Cash Only, Please
posted by: Mile High Mamas
I have a love/hate relationship with gift cards. When they first came out in the mid-1990’s, I thought they were the definitive answer to the weary and beleaguered, last-minute shopper’s prayers; an easy way to give a gift, in lieu of cash and still look semi-thoughtful. And, of course, to receive one was a ticket to treat yourself to something you otherwise might not.
I’ll never forget getting a $100 gift card to BeBe as a Christmas gift from my boss when I was still in my twenties. This would be no ordinary shopping trip for me. It was the first time I had ever shopped at a store without sales racks in the back and nothing that cost
less than $20. There was no choice but to splurge. I bought a simple, black, cocktail dress that ate up all $100 and was the most divine item of clothing I ever owned.
Giving and receiving plastic has long since lost its’ luster for me.
Now the top holiday gift, we can all expect to get at least one piece of plastic this Christmas that we will never use except to maybe re-gift the following year. I have gift cards in my wallet, my desk drawer, the car and everywhere else except on my person when I finally pass that one store I would never make a special trip to and realize, “now would’ve been a good time to have brought that with me.”
Before I know it, years have passed, we’ve moved across three states and I still have gift cards for stores, restaurants or services I can no longer find. Oh, well. They’ve probably expired anyway.
You know one thing that never expires? CASH. It’s accepted everywhere and you never have to read the fine print. However, sticking a 20-dollar-bill in a Christmas card now seems like a tactless afterthought when you could’ve just as easily picked up any one of dozens of slick gift cards from the display rack at the convenience store or supermarket where you bought the greeting card. You could even buy it its’ own special box so the recipient thinks they’re getting a real gift, instead of just cash dressed up as a flashy, colorful piece of plastic.
If you purchase a gift card at Target this year, the card actually looks like a real gift, too. There’s the peel-and-stick GiftSticker, GiftCoins, a sled-shaped GiftCard with a wind-up pup and even a remote-control GiftCard with a racing mouse toy. Since 1999, Target has led the way in innovative ways to re-package cold, hard cash.
Despite everything I just said, I will likely be giving a gift card this year to at least one difficult-to-buy-for person, and thus, giving in to the plastic. I’m fully aware of what I’m doing. Instead of saying “I gave absolutely no thought to your gift. Here’s twenty bucks,” I’ll be saying, “I thought about your gift and couldn’t come up with anything, so here’s twenty bucks to a store I think you may like, but, really have no clue, however, the card has a picture of flowers on it, and I know you like flowers, so I still get points for being attentive and for making an effort, even though I didn’t actually buy you a gift.”
So, when it comes to gift cards, which is better: to give or to receive?
Guest blogger Chris is a directionally-challenged pilot’s wife in Aurora, CO, navigating motherhood and marriage as a SAHM turned unintended WAHM. She prefers snowboarding in powder, margaritas on the rocks and friends with grit.