Are you looking at the calendar in horror and wondering how in the world you’re going to manage to get all your Christmas shopping between the year-end wrapping up at work, the scheduled happy hours and sea of consumers hijacking the local mall? You might be tempted to resort to the usual gift card: a quick and easy fix that shows you vaguely know what a person likes while also being generous (books on Amazon, clothes from Gap or years’ worth of Starbucks coffee maybe?). But is a gift card truly a good idea?
Cassie Werber, writing for Quartz, doesn’t think so. She says that gift cards are not only a waste of money given that “a vast proportion of the value that’s given is never spent by recipients because they forget to use them, lose them, or because the cards go out of date”. In fact, in the US alone, $1 billion are lost each year due to unspent cards. Isn’t that good for retailers though? Contrary to intuition, unspent dollars are actually a problem for shopowners because they have to count that money as liability and not as income (you never know when the cardholder will show up to redeem his money). There is another advantage to a redeemed gift card: consumers simply spend more.
But in an era where we all worry about our impact on the environment and the looming threats of climate change, there are other advantages to offering cash for the holidays.
There’s a strong environmental argument to giving cash:
There is definitely a negative stamina associated to cash gifts in the Western hemisphere. “The gifting of money between peers is seen as somehow distasteful and embarrassing in the West. Gift cards are a socially acceptable alternative,” writes Cassie. But in other cultures it’s completely normal and even expected given the circumstance, like in China during a wedding or in India for a birthday or Diwali.
Still not convinced? You think that it’s not aesthetic to give a wad of cash? Be creative! There are many fun ways to give cash as a gift beyond the usual Hallmark card – it could start from stuffing some bills into a Christmas decoration or concealing it in a box of chocolates!