real life

"Why I just want cash and gift cards for Christmas."


I don’t mind the odd surprise gift, but 99 percent of the time, they’re a no-go zone for me. I don’t like receiving them and I don’t like giving them.

You might say I’m a bit of a party pooper. Perhaps you think I’m just too stuck up to appreciate the time and effort put into the gifts I receive. Or, as I like to see it, maybe I just want everyone to be super happy.

Very rarely have I been genuinely pleased by surprise presents. And let’s be honest, most of us have received some terrible gifts in the past. It’s wrapped nicely. You give it a shake, maybe a sniff and you start ripping it apart. But you wish you hadn’t. You wish you didn’t have to smile and say “OMG yaaaaaaay” and then slowly put it aside.

I’m here to tell you that you should always ask the person exactly what they want and if you’re still unsure, opt for the monetary options. It’s not lazy or thoughtless. In fact, I’d say it’s the most thoughtful gift there is.

It’s all nice and lovely until you see what’s inside…Image via Instagram.

Most of my relatives and closest friends have figured out that it’s best to give me a gift card or cash. Too many times have I tried to act as though I’m overwhelmed with joy at the presents and then failed to keep up the fakery. I’m certainly very appreciative that they’ve spent money on the gift. But in all honesty, it’s a gift that to me is a bit of a waste of their money.

There have been gifts where it should have been blindingly obvious that I would not like them; things I have never worn or used before. There have been questionable gifts and there have been the gifts that just plain disappointing. Sometimes (and I’m sure you’ve done this before as well) I’ve had to place a note reminding myself to use the gift when I know I will see the person who gave it to me. And let me tell you, that’s just exhausting.


I once had a boyfriend who bought me a lovely gift that I just did not understand. I tried really hard to like it. I really did. But when you don’t like something, you just don’t like it.

He bought me a pen. A really expensive pen. He obviously thought that as a journalism student interested in fun things like politics, I would appreciate a nice pen.

Except, I’m a strong supporter of the 10 pack of ballpoint pens you buy from the supermarket. They’re cheap and it’s ok if you lose them (because I lose them…a lot). The gift just became a bit of a burden because I was always careful about when and where I used it, making sure I didn’t lose it and making sure that I actually used it in front of him. (Post continues after gallery.)


The thought he put into the gift, and the fact that he was willing to spend that amount of money on me was really flattering and I appreciated. But I’d be lying if I said that my appreciation was so overwhelming that all of a sudden, I became a lover of expensive pens.

I honestly would have preferred a gift card and he spend the rest of the money on himself. It just seemed like a bit of a waste. And I’m quite sure he knew in the end that I wasn’t ever going to really like it.

Penny’s reaction is all too familiar… Post continues after video. 

Video via CBS

Surprise gifts carry the unfortunate risk of dissatisfaction on both ends. Avoiding surprises, and allowing the recipient take full control over the gifts coming their way, everyone involved will always be happier. We would always be happy about the gifts we receive, and always happy about the fact that the gift we’ve just given will actually be used.

Isn’t that so much better than always wondering whether the person actually likes it or not? Or trying to pretend that you love the gift and you always use it, when in reality, it’s already found a new home.


I know we all say that we should just accept the gift because a lot of thought has gone into it, and if you don’t like it, you can regift it. But there’s only so much regifting you can do before you accidentally give someone the gift they gave you.

Plus, when a lot of thought has ACTUALLY gone into the gift, it’s very unlikely the person won’t like it. Everything known about the person would have been considered by the giver. And let’s be honest – if you’ve put all that thought into the gift and it’s STILL horrible, maybe you should reevaluate your relationship because you clearly don’t know much about the person.

Maybe I’m a bit of a control freak. But I just don’t want to be spending special days faking emotions and reactions. It’s not fair on anyone. When I have told people exactly what I want, it’s because they are things I genuinely need. But overall, I am a big fan of gift cards and cash. They’re just so handy and versatile. And I can do whatever I want with them.

Let’s just try and avoid these situations please.

Sometimes, I’ll go out and use all of the money towards one big gift for myself. On other occasions, I have simply put it in the bank. The best thing about gift cards and cash though, is that I can put it towards other people’s gifts and they will never know that I technically just regifted their gift.

As much as I try to appreciate all of the surprise gifts that come my way, I’d much prefer that appreciation to be genuine and that I actually use those gifts, not superficially have them hanging in my room for when they visit. I’d much prefer that the giftee know that I will use it meaningfully.