Frugal IdeasJobs & Money

Gift Certificates or No Gift Certificates?

Do you like giving gift certificates as gifts?

What about receiving them? Do you mind receiving them as gifts?

So many people poo-poo the idea of gift certificates as gifts, but I say how much more PRACTICAL can you get?!?!

I think gift certificates are THE best kind of gift in the following situations:

  • When you’re not sure what the person would like. Period.
  • When you know what they’d like, but you don’t feel comfortable picking out the right size, or color, or style of that particular item.
  • To avoid getting them something they already have.
  • For the person who has EVERYTHING! … let them pick out something else they can use. It’s too hard for you to guess what they don’t already have.
  • For the person who has NOTHING (or never buys for themselves, just or others) …it obliges them to buy something for themselves from a reputable store.

Everyone Can Use Gift Certificates!

Why buy “junk” or “a trinket” or some other “really cute thing” that they’ll just add to their collection of STUFF that will sit around clogging up their house …and their lives?

Worse than that, why buy something they might not even like, but will be too afraid to admit that to you, so the item will sit around, unused, until they get up the nerve to sell it in a yard sale, or donate it to Goodwill? (Then, you’ll have wished that you’d bought a gift certificate instead!)

While it may seem a little more impersonal at the actual moment that the person unwraps your gift and finds a thin piece of plastic inside (…or, from online mega stores like Amazon, all you get is the paper print-out that you physically print from your computer — unless you wish to e-mail them a more “colorful” version of the same thing instead).

But, in the end, it spends the same as any other cash you would’ve dished out for the same or similar items. And you KNOW they will like whatever it is that they pick out for themselves!

Besides, it’s not about “impressing” someone with your packaging. Right? It’s not about whose gift is the “biggest”. Right? It’s not about whose gift has the most “bells and whistles”. Right?

Rght!… Gift-giving is about giving a present just because you want to. Not because you have to. Not because you’re competing with other people who might also be giving them gifts. And not because your gift has to out-shine all other gifts given to them this year.

Next: How to select the right dollar amount.

For How Much? And Where To Get It?

Gift certificates make great gifts! First and foremost, don’t overdo it!

Don’t feel that you have to spend more on gift certificates than you would on actual gifts — because it doesn’t seem like they’re getting much at the moment of unwrapping.

Just remember: Gift certificates are tons of fun to “spend”! When you’ve got a gift certificate in hand, it’s incredibly exciting to think of all the possibilities… all the options you have for redeeming it. You’re like a kid in a candy store where every single item in that store is on sale.

(…now the REAL question is: WHERE should you buy the gift certificate from?! Thanks to the Internet, several options are right at your fingertips… Here are some for starters.)

UPDATE November, 2007: According to a report I saw on CBS Moneywatch, 27% of last year’s gift cards have not been used.