Do I have the right to control how Christmas money is used?

Last year I sent my brother a check to buy gifts for his kids, and he spent it on a video game.

Cary Tennis
November 21, 2006 4:17PM (UTC)

Dear Cary:

With Christmas coming I am faced with the dilemma of what to do for my nephews. My family has opted out of gift giving among adults, but we want the boys -- ages 7 and 3 -- to enjoy the holiday with all the magic a visit from Santa brings.


My problem is this. My brother is terrible with money. We are complete opposites in that I save an appropriate percentage of my income and have no debt, while he is deep in consumer debt and always looking for another expensive item to finance.

Last year I sent him a check so he could buys gifts for the boys from me. We live on opposite coasts, and rather than guess sizes and interests, it made more sense in my mind for the parents to do the shopping. Yet when I asked what the large check was used for, my brother replied with a vague story about spending the money on a video game. (Apparently the most expensive video game in the history of thumb blisters.) The only logical conclusion was that he had spent the money elsewhere -- and not on the boys.

This year I decided to work instead with my sister-in-law. While I don't know her well enough to determine how much better (or worse) she is with finances, I know her dedication to the boys' education. Therefore, I sent an e-mail to her, asking what educational store she would like a Christmas gift certificate from so that she could purchase instructional materials. I now await her response.

My question is this. Is it appropriate for me to ask that they spend the Christmas money I provide on a gift of my choosing -- or at least for the children? Or, if I'm that invested in having the money spent wisely, should I do my own shopping for the boys, knowing I may not get them the best gifts possible?

I ask that you not lose the question in pontification about our family. We aren't close. I'm not up-to-date on the children's every runny nose and spelling test -- and that won't change. No amount of admonishment will bring about a Very Brady Christmas, so save the tut-tut-tut.

This is purely about whether it is appropriate to have expectations of money I provide, or if that right is lost once the cash is gifted.


Thank you for your thoughts.

Nest Egg

Dear Nest Egg,

I think you ought to pick out gifts yourself and send them to the kids. That solves the whole problem right there.

If upon further consideration you would like additional pontification I am willing to provide it at no additional cost.

Until then, rest assured, you'll hear no tut-tut-tutting from me.

Have a Christmas.

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