Which Is More Thoughtful, Cash or Gifts?

Over at Wise Bread blogger Xin Lu has posted her thoughts on cash verses gifts or gift cards:

Cash gifts are the best – On every new year or birthday, Chinese children usually get cash gifts that they end up saving. This sounds pretty sad, but I remember being quite excited about visiting all the relatives and receiving red envelopes with cash in them. Red envelopes are the standard gift for any celebration, and they are considered the best gifts because the recipient can do anything with the money. In America it seems that cash is a less common gift because it is considered to be less thoughtful. Instead, cash is converted to gift cards or useless trinkets that are probably less appreciated by the recipient.

We really have to agree with this. Gifts can be very thoughtful, but in some cases gift cards are capitalizing on people who feel insecure about giving cash.

Cash is a thoughtful gift! Bring on the red envelopes. I think people should start giving each other rolls of quarters. You can do your laundry or punch an attacker. Your choice.

Chinese Money Habits – How My Culture Influences My Attitudes Toward Money [Wise Bread]
(Photo:Fast Fords)

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  1. Ouze says:

    In my own opinion, at least, cash and especially gift cards are a lazy present. I feel like the whole point in getting someone a gift is twofold – the object itself, and the subtle reminder that your relationship is such that you spent the time it took to select something that was appropriate and thoughtful. I understand the other camp, but to me, I appreciate getting something material and tangible, rather then a impersonal gift card.

  2. B says:

    It depends on the person. I gave my sister a new book for her birthday because I knew she would enjoy it, but I gave my college-age cousin twenty bucks for his birthday because I knew he could use the money more.

  3. tombo says:

    Gifts show thought. Cash shows lack of thought and makes it look like you waited until the last minute.

  4. sleepydumbdude says:

    I give cash to people I don’t know very well and my friends with not as much money. I’d feel stupid giving cash to a friend who has a great job because unless I add a zero to the end of the amount I am going to give them then they probably wouldn’t remember it.

  5. I’ve always thought that this was a ridiculous taboo. My preference is for a gift if there is something I think is appropriate for someone or meaningful, but giving cash instead seems perfectly valid to me.

  6. ekthesy says:

    So I am going to a Chinese wedding (actually the bride and groom are Taiwanese) this spring, and I know I have to give money, but where do I get my hands on a red envelope? Can it be any red envelope?

  7. disavow says:

    As a color-blind person with a decent-paying job, I’d rather have help–buying clothes that don’t look like hell.

  8. Ouze says:

    @B – i totally agree also it depends on the person. If it’s a coworker or someone you barely know, but know well enough to need to get them something, i think gift cards are appropriate.

  9. freshyill says:

    @Ouze: Sometimes the thoughtful present is giving the person what they need most. I have friends who are having twins sometime within the next two months. They’re going to be deluged with ugly baby clothes from well-meaning relatives, but money’s going to become tight very quickly, so I’m going to pick them up a a Costco gift card. They can use it on diapers or whatever they decide they need most.

  10. smitty1123 says:

    To me, a present says I know what your interests are and actually thought about them and hope you appreciate not only the present but the knowledge that I put some effort into thinking about you.

    Cash/gift cards says I don’t know what you like or am too lazy to care about you.

  11. Beerad says:

    I think the point of a gift is that someone actually bothered to find something you’d like rather than the cost (as in, it’s the thought that counts…). EVERYONE likes cash, so it’s not very personal. Besides, wouldn’t it be pretty boring if everyone just passed around 50 bucks for the holidays? “Hey, thanks! I’ll just save this until your birthday and give it back to you!”

    Cash is okay for a few specific situations: bar mitzvahs, graduations, and other “coming of age” events where the point is that someone’s starting out on their own and could use some scratch. Sometimes this applies for weddings/housewarmings too — I’ve told friends to let me know if there’s something in particular on their registry they didn’t get or could really use. Otherwise, I’ll do my best to come up with an original gift. Besides, surprises that the recipient would never have thought of can be really awesome.

  12. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    I would much rather get gift cards than gifts, as typically, the person buys me something I really don’t want or need. I am not swimming in money so AMEX gift cards (which I received a couple this past year from coworkers) are great.

    The problem with store gift cards is you always end up with a couple of dollars left over on the balance, but you don’t really want to buy anything else from that particular store so you end up buying more than you really wanted just to not lose the money left on the gift card.

    I think if you are buying someone below you on the pay scale a gift, money and AMEX gift cards make more sense. If you are buying for someone who makes considerably more than you do, you have to buy a gift, as money/gift cards really don’t mean as much to them.

  13. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Yup, cash is king. I just gave my sister-in-law cash for her birthday cause I have no idea what she likes & she has no hobbies.

  14. Anitra says:

    I use cash/gift cards if I don’t feel I can get a really awesome gift (with a few exceptions, like office secret santa – booze always goes over well).

    In some cases, cash really is the best gift – it’s what I’ve given my teenage cousin for a few years now, because he’s always saving up for some new gadget or expensive sports equipment. I’ve started giving cash more often at weddings and baby showers, too (usually with some token small gift attached).

    I would never give cash to my parents or my husband – they don’t need it, and it says “I’m too lazy to figure out what you really want.”

  15. nikkomorocco says:

    @Beerad: or those surprise gifts can really suck. i’ve got an electric jar opener sitting at my house that i got as a wedding gift. what’s a 23 year old strapping young lad to do with a jar opener?

  16. SexCpotatoes says:

    That kinda fails if you’re in a combined situation. Like, what happens if you spend all the quarters doing laundry and then someone attacks your laundry!? You can’t defend ‘the whites’ without a fist roll of quarters!

  17. B says:

    @SexCpotatoes: You twist your whites into a tail and whip the attacker.

  18. Sam2k says:

    Simple economics: Marginal Utility of Cash > Marginal Utility of Equivalent Gift or Gift Card. Therefore, the most thoughtful gift is cash.

  19. moosetoga says:

    This is the kind of advice you always read in magazines, the kind that sounds good and makes sense, but even the author knows damn well nobody will do. In America, giving cash for anything but a wedding is tacky and a sign that you see the occasion as an obligation and an expense.

  20. conjecture says:

    @ekthesy: It has to be a red envelope with really gaudy/shiny Chinese artwork on it. Most have Chinese writing, depictions of Chinese kids in traditional clothing, dragons, and a few even have Hello Kitty…

    Some examples can be seen @ [www.chinabridal.com]

  21. Shadowfire says:

    My fiancee and I are getting married this spring, and I’m starting to get pissed at people who don’t want to give cash for presents. We’ve been living together for 3.5 years, and have everything we need for our apartment. People won’t take the hint, however: either give us cash, or give us only the pleasure of your company on our wedding day. :|

  22. B says:

    @Sam2k: That is true, but unless you’re gift recipient is an economist, it’s meaningless. I’d rather get cash than gifts, but most people don’t agree with me.

  23. beavis88 says:

    The older I get, the more crap I have, and the more I appreciate not getting more crap for presents. I *definitely* appreciate well thought out gifts, but if the choice is between yet another little knick knack and some cash, give me the cash every time.

    Making a donation to a charitable cause I care about is another great gift idea. I would have hated this 10 years ago, but now, why not? As I said, I have enough “stuff”. I’m sure some people would be miffed, even downright insulted, by this, but I would not be among them.

  24. Trai_Dep says:

    A well-considered gift reigns over cash.

    If you don’t have the time/care to actually think of what the other person doesn’t have, but wants/needs (kudos if s/he doesn’t even realize it (yet)), give ‘em cash and a big smile.

    Congratulatory sexual favors optional. But well-considered sexual favors.

    Gift cards? Yuck. Twice the hassle for them and a pittance of a bother, so no credit to you. Unless they’re junkies (in which case, see above – but only da kine sh*t).

  25. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    It depends on what the recipient would like and/or actually use and your relationship with them.

    Some people love shopping and would rather go out and buy something with a gift of cash than to be given a gift. Other people would see it as insulting.

    Cash is only tacky if you’re close enough to the person to know what they want and what they want isn’t cash.

    However, it isn’t as much fun to give cash unless you go out shopping with the person you’re giving it to.

  26. Scotus says:

    Unless it’s for a kid or the person actually requests it, I think cash is a horrible gift. Whenever I get cash and then have to go out and pay for something really unexciting, like gas for my car or my electric bill, it feels as though I just got gas or electricty for my birthday.

    If you give a gift card to a store the person likes, at least you know it’ll go towards something they’ll enjoy.

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    @B: $20 bucks? Twenty bucks? Geez, how old is your cousin, seven?! :P

  28. Maulleigh says:

    Everyone gets fifty bucks if they have a kid or a wedding.

    My cousin got a divorce and he said that’s when you need the money and the gifts. Perhaps I’ll start giving out fifties when people get divorced. :)

  29. cockeyed says:

    My bro is really insecure about giving cash or gift cards. But think about yourself. *I* love getting cash. Of course I want to get a few “real” gifts, but I think cash is the most thoughtful (though admittedly lazy) because the recipient gets to spend it on what *they* want, not what you think they want. Also, it’s a pain to return gifts, and the the store will only let you use credit… What if they have nothing you want at that store?
    Wells Fargo sells gift cards, and I gave one to my bro one year. He really liked it, especially because at the time he didn’t have a credit card, so he was able to use this gift card for internet purchases.

    Cash is a GREAT gift, especially for people who are struggling financially (college students, recent graduates, newly married, new parents… etc.).

  30. cockeyed says:

    @Shadowfire: Why don’t you just tell them instead of hinting? I have no problem with telling my relatives that I want cash.

  31. OsiUmenyiora says:

    @freshyill: You can also just get them the diapers. Before I had a kid I used to buy the frilly blankets and other crap for people who were expecting. But now that I’ve been through it myself, I often buy diapers and wipes for new parents. Order them off Amazon and have them shipped. They’re always appreciated.

    Gift cards in general just suck. My sister-in-law gave me a $10 gift card to CVS! What the hell am I supposed to do with that? I still have two-year-old Baby Gap cards I don’t know what to do with. I have a collection of Macy’s cards that are collecting dust. Blah.

  32. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @cockeye: Totally agree. I would go so far as to say that cash is the most considerate gift to struggling people. They can use it for necessities if they have to while saving face. My little sister-in-law is still struggling with an unemployed husband and toddler, while working her butt off, and I always give her two gifts: something for herself like decent makeup or something to wear, and a check. I’ve had my own ups and downs and I know how good it feels to be able to have enough for something.

    That said… be careful of giving cash to someone who lives with someone unreliable. I used to give her cash but her husband used to find it and take it.

  33. Trai_Dep says:

    @ekthesy: Another option is to draw something on a red envelope. If you guys have mad sketching skills (or if you are the proud owners of a herd of scallions known to the wedding couple that like to draw) then getting a hand-crafted envelope would be one heck of a sweet ride for the wedding couple.

    Else your local Asian enclave, or online.

    I have a friend who’s a crazed origami-ist who gives cash, carefully folded. Bad for the US economy, though, since many recipients keep the cash b/c it’s spindled and folded so beautifully. :D

  34. Scuba Steve says:

    @moosetoga: well birthdays, christmas, and whatever.. those are obligations and expenses.

    Now, Graduation or marriage, thats time for a gift. A good one.

  35. [semi-]Threadjack: For about two years, my mom went on a streak of getting me lamps for my birthday and X-mas. And I was still in high school so I only had my bedroom to illuminate. [Although I did get a cool one shaped like the U.S.S. Enterprise, which was great to impress chicks.] Now our family ony gives giftcards. They always are appreciated and we get exactly we want. I’ll take the John Douglas books I got with this year’s Border’s card over those damn lamps anytime.

  36. RubiksPube says:

    When I was 17, my mom gave me a piece of paper for Hanukah that stated she had bought a goat for a family in Africa in my name. Now, being older, I recognize the nobility and practicality of this present, but the 17 year old girl that I was threw a fit because I didn’t get an iPod.

  37. joemama321 says:

    @Sam2k:
    Agreed. There is a very interesting economics paper that discusses this called, “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas” by Joel Waldfogel (American Economic Review, December 1993, v. 83, iss. 5, pp. 1328-36).

    The gist of the article is that since a gift-giver has less than complete knowledge of the recipient’s true preferences, the best the gift-giver could hope to do is match what the recipient would want. Giving a non-cash gift that misses the mark brings inefficiency to the process and makes everyone worse off than had there been a straight cash transfer.

    The author surveys a group of Yale undergrads and examines the actual cost of a gift vs. what the students would be willing to actually pay for that gift. If the student’s willingness to pay is less than the amount spent, there is a deadweight loss.

    The study confirms what most of us already know: Gifts from friends and significant others are most efficient. Conversely, those from aunts, uncles and grandparents are least efficient, destroying 1/3 of the cash-value of the gift. (Read: “Oh look…socks.”)

    So, as the article alludes to, unless you know others better than they know themselves, the most efficient gift is cash.

  38. Angryrider says:

    Cash easily… I can do alot, pay off a bill, buy groceries, or spend it on something fun.
    If someone gave me an object, I would think that person probably got it for free and/or is trying to be rid of it.

  39. Eilonwynn says:

    If you’re going to give me something, give me something you made or makes you think of me. And if you can’t do either of those, for the love of all that is good and holy, give me cash, so I can buy myself something or make myself something.

  40. B says:

    To me, it goes: Well thought out gift > cash > not so well-thought out gift > gift card > gift that’s really what the giver wants, not the recipient.

  41. SkokieGuy says:

    I have THREE different $25.00 Best Buy gift cards given to my by different gift-givers.

    Needless to say, they are NOT readers of the Consumerist.

    Of course what I’d really love is some JP Penney’s gift cards to I can power-shop the big and tall dept.

  42. mac-phisto says:

    all 3 can be thoughtful or not so much. it’s not the gift that determines the thoughtfulness, it’s the amount of thought put behind the gift, duh!

  43. Elijah-M says:

    The only reason I prefer to give (and receive) gift cards rather than cash is that it ensures the money won’t be spent on candy and cigarettes. I know that in my own experience, when I was a kid, and got cash as a gift, I often couldn’t tell you what I did with it a week later. Now, I tend to put the money in savings, but years later, there won’t be one iota of sentiment attached to the extra $50 that I have in my savings account.

    I tend to remember things I purchased with gift cards, however, and years later, that item does hold a positive association with the person who gave me the gift card. The gift card that my mother in law gave me several years ago made her one of the coolest people I’ve ever met, because right now, it takes the form of two obscure reggae compilations that I had been salivating over for an eternity.

    Having said that, I only buy gift cards to merchants who have an established track record; and only if I have it on good authority that the giftee will be able to immediately spend it on something they truly want. Amazon is a great example. They sell just about everything under the sun, their prices are good, and their customer service is spectacular.

    A bad example? My aunt gives me a $25 Blockbuster gift card for Christmas every year, and I can barely give the damn thing away. I love her to death, but it breaks my heart to think of her parting with her $25 for something that no one she has ever met is going to enjoy.

  44. Shmonkmonk says:

    My BF used to get me crap for birthdays, anniversaries, and various other gift giving occasions. He meant well, he just sucked at giving gifts. I know it’s the thought that counts but often times I’d wish he’s saved himself the money and not gotten me anything at all rather than something completely useless.
    I told him, from now one, gift card only. He knows where I shop and the gift cards have made budgeting easier since I get to cheat in certain areas.
    If I had gotten cash, I would have frittered it away on little things (like coffee) or used it for practical things (like gas)- not really fun. Gifts should be fun.

  45. ChuckECheese says:

    @ekthesy: You can get red envelopes at a Chinese market. Does your town have one? You might also wanna check out Chinese/Taiwanese wedding traditions by reading online, if you’re concerned about doing it right.

  46. jc75 says:

    @ekthesy:
    If there is a chinese/asian grocery store where you live, you can pick one up from there. Or, just stick the cash/check in the same envelope as your card (assuming you’re giving them a card)…people did both for our wedding, and it was fine and dandy. As long as you don’t give them anything with Hello Kitty on it…that’s about as chinese as egg foo yung.

  47. mac-phisto says:

    @joemama321:

    The study confirms what most of us already know…those from aunts, uncles and grandparents are least efficient, destroying 1/3 of the cash-value of the gift. (Read: “Oh look…socks.”)

    actually, i read that “oh look…button down polyester reindeer cardigan” *shudder* sorry, flash back to my sophomore year of high school.

  48. laserjobs says:

    Giftcards are stupid once you figure out the company who issued them can refuse to take them. Use cash.

  49. Ghede says:

    If cash isn’t your taste, Checks do well too!(Yuk, yuk, yuk)

  50. SOhp101 says:

    @ekthesy: AFAIK, it doesn’t really matter, because what usually ends up happening is that you sign in and there’s an attendant who opens the envelope, writes your name and the amount, and puts it into a big box or something that will be passed to the lucky couple later.

    Non-Asians might consider this garish but hey, it’s accounting and they have a legitimate, accurate list that will identify the generous (and not so generous) guests to thank later. None of that silly “switch my wedding card onto a bigger and more expensive gift so i appear to be benevolent” crap, or the “I’ll be cheap on all your children’s weddings but you better as hell be generous when you come to my children’s weddings.”

  51. themidget says:

    @ekthesy: We just went to Taipei for my brother-in-law’s wedding to a Taiwanese girl, they had red envelopes at the reception, although you might want to have one in advance just in case. They were also plain red envelopes, so I think it’s OK if it’s not decorated extensively. Basically, it’s like the line to sign the guest book at a Western wedding. When you arrived, the first stop was a long table with a line, you put your red envelope in the designated spot, and there’s actually people that are tracking what comes in. They had also placed a whole bunch of wallet-sized wedding portraits for guests to take (portraits taken much in advance in Taiwan, not sure how Taiwanese do it over here).

  52. Ann-Marie says:

    I agree that it depends on the person. I prefer a gift because it shows that the person took the time to think about what I might like and what might be useful for me. To stop by the ATM and get cash doesn’t require any consideration. Sure, I love da money (who doesn’t?!) and if the choice is between straight cash and a gift card, I’d much prefer cash. But if you’re close to me, I’d prefer a gift over money in a card.

  53. StevePJobs says:

    Want to be more thoughtful? Put the money inside a card. You can easily make them using iPhoto…

  54. kittenfoo says:

    while i wouldn’t give cash as a gift to my sweetheart, and while i wouldn’t give only cash to my children (because i want them to have a few possessions with sentimental meaning) i think cash is a very thoughtful gift. to me, gift cards are a pain, due to their sometimes bizarre restrictions and inflexibility.

  55. julian says:

    I quite like the hybrid approach of giving cash, but also some (hopefully) good suggestions as to what they might buy with it. That way the person gets the final choice, but it shows you’ve thought about it.

  56. ekthesy says:

    Cool. Thanks all for your red envelope advice. There is an Asian grocery about 15 minutes away so I will pop by there.

    (And I already know to give in amounts ending in 8.)

  57. Geekybiker says:

    Except for a few specific situations I dont think cash is much of a gift. At times like the holidays or birthdays, why not just give nothing and pretend we exchanged cash. Same net effect. Gift cards arent ideal, but at least they are directed spending. I might know someone likes books and would like to buy one for them, but I dont know which ones they have read, or maybe even who their favorite author is. A gift card would save the hassle of the return while still having me give what I wanted.

  58. samurailynn says:

    There is one reason I don’t like cash as a gift. Let’s say that we’re giving Christmas presents – oh look, you gave me $20 and I gave you $20, how neat. Or any other holidays or occasions that are close together where you’re going to be giving each other presents. Or, for that matter, oh look, I gave you $20 and you gave me $50 (or vice versa). Whatever the situation, you just end up passing money back and forth.

  59. DrGirlfriend says:

    It would make me uncomfortable to receive a cash gift coming from someone in my age group, or from someone who is just an acquaintance (barring wedding gifts, which I think of as being perfectly acceptable for the occasion). It’s hard to explain – the best I can come up with is that it seems a little crass, but crass is too strong a word.

    A gift card doesn’t make me feel that way, though. If it’s to a place the person knows I like, or to a place that will be useful (like if I just bought a house and got a GC to Home Despot), then I don’t think it’s devoid of any thought. It likely just means, “I don’t know you well enough to give you a gift that I know will make you happy”, or “You have stuff already and anything I can think of would be redundant”, or “We don’t have the same tastes so I’d rather you pick this out yourself rather than have to return my gift”. I mean, there are a lot of valid reasons for giving a GC.

  60. North of 49 says:

    Cash has never been regifted and doesn’t time out like gift cards. The best wedding present we got last week was cash – right when we needed it.

  61. SaraAB87 says:

    We used to give media play gift cards, because that store had EVERYTHING and it was right in the city. They had everything from books to music to video games and even some clothes, so chances are the recipient of the gift card found SOMETHING to buy because the product selection was so wide. But now media play closed so there is really no catch all place that everyone could get something they wanted at, and retail stores like target and walmart have a very limited inventory of stuff so not everyone can find something to buy at those stores. And besides giving a walmart gift card is way lamer than giving cash. At least with cash you know the person gets something they can actually use.

  62. johnperkins21 says:

    I’ve always said “Nothing says love like cash.” I prefer cash to any and every gift, it is the most thoughtful gift a person can give.

    Gift cards are a poor substitute for cash. It’s like saying, I don’t trust you with cash, so take this gift card and spend it some place I approve of. Just give me the money and let me go buy something I really want, or put it in the bank. Virtually all gifts that people pick out for me because they think I’ll like them get thrown in the trash immediately. I also hate cards, those usually go in the trash the second I’m done reading them. What a waste of money. Give me the buck fifty you spent on the card instead of some lame ass Hallmark greeting.

  63. Terminal-Alkyne says:

    I read the question as: “Cash or gift cards?” To which I immediately thought, “Cash of course!”

  64. larry_y says:

    I give cash plus something small like a bottle of wine or gourmet food. However, if there’s something like the Amazon wish list set up, I’ll do that. Or, a gift card if I know the person’s shopping needs (for example, home improvement).

    If you’re giving Chinese red envelopes, big denomination bills are a good idea.

  65. Mr. Gunn says:

    Scotus: Yeah, this is basically the argument for a gift card. I don’t like ‘em too much, but they take the guilt out of spending money on yourself.

    Well-considered gifts are best, and cash is always nice, but occasionally a gift card is better, if the person is likely to feel bad about spending cash on themselves.

  66. BStu says:

    A friend of mine once referred to gift cards as the gift you hate to give but love to receive. Giving gift cards feels like a cop out. Like you didn’t try and the recipient will hate you. But, the truth is most people love getting gift cards because it gives them full control over the gift and they get just want they want. I love getting gift cards or cash.

    But I do hate giving them. I’ve gotten over that a bit after my friend made that observation, but it still feels like a cop out. Honestly, though, unless you are with someone all of the time, the chances of knowing the perfect gift aren’t so hot anyway.

  67. I think cash is okay for some things — weddings, new babies, and birthdays of nieces/nephews/godchildren/best friend’s kid/etc. Oh, and college students sometimes.

    But yeah, giving gifts among adults is really about giving something thoughtful and personal to show love/respect/friendship/thanks/whatever. Otherwise we’re just all passing around money. (Like what geekybiker said.)

    Cash can also be appropriate when it’s creative forms of cash — savings bonds for babies and young people, a roll of quarters wrapped up all pretty with detergent, a laundry bag, and fabric softener for a kid off to college. But giving cash to other adults for something like Christmas seems almost insulting.

  68. @OsiUmenyiora: “I often buy diapers and wipes for new parents.”

    For first-timers, I always go to Walgreens and put together a baby medicine cabinet — baby tylenol, that blue booger-bulb thing, infant thermometer, etc. Because nobody remembers to buy the baby Tylenol until they’re up the first time with a screaming, ear-infected infant at 3 a.m. and trying to remember where the 24-hour pharmacy is.

  69. Elijah-M says:

    @SaraAB87: “media play closed so there is really no catch all place that everyone could get something they wanted…”

    There is indeed such a place; although it does not exist in brick and mortar form. It’s called Amazon.com.

  70. uricmu says:

    Gift cards made sense as “thoughtful” (not in other ways) if they match exactly what the person likes (ooh, a gift card to Mo’s ski shack). Not when it’s to a generic retailer like target or walmart.

  71. I suppose this depends on the psychology of the recipient, but one of the reasons I like getting not-cash is that if I get cash, I do what someone said up-thread and pay my gas bill. Or whatever. I’m too practical. To me a good gift is something I WANT, but wouldn’t buy for myself because it’s impractical or unnecessary or too far down the list of priorities.

    I am trying to get this through my husband’s head — if I want a new toaster, I will BUY a new toaster. I do not want it as a gift. He always wants to get me practical things I just haven’t gotten around to purchasing yet, it makes me crazy, and it feels like a present for the HOUSE, not for me.

  72. THIS CONCEPT OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCES CONFUSES AND INFURIATES ME!!!

  73. Leiterfluid says:

    You misspelled “versus.”

    Verses are something a poem has.

  74. vladthepaler says:

    Cash is thoughtless; gift cards are worse. If you don’t know a person well enough to be able to select a good gift, you shouldn’t be giving the person a gift in the first place.

  75. UpsetPanda says:

    Being Chinese, I’ve been used to this cash gifting for quite some time. When I was younger, I’d end up with $200 + in red pockets (that’s what they’re called, money in the red envelope – and not just any old red envelope).

    It all ends when you get married though, so I have a few months of this doting “young person” status before saying my vows – after marriage, you end up being the money giver, though you are only traditionally required to give money to kids, and putting $1 into an envelope because my cousins are so young.

    It’s also kind of a taboo for some people who place this hush-hush mentality on money – in some families, you don’t discuss money, but for asian cultures, showing prosperity is important..it’s not about bragging rights, but it’s about showing you have prosperity in your life and for a lot of asian cultures, that’s shown in monetary means, not lucky in love or happiness, though that’s very important as well. Family is a very important structure in asian culture. I’m going to have a basket at my wedding for guests to put cards in, but I know a few red pockets will be put in there as well.

    Oh, and it’s also in Chinese tradition that even if you aren’t invited to the wedding, if you get a traditional announcement cake card (announcement, plus an offer of a pastry or cake at a designated shop), usually done by the bride’s mother, you are to send a gift – and most people choose money.

  76. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    At times like the holidays or birthdays, why not just give nothing and pretend we exchanged cash.

    @Geekybiker: How does that work with birthdays? I can see the problem with a holiday where you’re exchanging gifts but a birthday?

    @Eyebrows McGee: He doesn’t even get an awesome version of the practical thing? Like a toaster that toasts an image of a kitty cat on the bread? Or if he got a new washer and dryer would he get the one that’s a washer and dryer in one machine?

  77. bbbici says:

    As a person who doesn’t want to accumulate junk, I love cash or gift certificates. Cash doesn’t offend me in the slightest. Who has time to know exactly what gift is needed and will be appreciated by the recipient? With mere aquaintances, non-cash gifts are risky. I would rather know my cash gift will be used than worry about slightly offending someone. It hurts when a non-cash gift is never used.

  78. kingedwin says:

    If I get cash, I’ll just spend it on something boring, like gas. If I get a gift, or a gift card at a place I can’t get necessities at, then I’ll end up with something fun.

  79. MercuryPDX says:

    I always make en effort to buy a gift, as that’s were the “toughtful” part comes in. I only give giftcards if they are requested or there’s too many options (eg. “Get him a PS3 game.” “Which one?” “I have no idea.”).

  80. MercuryPDX says:

    as that’s were the “toughtful” = As that’s where the thoughtful.

    Sigh.

  81. UpsetPanda says:

    @bbbici: I know what you mean…we need some things, like a few pieces of furniture, but I don’t NEED the crystal vase. There are times that I hope people not picking gifts off our wedding registry will choose to give something we NEED or give cash. I can survive without the $300 crystal vase, but I don’t want to look at it and not use it and think that I’d rather have cash so I can pay a bill or buy more groceries.

  82. Scotus says:

    @vladthepaler: Gift cards are thoughtless only if you put no thought into them. I have a relative whose favorite store is The Gap. Ergo, I get a Gap gift card every Christmas. This is thoughtless.

    But if you know someone is an avid reader or collects DVDs, but don’t want to get something they may already have or not like, how is getting them a Borders or Best Buy gift card thoughtless?

  83. kaitousai says:

    Gifts are something that can be tricky for each person. I dislike most gift giving scenarios and holidays. However, my opinion of cash vs actual gift depends on each person. Some people do prefer cash more than gifts they won’t like or won’t use. It really depends on each person. I know a father in law, who hates gifts, but cash is basically everything to him. So his kids always throw some money into a pot for his birthday and he loves it.
    Then you have someone who likes to stay fit often, and this person likes protein drinks galore… so bulk stock makes him happy.

    Some people are weird, and I dislike how some people can just treat you so coldly when they don’t receive a gift. When it comes to gifts, only the person that knows them should be giving gifts and not asking someone for advice from someone who doesn’t know who the person is.

  84. LadyKathryn says:

    I like the thought part of gift giving – finding some treasure that fits someone you love well, but they have never thought to get it (or could afford it.)

    When that fails (and sometimes the Muse does) Cash. With a handwritten note of your appreciation, but cash. (Or if it is honestly the best thing for them. My cousin is a horse trainer – not a job you do out of anything but a die hard passion. She always needs new equipment or…other stuff for her horses, her competitions, her business, etc, etc. Its her life and her passion and I just do not know enough about it to buy things for her. Cash it is.)

  85. OsiUmenyiora says:

    @BStu: No, gift cards do not give you full control over the gift you’ll receive. Cash does that. Gift cards let you pick out what you want but only from one specific store. That’s a big difference. When my in-laws give me a $50 Macy’s card I always think “Great, they gave my gift to Macy’s.”

  86. OsiUmenyiora says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: You obviously have kids. I have lots of hand-knitted blankets that my kid never used, but all the stuff like you mentioned that people gave us was the most appreciated and the most used.

  87. Sick_N_Tired says:

    Cash is ideal. Family, friends…about the only person that I would be “???” over would be if my wife gave me cash (hmm, where did she get _that_…let me check my wallet…)

    But Cash allows me to 1) pay bills I need to pay 2) buy something special to me that I want but others may not approve of 3) allows me to buy something that I want that is impossible for most people to find/research – e.g. an out-of-print book that I have tracked down at this obscure bookstore… 4) allows me to complete my Christmas shopping!

    With that stated, any GC to a store that I frequent or a store that it obvious that I go to (e.g., I’m a landlord, how about a Lowe’s GC? Oh Yeah) I am thrilled. Maybe if it was to a supermarket or something, maybe that would be a little lame, but I would still use it and appreciate it.

    The hybrid solution, AMEX checks…I feel its a miss because it adds the effort of converting it (like a GC) but not right away for goods; the cash is cash but then I can go use it right away. The gift check is like all compromises, doesn’t really satisfy either need…

    BUT THEY ARE ALL BETTER THAN NOTHING!!!! and I think that is the point. As my mom always taught me, be thankful for what you get and you will be satisfied while others want.

  88. veronykah says:

    This occurred to me over Christmas…when from some close relatives I got cash as a present.
    I HATE cash as a gift.
    To me, a gift is something I want but wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself. When given cash it ends up with all my other cash, going to the bank and paying off a bill.
    I don’t know about some of you, but paying a bill is NOT a Christmas present.
    Gift cards are a slight improvement…I’d still rather receive a gift anytime.

  89. TechnoDestructo says:

    @smitty1123:

    Gift cards also say that you either care more about the store than the person to whom you are giving a gift, or that you’re a moron.

  90. scarletvirtue says:

    I do like gift cards, but cash is better. Especially since I get flexibility in how/when/where to spend the money.

    So if I wanted to take that $50 from grandma and put it towards coke and whores, I could. I can’t do that with a gift card for Target or Olive Garden, right? (Okay, maybe not. I’m kind of boring, in that the money would be put towards books or clothes.)

  91. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Cash is excellent. After all, the recipient can go convert the cash into something they want or need, rather than receiving another useless sweater or useless piece of bric-a-brac that’s going to get thrown in the closet and ultimately the landfill.

    Granted, there is this hang-up that if you give cash, you’re not putting any thought into it, but as I see it, the whole idea of a gift is to please the recipient.

    I’ve never been in a situation where I thought “Oh darn, more of that useless cash..whatever shall I do with it?” I do, however, have countless useless sweaters and shirts that are either ugly or don’t fit me.

    Then again, I’m just as happy not exchanging gifts. This whole idea that you don’t love somebody unless you give them a useless piece of crap for Christmas or a birthday is useless and obsolete. I’m gainfully employed, and there’s nothing anyone can afford to give me that I can’t afford to buy for myself.

    It’s obviously a different thing for kids..but for adults, I think everyone should just keep their own money at Christmas and buy something they want.

  92. @Rectilinear Propagation: He usually goes fairly awesome, but the concept still infuriates me!

    @OsiUmenyiora: LOL, I actually don’t yet, but I was the oldest of four children and worked as a nanny in law school. I’m about as well-acquainted with the trials and tribulations of having an infant as anyone can be who hasn’t actually HAD one. :)

  93. morganlh85 says:

    For me, I prefer getting cash or gift cards, because I love to shop, and I’m very picky. So really the person who gives me a gift card knows me the best, because they know I’d love teh opportunity to go shopping and pick something out for myself.

  94. HooFoot says:

    The best gifts I received were homemade: a homemade book of family recipes from my mother, and a homemade blanket from my significant other’s grandmother. After my mother and the grandmother passed away, these gifts became even more valuable to me because there is no possible way anymore to replace them.

  95. SaraAB87 says:

    Personally I would rather just have cash, when someone gives me a gift card it requires me to shop at that particular store. I am all about getting the best price on stuff so I like to have a variety of shopping options (especially since I like video games which vary HUGELY in price). If someone gives me a gift card to target but I can get the item I want at amazon for 20$ less, then I just feel like I have wasted 20$…

  96. CyberSkull says:

    If your unsure of what to get a person, ask them. If you are dumbstruck for ideas, give them cash or a gift card for someplace that you absolutely know they shop at.

    For example: A friend gave my sister and I each a gift. He gave her a statue of Richard because they are both fans of Looking for Group and he gave me a GameStop gift card because he knows I buy games there. I applied the gift card to Super Smash Bros. Brawl immediately. We were both satisfied with our gifts because they both matched our tastes, and that is what really counts.

  97. Smorgasbord says:

    WE used to draw names in our family so we could buy one nice present instead of six cheaper ones. We took turns randomly drawing names and telling the others who they got. One time I figured it would be easier to send cash so I sent my brother $100. The same brother got my name and sent me $20. I haven’t sent money since. With presents, the receiver usually doesn’t know how much the gift cost, unless you send the receipt so they can exchange it if they want.

  98. arachnophilia says:

    i’m all for cash. don’t give me a gift unless you actually know me well enough to know what i’d like. i just hate getting shit that i don’t have a place for, don’t want, and that makes me realize that my friends and family have no idea who i really am.

    i posted an LJ-rant back in december how if someone gives me one more ansel adams book because they know i’m into photography, i’m just going to lose my mind.