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Giving Gift Certificates & Cash

Updated on February 6, 2009

Times are tough. Why waste money or time on a gift someone doesn't really want, need, or like?

It's hard to pick out the right game for the PS2 or the whatever new XBOX ... whatever... You run the risk of choosing a duplicate, or one mom had said no to.

I run an annual charity flea market fundraiser for my local humane society. I can not even tell you how many mom's bring me garbage bags of unopened unused unwanted gifts that their kids received that year. Literally, garbage bags of clothes and toys that weren't wanted.

I remember my cousin's surpise 30th birthday party. I recall her opening her gifts, and I also recall her bitchy friend making nasty comments when she opened the two gift cards she'd received. One was from me. Bitch-friend called the gift cards thoughtless. (I guarantee she is one of those people buying those things stuffed in garbage bags that get donated to my flea market.)

I'm the first to admit - I didn't know her size, or what she was eating at the time. I didn't know her favorite colors, or what her life was like now as a single mom with two small children. I didn't know what she had, what she lost in the divorce, what she really needed, or what she would just enjoy.

She hadn't lost her baby weight and she received some gifts of clothing that were all too small. I know it made her feel self consious, and sad about herself. She recieved Godiva chocolates from the bitchy friend; not exactly something a woman dieting wants to get. She recieved CD's and DVD's she already had. She got a gift basket of pastas. Again, not something that was on her diet. Someone knitted her a purple hat. She doesn't wear hats. And she hates purple. She got a lovely set of wine glasses. She drinks wine sometimes, but she already had probably 2 dozen wine stems in her china closet. Someone gave her a set of sheets. Queen sized. Her bed is a full. 2 different people got her cloth placemats with matching cloth napkins and napkin rings. She's never used either set. She also got a whole bunch of Scrapbooking stuff. She doesn't Scrapbook.

Don't get me wrong. She wasn't ungrateful. She smiled and thanked everyone sincerely. She put all the clothes she couldn't wear and the food she couldn't eat and things she'd never use into the back of her car. And drove off.

The next day she called me from a salon, where she was having a pedicure with my American Express Dollar Card, to thank me. It was the first professional pedicure she had ever had in her life. It was just something she really wanted to try. And she loved it.

About a week later, we went shopping together. She looked at a handbag she liked. The one she was carrying was pretty worn. She put the bag back because she couldn't afford it. It was $40. She laughed and told me her ex had taken all their salt and pepper shakers. She said it was stupid, but she actually really needed a salt and pepper set. If she had a few extra bucks next paycheck, that was what she'd get. And that she'd like pink ones. He hated pink, she could never get anything pink. And, she liked Fiestaware. Those pink Fiestware SNP's looked really cool, she said.

I thought of all the gifts she had gotten the week prior that she'd never eat or wear or use, and how a gift card for $20 to JC Penney, and a $40 mall dollars voucher would have just made her day.

Gift Certificates are really a very good and practical way to go. You just have to follow a couple of tips:

1 - Don't pick-up a GC to a store or restaurant you like; get the person a GC to a place they like. Online shops like or are a great idea for far away friends. Mall Bucks or credit card GC's can be used in lots of places and offer lots of options.

2 - Don't just hand them a GC, or a card with a GC stuck inside. Put it in a little thoughtful gift. Stick it in a new wallet or change purse. Put it in a little organza draw string bag with a Christmas coat pin. Put it in a book they'd like, or tie it to a bottle of wine. Pin it to a teddy bear, or slip it inside of a pretty little Pier 1 bamboo basket. If it's a GC to Starbucks, put it in a Starbucks travel mug.If it's a GC for gas, put it with some car air fresheners. 

I remember year after year my grandparents sending me cash for my birthday. They were on a fixed income and didn't have money to throw away. They'd rather I got something I needed. I'd shop for something special with their gift money, take a photo or draw a picture of my treasure, and send them a long thank you letter all about the shopping trip and the gift I chose. It was special. It always made me feel responsible and grown-up.

I knew my coworker would love a gift card to eat out. She often said she just couldn't budget for her and her husband to dine out, and how she missed that. I wanted to get her a gift card to a restaurant. Vaguely aware of her high cholesterol and is being a vegan, I really had no idea where they could go. Instead of wasting the gesture, I gave them an American Express gift card, so they could go anyplace they chose to. I put the card in a clean white chinese take out food carton, and cut out little pictures of meals from ads in magazines. TGIF, Hoolihans, Macaroni Grill, Burger King... She thought it was fun and delightful.  

Money and gift cards are not cold or thoughtless gestures. They're often the most fiscally responsible and kindest gifts you can give. If you don't know what to get someone, don't know the size or the model or the color they would use, then just let them pick it out for themselves. Seriously, what is the harm in that?



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All text is original content by Veronica.


All photos are used with permission.


All videos are used courtesy of Youtube.






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  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 10 years ago

    Great Hub Veronica!! I agree!! Gift cards are often the most appreciated!! FYI: make sure to enclose the actual receipt showing the amount that "should" be on the gift card!! (It can be discreetly sealed in a little envelope taped to the card!!) A while back there was a lot of hub-bub about gift cards having "discounted" amounts on them!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

  • profile image

    Chan 10 years ago

    I love to get a gift certificate to a place I go to like Starbucks. It totally shows that the person pays attention to me but still doesn't assume to know me so well that they pick out my coffee for me.

    I felt so bad for your cousin. Goodluck to her

  • Goodwitch profile image

    Goodwitch 10 years ago

    On all of my gift "wish" lists (birthday, Xmas), I add the stores I want GC's to. And you're right - online stores are great! Amazon sells just about anything a person could want!

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 10 years ago from NY

    Me too. Nords, Pier 1, Pottery Barn...

    Hell, even Shoprite.

  • Isabella Snow profile image

    Isabella Snow 10 years ago

    I luuurve getting gift certificates! Sephora, Vickies Secret, etc. Love 'em!