That's sad. I know it doesn't make it any better, but I think a lot of families do that today too. But it's not just a phenomenon of the working class- I've seen a lot of very middle class families who spend way beyond their means to buy their children gifts and I think it is quite sad because the children know. I have a girlfriend who constantly is buying my daughter little gifts for whenever she visits- mainly outfits- which are quite expensive. I know she has a lot of credit card debt (probably around $15,000) from when her job was cut to part time and she was going to school full time. I've said over and over "you don't have to bring her things! I love your style but she has enough" but she keeps buying these things. Part of the reason she is always doing this is because she knows I have no close family and her own sister has cut off communication with her. (Her sister is pretty selfish/ manipulative and has a baby who is a month older than mine.) So I am sure some of this is transferring her own needs to give a gift to her niece and be close to her sister. I'm not sure at what point to do something. I'd prefer she put that $20 towards her debt and NOT buy a gift, but I'm not sure how to bring it up without hurting her feelings. We often go out to lunch when she drops in to visit (she lives three hours away and drops in for lunch on her drive out to her family in a city an hour further) and I try to never let her pay or treat. Still, sometimes, she wants to treat me or go dutch. I feel really bad when she does.