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Dave Sather's Money Matters: Gifts of lastingvalue

June 14, 2011 at 1:14 a.m.


Next week marks my 18th wedding anniversary. The fact anyone has put up with me for that long is a miracle. Carol tells people my mother pays her well. I don't doubt it.

With wedding season upon us, it caused me to recall strolling through a department store as we registered for wedding gifts many years ago.

Carol was focused upon what the store clerk added to our registry while I thumbed through Road & Track magazine, pained by the process.

For some reason I foolishly decided to butt into the conversation as the clerk added an iron to our list.

Prior to marriage, we both had our own places. As such, we had acquired the necessities of life - including an iron. In fact, we had three of them.

As I looked at the iron, I asked the clerk how much it cost. She stuttered and stammered and assured me it was their finest iron. I persisted. How much does it cost? Finally, she relented and said the iron cost $79.95 - and this was in 1993 dollars. Adjusted for inflation that iron would cost $150 today.

As Carol and I discussed the "need" for another iron, we agreed we would never buy an $80 iron and there was no way we would ask friends or family to do so either.

So what is an appropriate wedding gift? Oftentimes, people get married later in life and already have the basic necessities covered.

Because I hate shopping for wedding gifts, I sometimes give an envelope with cash. I know, it's not too original. However, I include in the envelope a letter, which says something like this:

Our society is obsessed with money and often we confuse what money means and what it does for us. Money provides us with flexibility in life, but it does not create happiness. Poor money management is the No. 1 reason people get divorced in our country. Do not become a statistic.

Live below your means and do not pay attention to the material things your neighbor might have or what an advertisement says you need. You control your possessions - do not let them control you. When you spend money foolishly you back yourself into a corner that often brings with it catastrophic consequences.

Some may perceive me as the biggest wet blanket who ever lived. However, what kind of message are we sending a young couple when we lavish them with over-the-top weddings and excessive gifts of every kind? How can rational people think tortilla warmers and sterling silver melon-ballers are necessities?

According to surveys by The Wedding Report, Inc., the average wedding this year will cost more than $24,000 - even before factoring in the cost of gifts to the bride and groom.

This wedding season, forget the huge party, the crystal that collects dust and the serving set which might be used once a year. Instead, do something a bit different: Enroll the newlyweds in a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace program.

Allocate the money that would have been used on a very expensive one-day event to instead pay off credit cards or a car, or to be used as a down payment on a house.

Dave Sather is a Victoria Certified Financial Planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other Wednesday.

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