In Defense of the Gift Card

The holiday season is upon us, which can only mean one thing: time to figure out who you are obligated to give a gift to. While I honor and respect those who take joy in finding the perfect gift for a distant relative and those who have been stashing away troves of treats all year to give to those they love/like/tolerate, I cannot relate. I am not one of you. Giving gifts stresses me out.

Somewhere between hot cocoa kits in mason jars and tiny seasonal hand sanitizers, we lost the plot. The plot being this: Gift cards are a good and fine present. They are simple! They are useful! They’re a special little version of money! I will stand for gift card slander no longer. So allow me to dispel a few common myths about the much maligned gift card.

“Gift cards aren’t thoughtful”

Quite the opposite. In fact, a gift card is an acknowledgement that you know the other person well enough to realize you will be bad at picking out a gift for them. It says, “You would have hated the alternative.” This is a very honorable thing to admit. Think of the kitschy mugs that wouldn’t be taking up your precious cabinet space, the mini lotions that wouldn’t be hidden in the depths of your bathroom if we were all willing to admit that a gift card is a solidly acceptable present.

Wouldn’t you rather have a gift card to Target than another journal that says BO$S BABE and a random assortment of pens? No? Well, guess what? If you got a gift card, you could pick out the exact pens and tacky notebook that you want. Everyone wins!

“Gift cards aren’t personal”

Why must every present be a handcrafted token of your affection? Why can’t we be gifted something practical, something helpful, something that will pay for my morning coffee or the pack of LaCroix that I love but am too embarrassed to ask for as a gift?! Obviously a gift card won’t carry the same emotional weight as a bequeathed family heirloom, but how many of those do you have to give away? Three? Plus, you can make gift cards personal. You can give a person a gift card to their favorite coffee shop and another to their favorite bakery. Wow! Two gifts? How thoughtful! Give them a gift card to the restaurant that has their favorite drink. Give them an Etsy gift card and let their personalized heart run wild! You could also just give them one of your unused gift cards, which, in a way, is kind of like passing down a family heirloom.

“Gift cards are lazy”

Again, must we toil away for days, weeks trying to find the exact little trinket that will suit the hopes and desires of every person on our shopping list? Enough, I say! Your expectations are too high! Grow up! Who among us has endless hours to brainstorm gorgeous gifts for everyone? Not me! I am far too busy doing important things like work, bills, taxes, and trying to figure out who has Taylor Swift’s scarf. If I manage to get you a gift card to The Cheesecake Factory amidst all that, it’s a holiday miracle.

“Gift cards are…um, I always forget to use gift cards!”

Ah, yes. The classic argument that gift cards are more hassle than helpful, less a present and more a task to complete. Sorry to break it to you, but that’s your problem! Keep your gift cards in your car or coat pocket or taped to your phone or under your armpit or something. It’s free money, babe! If you let that go to waste, that’s on you. All gift cards are good gift cards.

Except iTunes gift cards. Those can go to hell.

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