Is Gifting Money Really That Bad?

Reading Time: 5 minutes    

It depends. We participate in a lot of gift-giving my family simply because it’s a huge family. Many times we have to find out ahead of time what the person likes and what he or she dislikes. Then you go out shopping at various stores to search for the item(s), buy, pack, and hope it is really what they wanted.


My dad never wants a gift. He prefers cash. But somehow I feel weird giving my dad cash but am ok giving it to younger kids. I guess it’s some kind of age or cultural thing. So I end up buying him something and then provide some justification for how and why he should use it. 🙂


I suppose he prefers cash/money has so much flexibility. You can spend it on whatever or save it for whatever.


It can ofcourse grow into more money too.


Some or many people believe that giving cash may be offensive, lazy, or insensitive. They may believe that the giver did not take any effort into learning more about the recipient’s interest or was not worth their time or effort to go and see what to buy. But this is not necessarily the case.



Depends Who the Recipient Is Right


Cash can be a great gift for some and not so good for others, generally speaking. I would not recommend giving cash to your significant other unless you are absolutely sure that is what they definitely want.


Also, I would not give cash to my parents as a gift (it just feels weird).


I’d strongly consider giving cash to children. They get super-excited when they see cash. It’s like a golden ticket for so many things.


The fashion and trend for kids and teens are changing so fast, it’s almost impossible for adults to keep up. I know in my family, we ask the kids to tell us specifically what they want for their birthday. And if we don’t have the time to get it, we simply give cash.


Evan Polman, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison agrees that it’s more and tougher to figure out what people really want as a gift and if they’ll be content with what they receive.  He says there are so many options available to consumers and as a result, people know exactly what they want to match their preferences.



How To Gift Money  


You don’t want to just give a wad of cash. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry gave Elaine cash. That was hilarious. She had this look on her face that’s just plain confusion. And here is some of the dialogue:


Elaine: Cash?
Jerry: Would do you think?
Elaine: You got me cash?
Jerry: Well this way I figure you can go out and get yourself whatever you want. No good?
Elaine: Who are you, my uncle?
Jerry: Well come on. That’s $182 right there. I don’t think that’s anything to sneeze at.
Elaine: Let me see the card. (Reading) To a wonderful girl, a great pal, and more?


The last line is just the icing on the cake. 🙂


If you do decide to give money, I’d suggest using clean and crisp bills; you can usually get them from your bank. Also, you can buy nice decorative envelopes from Walmart or Target and write a brief message. If you don’t’ want to do that, consider buying a card that already has a message and places the money in there.  And try not to give for example $50 with two 10 dollar bills and thirty 1 dollar bills either.


Alternatives To Giving Cash


Check – this can be gifted to children and adults. A lot of times for occasions such as weddings, baby showers, and graduations where invitations are sent, many times it clearly reads “no boxed gifts”. This is a nice way of saying we want money. In this scenario, we’ll usually gift a check.


Gift Card – this one is probably my go to. It actually has the word “gift” in it. First off, you’re not going crazy trying to figure out exactly what to get. And at the same time, you do put in some thought. For example, if it’s for someone who loves movies, then a gift card to IMAX movie theatre (the real IMAX). Or if it’s for your friend that loves coffee, you can gift a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts gift card.



You Can Always Keep Cash


Whether we like to admit it or not, all of us have received something and then tried to figure out where it was purchased so we can go to exchange or return it. Consider the time it takes to go to the store, wait in the special customer service or returns line which almost always takes longer and then “attempt” to return something.


And when you return stuff too often at a particular store, you may even be temporarily banned from returning things.



What Do The People Say?


I decided to get some feedback on Twitter. I simply asked people if they would happily give or receive money in the form of cash, check or gift card. The results were unilateral; everyone that took the poll thought it would be fine receiving a gift of some form of currency:


Is gifting money really that bad poll smm



At the same time, I think the survey responders are most likely other personal finance writers or persons of interest. Therefore, the population may arguably be skewed as well.


The best advice I can give is to know who you are giving money too. If you know them well enough to be comfortable giving it to them or if they specifically state in an initiation “no boxed gifts” then you’re good.



You’re Thoughts:

  1. Have you ever given a form of cash to someone as a gift and received a favorable reaction?
  2. Is that what they wanted? Were they happy or surprised or upset?
  3. Would you like to receive cash or would you be offended?





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