why shouldn’t you have to explain to people? They aren’t mind readers. There’s nothing wrong with being assertive and explaining why something is difficult for them at that particular time.

  28. Emily says

    I can totally relate to this. We are the only single income family in both of our extended families and our resources are so very limited. Vacationing together generally sounds like fun, but we find our dietary and monetary restrictions make it that we can’t actually do much with the other family due to expenses. So we just won’t be doing it anymore and will choose to visit them at home instead.

  29. Elizabeth says

    Because each of my siblings and I have had times when we struggle to just put food on the table (I have a daughter who is medically fragile and has severe special needs), we have usually decided in the summer the “amount” allowed to be spent on the children. We do it early so that if someone has to spread out the buying (watching for sales) it allows for it. Also, I usually work retail and have to have all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving.

  30. Kiya says

    I just wanted to chime in from the kids point of view. When I was growing up my mom did not have a lot of money until I was in high school (when she paid off her student loans). My grandpa and step-grandma had a lot of money. So they would always give us a ton of Christmas presents. The presents would always be much more expensive then what my mom could buy. My mom never tired to keep up, she just would buy me maybe two or three things BUT those gifts always meant more to me. She are I are very close and she would always get me the best things. They may not have cost that much but they were the things that I really wanted. My grandparents were great but they only saw me twice a year. The gifts they gave were great but not as personal. So in my child mind, I never felt unloved or like my mom had “cheaped out” I should also note that half of the things that my grandparents bought were cloths and that was super helpful for my mom. She hardly had to buy me any clothing at all during the year.

    Now that I am grown and have two kids of my own, my grandparents still give far more expensive things then I do but I am not worried about it in the least. I know that the one toy that I bought for each child will be special to them because who knows them better then their mommy and daddy?

    BTW We did not even bother buying gifts for our kids until just this year because they don’t even notice with all of their grandparents and great-grandparents gifts. Saved us money for other things like flying down to see all of them.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      That is encouraging–thank you for sharing! We don’t “limit” the grandparents, and our kids have a full-to-overflowing play room. They really don’t need more “stuff,” but we do like for certain “big gifts” to come from us, as their parents. :)

  31. Patti says

    I am still struggling with the intentions of the author of this post. I can understand that if you are “less fortunate”, you may not be able to be a part of the holiday festivities, but you also shouldn’t expect others to change their ways and conversations just for you. If you can’t afford a meal out and can make the meal as an exchange, offer that. If it isn’t taken, then just don’t participate in the other meals. There is no reason for everyone to have to sit home because you can’t go out. And if other people are spending too much on your gifts, maybe you need to speak up. I had to do that with my mother when our child came along – I just told her that two of us couldn’t be Santa Claus. Not saying she understood, of course, but I just had to tell her the truth. She was able to adjust just like she adjusted to the fact that we couldn’t spend every Christmas Day with them. As for gifts, you can make your own or find inexpensive ones if you take the time to think about the other person. I had a friend in college from a large family and it amazed me the gifts she bought them on little or no money (say a pretty hair barrette from the dollar store for a sister with long hair, a map from a bookstore for a brother who liked adventure). She could find gifts for about 10 or so people for less than $20 and all of them were meaningful. And these were new gifts – I have shopped yard sales for years to pick up “used” gifts for little or nothing to give to people. I guess what I am saying is that while I agree it is never right to make someone with less income feel uncomfortable, it is also not right for someone with less income to make others with more income feel uncomfortable for their station in life. Just do the best you can with what you have and remember the real meaning of family and Christmas.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      Well, the intention was to help those who “haven’t been there” to understand a different perspective–because I think that many just don’t realize how their choices affect others without the same means. I hope that perhaps reading my post will help even one person to be a greater blessing to those within their family or group of friends this Christmas!

      I mentioned that when the stipulation of paying for a restaurant meal was removed and we were free to choose how we wanted to provide a meal, different family members chose different ways to do that. My point was just that it’s nice when people allow for choices that don’t ostracize those with less cash to spend. :)

  32. Tanya says

    Thank-you to the author of this post—your honesty and vulnerability are beautiful. The advice you offer is gentle and forthright at the same time. May your family continue to enjoy the truest blessings of Christmas!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says

      Thank you, Tanya! (I guess I didn’t make myself too vulnerable, since I posted anonymously! lol) May you be blessed this Christmas, as well! :)

  33. Olivia says

    I loved this article. I moved to a new country 15 months ago and they don’t speak English here. I have a masters degree and have always worked and had good jobs in my life. I can’t get a job here unless I speak the new language perfectly.

    So for the first time I’m totally broke. It’s been a totally new experience to be just seen as *broke* and telling people this is not a true reflection of who you has been in vain. People look at your current reality and decide that’s you.

    On the other hand, it’s brought me so close to God and believe He knows why I’m in this period and it will pass. I’ve also learnt to solely depend on God to provide my basic needs and to fully trust Him with my life. (it’s not been easy sometimes I’m so mad coz I just want to shop and have had massive tantrums:)

    I’ve received free stuff that was in bad condition. I’ve had friends who really do think they are better than me coz I am broke at the moment. But for the first time in my life I realized what my duty is to the less ‘fortunate’ once this passes.

    And the best thing out of all this is God led me to my real talent which is writing and after I read the Bible a lot I realized God REALLY EXPECTS us to help people who are less fortunate. All the churches in the New Testament shared what they had so that no one would lack. As Nelson Mandela said poverty is something we created and something we can fix. He said helping the poor is not an act of charity but an act of justice. So yeah, it’s not nice to donate stained panties to those in need. I know I will give alot more now. Once I write a book next year:) I’m starting with a blog first…….if I had a normal job I would never even know for sure I’m a writer.

  34. SandyH says

    When I was a stay at home mom of four, this issue came up quite frequently. My brother and sister in law had no kids yet at that time, and my sister had just one. We would take a family trip in the summer as a family, for which we saved all year. We stayed in lake cabins. Every year, the rest of the family would go into town for expensive dinners, breakfast, etc and we simply could not. We took food with us ( each family was responsible for one main meal a day during our stay)and I do remember this being embarrassing sometimes but that’s just the way it was. It happened at other times during the year too, notably one Mothers Day when a restaurant was chosen that was way out of our price range. But no way was I going to give up my stay at home mom status just to live someone else’s lifestyle. Once my mom got a bit ugly about it, which floored me since up until that time I thought she was proud of my decision, despite its sacrifices. I have to be honest and say my relationship with her was altered in that moment. I KNOW I made the right decision for our family. My children are now 34, 31, 27& 23. I will be just selfish enough to say that my stay at home years were the best of my life.

  35. Jessica says

    As someone who has been on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to budgets for gifts, I’ve learned that the biblical principle of giving as I am able is so very applicable. There have been years that we have been able to bless a family in need, and surprise family members with special gifts, and years that we are a little tighter and can’t do that. Everyone should give as they feel led to give, and allow family or friends who wish to bless them, and especially their children, to do so. No guilt, no indebtedness, just joy and gratitude that we have friends and family to bless and to bless us.

  36. Cate R. says

    Lots of interesting comments and perspectives here. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the “less fortunate” term, but it is a state of mind many ways. Having a kind, close, in tact family is worth much more than any concern about gifts. My husband and I’s extended families are small, fractured and messy. I consider that unfortunate. Also, we are “poor” but a lot of it is because we’ve made life choices that value people over money. Circumstances are different for everyone. Sometimes you can have money and do what God wants at the same time, but sometimes not.

  37. mary says

    I really enjoyed your post this has been the situation in my family since my husband and I got married. We got married at nineteen and twenty years old and we were the first in my husbands family to have children. We were also the first to buy our own home and the first to graduate from college with student loan and college debt. The others didn’t understand when the holidays came around they wanted to buy gifts for everyone and for us to host holidays at our house. It was very expensive to host the holidays even when people brought food and my husband’s family consist of twenty-five people and it was difficult to feed them all let alone clean up after them. I was upset because my mother-in-law did not understanding our situation forced the holidays on us. She was tired of doing them at her house. We had to host one year with two children and a third on the way when others had no children or as many financial obligations. I became resentful that they would force us to host holidays. I also became resentful of my mother-in-law when she asked why I wasn’t in the kitchen cooking when my husband had agreed if I cleaned the whole house that he would do all the cooking. She didn’t like our arrangement. I spent over twelve years disagreeing with that women and then she let me have it. When the family was at my husband’s parent’s cottage they all went out on the boat and left me alone with her. She lectured me for over a hour and a half on what she felt I was doing wrong. I was pregnant at the time and already emotional. That time tipped me over to resenting her more. I tried to be agreeable with her but it was to much. My husband never stood up to his mother and let me be treated horribly until she past away. His younger brother couldn’t understand why she was doing these things to me and his sister thought I was a hypocrite because I tried to do something nice for her when she was ill. I still don’t get along with his family they never understood the abuse I put up from them. I had enough your not good enough from my own family I didn’t need it from my in laws. I am still married to my husband no thanks to his family they made it much more difficult than it had to be. I know some women have wonderful mother-in-laws but mine was stereotypical for your not good enough to marry my son type.

  38. eliz a buf says

    this is just beautiful, thank you for sharing your heart. it’s perfectly worded, just perfect. it’s too easy to take things personally, especially in a family situation, and especially during the holidays (any of ‘em!) and you’ve laid it out with love and honesty. xoxo, buf

  39. Sammi says

    The conversation about Christmas gifts for our children reminds me of once when my kids were about ages 4 and 6. A woman (with grown children) asked me if I was ‘ready’ for Christmas yet. She said she remembered when her kids were young and it was a big deal to buy and wrap all the presents, etc. Without really thinking about it, I told her that it really isn’t hard for us. We give each child 2 gifts, plus a new book each, then a little candy in their stockings. She was so impressed! She said she wished she would have not given so many presents when her kids were young. For us, it’s not always about the money. We’ve had some good years and some tougher years financially. But we usually spend about the same amount on just those two gifts per child. And when people ask them what they got, it hasn’t been an issue. It’s just how it’s always been for them. Just a thought!

  40. ChristinaH says

    What a needed post about understanding and empathy we need to have for each other!

    I’ve been an unpaid Family Manager since 1992. That was fine until I got divorced in 2008 when my six figure lifestyle went right down the tubes like it had an anchor on it. I’m finishing my education and should be employed in a couple months gaining some much needed income soon, but we’re still on a tight budget. I’ve been blessed with kids who understand that we’re on a budget yet also have no idea that I’ve been taking money out of my retirement account. Last year we were blessed with a generous gift from our church to be able to afford a Christmas tree and many small inexpensive (not “cheap”) gifts for them. No one knows because I buy less, but when I do spend I purchase only needed quality items at 50 to 80% off new. I’m also very handy and can repair and refurbish anything to nearly new! In short I try to make it feel like we don’t go without.

    Here’s an example though of what someone’s perception of my life is even though they know I’m unemployed. Last year was also the year my newly divorced brother moved in to the finished basement downstairs. I charged him rent…rent that helped me survive another year without losing the house. The day he moved in it was clear that he expected me to take care of him, helping himself to every thing in the refrigerator and pantry, leaving the 20 fluorescent lights on all day and taking two long steamy showers every day. I freaked out and laid down the law, making him buy his own groceries, furniture and threatened a separate utility bill. The day he was moving out after a year of being there I reminded him that he still owed me the first month’s rent and an extra $500 for the damage his cat-from-hell did. That’s when he hit me with “you’re so f***ing stingy with your money”…”I KNOW you get $10,000 back from the IRS every year (I pay every year)”…”I KNOW you got money from your church (which I spent on my children and has what to do with you?)”…”I don’t know anyone who claims they’re ‘so poor’ yet can afford to live in a MANSION like this (um…I got divorced right when the housing market tanked, I owe more on my house than it’s worth and because I’ve been unemployed, I can’t get a loan to buy a new house…I’m stuck)!” So there it is…someone who has no idea what my financial situation is, yet has an expectation of sharing my imagined wealth! Needless to say we haven’t spoken since. I realize that’s more of a rant that I didn’t know I needed to off on!

  41. says

    I would not worry about what others think, you do the best you can for your family and if that isn’t good enough for some people so be it. I have one income (disability) I buy gifts not fancy not expensive but my children and grand daughter are always happy.
    just do the best you can and do not let others bother you or make you feel less.

  42. Anne-Marie says

    I enjoyed this author’s post so much, along with the follow up post and all of the comments. I’ve learned from it and, “Anonymous,” I thank you. But one thing sticks in my mind and I just have to say it — you’re not the only one who’s embarrassed about certain subjects when the family gets together to chat. My husband and I are comfortable, fairly affluent even, but I’d love to be able to fix things around the house and share that news with family and friends (like gluing the Formica counter). I am definitely not kidding. Frankly, we work such long hours and do home repairs so rarely that a project like that would never get done (wrong kind of glue, no time to run to hardware store, gotta look up how to do it online, another work deadline smacks me in the face, aw just forget it). Different strokes for different folks, I guess : )