I’m on the Family Payroll Now? (Should You Accept Money From In-Laws?)


The anniversary of when I squeezed out of my mom rolled around and somehow on paper I’m more than a quarter of a century old. Black magic.

Someone just end it all right now, it’s all downhill from here. (No offense :P)

LOL. I’m kidding! Actually, to be totally honest, only when I turned 25 did I feel a bit of age anxiety.

In a lot of surveys, they clump the age groups in this way:





So I was basically 24 turning 29. Turning 26 has no significant numerical milestone attached so I’m OK. I’m still 25-29. I would devote my time to protesting that 25 should not be categorized with 29 but by the time I’m done – I’ll be lucky to be 29 and I wouldn’t mind being grouped with 25 year olds. Hubby’s going to be 30-34 in 6 months, let’s see if he freaks out like I did because he poked fun of my age theory before. He’s actually freaking out already muahahaha.




My husband gave me a bag of potting soil for my last birthday (and I was hoping for it again because we’re running low) but this year he gave me 3 bags of kettle chips.


My dad brought me a Subway sandwich and it paired perfectly with the kettle chips. Nice!

I received 4-packs of underwear, some candy and a Chinese red money envelope with a Benjamin in it from my mom. She told me she was sending me a package via WeChat (Chinese messenger app) so I was expecting it.


What I was not expecting was my husband’s parents sending me anything. We confessed to them over Christmas that we got married “in secret” and I’m still a little suspicious that they would resent me for not celebrating it in a traditional church with the rest Hubby’s family.

What can I say? We’re very lazy, socially introverted people. We spent $30 on our wedding feast at a fast food restaurant because we had coupons and it was on the way home from the courthouse.

Mr and Mrs. Hubby’s Parents haha.

Hubby gets money from his parents for every birthday and every Christmas. That’s their tradition and I think it’s pretty common in American families…? According to my super solid and accurate research from years of watching TV.

It’s like red money envelopes from my mom. I get one for my birthday and one during Chinese New Years. But my Chinese parents doesn’t give Hubby money on his birthday. That would be weird. So to my surprise I got a birthday card from them and inside – some green!


I’m on the payroll now?

Thanks! But why? It’s really weird, sweet, weird, different, awkward, unexpected, sweet and weird. Are there strings attached? Thanks for the sweet card and the sweet words and the sweet cash but why are you giving a stranger money?

Like yeah, part of the family, but it’s not by blood or even long enough history. You can’t just give a stranger money. I would not personally do that. If I had a kid and my kid got married, I would give my money to MY kid. Not the spouse. I don’t own or owe that person anything. They could be divorced in 10 years. I would give them money as couple combo deal but that’s after children (my grandchildren). Only once there is blood, OK, now we’re officially all family. No blood, no money.

My husband thinks I’m over thinking everything.


But it does leads me to a money and marriage dilemma: should a spouse take money and/or gifts from in-laws?




Taking Money from Parents

The biggest concerns with taking money from my own parents is a simple case of pride. When Hubby and I were buying our first house, my mom offered us $20K to help with the down payment. We chose to not accept the money…so naturally she mailed us a check for $20K anyway. But that’s expected. I think it’s an Asian thing – everything comes like it or not. My to-do list for my mom goes: graduation, house, grandbaby. By any means necessary. 

We cashed the check and then we put it in the bank. Due to China’s One Child policy, I’m her only offspring. That money was “mine” pretty much, just like anything else be it feast or famine in the future.


Taking Money from In-laws

Is taking money from the spouse’s parents a good idea?

Personally, I think it’s weird for the in-laws to give money to just one of the spouses. But that’s just what Hubby’s family did. My mom wouldn’t give my husband money. She thinks like me – this person is not my blood. She haven’t even asked Hubby’s birthday yet.

Hub’s family is totally different (like, much sweeter :P) They see me as (holy cr*p how are you people so nice) a part of the family. That money was for me, just me! Awww. Such cultural dissimilarities!

Generally Speaking…

  • Taking money from parents for a milestone, yes it’s OK.  At the end of the day, that’s their money and they have decided to gift it to you because they care about you. Don’t fuss about it.
  • Taking money from in-laws for a milestone, yes it’s OK.  At the end of the day, that’s their money and they have decided to gift it to you because they care about you. Don’t fuss about it.

Oh my God, it’s the same! 🙂 It’s not always that simple but in most cases, yay lucky ducky – take it! But when the gifts come with caveats. There’s different breakdowns for that.


Questions to Ask:

#1 Are there strings attached?

Don’t get me wrong here. I think the subject is completely different if there were strings attached with accepting the money. If there was no occasion or milestone, I would be extremely suspicious and try to work it from a cautious point.

Case Study: A former friend of mine who has children was under a lot of financial pressure and accepted her mom’s invitation to live at mom’s house until she could get back on her own feet. During that time, her mother brought her food, cribs, lamps, everything totaling $14,000+ but that was so she could also have the authority to cut her children’s hair without permission and have a say in the parenting.

It’s incredibly counter-productive and it erodes trust to sneak it in as a fine print. If a parent is doing this…man, take a lesson from the in-laws and attempt it with gentle love or don’t attempt it at all.

#2 How bad are the terms?

We called hubby’s parents on the phone yesterday to thank them for the birthday card and they hinted the money should be spent instead of saved.

Hubby’s dad quipped at me, “you know why they’re in a bunch of $20s? Because 20s are easier to spend.”

Gee, how did they know I was just going to be boring and throw it in the bank otherwise? 😉 It’s sort of a string. Hey, if they want me to blow it, yes sir! Consider it DONE. –crawl over to eBay

But if my mom gave me that $20K so she can get a say in naming our first-born someday then she has to recalculate again to the tune of $2 million. Hey, I’m being practical here. It’s money we’re talking about here right? Leave the emotions and make it a good sale. Names are super important.


#3 Recap your finances.

So what are your financial values and goals? Financial goals can be anything short-term to anything long-term but when it comes to mixing money with family I consider it a wise move to consider long term goals. Look at my own finances to weigh the pros and cons – preferably long-term pro and long-term cons! Because the same stunt can be pulled on something like this down the road so tread carefully. Family is a long engagement.


#4 Recap their finances (if available.)

I was also not very comfortable with taking my mom’s money because they simply don’t have a lot of it. Their frugality generates savings at a very slow rate. They do not take advantage of credit cards, they do not invest and they leave pockets of cash hidden all around the house. In the end, one huge pro for taking their $20K check was simply we get to move the money and have it work for us. My parents don’t believe in investing. They’re really old school. There’s probably $30K stuffed into their mattress. I’m not exaggerating. My Chinatown friend’s mom had $60K stuffed into their 15-year-old mattress.


#5 How frequent is this?

When we go out to eat, it’s always Hubby’s parents who treat us and we can’t even get in a bill. Thankfully, we only go out with his parents a few times a year so it’s fine if they are keen on flipping the bill. The problem is if we dined out with them every week since that adds up quick. If it’s a healthy interval with very little strings attached (they just want to spend time with us) I would let them. They’re retired and comfortable so it’s a token of care.


#6 How generous is this?

Birthdays, house buying and weddings are proper chances to be generous. Hub’s parents gave us a check for our honeymoon after they found out we wedded. If they gave us that money for no special occasion and no one won the lottery then I wouldn’t touch that money with a 10 foot pole.


#7 Communicate!

I remember when Hub’s dad gave us the check, the first thing I did was grab it and waved it in his face and said “no no, you have to take it back. We can’t take this.” At the time I was so shocked at the gesture I forgot that it was pretty rude to reject a gift. Usually gifts are coming from a good place, and loved ones can be sensitive about having their generosity rejected. If there’s no big strings attached, just accept their support (and don’t mention later that you didn’t ask for it – that’s a pending fight).

Eh…I haven’t had much success with rejecting gifts as you can see. My mom won’t listen and Hub’s dad found our protest amusing (just feeding the family prankster.) If there are strings attached the best thing is to have an open communication…on the phone if you’re chicken like me. Be direct and ask if there are strings attached – reaffirm it’s a gift.


My Two-Cents 

So I’m starting to understand this now. It’s OK to take money from in-laws for special occasions because you’re a part of the family now. They’re not strangers, they were strangers, now it’s family! Take the gift, be extremely grateful and let yourself be accepted because that was their money and their choice. They want to see you happy.

I need to hint to my parents to give Hubby some red pocket money since it won’t happen on its own. I still think it’s weird but that might be a conditioned reaction from an old school Chinese family. My husband just makes fun of me, “haha, told you my parents like you.”

I can accept that – I don’t fully understand the thinking behind it but I can accept that they’re nice people. Man…you know that took me 2 days of thinking to conclude to that? I hope this post saved you some time.

Someone out there want to give you money and it’s not because of blood but because they’re just nice people who appreciates you as an addition to the family. Woahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.


50 thoughts on “I’m on the Family Payroll Now? (Should You Accept Money From In-Laws?)”

  • If my parents offered me money, I would take it and ask for more. 😂😂😂 maybe it’s just me, but being an adult handling bills all by myself gets overwhelming.

    Pinned this to my board.

  • Happy belated birthday, Lily! I can totally relate to this post (btw, it made me laugh as always because you are FUNNY!!!).

    I personally don’t like taking money from my parents or my in-laws just because I think Mr. FAF and I are old enough to fend for ourselves. Mr, on the other hand, has no problem receiving “gifts” from his parents. Like you, he’s the only child, so everything his parents own will be his (and naturally ours) one day (unless they decide to split it with someone else).

    Our in-laws helped us with the down payment for our house. I wanted to pay them back and asked Mr. FAF what he thought. He said: “They can come into our room and take anything they want.” That made me laugh lol. But we plan to have our parents move in with us when they’re older so that we can take care of them. It’s another way to return the favor. 😀
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…The Costs of Marital Conflict

  • Happy belated birthday! (totally copying Ms. FAF here 😉 )

    I love your candor and honesty with these posts (not to mention they are hilarious!). You bring up really good points in the consideration. I think the “strings attached” question would make me the most concerned. I’m not really in a situation to have to worry about this (our parents are doing fine, but will likely never be contributing significantly to a purchase or gift), but I can see your point and would want to make sure things were clear and expectations set, especially if the gift was bigger.

    Sounds like this situation worked out well, I’m really glad your in-laws sent you the sweet gift and are welcoming you to the family 🙂

    • Thanks Mrs. AR! I had to look up what candor meant hahaha! I think parents and in-laws are best for advice, like when your father said the land on your property is basically worth the house. To me, that’s the best way a parent can safeguard their children. They should punt them in the right direction but don’t fly them there first class.

  • Interesting – I didn’t realize the cultural money-giving differences between China and the US.

    When Mrs. Freaky Frugal and I got married, her parents wanted very little to do with me or us, actually. They eventually came around when we started popping out babies. 🙂

    My parents started treating Mrs. Freaky Frugal as family the moment we were married. They were always very generous very frugal but very generous with us and the rest of my siblings.
    Mr. Freaky Frugal recently posted…The shocking Rule of 25

    • Yup, that sounds just like me and Jared. The moment the family knew we were married, his sister said “yayyy I have a new sister now” and I was so touched (and confused.)

  • I can totally relate because I’m a fellow Asian who also married into a nice, white family. My in-laws are very similar: they send me cards and gifts for my birthday and Christmas. At first, it was super awkward because I was like, “Why are you giving me cash?” His family is ALSO very similar to your in-laws: “Treat yourself to something nice and if you go over, make Mr. NA cover the rest because you’re wonderful and special.”

    I think for them, it’s their way of saying that they miss me and they love having me as part of their family, which is really sweet. We live thousands of miles apart, so I take it as a small gesture on their part that they wish they could see us more, but want me to know that they still think of me.

    Truth be told, I deposit that money into my savings account and then mentally put that money towards something I was planning on buying, if that makes sense. So last year, I bought a nice rain jacket [because I learned the hard way that you do get what you pay for in a torrential downpour that lasts 2 hours] and I mentally put their gifts toward it. Now when I wear it, I smile and think of them.

    Also on the note of red envelopes, my parents say it’s for me and Mr. NA but they give the envelopes to me, haha. I think they’ve accepted that we’re a package deal, but they still feel more comfortable giving the envelope to me.
    Ying-Navigatingadulthood recently posted…5 Reasons Why Some Millennials Can’t Save Money

    • Yessss sister!!! They’re just sweeter than what I thought was even possible. My best friend’s mother-in-laws *hates* her because she’s not Jewish. I had to hear the stories from my friend, eeek. So glad Hubs parents are nice.

      I can relate to the rain jacket too. I wanted to buy SuperDry (the Japanese rain jacket brand) but they’re so expensive and I cheapen out (this was on Black Friday) at Kohl’s. Anyway, it was a total waste of $20 and not returnable because it was Black Friday. Pfftt should have just brought SuperDry.

      • Girl, cannot recommend Eddie Bauer enough. Lifetime guarantee too!! If you can catch one of their 40% off sales, it’s completely worth it [Ebay usually has great ones for a steal too]. I wore the rain jacket for a 3 hour torrential downpour in Hong Kong with a camera underneath and I didn’t even get a teeny bit wet. Totally worth every penny.

  • Since my family has only boys, my mother spends more time and money on my wife. My wife gets free meals, pedicures, clothes, and cash for birthdays and holidays from my parents. She is the daughter they always wanted. Also, my daughter gets more then my two boys from them. I say just go with it and have fun. I get nothing from her parents and expect nothing. It’s not in their blue collar nature. Congratulations, on making the payroll!

  • In-laws are weird… ESPECIALLY my wife’s in-laws (my parents).

    We were still dating and they were sending her cards with money in it. (thinking back i wouldn’t be surprised if it was more than what i was getting).

    To me that’s just who they are and always have been. They are very sharing and loving people. My in-laws on the other hand usually gift me something that was more meant for my wife…
    Makes Xmas very lame for me. It doesn’t bother me, i like to poke fun at that.

    Never even thought about the parallels until now! Ultimately, parents will be parents and there is nothing you are going to do to stop them (ie your mom and that check 😉 )

    ps my parents like to give me cash whenever i visit and i always reject them. when i get home i will usually find that money in my bag.
    Budget On a Stick recently posted…Money Map

    • Hahaha oh good, it’s not just my mom. You would think my mom knew how it felt. Her friend taped $1,000 in cash underneath a flower pot and called my mom from the plane. That’s the ultimate move!

  • Happy belated birthday!!!

    I’m totally in the Jared-parent camp 😛 My parents (and I guess Polish people?) are all about family, blood or no. My bro got married 5 years ago, and my sisil was part of the family a long time before then. There’s no strings attached with anything my parents do / give them – and we spent most of last summer at their house, gutting it and renovating pretty much everything! When they first got married I lent my car to my sisil for about a month; the car she used to use was a ‘family’ car, and she didn’t know how to drive the standard / no power-steering truck we have, so it was a no-brainer for me that she should use my car while they shopped around for a deal. I think she was surprised by it, and my parent’s generosity in general. But it’s family!

    Compare that to a guy I dated for over two years who would spend boatloads of money despite my protests and expect to be hailed a martyr for it… now that was strings-attached money.

    • Thanks Ms. RR! 🙂

      Your family sounds awesome!! Especially your mom 🙂 I think I could take a lesson from this. It’s a huge eye opener because I grew up with a heavy emphasis on blood. Someday, this will make me a better mother in law 😉

  • You got married in secret? How did your parents react?
    I think now that you got money from DH’s parents, the condition is you are to have grandchildren. (kidding, kidding). I thinks it a nice “welcome to the family” confirmation. just make sure you spend the money or feelings may hurt. 😉

    • Hehehe, I have many secrets. My parents…oh snap I don’t even remember…it was on the phone. I’m going to spend the money on fooood!!! 🙂

  • Love this post Lily! Even though I’m not married, I think I’d feel pretty similarly. My boyfriend’s mom said “We love you both” over facetime one time and I reacted really awkwardly and felt confused, like…what did I do to deserve this? Even so, it was really nice! I think that is somewhat of an American thing to show generosity to those who are close to those you love. On the other hand, I really doubt my parents would ever give a gift or express affection towards my SO!
    Jing recently posted…Money Diaries: July Week 2

  • This is actually how I’ve felt about my step father giving me money! He will sometimes insist on slipping me a $20 as I’m leaving the house. At first I was like, “Dude… why are you doing this??” But then I realized that it’s his way of showing he cares about me, since he’s not a really touchy feely kind of guy.

    Anyway, happy birthday! Hope you treat yourself with that in-law money. 🙂

    • Thanks Katy! Thanks for dropping by too! Hiiii! That’s exactly right and yeah I’m totally going to spend it since that’s their wish hehe.

  • Happy Birthday. Hope you have recovered from your quarter life crisis.

    Very interesting to hear about the cultural differences. We are a couple of boring white people so we started getting gifts from each others parents even before we got married. I would never worry about small gifts and what potential implications they might have. A big gift like a down payment on a house would require a little more thought and conversation.
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple recently posted…Cash Budgets Don’t Work

    • What…what quarter…what NOOOOOO. Haha oh nuts I guess I did get one…
      Lol!! You two may be white but none of you are boring! What sort of gifts? That’s so nice!

  • Happy birthday, you oldster! If it’s any consolation, life is still awesome north of half a century. I used to think life was over once you hit 30. Happily, that was just another of my twisted notions that crashed and burned. Anyway, don’t sweat the gifts from your in-laws. As long as those gifts aren’t attached with strings, you and Jared should just enjoy them. We finally got the family to stop exchanging gifts for Christmas and birthdays, but my dad is always picking up the tab for group activities (ballgames, dinner, etc.). My brother, sister, and I talked to my mom about this, but she implored us to let him have his way. Being kind to his family is something that makes him very happy. They sound like fantastic in-laws. Not only are you lucky, you’re part of the family!

    • Thank you Mr. G!!! Would you say life is *better* north of half a century? 😉
      We’ll never be able to stop Hubs dad from picking up the tab either, after two Christmases, I think I’m starting to understand your conclusion 🙂

  • We take money from our parents only if it’s a gift. This is because it’s considered rude if we refuse. The same applies with in-laws. But if we go out to eat we will usually not allow them to pay. We’ve kind of set implied rules and it works out.
    SMM recently posted…Saving in the Summer

  • Being Asian(Filipino) and Mother with Cents also Asian(Chinese) we understand the cultural traditions when it comes to in-laws providing financial rewards. My parents did not give any money gifts to MWC before we got married and her parents were the same way. It changed when we were getting married. Both parents financially contributed a good portion to our wedding and we were more than grateful that they were to do that for us.

  • I love how you worked through this! I went through that phase for a little while to with my in-laws, but then I realized it was part of their love language and just let them do what they want to do. I think you give some great practical advice by clearing the air about the intentions of the gift and whether or not strings come attached!
    I’m in the same camp that if you are trying to offer me money that I didn’t ask for in order to run my life, then I will run like hell to get away from it!
    Steven Goodwin recently posted…May 2017 – $113,412.39 – Net Worth Update (+$13,485.08)

    • Thanks for reading Steven!!! 🙂 We’re in the same boat! I didn’t know I had a flow haha, I was just working through my thought process for two days so I could conclude to something worth ending. When I was writing this I thought…this is a mess – who is going to read this??

  • Your in-laws gave you a gift — no strings. And their suggestion to spend it is their way of trying to impart some wisdom. They probably recognize how thrifty you are and want to urge you to live just a little bit — removing the glue from the $20 bill stuck to your hand and actually giving it to someone for something in return, will not turn into a spendthrift!

    “Strings” apply more to your friend’s situation — more like a noose her mother was keeping around her neck.

    Part of the maturing process is to learn grace — accepting gifts is one of those grace things. Sometimes all you need to do is say thank you. You also might want to think of it in terms of the pleasure it gives your in-laws.
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…What Goody Are You Willing to Give Up?

    • Yes! That string is a total noose (why didn’t I think to just use the word noose…)

      I feel even more touched that Hub’s parents were thoughtful enough to think about me in that light. That’s a lot of forethought and it’s probably the best gift that I’ve ever got now that I think about it. Thanks for your pearls of wisdom Mrs. G!! Life is a huge learning process!

  • My mom is like yours. She sends me a benjamin every year for my birthday, no matter how old I get. I’ve told her so many times not to send cash through the mail and she doesn’t listen!

    She doesn’t celebrate or give gifts to my husband. The way she expresses her affection for us is by cooking amazing food!

    So, I totally think this a cultural thing! Actually, reading your post reminded me a lot of my Taiwanese friend who married into a white/midwestern family. Her MIL bought her a down jacket one time, just because. There is no way in hell my mom would do that. And the MIL has paid for her children’s vacations (that the mom is not even on!). To me, those kinds of things seem out of the ordinary, but I think that’s just how they show affection, etc.
    The Luxe Strategist recently posted…My Weekend Money Diary: Edition #2

    • That’s crazy to me too! I think it’s a cultural thing. I’m fine with gifts and even vacations but…I need a baby on the table that’s got both blood – then OK. Lol! I’m so draconian.

  • My parents give me a red envelope but it’s usually like $10 or $20 for holidays/birthdays. When I got married, my parents also gave one to my wife. Hey when you become a part of the family, they might feel it’s weird NOT to give them a gift as well. And pretty awesome to hear about your frugal wedding!!

  • A check for $20K stuck out =) that’s awesome! I agree with both you. Personally, I wouldn’t overthink the gift. Because cash like any gift, in my mind, is a gift. Not much different than something more traditional like an actual thing instead of money. If there are strings attached, then yeah, that’s a different story.

  • My husband’s parents give me red packets (we are both chinese by heritage), in fact, his grandmother and his aunts too. And not just for chinese new year, but they have a tradition to do it when anybody leaves for a big trip or for birthdays.

    While my parents don’t have that tradition, nor the habit of giving red packets outside of chinese new year. And since we don’t normally get to go home for chinese new year, they don’t give us any red packets retroactively.

    Even within the same culture, it can be quite different! I don’t question that red packets we get. I take it as their acceptance of me as a family member, and that is heart warming in itself.

  • My ILs are dead broke so accepting $ will never be an issue…! Accepting *stuff* though (as gift or borrowed) is something we have done and will do.

    My parents are much more financially secure than we are and infinitely more than the ILs. So they pay if we go out to dinner, I tend to get some cash for each birthday (we aren’t big on Christmas) and they loaned me some money for my down payment. Something I felt very conflicted about as I moved out young and was financially independent from them early. But ultimately, they wanted to do it, and there was benefit to me (being able to buy a place for the long term rather than short).
    NZ Muse recently posted…The dumbest excuses I used to …. not ask for more money

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