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Having the Tough Conversation with Grand Parents on Gifts

Stages of Childhood Money Lessons

A few weeks ago I listened to a great session by Liz over at Chief Mom Officer on teaching your kids about money.  Many of the techniques she spoke about were already in our arsenal.  A few were added.  But the session really reminded me of our main current issue with teaching our kids about money.  How to avoid the grandparents undermining our money lessons?  Particuarly our issues relate to dealing with the deluge of grandparent gifts. So how do you have the tough conversation with grand parents on gifts?

The Stages of Childhood Money Lessons

So as any good money blogger I am constantly working to teach my kids, 8 and 5, about money.   We are, as mentioned in Liz’s speech, past the don’t eat money phase.  We are not quite in the invest in the stock market phase.  However, we are firmly in the save for what you want delayed graitfication education stage.

Quantity is an Issue for Young Kids

We do our best to try and have our kids save their money for the things they want.  They do earn an allowance, but it is measured in quarters per week.  So. the path to a major purchase is quite long.  That being said, we are still in the ages where cheap or even free McDonalds toys are well received.    So honestly the controls are more about quantity then cost per item. 

 In general, we buy the kids toys on the birthday and Christmas.  The rest of the year we expect them to save for it.  Even for the big holidays we only give our kids about 1-2 gifts.  we’d love to make it more then 1 or 2 for the holiday, but here is where we run into problems.  

Grand Parents On Gifts

You see, both sets of grandparents can’t resist raiding the toy store each year for the holidays. We request a limit to the number of grandparent gifts of 1 or 2 toys.   But they never follow the limit.

Even worse, almost every time the kids come home from their houses there is some small toy.     The response from the grand parent seems to always be an excuse.  Perhaps the statement is an aunt gave it to him.  Or I got it at a yard sale so it shouldn’t count.    In any case our kid’s playroom looks more like a day care’s toy room then something made for just 2 boys.

The Impact of Grand Parent Gifts On Money Lessons

We worry that the constant instant toy gratification for our kids is going to stop our money education from sticking.    Our youngest has begun to talk about all the gifts he is going to get for his birthday.  His Birthday is 6 months away!

Obviously, we have an issue.  So how are we going to deal with the spoiling grand parents to get our kids back on track?

The Child Should Talk to Their Parents

Well for those that were in Liz’s session at FinCon she gave some great advice.  Have the son or daughter of that set of grandparents talk to them.  Obviously. they will take the message better from their flesh and blood.  

Mixed Success with Talking to Grand Parents on Gifts 

We continue to have these conversations with the grandparents.  The discussions have shown some mixed success.    This last year one set of grandparents cut back a bit on holiday gifts.  One of 2 is a start, but still we have to do something about the ever day grandparent gifts that are undermining our money lessons.  

I suspect we will never get the grand parents fully in line.  As such we are also attempting to set our rules with the assumption that they will not follow our requests. 

One Comes In, One Goes Out

For example, we have instituted a new rule.   A grand parent gift toy can only come into our house if one goes out.  So, if a grandparent slips them a toy on Wednesday our kids have a choice.  Take that toy or another one from the basement and donate it.    This works well at the young age where toys are more about quantity then quality.   It makes them think about which toy they really find valuable.    It also keeps our house from looking like a Toys R US bankruptcy sale, so there is that.


To this donation approach, which we also use to teach about helping those less fortunate, we have one other approach.  Some days we just don’t feel like dealing with the fallout of saying something must be donated.  On these days we insist those toys must stay at the grand parents house.    

Keep Them and the Grand Parents House

By keeping the items and a grand parents house we separate the experience.  The semi controlled environment of home has delayed gratification.  The wild abandon of the grandparents house is somewhere they visit every few weeks.   At least then most of their time is spent exposed to good financial habits not undermined by grandparents.    In theory the daily location should have a larger impact on them.

Remind the Grand Parents it Was There Idea

So how do we present this all to the grandparents?  Well I mentioned above that the blood relative owns the conversations.    The conversations focus clearly on the rule we are attempting to teach.    Added well into the mix is how the parent taught the kid about money, which certainly was not by showering them with gifts every few days.    In essence the key is not to be confrontational.  Be clear on the expectations.   And like any other negotiation, remind them that originally it was their idea (when they were your parent)..

We continue to have mixed results with our relatives.   But we are seeing some progress on this long road.  If you have any additional recommendations on dealing with grandparents who constantly gift I’d love to hear them. 


  1. Joe
    Joe August 17, 2020

    Our kid’s grandparents don’t give gifts very often. They live far away so it’s inconvenient. Well, Mrs. RB40’s mom mail stuff to us regularly. But it’s mostly lemons from her backyard, snacks, or something like that. They send money for his birthday. That’s actually perfect. We put it in his investment account and he can see it grows.
    Maybe you can tell them to give special food/snacks instead of toys.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance August 23, 2020

      Tried that.. they now give both. Lol

  2. Xrayvsn
    Xrayvsn August 18, 2020

    That is a great idea FTF to counter the financial lessons you are trying to instill.

    I know when I become a grandparent I will likely shower my grandchild with gifts too but have to respect the parents wishes and perhaps curb it.

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