Do I Have to Pay to Appreciate Them?

This note was in my son’s folder at school today:

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 5th – 9th

If each family donates $20.00, we can make it a GREAT TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK for all the teachers here at C___ C___.

The money will be used to buy: Breakfast, Lunch, gifts, cards & more. Please place $20.00 cash into B____ M____’s folder ASAP!

All money needs to be collected by May 2.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t have an issue with announcing that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I didn’t know, and it’s always a good idea to acknowledge people.

Still, several things bother me about this request. And it’s not just about this particular request, and it’s not about the teachers. Its about office group gifts and family group gifts and a general shift to doing things out of obligation, not because we really want to.

I hate that these days appreciation equals cash. To me showing appreciation is making a personal gesture to thank someone for doing a good job, or showing extra care, or going the extra mile. Giving cash is, to me, the most impersonal of gifts. It seems to say, “you’re not worth the time or effort for me to either figure out something you’d really enjoy,” or, “you’re not worth the time or effort to give you something of myself.” That’s why I hardly ever give cash. That said, I know lots of people like getting cash and gift cards, including me. I’m not saying anyone should never give cash, but it should be the choice of the giver.

I also don’t like the note practically mandating a $20.00 donation. Especially when gas is now $3.67 a gallon, and milk is about the same. And when my grocery bill went up 25% this month and Husband’s income didn’t. Perhaps for some people $20.00 is too much, but $10.00 would be doable. No mention is made of a lesser contribution, and no telephone number is included for questions.

And if I do decide to contribute cash, I’d like the gift to be not quite so complicated. The money will be used to buy: Breakfast, Lunch, gifts, cards & more.?” What, are we sending them to Club Med? If we’re going to give cash then let’s give them cash, or a gift card to Target or Barnes and Noble or Outback even Publix. Heck, they’re having to pay the same high prices for food and gas that we are.

And why must everything be a group gift? I really dislike group gifts, unless it’s to pitch in for a really expensive gift that I know the recipient would love to have.

I would like this occasion’s gift to be more personal. So I’m going to bake my World Famous Banana Bread and write each of the two teachers a nice note thanking them for investing themselves in Son. I’m pretty sure they’ll feel appreciated.

Saving and Spending and Everyone Wins

My husband is a production director/art director/graphic designer. He has a full-time position and does occasional freelance jobs on the side. We live fairly frugally well on his salary, but those freelance jobs allow us to have some extras, take frugal vacations and let us do some saving. Living on his income alone just doesn’t leave room for too many extravagances, or for saving. I love that we have that source of potential income – there certainly weren’t any freelance opportunities for me when I was an insurance agent.

The freelancing made our purchase of his new computer possible, and sensible. The original plan was to have him earn the money ($4000!) freelancing before the purchase. He’d earned nearly half when I decided to take money out of savings and get it for him for Christmas. He still needed to find the freelance jobs to pay back savings, but at least he’d have the machine in the meantime. Besides, he works hard for us. He deserved it.

I suspected that once he had the computer that his previously dogged search for new clients would falter, and I was right. The only dent he’s made since Christmas in the outstanding balance that he “owes” savings is the $200 credit we got from Apple after he called to complain about the better (and less expensive) system they released just a few weeks after I bought his. I’ve not been upset about his lack of motivation, but I’ve noticed it.

I started bringing in a few jobs myself. A few weeks ago I reconnected with an old friend, and he’s asked us to do his website. Another ex-client of mine called this week looking for a logo for a new company she’s forming. It doesn’t matter who brings in the business, as long as it gets brung. Neither are huge jobs, but they will chip away at that total all the same.

Then, yesterday, it looks like he landed a very lucrative video contract. This would pay off more than twice the balance, plus it has the potential to become a semi-regular gig. This is great news for us, if it pans out. Still, I’m not counting my chickens before they’re hatched.

Tonight we were discussing the possible new job, and we had a little disagreement about what to do with the extra money. He wants to spend it. He works hard for us, and he really doesn’t ask for a lot (but he always gets it, even if he has to wait a bit). Also, he never asks me for an accounting of what I spend money on (though he does get the highlights, and we always discuss any purchase over $100).

I want to save it. Even though we have no debt besides our mortgage, we had a few big expenses late last year that chipped away some of our savings. Additionally, we’re looking to move, and I’d like to be able to pay cash for our next car the way we did with our last two.

We decided that we’re both right. So, he’ll take some of the money to do whatever he wants with (please, no Slurpee machine!), and the rest would go into savings.

Even though I’d rather put it all in savings, I understand that it’s important for him to see some fruit for his labors. Even though he’d like to go on a man-toy shopping spree, he understands that it’s important for me to feel secure in our financial future. We found a way for us both to win.

Hot dog!

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