Gift Cards: Evil or Evil Genius?

So the holidays are here. Ho ho ho. I love the holidays, I really do, though I do tend to get wrapped up in all the to dos and out a bit. After a late arriving birthday party invitation through our weekend schedule into disarray this week, I may have had a small anxiety attack that resulted in me hyperventilating at my assistant’s desk. (You guys, the struggle is real in December.)

As I discussed over at Liberating Working Moms this week, gift giving is a huge part of the holidays and one that takes up a lot of energy. As the name Two Washingtons suggests, we still have lots of family and friends on the east coast. So their holiday gifts not only need to be purchased, but then shipped to the other side of the country to make it in time for the holiday.

This is our fifth (!) Christmas in Seattle, so I’ve got the shipping things done to a science. I know when things need to be shipped by, I know how to pack a box and what a great friend the self serve shipping machine is. It’s not the shipping that has my losing sleep this season. It is the what the heck do I get you thing that is killing me. It sounds sort of silly, but honestly, why do we have to give gifts EVERY year?

It is not the gift giving itself that I mind. I’m all for giving something to people that they want and can use. But it is the gift giving for gift giving sake that drives me crazy. The proliferation of stuff everywhere that accumulates from the need to just give something. I’d love to be able to find the perfect gift for everyone that I know they will love and use, and not feel like I am just needlessly contributing to the clutter in their lives. (Maybe this is partly me projecting that I do not know where we will put all the stuff that will accumulate in our house this holiday season. We want to move in the spring and every time something new enters the house I think, where will I put that and how will I pack it.)

So what are your gift giving tips? Honestly, I’m to the point of only giving gift cards this year. Part of me thinks it is a cop out but I spend so much of the holiday gift trying to find the “perfect” gift that meets my usabililty requirements, that I end up driving myself crazy. A gift card that allows the receiver to use as they wish – be that for more things or something they truly find useful – seems to be the best plan right now. I think the ability for them to truly buy what they want/need helps to reduce the guilt of sending the impersonal gift card.

Do you feel overwhelmed by stuff at the holidays? Have you found a good “non-thing” gift for your loved ones? (And to those on my gift list – SURPRISE! – you’re getting a gift card.)



  1. I’m ok with gift cards. They’re easy, and then the person can get what they want. You can always attach the card to a little box of tea or bag of sweets to kick it up a notch.

  2. I am someone who loves strolling through a store and shopping for things for myself, but I don’t usually have the extra funds to spend on something “unnecessary”. Because of that, I LOVE getting a giftcard. I get a mini shopping spree without the guilt. And I definitely agree on not wanting to gift stuff just for the sake of stuff. I love to bake, so I will often give food gifts or cook dinner for someone. I’ll also get them a restaurant giftcard we can use together or offer to babysit while they go out on a date night. A nice bottle of alcohol is also always welcome in my family. I’ll send them something that’s local to me and they can enjoy all year round.

  3. Gift cards are always good. I’m also always appreciate of people sharing their wish lists with me (especially for the kids!). I know it takes some of the fun and surprise out of gift giving, but it’s a win-win for everyone: easier for me and the recipient gets something they actually want or need. :)

  4. I used to hate the idea of gift cards. I did think they were a cop out and very non-personal. But, I’ve changed my mind in recent years. Partly because, well, they are so easy. When you don’t know what someone really wants or needs, you can still make them happy. And I know that younger people really prefer them. I may think that that glittery sweater is the perfect gift, but I’m pretty sure my 20-something niece would rather pick out her own style.

    • Exactly – I have the desire to get everyone exactly what they REALLY want but I don’t always know that. So gift cards are cheating a little but fulfill my intentions at least.

  5. Four of our 8 grandkids are 12 to 19.Gift cards,Amazon is our fav.,are top shelf.Lanny and Laura ,our oldest and wife, have season Patriot tix and we get a game every year as our Christmas gift.Love it.

    • That Patriots game sounds fantastic – I’ve never seen them at Gillette, only once in person in Seattle. Gift cards for teenagers is definitely the way to go – how are your grandkids so big already?? I feel like Mikey and Joey should be like 5 and 7 or something.

  6. I might have been able to say that if it weren’t for the Piekarski yankee swap…

  7. I totally get overwhelmed with the holidays especially when buying gifts for the extended family or whomever is going to be at Christmas because it’s like what do you buy.. but who doesn’t love a starbucks gift card right?

    • I’ve really come around to gift cards, because now that you can get them for ANYTHING, you can personalize it while still ensuring the person can pick out something they truly want.

  8. Grandma Dede says:

    Sorry but I have to be a desenting vote on the gift card discussion. Christmas is not about giving something to someone but about saying that the someone is important to you. The best presents I have received were not the ones that I said I needed but the ones where the person who gave it to me chose something that they new I would like.
    No one says we are only allowed to shop for Christmas the four weeks before when we are busy doing all the other Christmas season things.
    Give me a gift card and I will buy something but it will probably be something that won’t be as special to me as a gift that you picked out for me.

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