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Why I Love (and Hate) Gift Cards

by A Blinkin on December 25, 2011

Have you ever had that someone that is impossible to shop for? Either they already have everything they want or you know they won’t like anything you get them. We all have these kind of people in our lives to shop for – and for most of us – gift cards are the solution.

This year I had an amazing strategy around gift card giving. You see, we have our cousins. They are probably just like your cousins. We would play together as little kids and things would be joyous. Anytime a major holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) would roll around, our families would unite and you could anticipate who exactly would be there.

Then life started to happen.

And by “life started to happen,” I mean they started popping out babies left and right.

Is so-and-so going to be there?

No, she’s visiting her boyfriend’s parents this year.

Boyfriend? Is she still with the Army guy?

No, the other one.

The other one?

Yea – you remember the red-head?

Oh yea, I thought he was married?

With one-too-many of the above conversations taking place over the last few years, it’s really hard to have any expectations when we all get together now. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to buy gifts.

Should I get so-and-so anything this year?

Good Question. Did she get you anything last year?

I can’t remember. No, no – I don’t think she was even there.

The Strategy

With all this in mind, I prepared myself as best I could this year. I went to Target and loaded up on gift cards. I wrote “From: A Blinkin” on each of them, but made sure to leave the “To:” field blank. I kept them all in my pocket and only pulled them out as I received a gift. A perfect exchange if I may say so. The hand-off resembled that of a drug dealer shaking hands with a boy in need of booger-sugar.

Disclaimer: I won’t give a gift-card to someone I love, unless they specifically ask for one.

Why I Hate Gift Cards

I just spent 300 words describing why I love gift cards and how they managed to save me this Christmas season. Now I’ll explain why, in economic terms, gift cards make no sense.

For some reason, sliding cash in cards is about as trashy as a mullet on a man or a tattoo just above a girl’s tail-feather. But why?

Cash is so useful. Cash is accepted everywhere. Why would anyone ever trade a form of currency widely-accepted for a (cuter) form of payment which is narrowly-accepted? I could understand if $10 cash got you $20 at a specific store but an even-trade doesn’t make sense. (I actually purchased a $50 restaurant gift card for myself for a $60 value – this makes sense)

The other reason I don’t like gift cards is because they force people to spend. If someone receives $25 cash, they have the option of saving this $25 or buying something worth $25. They can also purchase something for $20 and save the remaining $5.

Unfortunately, you can’t buy something for $20 with a $25 gift card. Psychologically, we can’t let this $5 just sit there. It has to be used. So typically, a $25 gift card will cause the recipient to spend their own money.

Versus a physical gift or cash – a gift card mainly benefits the giver.

Having said that…thanks to everyone who gave me gift cards. I love them :)

Written by A Blinkin

A Blinkin

Hunter Kern, aka A. Blinkin, is the blogger behind Funancials. His experience in banking, lending, payments and investments has earned him the title of “Personal Finance Guru.” In addition to helping people with their finances, Hunter enjoys crunchy tacos, spending time with his wife and puppy, and writing in third person.

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