Gift cards can save your life. How? You may ask. Well, there are now officially 10 days until Christmas. Are you done with your holiday shopping? I am not. In fact, I have not even started. And every day that Christmas creeps close is another day that I don’t want to go into the malls and fight over the picked-over displays of rejected items. Even though I may be a very bad procrastinator when it comes to gift-giving, I still want to give something that is of value and interest to my friends and family. The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is “Gift Card.”
I know, I know, many people think gift cards or gift certificates are impersonal. Others say, why not just give cash? But personally, I love receiving and giving gift cards. It’s an enforced way of spending on yourself (you can always save cash, and although you can also sell gift cards online, I’d imagine most people are more inclined to spend it instead). So here are my 3 easy tips for giving meaningful, personalized gift cards that will be used, enjoyed, and appreciated.
1. Get a gift card at a place the recipient likes to eat, shop, or visit. Might seem obvious, but don’t get your friend a gift card to Outback Steakhouse if he is a vegetarian. If your sister loves arts and crafts, a gift card to Michael’s is a great gift. If a friend loves to go to the Cheesecake Factory, a gift card will go a long way in satisfying his penchant for sweets. Book lovers will love a gift card to Barnes & Noble. Spa lovers will love gift certificates to a local spa. Disney lovers will love anything Disney (gift cards especially!). If a friend likes movies, electronics, games, etc., it’s hard to go wrong with Best Buy. If you can’t decide, go for high-impact gift cards that most people will use: places like Target or Amazon, etc.
2. Give an amount where the recipient can get something without spending too much (if any) of his/her own money. In other words, adjust your gift card amount to the retailer’s prices. A $10 gift card to Starbucks, for example, makes perfect sense. A $10 gift card to Neiman Marcus will get bubkus unless the recipient is willing to put in at least $40 more of her own dough. My rule for restaurants is that the amount I give should equal a really big spread for one person or a reasonable meal for two. For example, one of my friends love The Counter (a place where you can customize your own burgers). The burgers there usually go for $9, plus $5 for fries and $6 for milkshakes. I got her a $25 gift card because that should just about cover a meal for two if they have two burgers and share a fries. I would not get her a $25 gift card to Spago in Beverly Hills because that will get them 1/2 an appetizer.
The only place where I’d make an exception would be if you know the person wants something that’s really outside of your price range – for example, an iPad 2. In this case, anything towards that purchase would be fine. A $25 Apple or Best Buy gift card will get your recipient one step closer to the tablet of her dreams.
3. Personalize the gift wrapping / covering, and write a heartfelt message. What’s better than a gift card? A gift card wrapped in something cool! My favorite way to present gift cards would be to put them into a cardboard sleeve (some gift cards, like Express, come in an actual gift-giving box), wrap it up with old grocery bag paper, and then tie a string of twine around it. Add on a card with a personal message that refers to the type of activity the gift card will bring them – “I hope you enjoy those burgers at The Counter! The one with brie and grilled onions is delicious!” or “I know you’ve been looking for a Blue-Ray player. Hope this makes your search a little easier!”