To Gift or Gift Card – That is the Question

Another holiday season is winding down.  We are done with the big gift giving day for another year.  The bottom of the Christmas trees still standing look stark and naked with only their skirts showing.  The same skirts were completely hidden a week ago underneath all the presents.  Ah, the presents.  I love seeing a tree surrounded by carefully wrapped (or in my case, creatively wrapped) boxes.  I made a pledge this year due to my thin wallet that I was going to go easy with Christmas presents this year.  That lasted about two weeks after the tree was up.  The tree seemed to call to me, “Please, can I have some presents here to hide my nakedness?”  I gave in and went to town.   That’s small town talk  – it means I went shopping.

Due to personal circumstances, my heart wasn’t into the whole gift-buying process this year.  So, some of my gift choices were picked out at the store.  Usually, I make a list and search for specific items.  This year, I picked a day and did it all as it came to me at the store.  So far, at least two of my gifts had to be returned – one was a wrong size (despite the fact I asked her own mother what size she wears) and one was a girl’s shirt given to a teenage boy (oh, the horror!  But in my defense, it was a pretty cool shirt).

Despite the couple of poor choices, I enjoyed giving actual gifts for presents.  I like listening for clues throughout the year and getting it right with a well-received gift.  It’s a very personal gesture.  For me, it’s the same as saying, “I know you well enough to know you’d appreciate this gift.”  And for somebody to know me that well that I get a thoughtful gift in return makes me happy.  When I receive such a gift, it’s as if the giver said, “I appreciate you enough to give you this gift that I know you’re going to relish.”  The symbiosis of it all is beautiful.

That’s why I love Christmas morning.  It’s like a final exam to see if we have paid attention to each other throughout the year.  It’s not about the stuff.  It’s about the thought that prompted us to get the stuff.  I love watching people open the presents I bought for them more than opening my own presents.

Which is why I don’t appreciate the whole gift card scenario.  If I wanted to go shopping, I’d go shopping for myself.  I have a little collection of gift cards in my drawer that I’ve never gotten around to using, yet.  A gift card is the lazy way of shopping and says, “I really have no idea who you are or what you like so why don’t you pick out a little something for yourself?”  It falls into the same category as candles or bubble bath.  Nice generic gifts that require little thought or effort.  The kind of gifts you give that weird co-worker in the corner cubicle just because you’re giving everyone else something.

That being said, I gave out a few gift cards this year.  A couple of cards were given out because I just wasn’t into shopping this year but I tried to at least pick a store the recipients would appreciate.  And a couple more were given out because I have not been able to get the right gift to these people – ever.  I think one recipient in the latter category probably appreciates the gift card more than any gift I could have picked out.  For her, gift cards work.  They are a meaningful and thoughtful gift because she will get to pick out what she wants.

What’s your pleasure – gift or gift card?

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3 thoughts on “To Gift or Gift Card – That is the Question

  1. If it’s somewhere I like to shop and shop there often, then a gift card is fine. But I do enjoy the excitement of unwrapping a present. However, this year, I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it. I gave Famous Footwear gift cards to the majority of the family this year because its where I’m working at right now. Hopefully, next year, I can be more thoughtful.

  2. Generally, I agree that it’s bet to carefully choose a gift for each recipient. But I do have one person in my life who only likes expensive electronics. So I reserve the right to give him a (much needed) Home Depot gift card once a year. It’s the only one I can be sure he’ll actually like.

  3. So I guess there is a time and place for gift cards. It’s better to give something someone will appreciate – even if it’s only a card – instead of giving new junk.

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