Ever notice how when celebrities strike it rich, they often talk about buying something for their mother or another family member? The gift of choice seems to be a great big house. But it could be something different.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade bought his mom not just a house, but an entire church in Chicago. Explaining his decision, Wade “told the Associated Press”:http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/24698254//: “It’s the dream of every man, every boy, to be able to give their mother everything they want. So that was my dream and this is her dream.”

Then there’s entertainment mogul P. Diddy, who this year purchased a $360,000 Maybach for his son’s 16th birthday.

Despite these extraordinary presents, homes remain the favored gift when people start living large. Even Internet celebs, one-hit wonders and overnight sensations — like Antoine Dodson of YouTube/”Bed Intruder” fame — want to get that “big house” for momma.

While such generosity is admirable on many levels, it’s also often financially foolish.


High rollers frequently think they’re giving their parents and others a slice of the good life. In reality, they’re giving what I call “the gift of debt.” That’s when someone “gives” a family member or friend something that winds up costing the recipient (or the gift-giver) way more money than either party ever imagined.

For instance, a house that’s a “gift” not only has to be furnished, it also comes with annual property taxes, insurance, maintenance expenses and often a mortgage as well. A luxury car given as a “present” nevertheless requires gas, tires, ongoing upkeep, car insurance, and quite possibly car payments too.

That’s why all gifts like homes, cars, etc. are “gifts of debt” because they require ongoing costs, additional expenses or upkeep that most recipients simply can’t pay on their own.

You might not be a “baller” with deep pockets. But with Black Friday approaching, and the holiday shopping season already in full swing, you may be tempted to do some serious spending of your own.

“But if you give someone an extravagant gift, and you put them in a position where maintaining that gift doesn’t fit their budget, then you’re really not helping them,” says Stacey Tisdale, author of The True Cost of Happiness: The Real Story Behind Managing Your Money and the creator of Winning Plays, a life skills and financial literacy program for teens.
Re-Thinking Your Black Friday and the Holiday Shopping Gift List

Tisdale says that that many of our financial behaviors — especially those surrounding gift-giving – are tied to ideas about money that we learned in childhood.

“For some people — especially athletes — the message they’ve been told by family and friends since childhood is ‘We helped you make it, and when you make it big, you owe us,’” says Tisdale.

“That’s why a lot of these athletes end up broke,” she adds, explaining that pro athletes often feel financially responsible for relatives and those around them.

We can all learn a lesson here, because this issue isn’t just limited to athletes, actors or entertainers.

Average Americans gift the gift of debt all the time, and wind up putting themselves — or their family members — in a financial pinch down the road.

Maybe you won’t be buying anyone a house or car, but what about any of these “gifts”:

X-Box, Wii, Nintendo or any video game console (all these require someone to keep buying games that can easily run $50 each)

Computers (hidden costs can run in the hundreds of dollars, including monthly Internet access, software, printers, or ink cartridges)

Sports Lessons (most sports require equipment, gear or athletic clothing)

Membership or Subscriptions (after your free year ends, an annual fee kicks in)

These are just a few examples of gifts that will later require ongoing expenses.

The Difference Between You and MC Hammer

Some celebrities who used to rake in big bucks – think MC Hammer – have been very candid in sharing how they got into economic difficulty by supporting entourages and giving lavishly to family and friends.

But what separates your situation from MC Hammer’s?

The first and obvious distinction is that celebrities have far bigger bank accounts and can therefore purchase more extravagant items. Additionally, when you go through a rough spell economically, you likely have the benefit of keeping your business private. Not so for those in the limelight.

When celebrities and their families experience the financial fallout from over-the-top gift giving, their economic issues are high profile and public.

Witness Bow Wow and his mother/manager Theresa Caldwell. The gift-giving goes both ways in their family.

When Caldwell bought her son a $300,000 Rolls Royce, he turned it in (purportedly for a different ride). And when Bow Wow’s fame helped lead to his mom acquiring a clothing store in Georgia, that same store wound up being seized by the state this past summer for non-payment of taxes.

All of this brings to mind that old saying: “It’s better to give than receive.”

But if you asked me, I’d say it’s better to give a gift that’s not the gift of debt.