After All, Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Posted on: June 28th, 2011 by Kay Swatkowski

I wish it did.

I wouldn’t be greedy and I certainly wouldn’t take more than my share.  I’d use it for important things: food, clothing, shelter, transportation, shoes, comfortable furniture, nice appliances, dental work, gift card to the coffee shop, a membership to a health club, shoes, a relaxing vacation – something simple –  in the Rockies, maybe an RV to make the travel more affordable and comfortable and a good pair of hiking shoes– for safety reasons.  Yes, I’d just focus on the necessities.

Oh wait, there’s more.

The grandkids!  They are growing so fast.  THEY need shoes and that latest video game, a new book or two, and don’t they outgrow their bikes quickly. Hmmm…the latest lego set, arts and crafts supplies, a  swimming pool, that adorable outfit I saw at the outlet mall.  How about an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese finished off with a trip to an ice cream place?  Season tickets to amusement parks, sports fees, special equipment, favorite snacks, sleepovers with friends.


Summer camp, music lessons, a laptop that will help them with school.

But what about their parents? Working two jobs, paying mortgages, utilities, car payments, insurance. Not to forget all the things we mentioned above that loving parents work so hard to provide.

How I would like to alleviate their stress.  But, I don’t see that happening.

After all, money doesn’t grow on trees.

Sometimes our thinking about money is distorted, unhealthy. But there are a number of ways of thinking that can help us grow our money (even though it doesn’t grow on trees) allowing us the opportunity to be generous in giving to God, giving to our families and giving to people in need.

Ever since I discovered, much to my dismay, that money doesn’t grow on trees, there are some practical truths I find helpful:

  • All that we have comes from the loving hand of God.
  • We must have a healthy respect for money.  Money is not an end in itself.  It is a gift given to us to manage and use wisely and to meet our needs and to do good. It is a trust from God.

But, here is the real issue I am struggling with today.

What is the difference between being generous with our grandchildren and spoiling them?  Here is my confession. I want to give my grandkids everything – I don’t – but I admit that I want to.

What is the underlying mental attitude that will help  me to give joyfully with an open hand and at the same time  give responsibly? If we don’t find the key to this issue, we risk contributing to a distorted understanding of money and possessions that creates adults who  feel entitled, ungrateful, discontent, unsatisfied and sadly lack the ability to feel genuine joy and affirmation when gifts are given.

That is scary to me.

This is not a small issue.  I know that I will be working on this for month’s to come.  I hope you will share some of your ideas as well.  Here are some thoughts that are simply a result of a first round of brainstorming.  We will try to develop these topics more fully in the future.

These are some of the things I am going to work on.

  • I need to be clear in my own mind about the difference between want and need.  Sometimes it brings great delight to us and to the child to give a gift that is something they really want. Those can be special, loving moments.  I recall my grandfather giving me a birthstone necklace for my 7th birthday and how loved I felt by his generosity.But, having every want supplied every time is unhealthy.  We can all learn to do without some of the “wants” in life. We all need things to work towards and wait for.
  • I always need to  work in cooperation with the parents.  If parents believe we are “giving” too much, we need to respect that and back off a bit. Go to the parent with a question, “I was thinking of buying Josh _____.  But, I wanted to know what you think first.”
  • I need to replace occasional, cheaper gifts and trinkets with substantial items.  This shows kids that resisting the urge to fritter away their quarters for a plastic ring in a machine at the grocery store, results in something more substantial.  A once in a while experience such as this is a normal part of childhood, but so is having to wait for and work for  something better.
  • If you are able to be generous, perhaps a bank account or college fund is a good way to share what God has given you. Or invest in experiences the kids will remember – The Nutcracker, a special dinner, a night away, a major league baseball game. Take pictures. It is all about being together.
  • Decide in advance how much you can spend for certain gifts or occasions – not to be stingy or cheap – but to guard against overdoing it. Do you give more than one gift at Christmas? You might want to follow this plan: each child receives one gift they want; one gift they need; and one educational gift.  This might be a great way to prevent gift overload and be a tool parents can use to  limit the effects of consumerism at Christmas.
  • Notice if one of your grandchildren seems to be struggling with always wanting more or being discontent.  Make “relationship” building more intentional with this child.
  • Remember the best gift we can give is a conversation, eye contact, hugs, attendance at their events, support, security, family traditions, love and prayer–as well as responsiveness to genuine need when it arises.

I know this is not the end of my searching for healthy answers to this question.  It is something I need to work on for a while.

After all, money doesn’t grow on trees.

You might want to go to the home page and look for our article that deals specifically with giving at Christmas.  Look for the article entitled “How Many Gifts are Too Many?”

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33 Responses

  1. Jenn says:

    Another great post!! I have a lot of thoughts on this one–(which means a long comment–lol) I hope you don’t mind.

    Okay…I am NOT a Grandma, but I have a Grandma…so you know over the last almost forty years, my Grandma has given to me and my brother and all the other Grandchildren soooo much. But from a Grandchild’s perspective, let me tell you what stands out!

    Her LOVE…she gave so much love and still does. It is said, that she and I are two peas in a pod. This is very true…our connection is strong and deep and binding. I’m forever changed by this wonderful gift.

    Her TIME…of all the gifts and things she gave—I cherish all the time she devoted to me. All the money and things it can buy can never measure up to her time.

    Her PHOTOS AND STORIES…I was the lucky one, I inherited all the old photos–and I wrote down many of the stories she shared with me. She helped me to learn the family genealogy and I have to say…it is the one thing I want to give to my children and Grandchildren some day…a sense of where they came from and the stories to go with it. A treasure given to me by my Grandma.

    I’ll stop there…but you can see where I’m going. All the stuff she gave–yes it was important at the time, but not as memorable as the gifts she gave from her heart–these are the gifts that will be with me a lifetime.

    This was an awesome write…now, I just have to wait one hour til I can call my Grandma and tell her I love her. :)

    Cheers, Jenn.

    • Jenn..your grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman. Maybe you should send her a copy of waht you have written. You also are a wonderful grand daughter! She is blessed. After I wrote this and went to bed (about 5:30) I thought of the stories my grandmother left me too!
      God bless, Jenn.

    • Kay says:

      Jenn,,,by the way your comments are never too long. WE all love them.

  2. Theresa Wiza says:

    As a grandmother of 10 (almost 11) grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren, I’ve had to cut down my gift amounts substantially. The older ones understand and the younger ones enjoy the books I get them so they don’t mind. I also spend as much time with them as possible.

  3. Felicia says:

    Shoes are VERY important!
    The steps taken by Grandma to share, express and grant her love are oh, so much a treasure in the life of a child. In many cases grown children, but no matter our age we’re always a child to Grandma. And we know those steps taken are in Grandma’s shoes.
    You know the shoes, right? The shoes that walked uphill, both ways? The shoes that held the bobby socks that ran around the malt shop …
    The shoes that came running when mom said, “Oh she’s fine” … The shoes that walked into the Stride Rite Store to get YOU your first pair of shoes? The shoes that walked with you through the field in back,to pick her favorite dandeline bouquet while you shared your deepest secrets… The shoes that walked Grandma around the kitchen as she oh so effortlessly (it seemed) prepared countless feasts for the masses (Now, those shoes looked liked she shopped at the same store as the Flying Nun! – Grandma’s version of safety, no doubt!)
    Those shoes were affectionately tucked away in the closet by her apron, and her “going out” shoes were the ones that walked the malls with you for your first pair of prom shoes (and Grandma, in those shoes said, “That high?!” with a grin and a wink, “Ok, honey! They’re beautiful!”)
    So many steps taken by Grandma (and she certainly never needed a pedometer to count them!)…
    So many steps taken in “those shoes” that will be oh, so hard to fill.

  4. It’s difficult because even as parents we want our children to have and experience everything we did not. I would guess it’s similar for grandparents. I have to agree that time is probably the greatest gift.

  5. I agree about the kids. My son is 15 and keeps on growing. Keeping a list is good.

    –Diana Jillian

    • Kay says:

      Diana, they certainly do keep on growing and 15 is usually another growth spurt. I think we always have the list of things they need swirling around in our heads. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, can’t it?

  6. Vanessa says:

    Great post. I think is difficult for parents to control what we give to our children, but for grandparents I assume is harder. You are doing a great job and you are very conscious of what you were doing and what you want to do from now on.


    • Kay says:

      Thank you, Vanessa! Yes, we have to be conscious of what we are doing. Glad you stopped by and shared your perspective.

  7. Claudia says:

    Good question, and I can answer from the grandchild perspective: mine never spoiled me with ‘goods’ but with their love, tendering care and lots of cakes :)

  8. Laura Rogers says:

    This is so wonderful. As a psycho-therapist by trade, your right to talk about what is right to give grand kids and what is spoiling.

    I don’t mean to sound over zealous, but this society is raising many cornocopia kids. What this means is that many children are not being taught what money is and can have it at any time. This is not good in bringing about a healthy conscience. Next time we all want to spoil kids, just think of how bad it can really be. In fact, I will post some of my curriculum to help out all of us parent who struggle with this.

    Great article.


    • Kay says:

      Laura–thank you!!! I can’t wait to see your resources. I think parents and grandparents are looking for resources to help them with this area. I agree–their moral and spiritual formation can be hindered by our overindulgence.
      I am looking forward to more info from you. :)

  9. One thing I did with my kids and grandkids was give them a small amount each week so they had to save at least two weeks for that toy they wanted. When they wanted bigger gifts like computers, I gave them larger amounts of money for special occasions like Christmas and birthdays with the stipulation that I’d match what they saved toward the purchase. When they got their first jobs, I told them I’d continue giving them an allowance minus $1 for each $2 they brought home. Don’t know that it would work with all kids, but it seems to have worked fairly well with them.

    • Kay says:

      Angela, what a great idea! That is a beautiful blend of generosity and responsibility. You gave your grandkids a great gift. Thanks for your idea. I imagine a lot of our readers will be interested in how you handled money with the kids. I love the variety of ways we can navigate this issue!

  10. Paula Martin says:

    Great advice. I think it’s natural for grandparents to want to spoil their grandchildren -often they’re more in a position to do so than they were with their own kids. But, to my mind, giving them your love and time is much more important.

    • Kay says:

      Paula, yes! They really want our love and affection more than anything don’t they? And,,,,we love giving it! God Bless!

  11. me says:

    yup… already know the answers…its applying…the hardest part…so JUMP!!!!!!!!!!! ; )

  12. Kathy says:

    What a great post!! I was blessed with 3 Grandmas in my life. Of the three, one always bought me big presents for Christmas but became bitter,cynical, and controlling towards the end of her life. She inevitably pushed me a way and disinherited me. The second gathered the family together and gave of herself. She filled my memories with the values of counting my blessings, valuing family, and believing in God. The third I lost complete contact with because of mother never took us around her. I was never close to her. In hindsight, the Grandmother I ended up remembering with happy affection was the one who instilled my memories with values and love. So in the end, was the presents and monetary presents what stood out? No, it was the love.


    • Kay says:

      Kathy—it is always the LOVE, isn’t it? I had one very quiet Grandma that we didn’t see often–but I loved her. The other Grandma we saw daily–she played games with us, cooked for us, told us stories and watched us play. Yup–I remember the love too! Thanks for your wonderful Grandma story!

  13. Marian says:

    Grandmothers are special. Mine lived with us until she died when I was seventeen and I adored her, but this was not because of the things that she gave me. She gave me her wonderful stories, memories, family and her love. If you sit down with your grandchildren and give them you, they will always know your love and that is what matters!

    • Kay says:

      It sounds as if your grandmother was a wonderful woman! She gave you the best gift of all. All of the stories people have shared about their grandmas are so encouraging and a great reminder of what matters most. Thank you so much, Marian.

  14. Linda says:

    I especially love your last suggestion! I bet your grandkids just adore you!

    • Kay says:

      Linda, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! I like the last suggestion too—it is fun to do. :) Have a great Fourth of July.

  15. Beth says:

    My grandmother was just amazing. She lived near us and was a part of my everyday life. She was kind and funny, warm and genuine. To this day, certain smells can transport me back in time and I am suddenly happily seated on her lap or on one of her kitchen chairs, absolutely, delightedly well-loved.

    I’m Grammy now and I absolutely adore those little people. I do indulge them–mostly with my time and attention, but sometimes with material things, as well. They are absolutely, delightedly well-loved, too, and I know that they know it.

    Life is good.

    • Kay says:

      Beth, yes! Life is good. And, your memories of your grandmother sound wonderful! She must have been a great role model for you. How many grandkids do you have?

  16. Spark says:

    I hope, I am half the grandma you are..I will treasure these words. Great examples to aspire to, when that time comes in my life. My oldest are planning their first this year…Thank you ..*hug*

    • Kay says:

      Congratulations on the soon to be birth of your first grandchild! I am sure you will be an absolutely wonderful grandma and will thoroughly enjoy this little one! Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment! Hope we will connect again soon.

  17. Judi Shisler says:

    Thank you Kay for another great post.

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