Gift Card-Giving 101

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With the holiday season quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about what gifts to get for your friends and family. You might know what to get for certain people on your list, but for others, it’s almost impossible to know what they want. That’s when gift cards come in handy. But is it still acceptable to give someone a gift card, or is that a gesture that says you couldn’t come up with a better idea or — worse — that you forgot to buy a “real” gift?

The answer is, yes, there are occasions when gift cards are perfectly acceptable (and thoughtful). Here’s a guide to gift card-giving:

Presentation is everything

The packaging the gift card came in is probably, well, less than stellar. So why not give it some pizazz and present the gift card in a special way? Present it in a way that reflects what the gift card is for, such as putting a gift card for a bookstore inside a book, or baking cookies to offer with a gift card to a restaurant or bakery. Personalize it so that it shows you put more thought into the gift than a 10-minute trip to the store.

What they’ve been pining for

Is there a particular department store or home living boutique a friend has been eyeballing, but hasn’t explored yet because it’s out of her price range? Make her day by giving her a gift card to relieve some of that sticker shock. Pay close attention to what someone says she can’t afford. Maybe it’s a special object instead of a shopping trip. Either way, you can help make the object of her desire a reality.

Know their lifestyle and hobbies

The simplest way to know the best gift card for people is to consider their hobbies, or what they do for a living. This is a great opportunity to show that you put thought into their gift, but don’t know enough about the activity to choose a specific gift. For instance, if dad works with machines at work or as a hobby, maybe he’d appreciate a gift card for machining tools, rather than receive a gift he doesn’t need or already has.

Think outside the box

A typical gift card for something like Starbucks or iTunes is thoughtful, but how many times has he or she gotten that before? If you want to avoid buying the same gift cards every year, it’s worth investigating unique gift card options. For example, if someone you know frequents the local art museum, buy him a gift certificate for a certain number of admissions. Help a close friend or family member who is saving up for a dream vacation by getting her an airline gift card that goes toward buying a plane ticket.

Don’t let the holidays sneak up on you and leave you scrambling for gifts for family and friends. Spend the next few months doing recon and finding out what people truly need. That way, your gift will stand out and your loved ones will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

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