Family Ties and Monetary Advantages

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In your family, are you a giver or a taker when it comes to helping out with household expenses? Join me in making a resolve to be more of the former.
We’ve had a rough week with cars.  The rear brakes on one of them were really, really bad.  (We didn’t know how bad until we took it in.)  On the same car, a nail had punctured the tire.  After we got that one all taken care of, the new-to-us one had a domino-effect catastrophe.  The hazard light button popped off (no joke,) which meant the hazards couldn’t be turned off.  At least not by us.  We tried for over two hours.  So they were on all night until we could get someone to look at it, which we knew would inevitably lead to a dead battery.  The next morning we went to put the key in to see if it would start.  It, unsurprisingly, did not.  What was surprising was that the key wouldn’t come back out of the ignition.

I wanted to scream.

Luckily, we have a mechanic in the family.  We’ve had to utilize his services more than I’d care to admit.  And he has saved us so much money.  We still pay him for his labor (at a rate that’s unfairly discounted.)  And for the parts, which he also gets extremely discounted because of the nature of his profession.  When I pay him, I try to pay more than he asks for because I know darn well that he’s probably saved us cumulatively thousands of dollars over the years.  (I can’t profess to know if my husband does the same, but even if we both do, it’s still not equivalent to what he should be making off of our automotive misfortunes.)

He does it because we’re family.  And he’s a good guy.  For both we’re eternally grateful.

This nightmare of a week has gotten me to thinking about what I offer my family.  Other than love and the privilege of being able to brag that they’re related to me. (Which of course, I’m being sarcastic about.)  Does our relationship pay off monetarily?

It shouldn’t have to.  That’s not what love and family is about.  But all the generosity of our mechanic relative makes me want it to.  Embarrassingly enough, I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t.  My specialized profession can offer them nothing of service.  Grandparents watch our kids for free when we need a sitter.  There’s all these things I want to do for everyone, but I find that my time (and toddlers) constrain me.

I’ve also come to the realization that that excuse is BS.  We make time for the things we value in life.  And I haven’t been valuing contributing to my extended family.  It’s got to stop.

I need to make time to go over and help out family members when they need it.  I could possibly take a cousin for a sleepover so the family doesn’t have to pay for a sitter to get out.  While the husband does pseudo-regularly take family members who don’t have a car to the grocery store, we could do this more often or for more things they need access to.  I could allocate a portion of the ridiculous amount we’ve been saving for a house to help family members out when they’re struggling.

Because saving for a house is our goal.  But we’re not doing it alone.  The mechanic is saving us money to throw at savings via auto repairs.  The grandparents are giving us free sitting.  My sibling often takes me out to lunch just so I can have a couple hours of grown-up time without “work” being the excuse that gets me out of the house.

I’m a bit disgusted about the amount of taking I’ve been doing.  The minuscule amount of giving back I found when I really sat down and analyzed it was shocking.  While saving for a home is important to us, so are the amazing people we’re lucky enough to be related to.  I can take time away from additional work to pull my weight more.  I can put up with a slight delay of our timeline for buying a house if it means getting someone out of a financial conundrum once in a while.

I have a great village.  But I need to reciprocate.

How does contributing to your community (whether it be a family, neighborhood, circle of friends, or some formal organization) compete with your individual goals?  Are you pulling your weight or is there more you can do?  

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14 thoughts on “Family Ties and Monetary Advantages

  1. Inequality Today

    I’ve always hoped that someone in my would end up as a doctor. Knowing the good from the bad doctors is so important when finding specialists, so if I had a trusted family member who worked in the industry at least he can refer me to good specialists.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      That’s a great one. We need one of those, too! I guess it’s not too late for the husband to change his major…

  2. Joyce

    Sometimes we are so busy and we don’t even realize we are doing this. I read your post and I was agreeing with you 100% on this because my husband and I have been guilty of doing this. It sucks big time to open our eyes and realize we need to do something too. We too are blessed with family and friends who love our children and babysit them. We have amazing people. What I have been doing is helping them any way I can. One needed to open a Facebook business page I helped her. My elderly neighbor who has done so much for us I go twice a week to her home and keep her company. We are working on this and the good and it feels right. Thanks femme, please don’t feel bad because I have been guilty of this. I am sure they see you and your husband differently.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Joyce, that’s awesome! I’m so happy for you that you’ve gotten a handle on this, and glad to hear that I’m not alone, too. It’s hard to admit that you’ve been selfish!

  3. kay ~

    That is all so true. We could have been more helpful in so many ways than we were. We didn’t have a lot of money to do things, and really didn’t need to since no one really needed anything monetary, but we could have donated more time to extended family. Good wake-up call Femme and it’s so great that you got it so early.

  4. Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore

    Great post Femme! Now that you mention it, I’ve been taking too much too. My dad generously pays when we go out to eat (most of the time) and while this helps keep my expenses lower so I can pay off more debt, I should be trying to give back to my family because of everything they’ve done for me.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Parents are the best/worst for that! I find myself always trying to shove money back into the metaphorical purse after it’s been given to me to pay for dinner, but somehow they always find out and insist. I like Tonya’s comment about giving of time rather than feeling obligated to give with money, but I know you’re crazy short on time right now with everything you’ve got going on! If only there were a picture perfect solution.

  5. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    I think the giving and then reciprocating doesn’t have to be dollar for dollar. I think if you’re a good friend your a good friends (or family member). I’ve had some friends be way more generous in the financial sense (treating me to a dinner or movie) but I can’t reciprocate that way. But what I can do is give them a ride to the airport, be there to listen to them on the phone if they are going through a hard time, sending them a little card just to cheer them up…you get the idea. If someone is expecting the same exact reciprocation, then they aren’t great people if you know what I mean. If they truly care about you they will understand that your finances are very important to you. I wouldn’t worry though because you sound like a great person and I’m sure you’ll find a way to reciprocate in your own way!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Well, thank you, Tonya! I totally agree there, too. We do occasionally give rides to the airport (or grocery store! :p) and I think returns don’t have to be monetary. I think the biggest thing for me is I’ve got so stressed out in my own life that I haven’t focused on others like I used to. It makes me feel gross inside. And if giving doesn’t take a little sacrifice (whether that be the time to write a card or the ink to write a check,) I almost feel like it means a little bit less. You are an awesome person, and from everything I know about you, you’ve got this down pat. You seem to give of your time so willingly and in meaningful ways, and I definitely need to improve and model you!

  6. Charlee Anne

    This definitely hit a chord with me. I feel the same way about all the taking I’ve been doing. My mom and mother-in-law often watch our children for free, I’ve got a brother-in-law who has fixed our car more times than I can count, and my sister and her husband are always giving us things we need, even though I know we could have probably bought them ourselves. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and being an inspiration!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I wonder if it’s the stage of motherhood we’re in…I don’t know about you, but I’m trying so desperately just to get through each day. I’d like my kids to be successful in life, and I try to instill values in them that will ensure that even at this young age, but sometimes it’s a victory that we made it through the day and everyone was fed, bathed, and survived. :p

      Motherhood really taught me humility, but maybe it taught me too much. I’m definitely focused on my kids 100%, but I don’t want to be neglecting everyone else when they’re helping me make it through this crazy stage of life.

      Thank you, Charlee!

  7. Prudence Debtfree

    I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself. You’re raising a young family – which is all-consuming. You will have more flexibility with your time as your kids get older. You’re also taking good care of your finances now so that nobody will need to get you out of a “financial conundrum” in the future. Don’t give with guilt as the motivation. I bet that you give in ways that you don’t even consider as “giving”. It’s wonderful that you’re grateful for the generous people in your family. That gratitude on its own will translate into your own brand of generosity.

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      Thank you for this. It really is time consuming. I struggle for balance in all areas of my life and really do feel guilty, though I like to think love would be my motivation you may be right. I’m still going to try to be better, but your comments bring a good bit of relief to a young mother with a young family!


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