2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Every day gift cards

When my son joined our family, a friend gave us a gift card to our local grocery store. This was an amazing gift because it freed up some cash in our grocery budget that we could then use on much-needed baby supplies.

I was thinking about this grocery store gift card when creating our shopping list for the upcoming holiday season. A good number of people on our list will be receiving gift cards for things they usually buy, so they can free up some money in their personal accounts for other things they want. Random gift cards to places they don’t typically frequent could be a bad idea, but if you know the exact places your friends and family go, you can help them out this year.

Consider practical gift cards, to services and places such as:

  • Grocery stores.
  • Gas stations.
  • Favorite restaurants.
  • Movie theaters.
  • Amazon.com
  • Pharmacies.
  • Hair salons.
  • Coffee shops.

This list is obviously not inclusive of every possibility, so please provide even more ideas in the comments.

29 Comments for “2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Every day gift cards”

  1. posted by jcard21 on

    Give Cash!!! …

  2. posted by Abby on

    This is one of the best ideas ever. We regularly buy Whole Foods gift cards – it allows for the tiniest bit of a splurge, along with covering some practical expenses.

  3. posted by Erin Doland on

    @jcard21 — In most families, it is considered tacky for someone to give cash to a person who is older or around the same age for a holiday gift. Giving money to offspring is acceptable, but one would never give money up the family tree, like to her grandmother or uncle, unless there was a specific need or request. (e.g. Grandma wants a new dishwasher, so everyone chips in for the dishwasher.)

  4. posted by Marjory Thrash on

    college graduates – the college bookstore
    athletes – the sporting goods shop
    crafters – the fabric store or craft store
    anyone who works in an office – the office supplies store
    pet owner – the pet store
    a donation to local charity the recipient supports
    virtually anyone – local home improvement megastore

  5. posted by C on

    This is exactly what I was thinking! I’d love a grocery store gift card; it would help my budget! 🙂

  6. posted by Kari on

    We always give my mom am amazon card. She is a music lover, is on a fixed income, and it gives her a chance to splurge on things she couldn’t otherwise buy. A win-win all the way around.

  7. posted by Gypsie on

    I am a reader with a Nook, I always request BN gift cards! I can apply them to my account and get a book whenever I finish the last one!

  8. posted by Susan in FL on

    Cash is not a tacky gift for older people. My husband’s Grandma who watched our children when they were small was on Social Security and had a very limited budget. We paid her to watch our children while we worked. We paid her extra when she watched the kids while we had a night out. We paid her to keep an eye on the kids during summer vacation long after they could have stayed home by themselves. And we gave her cash (or a check) in a card at Christmas. She was able to maintain her own household until she died because many of her children and grandchildren did the same thing. Anyone who thinks a gift of cash for older persons is tacky deserves to get a lump of coal from Santa.

  9. posted by Karen on

    If you are giving gift cards to family out of town, please be sure there is a location in their city. My family gives my kids gift cards to a movie theater chain that has no locations within hundreds of miles of us. In our case, cash would be less tacky.

  10. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Susan — In your case, money was needed, which made the gift appropriate. As I said in my comment, if there is a need, money is usually not considered tacky.

    @Karen — Have you told your family that you can’t use the movie tickets? If you don’t say anything, you’re letting them waste their money. If you’ve said something, that’s just weird. 🙂

  11. posted by Cindi on

    I’ve never heard that rule of thumb before… I find it very hard to find gifts for my parents generation, (they seem to already have everything) and I often buy gift certificates to nice restaurants that they would normally not be able to justify the expense.

  12. posted by priest's wife on

    I like the idea of giving a gift card to a place where I wouldn’t normally spend the money. I shop at Trader Joe’s- a gift card to whole Foods would be nice!

  13. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Cindi — I don’t consider gift cards to be cash. I give gift cards all the time to people older than me.

  14. posted by Maggie Rose on

    I especially like the idea of gift cards that are practical but a LITTLE fun, like coffee, a salon, or a favorite restaurant. I might be spending the money anyway, but it still feels like a splurge when it’s not coming out of my checking account.

    Personally I don’t like getting cash as a gift because I end up using it on something like bills – People like to know you enjoyed spending their gift (at least I do when I give cash or gift cards!)

  15. posted by Dawn on

    We dearly LOVE getting gift cards! Restaurant cards so great – we love to enjoy a nice dinner without feeling a little guilty for splurging. My son loves gift cards to our local bookstore and movie theater – way better than more plastic junk toys!

    My only concern with gift cards is to be quite careful with WHO you give the gift card to – my completely disorganized and sloppy brother-in-law (whom I do love dearly) lost a $100 gift card we had given him and he never found it. I could have kicked myself for giving it to him to begin with because I was worried he would lose it or give it away to somebody else. But I wanted him to have this particular home improvement store gift card so he could get some tools for his new home. A nice set of towels or a new coffee pot would have been a better choice.

  16. posted by Kat on

    I think this idea is nice for anything BUT the holidays. I find getting a gift card from family or good friends to be a huge slap in the face. Gift cards have become the default gift for anyone you can’t think of a thoughtful gift for.

    I will give gift cards like gas, grocery store or movie ones(making sure they are in people’s areas) throughout the year as random Perk Up gifts, especially to my college age relatives.

  17. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    I have 3 young adult kids and I know they would all appreciate gas cards! They would also like cards for movie theaters.

  18. posted by Nina on

    I recently started getting gift cards from Groupon – sometimes they do have very good deals, so the gift card has even more value.

    Spaeaking of inexpensive gifts, when my colleague was in college, she used to create calendars, which feautured favorite pictures of her family and marked all birthdays of her huge extended family (she is Italian, so practically every day of the year has some meaning;-) Anyway, she graduated some 10 years ago, and the family still demands same present.

    I personally love magazine subscriptions and a helping hand in household matters (cleaning and organizing.) That’s the best present – and I usually reciprocate with help in gardening.

  19. posted by Judy on

    Has anybody ever heard of Ribbon Gift Cards? The recipient gets a gift album and can pick any gift in it! It’s a great way to give something unique and they can pick something practical or something they would “never buy for myself.” They’re perfect for someone who “has everything,” and you can use them for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, as a “thank you” to someone special, as well as for holiday gifts.

    You can get them at PMSIToday.com. Just type in “Ribbon” in the search bar.

  20. posted by pkilmain on

    Nina – we did that twice, and it got (a) very expensive and (b) very time consuming, so we weaned our family onto Alaska calendars (we live there) which they love – and expect every year!

    I will give my great-nieces/nephews gift cards to B&N or Amazon this year. They are now of an age where I have no idea what they like/want/have, as we live across the country.

    I enjoy getting gift certificates or something consumable as opposed to something I don’t like or want from a relative who feels they have to give me “something.” And because we live so far from the rest of the family, I feel really badly that they buy me something I don’t like/want, and then spend a fortune to ship it to me. You can send a gift card with a postage stamp, or even send it online.

  21. posted by ZD on

    But gift cards are a deadweight loss!

  22. posted by TMichelle on

    I always enjoy getting gift cards, but… they stop making sense when you exchange $50.00 gift cards with your family for Christmas. You get a $50.00 card and you give a $50.00 card. Why not keep the money focus on each other instead.

  23. posted by tori on

    I love receiving gift cards! Another great idea for new parents is a gift card to Babies R Us, Target, or Walmart (depending on if u know where they shop for baby supplies).
    My mother in law insists on buying gifts, which I do truly appreciate, because she likes having boxes under the tree for us to unwrap. However, I’d secretly prefer to get gift cards instead for part of the gift! I don’t say anything, though, because I don’t want to hurt feelings or take away the fun she gets from buying stuff.

  24. posted by Elaine on

    I’m getting my sister and brother-in-law a gift card to a local natural foods store, which also has health/healthcare items. They usually just shop at Walmart, so they don’t see any of these alternative foods. They’ll love it!

    They generally get me a gift card for a bookstore, because they know I love to read.

    I think these kinds of cards are great gifts!

  25. posted by Lee on

    We gave my mom a “credit” at her hair salon for manicures, which she loved. We gave my son’s girlfriend a card for a favorite spa and a yarn shop where she wanted to take a class and my son a credit at a local workshop where he would have access to tools he didn’t have room for in their small apartment.

    These let us give them something they want but let them make the final determination. Giving the card to go for special makes it more personal. i do hate exchanging gift cards that indicate that a person has no idea what I would like and I don’t know what she would like.

    Still, Buyer Beware

    Some cards lose value after a certain amount of time.

    We gave our son a gc to a nice, non-chain restaurant, and it went out of business a few months later. He was in college and still carried one of my credit cards. I wish I would have told him he could charge to a certain amount and would be responsible for anything over that. Crude, but at least he could have had a nice dinner someplace else. OK for my kids, not for others.

    Our Borders Books is closing. is yours? Often, you can’t use a card when a store starts the process of closing. 🙁

  26. posted by Ang. on

    Our yoga studio has gift certificates. I have at least one friend who would love to receive one, since sometimes the classes are outside her budget. I bet most studios sell gift cards or certificates, and this would make a great gift if you know someone who practices yoga! Or any other kind of class – art classes, exercise, etc.

  27. posted by hkw on

    I’ve given people gift certificates to a local place that makes gourmet take-home meals; it’s great for someone with a new baby and might be welcomed during the busy holidays, too. I love getting a Whole Foods card because it lets me get basics and splurge on something I might not normally buy.

    When I was a kid, my mom used to give the teenaged babysitters McDonald’s gift certificates and they loved them! Now she gives my husband one to his favorite beer/liquor store. Again, something we’d normally buy anyway but he can kind of go nuts.

  28. posted by Natalie in West Oz on

    “@Karen — Have you told your family that you can’t use the movie tickets? If you don’t say anything, you’re letting them waste their money. If you’ve said something, that’s just weird.”

    Maybe Karen’s rellies are like mine. I asked my rellies for no more presents. I explained it from my perspective of having too much stuff, and being old enough to handle not getting gifts since I was a big girl who had just turned 40. I even suggested if they needed to give me something, that it was a recent photo because I enjoy scrapbooking and would love to see how they all look since most live 3000kms away. They took huge offence and quite openly told me so. So, speaking up did me no good at all. If they want to waste their money, after being told not to, then thats their choice. I will continue to regift or toss out whatever they give me. Thats where the benefit of distance comes in to play – they’ll never know since they only visit every second year, if even that often!

  29. posted by Lou on

    We gift our son & DIL with gift cards to their favorite liquor store – they like to sample different wines & this way, they can splurge or stock up on faves – their choice.

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