When I worked in retail, one of the things I heard almost every day of the holiday season was “I don’t know what to get for _____, but I don’t want to just give him/her a gift card,” as though a gift card was the gift equivalent of cat poop on a stick. I love gift cards, and I’m here to tell you why.
1. It’s like getting three gifts in one. I have been known to indulge in a little retail therapy when I am feeling blue, but one of the drawbacks of mood shopping is feeling guilty afterward for spending the money. When someone gives you a gift card, you get to open the initial gift, enjoy some guilt-free shopping and you get whatever you buy with the card – three gifts in one!
2. They work for any age group. Kids actually enjoy getting gift cards because it puts them in control. What kid doesn’t secretly dream of walking into a store and hearing “OK, pick out whatever you want” (within reason, of course)? Not only that, but they get to learn some lessons about the value of a dollar as they try to figure out what item(s) fit into their budget.
3. It’s a great way to help someone who may be having financial difficulties. If you have a friend or family member who is having money troubles, a gift card for somewhere like Wal-Mart of Target is a way to give them a little help without making them feel like they are getting charity. Since these stores sell everything from fun stuff to daily necessities, they can use the card for groceries and toilet paper if they need to. You may not think that milk, eggs and Charmin make a great gift, but when you are broke, being able to get what you need is a wonderful feeling.
4. You can support local businesses. Even if you live out of state, you can still help people shop local. A lot of small businesses don’t have a gift certificate option on their website, but if you call them they will be more than happy to work something out. My dad wanted to get me something from my favorite glass shop, but they don’t do gift cards. I asked the owner and she told me to have my dad call her, he’ll pay over the phone and she’ll send me the gift certificate. Apparently they do it all the time.
The biggest complaint about giving a gift card is that it’s “not personal.” Well, neither is something you grabbed in desperation at the last minute because you couldn’t think of anything else. If you want to make it more personal, put some thought into the presentation. Got a coffee lover on your list? Try a new travel mug with a Starbucks card inside. Busy parents? Go for a restaurant gift card and a home-made coupon for babysitting services. Teenagers? I suggest an iTunes card and a some funky earbuds (those things get lost more often than socks, a new pair always comes in handy). When in doubt, Amazon is always a winner. They have everything and who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail?