Lifestyle The Frugal Handbook

TFH #29: The Gift Card Conundrum

December is quickly coming to an end, which means Christmas, the season of gifting is upon us.

Today, I want to talk about the gift card conundrum – gifting and/or receiving a gift card (or vouchers) for Christmas.

People often have differing views about this.

To some, a gift card is a perfect gift.

For the gifter (ie the Santa), it takes away the stress of thinking long and hard about what would be a good gift for the giftee (ie the Santee).

You also don’t have to worry that your gift will go to waste because you’re essentially giving them one of the most flexible gifts (other than hard cash) – they’re free to spend the gift card on whatever it is they want from the store.

For the Santee, you don’t have to crunch your brain thinking of what would be a good gift to ask for that is within the budget of the gift exchange.

If there’s nothing you have in mind that you want as a present, receiving a gift card means you can simply spend it at a later date once you’ve thought of something that you need or want.

It’s also possible that the things you might really want are a bit pricey, which makes them less appropriate to ask for in a gift exchange.

Asking for a gift card can be a way for your Santa to meaningfully contribute to you getting what you want by helping to offset some of the cost as their gift to you.

However, it is also for these exact reasons that a gift card may seem like a bad or thoughtless gift to others.

It’s much easier to buy a gift card and call it a day as compared to taking the time to think about what would be a gift that the Santee would like and appreciate and then actually buy the gift.

In addition, since a gift card is something that people usually don’t keep after using up its value, it takes away from the sentimental value that the Santee could have gained from a non-monetary gift.

So for those who find joy in the process of gifting, be it giving or receiving them, a gift card is probably not the preferred choice of gift.

Personally, I think gift cards are a fine gift to give or receive for Christmas.

If my Santee asks for a gift card, I’ll assume that there’s nothing else they really want to receive for Christmas and wouldn’t want my gift to go to waste by asking for something they don’t really want or need.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a minimalist – rarely do I actively seek for material things to buy for myself, though I occasionally do so when there are good deals or if I really want and/or need something.

This year, I struggled to come up with wish lists for my planned Secret Santa gift exchanges.

There weren’t many things that I really wanted, and the few things that I do want aren’t within the budget of the gift exchanges.

So, I put down gift cards in my wish list with the intention of using it to help with my purchase of the things that I want to buy in the future.

But since these gift exchanges are with my family and close friends, I also didn’t want to take away the joy of gifting an actual present from my Santa because I know it could be a meaningful process for them.

Eventually, I managed to think of other things to include in my wish list.

Having been in that position myself, I understand why some people would want to receive gift cards instead of other things.

But I also acknowledge that some people value the process of gifting and would much prefer an actual gift to gift cards.

If you intend to gift a gift card as a Santa or ask for a gift card as a Santee, I think a good way to do it is with a blended approach.

Instead of only giving a gift card or only asking for a gift card, throw in another casual or simple item as well.

As a Santa, this shows that you at least put in some time and effort to get a small gift, and you back it up with something else that will definitely be useful.

As a Santee, you still allow your Santa to go through the process of looking for your gift and buying it for you.

And if the item you asked for is reasonably below the allocated budget, they might be inclined to throw in the gift card you asked for as well.

This way, it’s a win-win for everyone.

What are your thoughts on giving or receiving gift cards for Christmas?

Let me know in the comments below!

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