When The Parents Are Away, Should Grandparents Pay?

Being a grandparent is one of the greatest joys in a person's lifetime, no doubt. You not only get to see your own children grow up and learn the ropes of parenting, but you get to meet brand new family members who love you unconditionally -- and it doesn't hurt that they're so darn cute. You get to shower your little ones with hugs, kisses, and bedtime stories.

And while grandparents have a bit of a reputation for spoiling their grandkids, it turns out they're dishing out more than just love. A 2012 AARP study surveying the spending habits of grandparents found a whopping 82 percent of grandparents said they spend money to entertain or have an outing with the grandkids. But the scary part is nearly a quarter of grandparents surveyed said they'd spent upwards of $1,000 on their grandkids in the past year. Seems like a lot when many grandparents are retired and living on fixed incomes no?

Earlier this week a question posed in advice column "Annie's Mailbox" got us thinking. A Florida grandma wrote to ask if there was any way to keep from going broke while entertaining her teenage granddaughter and her friends.

We took to our Facebook page to ask our readers to chime in on what they feel is the proper etiquette when it comes to spending money to entertain the grandkids.

Even though over a third of grandparents surveyed in the AARP survey said it's a grandparents job to spoil their grandkids, most of our readers didn't entirely agree.

Some said it was tacky to ask for money outright. Others said honesty was the best policy in letting your kids know you no longer have deep pockets. Some said generosity was a good thing, as long as it's appreciated, not expected. Others pointed out, in this economy, the strain shouldn't be on any one person.

But there were certain things our readers did agree on. Here are some ground rules to consider when you're wondering who should foot the bill.

  • Know your limits. It's pretty likely that you're on a fixed income while your kids, who are probably working, are not. Many readers agreed gammy and gampy should only foot the bill if they can. Older age is no time to be running up credit card debt while you take little Johnny and friends to Chuck-e-Cheese so they can run around doing everything but actually spending time with you.

"Our children are considerably more affluent than we are, and while our income would be more than adequate to pay for such things, they happily contribute to movies and other outings. It's basically a question of economics, not family politics," said reader Steve Taylor.

Don't feel like you should have to feed the entire army, said reader Christine Facteau Patrick. "One set of grand children lives near by. If we keep all three children, parents give us some money toward food if we eat out. If it's only one grand child we generally foot the bill," she said.

  • The inviter always pays. Much like dating etiquette, many readers said that if grandparents themselves suggest a trip to the movies, a day at the theme park, or any other pricey activity, they should pay up. "If you decide you want to take your grandkids golfing, out to eat, etc. You should foot the bill. Period. If the parents ask you to take the kids they should offer to give you money for pizza or bring snacks with the kids," said reader Shannon Bigelow. Makes sense.
  • Be economical. We think reader Jane Thompson hit the nail on the head. "It's not the money you spend on them that is important, but the quality of time!" she said. Several others also shared the sentiment.
  • "The best memories of my grandpa didn't involved him spending money to entertain me. Young people of today have been taught that they should expect to be constantly entertained. We should not place demands on our elders if they cannot afford it," said reader Ginger Grant. It's true, kids have always loved their gadgets and gizmos, but we agree with the principle. We're all a little too connected to technology these days, and the art of connecting with other human beings can be lost at times.

    Why not bring out the baking pan and make some muffins with the little ones? There are so many ways to have fun with your grandkids without breaking the bank. Memories truly shouldn't be about money.

    Some other activity suggestions were painting, talking a walk outdoors, board games, packing a picnic, a trip to the zoo, free museums, or even just something as simple and affordable as a cone of ice cream rather than a pricey dinner at a trendy restaurant.

    You tell us! What do you think is the proper spending etiquette for grandparents when it comes to entertaining their grandkids? Let us know in comments.



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