How Generous Are You With Money?

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Recently when I treated my mom out for lunch, she mentioned how she treats money a little differently than I do. She said that she is generous to other people but frugal towards herself, while I’m frugal towards those around me and myself.

Now, wait for a second here. Why would you say anything like that to a person WHILE he’s treating you to lunch? At a slightly fancy Chinese dim yum place no less? Which part of I’m buying you lunch is not generous?

I’m just joking about the question though because I actually know where this comment came from. You see, my mom wanted me to buy my sister’s family dinner just a couple of days before, and I got slightly ticked off because I suggested a place we went to for my sister’s birthday a few years back, and my mom just didn’t like the idea. She didn’t say it outright, but I have a feeling that she thought it wasn’t fancy enough. Normally, she wouldn’t have any issue with the price of meals, but there was a family emergency in the Ning household and she helped me out a great deal. She felt like I should offer to buy everyone dinner as a gesture of gratitude.

Here’s the thing though. The restaurant I suggested was a place my sister likes to go to because she was the one who picked that place a few years ago. It wasn’t five star fine dining quality, but it was fancy enough, again, because my sister picked that place for dinner on her birthday.

After a bit of back and forth, I suggested for my sister to pick the restaurant after I tell her I wanted to buy dinner. And guess what? My lucky stars all aligned when she chose that exact restaurant on her own. She defused the situation quite a bit and there was a generally happy ending.

But let’s not explore this question further, as it will steer the post slightly off topic and more importantly, probably get me in more trouble (Hi mom! I know you are reading this!).

So, back to the topic at hand for today. I wanted to ask you: how do you treat money as it relates to those around you? Are you like me, who is more frugal than necessary for basically anything and for anybody? Or are you like my mom, who is over generous to everyone around her but overly frugal to herself?

Why Care About This?

Perception matters as you know. My mom is, well, my mom. That’s why she is honest with how she sees me treating others. She likely isn’t the only person who thinks I’m too frugal to other people, but how many others will tell me how they feel about me in person? Am I being too cheap, and hurting relationships in the meantime? It’s one thing to be cheap towards acquaintances, and a whole other ballgame when it comes to being cheap towards friends. It’s yet another leap into a completely different planet in terms of importance when it comes to my own family. What if my kids think I’m being too cheap with them and they end up feeling like I care more about money than them? I’m not saying our kids are on the verge of thinking that way since we are plenty generous with them on many things, but it’s something to be mindful of.

On the other hand, my mom is REALLY generous with her money for those around her. She isn’t ultra rich, so that generosity often comes at the cost of her own quality of life. If she thought it through and tried to more efficiently use her funds, she can definitely improve her own quality of life while still be generous with her money. If done right, she could, in a way, be even more generous because she can be kind to even more people.

Let me give you an example. My mom hosts dinners for my family members at her apartment using rather expensive dishes for as long as I can remember. She saw it as a way for everybody to get together. And it worked. The gatherings no doubt brought her siblings together more often, my sister and I together more often, and her children and herself more often as well. But she certainly could have accomplished that same goal with slightly less expensive ingredients. The savings could then be used for her own enjoyment, or even be donated to help others if she wanted to.

What You Should Do

Many of us just do what’s natural when it comes to spending money on those around us, so it’s not like you can just examine yourself, flip a switch, and change everything overnight. What’s important though, is to keep in mind how we are like, and don’t assume that everything is a-ok. There’s a cost whether you are too generous or too cheap. If you find yourself at the extremes, then nudge yourself back more towards the middle.

Side note: I’m well aware that generosity is much more than about money. Someone can be considered generous even if they spend nothing on anybody else in their life if they devote all their time to help others. Conversely, you can certainly call someone stingy even if they donate money if they just want to get rid of you anytime you approach them.

The term generous is much broader than just about money. But for today, let’s focus on $$$.

How generous are you with others when it comes to money?

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