There seems to be a growing trend to give money instead of presents, and not just the ‘slip a ten pound note in the card’ kind. This is a lot more organised and pro active. I’ve read a number of articles discussing this, for example “Forget gifts just money say newlyweds” appeared in the daily mail recently and there’s an article on wikiHow called “Ask for Money In Place of a Christmas Gift”.
There’s even a site dedicated to it called ourwishingwell.com which at first glance looks dedicated to weddings, but it is not. It’s for anyone who is expecting a gift to come their way in the near future. I’ve not delved too deeply into the site, but it appears that you set up an account and ask for donations to it instead of a gift.
There are obviously many advantages of the ‘money instead of gifts’ idea. From the recipient’s point of view, they can buy something they actually want with the money, rather than being landed with a gift they’d rather not have. The plus side for the giver is that they don’t have to traipse around the shops and try to second guess what the person might want. They also don’t have to worry about the recipient already having their gift or that it’s a duplicate of a present someone else has got them. And of course, and perhaps most importantly the plus side for the planet is that we don’t give gifts that ultimately end up as landfill; it doesn’t encourage the endless manufacture of even more unwanted ‘stuff’.
So giving money looks like a win/win situation in which nobody loses and that we should all stop buying gifts immediately and give each other money instead.
However, if we take this trend to its logical conclusion, Christmas and birthdays will ultimately become a bunch of direct debts from your account to your relatives, and vice versa. This completely eliminates the spirit of gift giving.
There are some alternative approaches that more and more people are choosing - buying ‘consumable’ gifts, ‘experience’ gifts and ‘charitable’ gifts.
When choosing a consumable gift, don’t just think ‘can you eat it or drink it?’, but also ‘can you use it’ (bubble bath, perfume, toiletries set…). Edible presents like food hampers and bottles of whiskey usually go down very well.
Experience gifts like ‘falconry lesson’, ‘family photo shoot’ or ‘recording studio session’ literally can make someone’s day, resulting in some unforgettable memories. Gift vouchers for experiences like a day at the races or rally driving experience also have limited packaging.
Charitable giving gifts are getting more popular with people who feel that they just don’t need anything. They can also make a few pounds go much, much further. These gifts for charities at home or abroad are becoming more and more imaginative. Beyond ‘Sponsor an acre of rainforest’ and ‘A goat for an African family’, there's ideas like ‘Fixing the fells in the Lake District’ or ‘Pay for an old dog’s retirement’. See GreatGifts.org, Oxfam, Practical Presents and World Vision. Giving charitable gifts also gives the recipient a warm fuzzy feeling of knowing they’ve helped someone else.
So before you just give someone cash think ‘would I want to open an envelope with just a banknote in it on Christmas day?’. Consider whether a consumable, experience or charity gift may be better.
Mark Rowe is the co-creator of the 'Gift Ideas Generator' UK website - GiftGen.co.uk