In my research for a recent story on the pros and cons of prepaid debit cards, I stumbled across Shelley Hunter, a mom of three who created the website GiftCardGirlfriend.com. I occasionally give gift cards (although I’m not a huge fan). I feel a little funny about the impersonal nature of the whole thing. So I enjoyed Hunter’s site, which is full of ways to make the simple gift of plastic a whole lot more fun.
Giving a gift card "feels lacking, because there’s nothing to open, there’s no ‘ooh-ah’ moment," says Hunter. "You hand over the card, the (recipient) says ‘this is great!’ and there’s that dead space."
Her site has creative ways to create ‘ooh-ahh’ moments for a variety of occasions. "For example, you’re going to give a birthday gift card for your friend who loves to cook and you don’t know what tools she needs," says Hunter. "You give her a gift card with your favorite recipes or your grandma’s favorite recipes. That says, ‘it’s not an afterthought – I was really thinking about you.’"
A few other fun gift card ideas: For a family, get a gift card to the ice rink, a pair of inexpensive gloves or socks for each member of the family, a travel size hand sanitizer and a hot chocolate mix. For parents of a new baby, get a gift card for diapers, attach it to a package of baby wipes, and clip out as many diaper coupons as you can find. Grateful parents can get the diapers they need, when they need them and stretch the value of the gift card at the same time.
The site also offers a few great tips on gift-card giving. Don’t give someone a gift card to the place you like to shop because you think it would be a treat for them (or you’re trying to change their habits – say, getting Dad to wear a few spiffy items from J. Crew instead of his usual tee-shirts from Target). Do your homework, and "get the card to a store where that person likes to shop – or would like to shop. Maybe you’ve overheard them say, ‘I would love to shop at Banana Republic but can’t afford to.’"
Give an amount that is comfortable for you, but sufficient enough so the recipient can spend the card and without having to use their own money – otherwise you’re basically offering a coupon. "A $5 gift card to Starbucks is a nice treat – but it’s not at Abercrombie and Fitch," says Hunter.
Do you give the gift of gift cards? How do you make them more personal?