In a Fastweb survey
of high school and college students about preferred holiday gifts,
more than half of the respondents said that they were hoping for money
But asking for money is awkward. It feels like begging. Most people are
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uncomfortable asking for money, even for a good purpose.
Asking for gifts of money is taboo in the United States. Americans
are taught as young children to think of it as tacky and vulgar. This
is not necessarily so in other countries and cultures, where gifts of
cash are often considered to be in good taste.
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However, the need to save for college is becoming increasingly
important as need-based grants fail to keep pace with increases in
college costs. Some parents can't save enough on their own. This is
starting to break down the barriers against asking friends and family
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The only way to get a cash gift to a child's college savings
plan is to ask. If you don't ask, you definitely won't get anything.
There is no shame in asking. It is better for the child to get
something of lasting value, like a college education, than to get a
toy which will hold his or her interest for a short period of time
before being abandoned. Children often have too many toys that just
gather dust. Still, one shouldn't cut out the material gifts entirely,
especially with younger children who have not yet learned the benefits
of delayed gratification. Parents should still provide a few
token toys. (An added benefit of getting cash gifts is that gifts from
the child's parents won't be upstaged by a rich relative.)
Contributions to the child's college savings plan can substitute for
tangible gifts at all of the usual gift-giving opportunities, such as
birthdays, holidays, religious celebrations, graduation and other
milestones. There are also new occasions for giving the gift of
college, such as during the celebration of college savings month in
It is best to give people a choice between traditional material gifts
and money. Some people prefer to give a material gift instead of
money. Many people prefer to give money, because it is much easier and
more convenient than shopping for a material gift that might not be
appreciated anyway. If the occasion is one for which a gift registry
is common, such as a baby shower, choose a gift registry that lets you
list college savings cash as an option. Giving friends and family a
choice of several options helps alleviate the awkwardness that comes
with asking for money.
Another possibility is to give the giver a choice between making a
donation to a tax deductible charity or contributing to the child's
college savings plan. Mentioning a charity makes the request for
college savings cash seem less selfish.
If the child receives an unwanted material gift, his or her parents
could return the present to the store for store credit. They can then
use the store credit to buy something they need and contribute
an equivalent amount of money to the child's college savings plan. An
unwanted gift can also be sold on eBay to raise money for the child's
college savings plan.