Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Family Swimming in Baby Gifts Should Invest in Child's Future

DEAR ABBY: I would like to offer a suggestion to "Tired Mom in the City" (Jan. 17), whose baby's eight grandparents have overloaded the family with unneeded and redundant gifts. That mother should harness the generosity of those loving grandparents.

"Tired Mom" and her husband should set up a 529 college savings plan for their baby girl if they haven't already done so. It's a wonderful program that helps parents, family members and friends to save toward a child's college education. Those loving and obviously generous grandparents can contribute to the fund.

By contributing to their granddaughter's 529 fund, the grandparents will be giving a lifelong gift rather than an item that will be discarded or outgrown. They will be providing a college education for the child, and the parents will not be burdened by huge loans. -- MOM OF TWO IN ROCHESTER, N.Y.

DEAR MOM OF TWO: Thank you for an excellent suggestion. Readers who are interested in setting up a 529 plan should consult their financial adviser or bank officer. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I had the same problem with four sets of grandparents. We handled the duplication of gifts by having the grandparents keep them in THEIR homes so when it was their turn to baby-sit, or we visited them, they would have all the necessities at hand. "Tired Mom" might consider suggesting something similar. -- L.M. IN GREENWOOD, MO.

DEAR ABBY: My children received many gifts, but what they remember the most is the time they spent with their grandparents. Having a book read to them, visiting the aquarium, being pushed in a stroller for a walk around town and hearing the birds and smelling the flowers -- even the loving greeting one grandmother gave my little girls at the door when they visited -- these, not material things, were the "gifts" that counted the most. -- NO LONGER A TIRED MOM

DEAR ABBY: I set up an education account for each of my nine grandchildren. There is no better gift than a solid education that will enable my grandchildren to provide for themselves when they are grown.

My grandfather gave me stock when I was a child. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but the dividends from that stock paid for summer camp, college tuition and, eventually, a down payment on a house. What better way to establish your grandchildren and help them to achieve a better life? -- NANA OF NINE IN KENTUCKY

DEAR ABBY: My grandparents were generous, too. What they lavished me with was time and attention. At Christmas and on birthdays, I received a small gift. But the really great gift -- which I didn't totally understand when I was young -- was a savings bond in my name. Those bonds added up over the years and helped to fund my college education.

I am 46 now. I remember how much they loved me and how concerned they were about my future. I still have some of the bonds my grandparents gave me tucked away for a rainy day. My husband and I are now continuing the tradition with our granddaughters. -- KELLY IN DECATUR, ILL.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)