Is it wrong to dictate how money you give is spent?

Inspired by some responses in this thread.


I think that if I am giving money to someone as a gift, I should be able to dictate how they spend it. They, of course, have a right to try and change my mind, but if I put my foot down, they should either respect my wishes or return the money.

I don’t see how it is blackmail at all…I’m GIVING the money, not taking it.

The reverse of the situation is interesting too- say you are given $15,000 for a down-payment on a home and you decide to blow it on a Honeymoon…I think the giver has a right to be pissed. Maybe no legal recourse, but they would definitely be justified in being upset.


I generally tends to think that one shoudln’t give anything with string attached. That’s treating adults like irresponsible children. This issue often comes up in debates about beggars.

However, I can see an exception in the case of people who “trick” you into giving them money by stating they’re going to use for some important purpose and it’s the main reason you’re handing them the money (for instance they use it to play at the casino while they told you they needed it to pay the rent). What I generally don’t like is to offer to give someone money with conditions attached to its use. It seems too controling for my taste. IN the first case, your friend/relative is trying to deceive you In the secon case, you’re trying to control his life.

They definately have an moral right to dictate how the money is spent, if it is given without coersion. They almost certainly have no legal recourse, unless a contract of terms and conditions was signed.

As for blackmail, this isn’t even close. Blackmail specifically refers to the extortion of funds or items of value in return for not leaking sensitive information. If you disagree to the terms and conditions you have the right to not take the money. It’s like saying that the bank demanding your home loan is applied to the cost of an actual home is blackmail.

In this particular case, you haven’t been given a gift of $15000, you’ve been given a gift of a vacation with a $15000 value.

Having said that, I tend to agree with clairobscur that it is probably poor form to attach strings to an offer of cash. In this case it would be somewhat awkward if the people in question were in dire financial straights and were asked to blow $15000 on a vacation they might not even enjoy.

However, in the money for rent example, I would attach all the strings I wanted, especially if the person was known to be unreliable. I might even consider paying the rent directly so they couldn’t touch the money. This all assuming I’d actually help out. I might not be that charitable :wink:

Money given is not longer yours to control. That is sort of the definition.

If something is given as a GIFT, there should never be any strings attached.

To do otherwise is too controlling and petty. If you give money in the belief that you should be able to dictate how to spend it, where do you draw the line? And why does it work better than a policy of no strings attached gifts?

If you can dictate that the money has to be spent on a honeymoon, why shouldn’t you be able to dictate where they go as well? Or does that cross a line?

If you can dictate where they will take their honeymoon, why not dictate what hotel they will stay at and create a travel intinerary?

Does this “It’s my gift, and I can demand what I want to” policy extend to non-monetary gifts?

"Hey, Bob! Congratulations. I would like to help you guys get started by giving you a car. However here are the rules. It can only be used on odd numbered days of the month. It can only be used to go to and from work. Any violation of these rules will result in the immediate repossession of said vehicle.

Once again, congratulations"


I totally agree - if you want someone to spend gift money a certain way, why give them the money at all? Just buy them what you want to give them and give them that. If it’s a matter of paying off a bill or rent, pay it. Credit card companies will take checks from peope who’s name isn’t on the card.

If you offer them money with a condition (ie, "I’ll give you $600 a month ONLY if you use it for rent), that’s one thing. But if you’ve already given it to them, it’s no longer yours.

This is why I don’t give people money.

Also, I’m cheap.

I think it is very much dependent on the circumstance. If the couple in question had tight finances and could really use the money towards a house, or debt reduction, it is mean spirited to offer them 15 large only to force them to spend it on a fleeting honeymoon. OTOH, if they are financially secure, and you just want them to pamper themselves in ways they wouldn’t otherwise, it’s a bit different.

It’s kind of like giving expensive crystal candlesticks. Yes, they can return them for a store credit and buy something else, or hock them for cash. That is only acceptable under specific circumstances, like gift duplication, serious money trouble, or a real need you can’t otherwise fulfill. Doing it because you’d just rather have some cash instead of candlesticks rubs me the wrong way.

In quite a few circumstances when money is given it is given because the adults have behaved like irresponsible children.

Take the example of my wife’s family. Her sister simply can’t get her shit together and while she works she has over the past fifteen years or so needed thousands of dollars from her parents to live life. She basically makes horrible choices with her life (like having another kid with her unemployed boyfriend when she can’t afford the two kids she already has, borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to get her college degree from an unaccredited online “university,” eating out every night, etc.).

My wife’s contention is that if she is in continual need of cash she’s doing something wrong and that simply giving her money really does her no good. She tells her parents that if they give her money they have a right to demand that she start being more responsible with her money (e.g., no cellphones for her and her kids, no DSL line, no cable, etc.). Her parents say that you can’t attach conditions to the money, either you give or you don’t give.

I’m sorry, but if you are asking for money in these circumstances then the giver has the right (hell, I’d even say the duty) to say that I’ll give you the money but you have to start making better financial decisions. Yes, it’s treating an adult like a child, but that’s because the adult is acting like a child.

That’s as maybe. Once you give them the gift, it is no longer your concern what they do with it. Hell, we’re not badly off but I wouldn’t accept a $15k holiday on the grounds that, given 15 grand (even if it is only £10k in real money :wink: ) I wouldn’t use it on something that is gone so soon with little to show for it.

You have to ask what the motivation for giving is. Presumably it’s so that the recipients will be happy. Logically then, they should choose how best to make themselves happy - even if it means blowing it on chocolate and hookers. Should I not approve of their choice, I can always choose not to give them anything again! It’s either that or offer to pay tickets and some extra for spending (on production of original receipts perhaps, in case they bought something I didn’t approve of…). If that seems crass, it’s perhaps because it is!

It’s petty and stupid, but not immoral. A suggested response could be: “Thanks Fred, but that seems petty and stupid. Please take your car and shove it up your arse.”

I agree that typically it is in very poor form. The only really appropriate place for putting conditions on gifts is if you’re helping out someone who you know to be unreliable.

I think this is where I am at with it. As I said, the people could argue for other usages “Hey, love the Maldives idea, but really, we need a new car BAD…”

The “no strings attached” argument doesn’t seem to fit so well in a money giving circumstance with me. Normally “strings attached” means that I as the giver am expecting something in return (either for me or for someone else). i.e. “Here is a gift…btw, my friend John could use some help from your brother.” But in this money-giving sense, Uncle Ivan, for whatever reason, is getting some pleasure knowing that he is treating you to something that you would not or could not do for yourself. He WANTS to do this for you, why not respect that?

As for giving the airplane tickets and paying for the hotel directly, etc…Isn’t that even more controlling and intrusive on the givee? Isn’t that more disrespectful? “I don’t trust that you would respect my gift to you, so I will force you to go by paying for it directly.” sounds worse to me than “Dude, here’s $15000 for your Honeymoon- only your Honeymoon, though.”

I just find it strange that people are actually miffed that someone gave them money. “How dare you send me on a great vacation!” :dubious:


Maybe it matters whether the money is given to meet a specific need or as a gift.

If I ask for money to _____ (e.g. to get my car fixed), and you give it to me, I would feel it wrong of me to spend that money on something else instead. Or if I don’t ask, but you see that I need it and offer to pay for it, it shouldn’t matter whether you hand the money to the auto mechanic yourself or whether you, for the sake of convenience, give the money to me to give to the mechanic. Either way, you’re not giving me money in general, you’re seeing to it that my car gets fixed. If I take the money you gave me to get my car fixed, and instead spend it all on booze and hookers, or on fuzzy toilet seat covers, and my car sits around unfixed, I’m doing what is, at best, morally questionable, I’m not showing you much respect, and I have no right to expect you ever to help me out financially in the future.

If you want to give me money as a gift (say, for my birthday), and you have something specific in mind for me to spend it on, you’re better off getting me a gift certificate. But what if, for some reason, a gift certificate isn’t available for what you want to give me—can you just hand me the cash and tell me what you want it to be spent on? Sure. If it’s not wrong to buy me a gift certificate for something specific, it’s not wrong to give me cash and tell me what it’s meant for. But, if I disregard your wishes and spend the cash on something totally different… well, it’s probably not immoral or illegal, but again, it doesn’t seem to me like I’m really respecting you.

Sure, gifts shouldn’t have strings attached. But I think a certain appreciation and respect is due to the giver. If you gave me a gift that you had picked out for me (say, a shirt or a book), and there was nothing wrong with it (it fit fine; it wasn’t something I already owned; etc.) it would feel ungracious of me to take it back to the store and exchange it for something else I liked a little better. But maybe that’s just me.

It’s not more disrespectful, it’s being more honest. You either give me the choice or you don’t, but be honest about the choices you give me. You either respect that I know what’s best for me or you don’t. If you’re going to treat me as a child and dictate how a I spend money I didn’t even ask for, then cut out the middle man; buy the tickets and send me on my way.

Don’t tangle $15,000 in front of me, that I may need for a new roof, or house-payment or whatever, ALL of which will do more for me and my family, than a vacation EVER would and tell me that I can ONLY spend it as you dictate…none which will help me. You’re not doing me any favours.

I like to think Uncle Ivan will respect me enough to give me the $15,000 and tell me to use it as I see fit, BUT he would love for me to spend it on my honeymoon. Kiss, kiss.

If I need a new roof which is going to cost me $15,000 and you give me a $15,000 vacation, why would I be glad? When I come back home, my roof’s collasped and I have no where to live.

Am I being ungrateful, if I tell Uncle Ivan I need a roof, more than I need a vacation? What happens when Uncle Ivan takes back the $15,000 because I won’t spend it on a vacation? I should be glad? Is he a great guy? Sorry you need a new roof Tomcat…enjoy Aruba. What your car died and your going to lose you job, because you can’t get to work…go see Europe. Owning your own home, is one of the best investments you and your new bride can have…enjoy Maui.

A gift, not a loan; but a gift, is given freely and without terms…anything else is not a true gift.

YMMV, of course.

Actually, they have a right to not even give a shit about changing your mind or respecting your wishes. Unless you made some arrangement ahead of time, you really have no recourse if your friend decides to spend your gift however they please. I suppose you could threaten to no longer be friends with them but as you seem to be a “de-gifter” that might be win-win for the other guy anyway.

It’s not. There really is no incentive on the other party to return your gift.

Well, usually people who give that much money for buying a home are called “banks” and the money is called a “loan”, the terms of which include you using that money to specifically buy a house. They will not only get pissed if you don’t, they do in fact have legal recourse.

It’s generally accepted that when people give you gifts, you should be able to reciprocate with a gift of about the same value. Otherwise, it can create a sense of being indebted to a person “…oh I can send you on that big vacation but you can’t drive me to the airport?” type shit.

Re: Blackmail
Definitions; blackmail
1. To extort money, etc illegally from someone by threatening to reveal harmful information about them.
2. To try to influence someone by using unfair pressure or threats.

Uncle Ivan: “Here’s $15,000 as a honeymoon gift.”
You: “Great, we can put a downpayment on a house.”
Uncle Ivan: “No, you can only use it for a trip.”
You: “But a downpayment, would do us more good…”
Uncle Ivan: “You either use it for a vacation or you don’t get it at all and stop being so ungrateful, what would your parents’ think…?”

You don’t don’t think offering $15,000 to someone, but only if they use it has you say is undue pressure?

So as not to be an ungrateful wretch? If it’s really a gift, that means I didn’t need to give you anything at all; so be glad for what you got, not miserable about what you didn’t get.

If you need a $20 set of spark plugs, and I instead treat you to a $20 dinner, would you get mad at me?

I actually faced this situation in real life.

My husband did some work for my grandfather who, in turn, gave us a certain sum of money, and said it was for my husband to pay off his student loans. We discussed it and decided to pay off other debts with it because of the low interest on the student loan.

I don’t feel bad in the least for doing what we did, and though we never discussed what we did with Grandpa, I don’t think he’d be upset either.

I don’t think that it’s wrong to use a gift for another purpose, especially if its more practical to do so. A suggestion for a gift’s use is not wrong, but the giver should not be upset if the reciever decides not to follow it. Now, if one asked for money for a specific purpose then used it differently, that’s another story. Outright gifts should not be conditional.

For my wedding shower, I got two crockpots. Should the giver of one of them be upset that I took it back to the store and got a different item in its place?

Absolutely not. It’s a gift. I say you can put as many conditions as you want on it and if the person doesn’t want it then they can refuse it. You are free to think the person is being a jerk. Now I would hope that someone would give the gift with the the suggestion, 'Here’s $15,000 I thought you might use for a vacation. But that’s just my thinking, you are free to use it as you wish." But what if Uncle Ivan said soemthing like, “Hey, I want you guys to think about your dream vacation, because I’m paying for it!” Would you have the right to say at that point, “Ummm, couldn’t we just have the cash?” Would you dare say that to someone who bought you a car? Or a sweater? Or a card?