By Andrew Smith
Exchanging gifts with friends and loved ones is a custom of holiday gatherings. Everyone sits around excitedly and waits for the next present to be opened. Your brother received new sneakers, your mother a new purse–and you got a gift card. Was your relative lazy and lacking creativity and thoughtfulness when finding a gift for you, or was a gift card a perfect selection?
Gift cards are no longer considered a last-minute gift. On the contrary, they can be quite thoughtful when done correctly. Senior political science major Liam McCluney expressed the importance of putting thought behind the gift card to prevent it from being seen as a boring, last-minute, impersonal gift.
“I think gift cards are fine as gifts for the holidays if they are for a store or brand that the person receiving them is interested in,” McCluney said. “That way, it’s kind of personal. I have received gift cards to my favorite stores like Vineyard Vines and NFL Shop, which are always nice and thoughtful.”
Sophomore Sarah Klein agreed because sometimes it is difficult to distinguish precisely what you may want.
“Personally, I love receiving gift cards,” she said. “Sometimes, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what you want to ask for as a gift or what you want to give to someone as a gift.”
The psychology major also expressed how receiving a gift card to a favorite restaurant or store is wonderful and can surprise her during the holidays.
Another reason gift cards are becoming more common is the ease of finding a thoughtful gift that the individual could enjoy. The holidays are a crazy time and finding the perfect gift for someone is difficult, especially if it is a distant family member. With our busy schedules, how easy is it to contact our aunt and ask her what clothes she would like or what new accessory she wants for her car? Gift cards can be a great alternative when you cannot find the exact gift a loved one would want but still want to include an element of surprise. When giving them, you are allowing your loved one to have the power to practically pick out their own gift. As a result, you know that they will be satisfied with their purchase and that you have given them something they will enjoy.
McCluney shared a similar sentiment, as it can be pretty challenging to find a gift that a relative would enjoy and would also suit them.
“I think it does make shopping for the non-immediate family easy just because you don’t have to worry about things like sizes and colors, and as long as you tailor the gift card to their interest, it’s not lazy at all,” he said.
Charlie Casolaro, a junior political science major, also thinks that “gift cards do increase the ease of shopping for presents, as it can allow the person to buy something that they would like, which can take some pressure off you.”
When done correctly, a gift card can be a thoughtful way of acknowledging that you pay attention to their interests and want them to purchase something they will enjoy. That’s why, compared to simply giving cash, a gift card to a specific store someone likes can say as much as an item from there.
Another creative alternative can be a gift card to an experience. Examples of this can be to a salon or even a spa treatment. This can be a great way to give a loved one a unique experience that they might not have even thought of doing.
While a gift card can be an excellent option for a non-immediate family member, it’s probably better to stay away from this when planning out your shopping list for your immediate family. Knowing your close family very well, you have more leeway to find a physical gift that they will use and find thoughtful.
“I usually get something that I know they are interested in,” Klein said, “like a purse for my mom or a mug for my dad since he loves coffee.”
McCluney said: “I’ve given gifts that weren’t gift cards, but they have always been stuff for my immediate family that I know they’re interested in.”
A very important side note is wrapping the gift card in a box or special package. Do not simply put the gift card in an envelope. Presentation is key and makes the recipient feel special when opening the gift.
Gift cards have become a popular alternative during the holiday season, and rightfully so. When purchasing a gift card, you can tailor it to an individual by giving them credit to their favorite local restaurant or store. You do not know what to give them at the moment directly, so instead, you are allowing them to be in the driver’s seat. However, try to be creative when finding gifts for your immediate family. Don’t panic if all you have for your second cousin this holiday season is a gift card, as it may just be the perfect gift.