A Generous Family vs Pride

Hello everyone! Hope you guys had a terrific weekend. I spent my Saturday with my grandma as R had to work, and then we spent Sunday gallivanting around. My mom had a window curtain set she purchased a few years ago that she took with her when she moved, but she needed an additional valence as her window was now bigger. Of course, I went to the store to find out it was discontinued but one store had ONE left, and this store happened to be around 20 miles away. Since I knew it would make my mom happy (and her current set wouldn’t go to waste) I went there and picked it up today.

While in an area we don’t normally go to, we decided to stop at a mall nearby as I inherited a $25 gift card from Macy’s from my mom. Apparently, there are none in the area she moved to, and she didn’t have time to get up to one before leaving. It was four floors total and guess what I left with? Yep, nothing. For some reason I could not find anything to buy. I really don’t need any more clothes, and everything else was pretty expensive, even with taking the gift card into consideration. So I decided to hold off for now, but I was really amused that I could have gotten something for free and held back from getting something “just because.” I am really trying not to bring anything else into the apartment unless absolutely necessary.

My Grandma’s Garage – One Stop Shop

I wanted to write a post featuring my grandma, because it’s kind of a running joke in my family that her garage is a mini-store. I have not had to buy any paper goods since moving, because she has everything I could possibly need. Dish detergent, laundry detergent (if I had a W/D), paper towels, toilet paper, tea bags, coffee, tissues, the list goes on. I took pictures for the full effect:

Garage Shop

It’s also a bit amusing because her best friend’s garage was even worse, if you could imagine that. We helped her move, and there was a LOT of stuff we had to pack away in there. She had been holding on to things for so long I didn’t recognize the brands! An aside note – I didn’t even get to take a picture of the little closet my grandma has stuffed with cans of tomato sauce and other condiments, as well as pasta, so there is more to it than just that.

Honestly, I would never do this because it’s almost hoarding, except that it’s “useful” stuff. My mom’s pantry was overflowing as well, and so many items just sat there for years. For my grandma, it’s a bit of a different story. She is incredibly selfless and thoughtful. If something is on sale, she stocks up as she knows everyone in the family can benefit from it. There have been countless times where my mom and I made a stop to her house after grocery shopping to pick up items. It helps cut down on grocery costs, as I have a few less things to worry about. She also keeps a constant supply so I know she will never be out of stock! Once my grandma knows we like something, such as a certain candy or snack, she never fails to bestow a bag of goodies upon us. She is amazing and goes above and beyond for her family, and I don’t know where we would be without her continuous help.

Garage Shop

In addition to her limitless pantry, whenever we go there for lunch or dinner, we never fail to leave with leftovers. My grandma loves to push food on us, and I miss my mom’s cooking already, so I am lucky to have a substitute. I really am very grateful for all the help she has given us. If we ever have a family gathering we all leave with more than we came with.

Letting Pride Get In the Way

While my mom was here, she was never particularly fond of taking things from my grandma. In a sense, I can understand why – she has been independent for decades now, and she didn’t want to have to turn back to her mother for help, even when she needed it. I would constantly tell her she was being foolish for buying what she could get for free from my grandma, from the store. It was a losing battle for both of them. If we ever go shopping with my grandma she will pick up the whole bill for everything – insisting that it’s not a problem. My mom would sigh every time and tell her it’s not necessary. I want to mention that my grandma never treated us like a charity case – it was always from the goodness of her heart – but it is difficult not to feel bad after a while.

My grandma has been collecting my grandpa’s pension money since he passed away a year before I was born, and being single is a bit less expensive than having to feed a family, but she is not made of money. I don’t want her to feel like she has to provide for me in lieu of my mom and dad being gone, but I know she does sort of feel like a surrogate mom at this point. I am the grandchild that is closest to her and I know she cherishes the close relationship we have, but I wish I could repay her. In a sense, I know that my weekly presence makes her happy as I can’t imagine living alone is much fun, so I always make the effort to go see her. If she doesn’t hear from me for a few days you can bet she will be calling me saying, “Well hello stranger!” For right now, I am not going to let my pride get in the way – I can use all the help I can get, and if it makes her happy to give, I’m not going to deny her that.

I know this can be a big issue for many with generous parents/grandparents. I think the best thing to do is take it in stride – most family members are giving because they want to. When I moved into my apartment, my aunt surprised me with packing up her entire old set of silverware plus cookware and I gladly accepted. There is no use in being stubborn and insisting on spending hundreds of dollars when my family is offering it for free. For the most part, it was just taking up room in their houses and they were happy to get rid of it.

Has anyone else been faced with accepting food/goods from relatives? How did you handle it and feel about it? Does anyone have trouble managing their pantry, or know someone that has a mini-mart in theirs? Or has anyone ever had a gift card which they found difficult to put to use?

Erin M.

Erin is a personal finance writer and virtual assistant who loves talking about money and how to use it as a tool to get what you want out of life. When she's not obsessing over numbers or working (which is rare), she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cat, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, or any random combination of the above.

31 thoughts on “A Generous Family vs Pride

  1. Great story and nicely written, EM! What a nice stash!

    Yes, EM, we have been faced with such a quandary, but the items are never useful so we decline. It is usually the case that someone just wants to get rid of something useless to them. I don’t want any part of that;)
    cj recently posted: Questioning EverythingMy Profile

    1. Thanks CJ! I would not want to take anything on that I wouldn’t use, either. No sense in that. Thankfully as we are still at the start of our living-on-our-own-journey, we can use just about everything!

  2. your grandma sounds a lot like my grandparents in the stockpiling and generous department! I live in a small apartment so I could never do that. I love that you are spending a lot of time with her. I do regret not spending more time with mine, and when I moved away from the area calling and writing more. You’ll never get that time back!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted: The Worst Trip I’ve Ever TakenMy Profile

    1. Yeah my apartment is pretty small too! I have a convenient lazy susan where I store most “pantry” items, but that’s about it.

      I think about that all the time – if we do end up moving next year, my grandma will be the number one thing I wish I could take with me. I know we can visit, but it won’t be nearly as much as we are both used to. I will somehow have to get her accustomed to Skype!

  3. I definitely have difficulty accepting things, and honestly wish I could write my parents in particular a lump sum check to cover everything they’ve paid for in my life. I don’t know why I’m weird about it, but I guess in the past when they have helped me I haven’t said no but for some reason I feel like I need to do something for them in return, though I know they never expect to be “reciprocated” for the things they have done for their children. This definitely isn’t a black and white topic!

    We try to use coupons/deals to get stuff cheap, so we have some extra stuff in our basement but by no means is it an impressive amount. I honestly would love to have a sort of stockpile of foods and goods that we will use so that we don’t have to pay full price for them. I think it’s more important when you have kids since you go through more stuff. I would love to have a mini-mart at my grandparents and would take full advantage of it if they offered!

    I have a TON of gift cards, mainly from my credit card rewards, that I have not used yet. If I really don’t think I’ll use it I’ll sell it for cash via a site like Gift Card Rescue or to someone else who shops at the store in question.

    1. I so agree – I wish I could give my parents a pile of things they need for their new house so that they don’t have to worry about it, but sadly I’m not in the best position to do that right now. I do feel like I am in debt to them for all the things they’ve done for me – even though my parents wouldn’t accept anything either.

      I haven’t started stockpiling much yet as we don’t use anything fast enough to warrant it. For some families it can obviously be very useful (as you said, more with kids and lots of mouths to feed).

      I may have thought of a solution for the gift card, but selling them is a good idea!

  4. Good job in not spending the gift card when there was nothing worth buying…it can be hard as it was technically “free.” With your grandma’s stuff, I know people who buy things at deep discounts or at BJs/Costco’s so they have a lot of stuff. I don’t have room for that though. As to accepting food/goods, my parents can be like that too in giving food/goods. I sigh too sometimes, because I’d rather they spend the money on themselves or don’t have room for it. But I think giving stuff to their kids and grandkids make them feel good about themselves and useful…so you just gotta let them do that sometimes!
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted: Dealing with Financial EnvyMy Profile

    1. I was really surprised that I didn’t get anything! I thought I would be able to find something in four stories!

      Yes, I definitely think parents and grandparents feel good about giving things to their kids/grandkids, as they know they are lessening a possible burden and providing you with something you’ll hopefully use. In my parents case, now that they are retired and a bit more relaxed about money, I think they want to give me all the things they couldn’t back when money wasn’t as available. I definitely wasn’t a deprived child and never complained, but certain parents want to spoil their kids anyway, and when they can’t, I imagine it feels pretty depressing.

  5. Seems like you and your grandmother have a great relationship and thats good the hear especially nowadays with it seeming that everyone is too busy and kids don’t really know the grandparents anymore. You grandmother is just kind hearted and wants to help. When you are alone it could be even more so of a need to do stuff for others. If you need it and she is willing to help I think you should be thankful that someone is there that can help. There are some people who are just reloaders and only come around when they can get something. Seems like this is not the case for you. Though I dont like taking things from others there have been times when you need help and its always good to have someone you can count on. I feel like I own my mom and aunt/uncle so much and always think how can I pay them back for all they did.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted: How To Survive Unpaid Internships as Summer JobsMy Profile

    1. Yes, it’s very sad that most don’t have close relationships with their grandparents, or even their parents, anymore. Unfortunately both my older cousins moved away (but one still calls her from time to time at least), and the other two are younger and don’t see her as often. My grandma has been generous to every family member, so I cannot even fathom not calling her weekly if I ever moved!

      I am very thankful and grateful for everything she’s done for me. I think you are right in that my grandma was quite used to being a mom to three daughters, and sadly when they all moved out and got married, she had an empty nest. And the nest was only emptier when my grandpa passed away a few years later. It does bring her joy to have people over and to cook for them, as it probably reminds her of old times.

  6. Your gandma’s garage looks a lot like my mom’s basement. We always joke about going grocery shopping at my mom’s house because she has an endless supplies of toilet paper, facial tissues, laundry soap, toothpaste, etc. My family is also very generous but in turn it makes me very generous so it’s kinda paying it forward :)
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted: 12 hour Drive in One WeekendMy Profile

    1. Your mom’s basement definitely sounds like my grandma’s garage! That is great that your family inspires you to be generous. I hope if I’m ever in that situation (though I don’t really plan on having kids) that I will be the same type of person my grandma is.

  7. Wow, your grandma is an extremely generous woman. I definitely know the tug of pride vs. appreciation. My parents still pay for stuff, like when we go out to dinner, and it’s always a little weird for me. I mean, they have the money and they like doing it, but part of me wants to scream “I’m an adult! I can pay for this!” I think it’s healthy to find a balance. There’s no need to mooch off your parents/grandparents for everything, but there’s also nothing wrong with accepting genuine kindness.
    Matt Becker recently posted: Budget With a PassionMy Profile

    1. I agree. When I go down to visit my parents next month, I’m sure they will insist on paying for some of our outings. I treat them on their birthdays and holidays, which is the only time they will let me! They are currently in a better financial situation, and I am still pretty young, so it’s sort of okay for now. In another five to ten years I am sure that will not be the case!

  8. When I was in college my mom used to give me a box of toiletry items for Christmas (I got other gifts too, but that was one of my favorites). Her mom did the same for her when she was in college. Those items are expensive and it’s a gift not to have to buy them. These days I use coupons and I get a lot of things for free. Now I stock up and give toiletry items to my parents, grandparents and friends. I love to give and they love to receive. It works out really well.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted: How I lived in Boston on $1000 a MonthMy Profile

    1. That’s so neat that it’s become a circle of giving. I really need to get better at couponing. You are very right that paper goods are definitely not cheap, and it frees up some space in my grocery budget. I love getting so-called “boring” gifts like that, because they’re guaranteed to be used!

  9. I made sure I made it clear as I was moving out of home, that I wasn’t the ‘dumping ground’ for all their old worn out stuff. So maybe I suffer pride, but it was more to stop clutter being my problem, rather than theirs. I clearly outlined I’d like to take of theirs if they’d consider it (like the second step ladder, a storage ottoman that I’d always used in my bedroom etc) and went from there. The ladder was a no go, but they gifted me one soon after, so it worked out oK. I’ll certainly never say no to leftover foods that I KNOW I’ll eat.
    SarahN recently posted: A new home!My Profile

    1. Making it known to people that you need X is always a good way to try and get it for free! I didn’t take everything – my parents threw out a lot of stuff, including a couch that we could have used, but it just wouldn’t have fit properly. As it is I feel like we’re a little cluttered, but most of the things I took for the apartment were small, not many furniture pieces.

      Sadly we have let some leftover food go to waste already as we had too much to start with, but I made sure to have R clean out the fridge and we’re all good now.

  10. When I go home my mum always wants to give me money. I make more than she does, so I refuse, but she REALLY is happy giving me stuff and she has no debt and is ok financially so now I accept restaurant invitations, etc. when I visit, my grandparents occasionally write me a check and I feel like a 12 year old but they have money, they are 85, and the state would tax 50% of it as an inheritance, so better have it now and know they are happy giving.
    Pauline recently posted: How was the easiest/hardest way you ever made money?My Profile

    1. Oh wow, 50% is crazy! As long as they are happy giving and it mostly makes sense, I don’t see the harm in it. My mom is already planning on going to a few restaurants when I visit her since she’s having fun discovering all the best places to eat around there.

    1. My grandma has never explicitly said anything about the Great Depression – she was just coming into the world at that point. Perhaps she was influenced by my great grandparents. I’ll have to ask her when I see her this week! I do know that my great grandparents worked pretty hard; my great-grandma was a seamstress and made all the wedding dresses for the women in the family. Sadly my grandma misplaced hers somehow when moving :(.

      I am still very much up in the air about kids, but my cousin is having a baby this year so Christmas should be fun!

  11. Wow, as I was reading this, I kept thinking of my own grandmother–she does the same stuff! The pantry in her basement is always stocked up and it’s a bit of a family joke for us as well. I don’t live near home/family anymore, so I don’t have the option to take/be given these things, but I definitely did learn to accept the treats/donations when I was in college and struggling!
    Jen @ The Happy Homeowner recently posted: The Waiting is the Hardest Part…My Profile

    1. Aw, as much as I am looking forward to moving at some point, being away from my grandma will be the most difficult part. We’re not necessarily “struggling,” but I don’t mind accepting the donations that would have otherwise gone to waste. As long as I don’t feel like a charity case it’s all good.

  12. As I was reading your post, I actually instantly thought of my own grandma. While it may not be household supplies – she is ALWAYS trying to give me way more than I feel comfortable accepting. Whether it’s my birthday, Christmas, whatever occasion she wants to make up she is always asking me what I need. And if I just simply say nothing, she will try to hide cash somewhere or sneak a check into my stuff! I’ve learned to keep a balance of just saying no or using her own tricks against her, but sometimes I have to just give in eventually. I know it makes her happy to give, and she does have the extra to give. Even if I can’t make it up to her with equal gifts I always try to show how appreciative I am by visiting, making dinner, etc.
    Debt Hater recently posted: Student Loan Progress – July 2013My Profile

    1. My grandma is totally like that, too. There has been a few times she has tried to sneak money into my mom’s purse. I think my mom basically started to just alternate saying yes and no, because she knew my grandma wouldn’t give up. My grandma definitely appreciates calls and visits, so we think alike there :). Thanks for stopping by!

    1. That is definitely how I viewed it. They were all happy to see it go to use! If we didn’t have their generosity we would have had to buy new plates, utensils, pots, pans, etc. It would have cost a fortune!

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