Ask Rene:
Parents’ Anniversary Gift –
When Is Too Much Too Much?


Hey there Rene,

Here’s my problem!

My mother and father are about to celebrate their Gold wedding anniversary and have invited the whole family up to their home for a big party.

I have five brothers and sisters and they want us all to chip in to pay for a luxury cruise for mom and dad. The trip is going to cost over $10,000 so I’m expected to put in my $2,000 towards the cost.

The problem is that my husband and I just don’t have that kind of money. Steve lost his job earlier in the year and we have no savings and a lot of credit card debt. In order to chip in my family would have to do without.

I’ve tried to explain the situation but the rest of the family say I’m being selfish and could find the money if I really looked. It’s all getting very bitter and nasty – and I don’t know what to do.

Should I take on extra debt to keep the peace?


Carla, San Francisco



Dear Carla:

What the hell is with the sibling strong-arming? Sounds like there’s a lot more going on than just the words on this page.

You absolutely should NOT take on extra debt to keep the peace. In fact, instead of keeping the peace I think it would actually serve to show your brothers and sisters that they can bully you into other things. This present (the cruise) is supposed to be a joyful thing for your folks and rolling over on this one will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth (that’s if you can get past the taste of Ramen noodles, which is what you’ll be eating for months on end if you go into debt on this extravagance.)

So here’s what I suggest:


1. Do Some Cruise Research

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Starting with the sister or brother with whom you have the best relationship, lay it all out to them. Explain that you cannot compromise your own family’s health and security by coughing up money you honestly don’t have. You can offer to pay what you can; after all, something is better than nothing and ask that they be sensitive to what you and Steve have gone through over the past year. Personally I am appalled that they have not. I would also do a little bit of research on cruises. There are a variety of ship sizes and pricing packages; perhaps you could suggest a cruise that was NOT the very top of the line. Your folks will still be thrilled, I’m sure.