7 in 10 Americans Plan to Buy Gift Cards This Holiday Season. But This Might Be a Better Alternative

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If you haven’t started your holiday shopping yet, don’t panic. You still have a good amount of time to hit the stores or browse deals online and cross items off your list.

Now, one thing you may be planning to purchase this holiday season is gift cards. And those can be a great thing to hand to someone you care about — especially if you know which stores are their favorite.

A good 71% of consumers plan to buy gift cards for their loved ones this holiday season, according to data from TransUnion. But you may want to consider going a different route.

Consider the gift of cash

People tend to shy away from giving cash during the holiday season. For one thing, it can come across as impersonal. And some people might even think it’s a bit tacky (though most recipients would quickly say otherwise).

Plus, you might worry that if you give someone you care about an envelope of money, they’ll use it to pay their bills rather than treat themselves to something fun. And it’s easy to see why you’d rather your sister or cousin use your gift to buy a new sweater or jewelry — not pay their mortgage.

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But one thing you should realize is that giving the people in your life the option to spend money as they please is perhaps the greatest gift you can give them.

It’s true that if you hand your sister $100 in cash rather than a $100 gift card to a local spa, they might choose to stick that money into their savings account and use it to cover their rent the next month.

But why is that a bad thing?

Your goal in giving them a $100 spa gift card is to help them relax, right? What could be more relaxing than being able to pay rent without stress?

Plus, if your recipients’ financial situations are just fine, then chances are, they’ll use your cash to treat themselves to fun things rather than use that money to cover their cellphone and utility bills. But it’s nice to give them the option either way.

A gift that really does mean a lot

You may be willing to give the gift of cash this year, but worry that it won’t sit right with the people you love. But remember — presentation can go a long way.

If you stick $100 in a plain white envelope labeled “Bob” and call it a day, then yes, Bob might come to the conclusion that you didn’t put a whole lot of effort into that gift. So instead, find a nice holiday card, and write Bob a note along the lines of, “Here’s a little something to brighten your holidays. Use it to add to your model car collection, buy Broncos gear, or however you please.

That note packages your gift very differently. It tells Bob that you’re mindful of his hobbies, but that perhaps he’s in a better position to pick something out himself. And chances are, the Bob equivalent in your life will be more than appreciative.

It’s easy to see why so many consumers are quick to revert to gift cards during the holidays. But before you go that route, consider the benefits of regular old cash instead.

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We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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