Ahhh, gift cards. The gift we all love to hate. Sure, they’re convenient (for the giver) and they seem (again, to the giver) like they’re more thoughtful than cash, but they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always thankful when I receive a gift, and I do recognize the ease of grabbing a gift card when I need to buy a gift on short order, but I still have mixed feelings when it comes to gift cards.
Over the weekend, our (now) ten year old son had a birthday party, and he made out like a bandit. He got a number of great gifts, as well as some cash and several gift cards. He was thrilled, but those gift cards often cause headaches.
They frequently require an extra trip to a store we rarely visit, and they often require a bit of extra spending to spend them out in a single visit. And don’t forget about the risk of losing them while hauling them around waiting for a chance to spend them.
To combat these problems, we’ve developed a system for helping our kids make the most of any gift cards they receive. For cards from mainstream retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, or Amazon, we usually make them a deal… They give us the card, which we’ll use while going about our daily business, and we give them cash.
In this way, the cards get used in a timely fashion, the risk of loss is reduced, and our kids get flexibility to make use of the gift however they want. Sure, one could argue that we’re subverting the giver’s wishes, but I’m more interested in making sure that the gift gets used.
Of course, this doesn’t really apply to cards from places like GameStop, where we rarely shop on our own. But when it comes to places we shop on a regular basis, this works out quite well.
Oh, and for the record, if we don’t have time to shop for a proper gift when our kids are invited to a birthday party, we’ll often secure a bunch of dollar coins inside the birthday card rather than giving a gift card. This is a much more flexible gift, and it’s unique enough that it makes an impression on the recipient.