A Family of Gift-Maximizers

(Photo: Jimmie)

A reader/listener from Oregon named T.K. writes in, having heard us talk about holiday gift-giving in our “Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas” podcast:

Guys, thought you might be interested in a couple of econ-related oddities from my family at Christmas time. The first occurred this year. I am single and my brother and step-sister are both in relationships. My parents bought gifts for the boyfriend and girlfriend, and once I found out that they were planning to do that, I asked for my “share” of the boyfriend/girlfriend pool. I just wanted to be sure my take was the same as what my brother and his girlfriend, and step-sister and her boyfriend were getting. My parents obliged, so even though I am single, a few more Christmas gifts under the tree for me:) Don’t know how other families handle this issue, but it’s working beautifully in my family.

The second oddity is that my stepdad is quite fond of “buyouts.” Over the last decade, we have tentatively planned eight vacations away from home and executed exactly two of them. Each year, my mom gets really excited about going someplace new — it was Belgium for a while; Hawaii; Bend, Or., just to name a few. The way it works is this: my mom finds a place, my stepdad decides he doesn’t want to go. To get my brother, stepsister, and me on board with not going, he offers us a lump-sum payment. He knows that whatever the vacation, it will cost him two to three times the actual lump sum after we’ve paid for lift tickets, beer, surfing, whatever we dream up to do. It’s hard for people in their 20s and 30s to turn down a lump-sum payment to not go on a vacation, and the buyouts are usually pretty healthy. My friends are extremely envious of the family buyouts, and I’m proud of my family for being economic realists. Cheers to another great year.

How would you like to be a member of T.K.’s family? Do you find his stepfather’s buyouts clever or repugnant? And finally: if you had to buy T.K. a gift based on his note, what would you get him?




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  1. Siobhan says:

    I feel sorry for TK’s mom. Everyone else may be happier, but I’m sure she’s not.

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  2. joy says:

    TK, you are a cheap 30 something! Mooching off from your parents all this time. No wonder you do not have a girlfriend.

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  3. Doug Warren says:

    Holy Monkeynuts! This is ridiculous. How far does this teat stretch? Is he going to offer them a payout when they retire? Make the kids pay for their own vacations if they choose to attend. First World Problems, indeed!

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  4. Norm says:

    If i were buying TK a gift, it’d be a dictionary, so that he could look up the terms, “ungrateful wretch”.

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  5. JohanBroad says:

    Yeah… Money is nice.

    But then again did ever wish that you *had* taken the trip?

    I mean really, if your mom planned a trip to Oh, say the Bahamas, and it might be your only chance to go and experience the Bahamas, would you still think the money is the better deal?

    Money can be earned and spent, won or lost. and it does no good unless it is actually spent.

    Fuck the cash, I’ll take the trip, thank you.

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  6. God says:

    I’m only commenting on the gift giving. My question is whether the significant others give the parents a presents. If they do, it seems to me that T.J. should also be giving more to his parents in response. Ultimately it should be a wash.

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