Top 5 Ways to Spend $300K birthday present

Birthday lottery winning

Photo credit: Infomastern via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

It’s been a family tradition for years for family members to send Ervin Smolinksi scratch-off lottery tickets and chocolate for his birthday. This year it paid off.

The 94-year-old man made the news when he won $300,000 in the Michigan Lottery. His daughter-in-law bought the winning ticket as a gift for the World War II veteran.

“I’ve seen a whole lot in my life, and I don’t get worked up easily. I think my son-in-law was more worked up that I was,” Smolinksi said. In the CNN coverage the former sailor said, ”

I’m pretty frugal, I always shop sales and take care of my money and that won’t change.”
“The only thing that will change is I won’t have as much stress in my life worrying about money,” the former sailor said, “I’m pretty frugal, I always shop sales and take care of my money and that won’t change….The only thing that will change is I won’t have as much stress in my life worrying about money.”

Birthday Money

His win got me thinking though, as I probably too often do, what I would do if I won the lottery. Considering I don’t often play the lottery, it’s really a ridiculous game to play in my head. Yet, I enjoy the mental game. So, because this blog is often about giving, let me give you my top 5 ways to spend lottery winnings:

  1. Travel the world. Truly. Buy a tour package that has a travel agent set it up for you to get to every continent and live it up in luxurious hotels along the way.
  2. Pay off (or if you’re renting now buy with cash) house. Think of the joy of having a home that’s all equity. Come time to sell it, or pass it on, you’re sitting on value.
  3. Build up the college fund. With just one kid it’ll be easier for me to top up the account with some of these extra dollars, but putting it in his account in advance gives my family the benefit of accrued interest.
  4. Throw a massive — and I mean massive — par-tay for everyone I know and love in a destination location and with me footing the bill for hotels and travel and all that. Sort of like a wedding party, but I pay for it and we don’t have to say “I do” again.
  5. Donate. Find a few causes that you truly care about. Do the research about their credibility and give, give, give.

Those who are good at math might realize something here…I’ve probably overspent the $300K. Especially after the government takes the taxes out. Still, it’s fun to imagine isn’t it? Do you have a different top five? I’d love to hear other suggestions.

The No. 1 Tip for Birthday Social Media

Don’t text your Mom.

Or, more specifically, don’t only text your Mom. You can text her, sure. But this should not be the only means of communication with the woman who gave birth to you on her special day.

8085263072_e476826b08_b.jpg

Image: Foter.com

C’mon folks. I don’t care what age you are. It is simply not cool to only text YOUR MOTHER. Yeah, I know, all caps in a blog. That’s how serious I am about this!

And it’s not just because I am now a Mom, and I would probably lose my mind if I only got a text from my son (when he was old enough to have a phone that is). If he is not physically in my presence on the day of my birth he better be calling me on the phone to sing to me. If he knows what’s good for him that is. (Yes, husband, you can save this blog to remind him of this later).

Be Nice to Mom on Her Birthday

This blog came about after I saw a woman write a newspaper advice columnist for input on “What should I do about my adult children’s birthdays?” She points out that her own birthday was acknowledged only by a text this year. “I was very hurt,” she writes.

She mentions that her birthday is Jan. 1 and that “their father’s birthday is later in the year, and they will buy him a gift plus a card.” To me it seems she is trying to give them a little leeway since her birthday is near the holidays. But the columnist, Annie, is correct in saying to “Birthday Blues,” “Shame on your children. The least they could have done was send a card.”

The columnist goes on to note the children are taking Mom for granted.

Do you want your Mom to feel as if you are taking her for granted? On her birthday? Do you?!

Send a card. Send flowers. Buy a gift. Go visit. Take her to lunch. Use your phone to voice call her. Skype. FaceTime.

Remember, your Mama raised you better than to only text your Mother on her birthday. If you love the woman (and here I acknowledge some families have difficult relationships that might, perhaps, justify a mere text), show it by saying “Happy Birthday” in the voice your Mama gave you!

Top 5 Ways to Spend a $300K birthday present.

birthday winning

Photo credit: BradPerkins via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s been a family tradition for years for family members to send Ervin Smolinksi scratch-off lottery tickets and chocolate for his birthday. This year it paid off.

The 94-year-old man made the news when he won $300,000 in the Michigan Lottery. His daughter-in-law bought the winning ticket as a gift for the World War II veteran.

“I’ve seen a whole lot in my life, and I don’t get worked up easily. I think my son-in-law was more worked up that I was,” Smolinksi told the news.

The win got me thinking though, as I probably too often do, what I would do if I won the lottery. Considering I don’t often play the lottery, it’s really a ridiculous game to play in my head. Yet, I enjoy the mental game. So, because this blog is often about giving, let me give you my top 5 ways to spend lottery winnings:

  1. Travel the world. Truly. Buy a tour package that has a travel agent set it up for you to get to every continent and live it up in luxurious hotels along the way.
  2. Pay off (or if you’re renting now buy with cash) house. Think of the joy of having a home that’s all equity. Come time to sell it, or pass it on, you’re sitting on value.
  3. Build up the college fund. With just one kid it’ll be easier for me to top up the account with some of these extra dollars, but putting it in his account in advance gives my family the benefit of accrued interest.
  4. Throw a massive — and I mean massive — par-tay for everyone I know and love in a destination location and with me footing the bill for hotels and travel and all that. Sort of like a wedding party, but I pay for it and we don’t have to say “I do” again.
  5. Donate. Find a few causes that you truly care about. Do the research about their credibility and give, give, give.

Those who are good at math might realize something here…I’ve probably overspent the $300K. Especially after the government takes the taxes out. Still, it’s fun to imagine isn’t it? Do you have a different top five? I’d love to hear other suggestions.

The 7 Ages of Birthday Gifts

Birthday gift ideas

Photo credit: jessicafm via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Social scientists have long been interested in the exchange of goods as a moral rather than economic exchange. Yet no academic has been able to argue that there is an age at which we stop gleaning joy from giving or receiving gifts. As with Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man, we might also divide our reaction to gifts into seven stages:

 

…Our response to gifts having seven stages. At first the infant,

Drawn only to the shine or crackling sounds of wrapping paper;

And then the curious toddler, with a stack of gifts behind him,

More interested by far in the cardboard boxes they came in.

And then the enthusiastic schoolboy, ripping through the present

pile only needing to see what’s inside before moving on to the next.

Then a teen, full of strange ideas and ripe in smell, looking up from

Texting only long enough to acknowledge the cash or gift card,

Seeking an excuse to escape to the anonymous freedom of the mall.

Then the independent young man, full of book learning but burdened

By student debt, playing the part of gracious recipient while downplaying joy.

The sixth age shifts into the responsible adult, with claims of disinterest

In gifts and consistent embrace of his age as the youthful, well-saved 29.

Last scene of all, the milestones-only man more focused on making

Great plans for strange eventful trips when his age ends in 0, before oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

 

This bastardization is offered without the limitations of iambic pentameter, but with copious apologies to the Bard.

The Gift of Experiences

birthday gift ideas

Photo credit: torbakhopper via Foter.com / CC BY

The blogosphere is riddled with parenting pieces. One that caught my eye recently was entitled: “Why I Won’t Be Giving Your Kid a Birthday Present.” The title sounds more antagonistic than Victoria Fedden’s actual piece actually is. Her article tackles materialism and suggests that experiences matter more.

As the mother of “an extroverted 5-year-old,” she writes, about going often to “pretty over the top” events that net the birthday child “an avalanche of abundance.” She states: “Children today have too much stuff (my own included)…I’m not ungrateful, but I strongly believe that all of this excess breeds a terrible sense of indifference.”

On the heels of my own son’s 9th birthday, I heartily agree. In his younger years I was able to bring him onside with the idea of a food pantry or animal shelter drive instead of presents. But as he got older, and saw the loot his friends were bringing in, he resisted. Yet this year some of his presents remain unopened weeks later! He enjoyed the unwrapping part, but hasn’t actually taken the items out of their boxes!

Meaningful Experiences Matter More

Fedden’s point is that children remember the playing with their friends more than the presents. So her vow now is to gift kids “with something a lot more important: meaningful experiences.”

She suggests she will take a child to a picnic with her daughter, or the zoo, or a movie — creating a memorable experience for both the birthday celebrant and her own child. She writes: “Above all, the greatest gift we can ever give our kids is to teach them to build lasting relationships with others — relationships based on laughter and good memories and delightful experiences.”

I tried this idea of favoring experiences over goods on my son’s birthday this year by giving him a coupon book of experiences such as:

  • Going to a store for his favorite dessert
  • Inviting a friend over to watch a movie
  • Time at a trampoline park
  • Playing Frisbee golf with a parent

The one he was dying to use was playing one sport of his choosing in our cul de sac with both parents. We all went out and kicked the soccer ball around — and I think it’s safe to say we all had fun.

Favoring experiences over items is something I want to keep trying to value.

My confidence in the choice was only helped when I overheard my son showing his friends (over for a birthday sleepover) the gifts he’d already received and raving first about his cool coupon book of experiences.

Show Me the Money! Birthday Edition

 

birthday gift card

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

2016 was a busy year for me, so I relied on gift cards for almost all of my niece and nephew birthdays. I’m sure they were fine with this.

After all, I still remember the excitement I felt receiving a check from one set of grandparents each Christmas, knowing I would be able to buy something I truly wanted. Actually, another grandmother of mine continued sending me $5 checks for my birthday well into my 30s; and I loved it. Buying a chai on Memere was a special treat.

I did recently, though, see a money advice column where a parent asked what to do with the approximately $1,000 their kids raked in come birthdays each year. Wowza. That’s impressive! After I picked my jaw up off the ground (I mean, a $1,000 would be a windfall to me now in my 40s — imagine getting that much when you are under 10!), I found myself thinking about birthday cash and gift cards. I wondered what we know about people’s preferences for moolah or its card-form equivalent.

According to a Vantiv gift card infographic:

  • 63% of consumers bought a gift card in 2015
  • Gift cards account for $100 billion in annual sales
  • E-gift cards are growing at 200% annually
  • Customers load e-gift cards with 10-15% more than plastic gift cards

CardCash.com also offers some interesting gift card statistics:

  • E-gifting is expected to hit 10 billion by 2016 and $14 billion by 2017, comprising nearly 10% of the gift card market.
  • 50% of consumers like allowing the recipient to purchase their own gift.
  • Almost 25% of consumers say that gift cards are easier to buy.

In a 2016 survey, bankrate.com found that 27% of Americans would prefer a gift card to an actual gift (44%). And just in case you think it’s a generational thing, younger millennials ages 18-25 were the age group most likely to favor gift cards (34 percent), but also most likely to prefer a tangible gift (57 percent). By comparison, consumers between ages 62 and 70 were the least likely to want an actual gift (44 percent).

Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 3.06.00 PM.png

Etiquette of Gift Card Giving

Then I started to get curious about what Ms. Manners would say about this gift card giving trend. After all, my mother-in-law recently didn’t want to get us the blender I asked for because it wasn’t “personal.” Imagine how she’d feel about the impersonal nature of a gift card.

This quote, cited on dosaygive.com, captures it pretty nicely:

“The idea of gifts has been widely sabotaged in recent years. It’s turned into an exchange of shopping lists. The idea of gifts is to show you’ve thought about someone. You may not always get it right, but that’s why we say it’s the thought that counts. ” –  Judith Martin, 2005

Still, I’m not going to let Martin (a.k.a. Ms Manners) guilt me into regretting my gift card purchases. Instead, I’ll wrap this up with some smart suggestions for the proper way to give a gift card:

  • Choose the card from a store the recipient might actually visit.
  • Check for an expiry date.
  • Make the card more appealing with ribbons or a nice envelope.

Tell me in the comments: where do you stand on the idea of gift cards as a birthday present?

Happy Birthday — Give Healthy Food

 

birthday giving

A thoughtful reader recently sent me an image of the card pictured above. At first I only noticed the card’s front and it’s message: “I’m so happy it’s your birthday.” I was inspired by that sentiment alone. Isn’t it true that we get excited about another’s birthday? It can’t just be me and the children who are thinking about the pizza and bowling on the horizon at that friend’s party.

There is a part of each of us that is happy to see a friend or family member’s birthday come around as an excuse to show our love. Of course, there are the difficulties of being in a new relationship and wondering just how much love to show. Or not having the financial means to show our love the way we think the birthday person might fully appreciate. But those issues are secondary. Just saying “Happy Birthday” to another person helps them to feel appreciated and loved and known.

OK, but then I looked more closely at the image wondering why I was getting a picture of both the front and back of the card. That’s when this picture became even more interesting. “This card gives healthy food.” You enter a code and help change the world!

Come on! That’s just awesome.

Now, instead of grumbling about paying $4 or $5 for a card, albeit a hilarious or heartfelt one, we can pay knowing we are making a small difference while feting a friend or loved one. I love this! My one suggestion? Put a code inside the card and outside — let the person who bought the card to enter a code (outside) while inviting the recipient to do the same (inside).

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 10.51.27 AM.png

We.Org offers many ways to “make an impact” and has an online shop you can check out. Their “About Us” page states: “ME to WE creates options for consumers like you who want to make informed decisions about what you experience and buy, knowing your actions will help empower people and transform lives, making the world a better place.”

Today is a good day. I was able to write about birthdays, again, and had the chance to introduce more people to this innovative social enterprise. Every blog matters here at birthdaysarebest!