Bianca Knows Best ... And Helps a Broke Christmas Shopper 

Dear Bianca,

My boyfriend's mom apparently thinks I'm made of money. When I asked her what I should buy for her husband (my boyfriend's dad) for Christmas, she suggested a $100 tool that he'd been wanting.

In this crazy economy, I can't afford to spend that much on any one person, not even my own parents. But I didn't have the heart to tell her that I couldn’t afford that. His parents are having money issues right now too, so I said I'd look for the tool. Now, I'm stuck.

Should I scrape my last pennies together and splurge (even if it means the electric bill won't get paid next month)? Or should I just buy something else and explain myself later? I'm really concerned about my boyfriend's parents liking me.

-- Cheap Girlfriend

Dear Cheap Girlfriend,

Forgive the cliche, but money can't buy love. If your boyfriend's parents decide they don't like you based on whatever Christmas present you give, then they're shallow, greedy people who don't deserve your affection.

But I seriously doubt that's the case. If the pseudo in-laws are having financial trouble right now, I'm certain they'd empathize with your situation. You shouldn't have agreed to buy the expensive gift in the first place, and since you did, it's now your responsibility to fix the mistake.

Call his mother and tell her that though you thought you could afford the tool at first (obviously a lie, but sometimes you've got to), after buying gifts for others on your list, you realize it just won’t be possible.

Then buy the man a gift card (for as much as you can afford) to the store that sells said tool. (Just make sure that store isn't going out of business after the holidays.) Hopefully, your boyfriend's dad will be able to use the card toward a purchase of his coveted tool.

Alternately, you could ask your boyfriend to pool his money with yours and maybe the two of you could present his dad with the gift he wants.

But don't sweat it. Even if you couldn't afford to buy his dad anything, I'm sure he'd understand. In the future, be clear about what you can and cannot do when someone asks you favor. Learn to politely say "no."

Need advice? Send problems to Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

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