Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gift cards: What everyone wants but never asks for

I'm sure by the end of this you will have called me cheap, stingy, even Scrooge. But to my defense, it's just my opinion - it doesn't have to be yours.

Well, it's Christmas Eve. Santa has packed his sleigh, Ruldolph has come to grips with his red rose, and I've yet to buy a single present. Not because I forgot, but this year I'm finally taking a stand to ignore the apparent commercialism surrounding Christmas.

Each year I wonder around Wal-Mart aimlessly looking for a gift under $20 to defeat the guilt that I (and everyone else) seems to get at this time of year. This year, however, the guilt is gone. No longer will I wonder how much my mom spent on the boxers and socks (Yes, she buys me same thing every year) to match her gift. Or how much my brother Jeffrey spent on my dress shirt.

As for me, I'm done with the hooplah.

I know that goes against every social order known to man. But if I don't stand up and say something, who will?

Every year low-income families go heavily into debt to buy their child something they play with for a week at most. An estimated $65 billion is spent on Christmas gifts in the U.S. alone! Wouldn't at least a portion of that be better suited for a homeless family or laid off GM worker? How did it get this way? When did the "Christ" in Christmas vanish?

First off, I'm not telling you not to buy your child or spouse a Christmas gift. But think about what the recipient actually needs. There is a worldwide yearly $85 billion worth of "value destruction" as a result of people buying gifts that they necessarily aren't fond of, according to Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics.

The solution: gift cards.

I know what you're thinking: that's not personal, there's no thought into it, and (my favorite) I'm just not doing that.

But how many times has a grandparent given you that forsaken plaid shirt or long white tube socks? They probably spent around $20 on the total gift, but to you it's worth nothing (maybe even less when you count the forced smile). In Grandpa's mind, he can't wait to see you in his new favorite shirt. In your mind, you're thinking what time does Fred's open to return it.

To counteract all this unnecessary confusion, buy a gift card. No, they might not see the significance of it now. But the next time their shopping, they have the pleasure in knowing that they can whip out a gift card to make a purchase.

For parents, stop feeding into the pressure to keep up with the Jones'. Because, in reality, they usually can't keep up with themselves. Instead of spending your yearly savings or taking out expensive loans for Christmas presents, invest in something meaningful - like a vacation. It will give the entire family time to bond while having a splendid time.

Well, that is my suggestion. Hope you enjoyed. I'll be traveling down Highway 82 to my hometown, Grenada, today with a pocket full of gifts - gift cards.