Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Do you struggle picking out gifts? Particularly for people you don’t know very well, like your children’s friends or Secret Santas?
“It’s the thought that counts” my mother always told me. “Think about what would suit the person, and spend some time picking out a suitable gift.” Gift cards were the last resort of someone who couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort or thought.
At the same time, this is the same woman who presented me with a Chia Pet and a VHS tape of country line dancing (“because that’s what all the kids are doing”) during my blue-haired college punk phase.
So maybe the thought counts, but I am beginning to believe that the thought is best left to the receiver.
After struggling with this for several years, I have decided it is time to simplify gift-giving.
Simplifying The Gift
It finally dawned on me that many times I want to give a gift, but don’t know exactly what to get. Maybe the recipient really loves video games, but I don’t know which ones they have or want. Perhaps the person really loves scrapbooking, but I have no clue what would be good to get. Other times I’m not sure of a recipient’s size for clothing. In the end I decided to let the recipient choose.
- Store Gift Cards. Most chain stores offer gift cards for their products. These can be purchased at the stores, on the internet, and in many cases, in places like your neighborhood pharmacy or gas station. I use these mainly for gifts for children.
- Pre-paid Credit Cards. If you don’t want to limit the recipient, you can give a pre-paid credit card. We do this for teachers at the end of the year so that they can choose where to spend the money.
- Gift Certificates. Most local businesses we frequent offer gift certificates. These businesses generally don’t have websites where you can purchase certificates, but allow you to patronize a local business. I use these for my in-town friends and my hubby.
- Checks. I encourage my niece and nephews to let me know if they are saving for something fun, and I will send them a check to help with the purchase. My nephew recently bought an iPod Touch with money from two birthdays and Christmas.
Tips for Gift Card Giving
- Make sure you match the interest. Nothing is worse than getting a gift card for something you really don’t want. Don’t give an Amazon gift certificate to someone who doesn’t use the site, for example.
- Make sure it can be redeemed locally. Just because someone tells you there is a store in the recipient’s area, check it out. My daughter received a gift card for a store that was 45 minutes away, and it was very difficult to redeem.
- Consider online certificates if you don’t have a local store. If you know your recipient really loves a store, but there isn’t one near you, check out their online offerings. My mother-in-law sent a gift certificate for a local art store that my husband loved, even though there were no stores close to her.
- Watch the “pay to”. If you write a check for a child, make it out to the parent “OR” the child. That way the parent can deposit the check for a small child who cannot yet write, and avoid any questions at the bank.
- Watch expiration dates. Some gift cards have expiration dates. I like to let the recipient know at the time if it must be used within a certain time frame. This is particularly true with pre-paid credit cards.
- Consider a small wrapped present in addition. For small children, the idea of getting a piece of plastic to pick something out doesn’t always register. A small toy or coloring book to unwrap at the same time is always welcome.
Is It Lazy?
Some people would say that this is lazy and there is no thought behind it. I disagree. By matching the card to the interests of the person, you are putting the thought into the gift. And by sparing the recipient the need to return an item, I would argue that you’re being efficient. A gift shouldn’t be a burden to the receiver.
What do you think? Do you have favorite ways to simplify gift giving? Share below.
Photo by Ken’s Oven