The Gift Card Debate

image of gift cards from www.clarkhoward.com
image of gift cards from www.clarkhoward.com

The Holidays are here, and with them comes that annual debate: Is it really appropriate to give gift cards as gifts? After all, isn’t the whole point of giving a gift the thought that goes into it? How much thought really goes into grabbing a piece of plastic at the checkout lane? These days you don’t even have to make the effort of going to a specific store to buy a gift card. My local Kroger has an entire end cap devoted solely to gift cards. You can find everything from retailers to restaurants to online stores. Some of the gift cards available are for chains that don’t even have locations in my state; You know, just in case you’re buying for someone in another state.

The truth of the matter? I love gift cards!

Okay, okay, as a giver I usually feel bad about giving a gift card. Mainly for all of the reasons listed above. After all, it feels so last-minute. Like I couldn’t be bothered to think of a better gift. Like I didn’t know the person well enough to know what they would like.

As a receiver, I LOVE them! First off, I’m hard to shop for. I have a terrible time buying for myself; I can’t possibly expect my loved ones to figure it out! But I don’t see buying a gift card as a cop-out. Just knowing where to buy a gift card for me shows a lot of thought on the other person’s part. Bath and Body Works? Um, no. Not with my sensitive, allergic skin! Buy me a gift card from a hardware store though, and I’m totally in love!

Second, a gift card is permission to buy something that is completely a want. After all, it’s a gift! Sure, I try to make smart decisions with what I buy. After all, I don’t need a bunch of extra “stuff” cluttering up my tiny little house. But if it’s a gift, I don’t feel like it needs to be purely a necessity. I’m not going to use my hardware store gift card on a furnace filter, or light bulbs. But I’ll probably splurge on a cute plant I’ve been eyeballing. Or maybe supplies for a fun and creative project I’ve been thinking about doing.

Sometimes, yes, gift cards become an excuse not to put the time and effort into selecting an appropriate gift. But still, I don’t think they always have to be a bad thing. Every year I get my Grandma a gift card to the grocery store, usually along with another small gift. Like most elderly people, Grandma is on a budget. But, I’m not buying the gift card so she can purchase needs. After all, she has children who help make sure all of her basic needs are being met. I buy the gift card because she’s told me that she likes feeling free to get whatever special treats she wants. After all, it’s a gift. Shrimp cocktail for dinner? Check. Chocolate cake for lunch? Double check.

I think there’s always going to be the great gift card divide. But gift cards aren’t always just an easy way out on gift giving. So long as you know your recipient, I think a gift card can definitely be an appropriate and appreciated gift.

What do you think? Do you give gift cards? Or do you think it’s a cop-out gift?

– Cindy W.

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