I know. The title is not what you would think to hear from me. But, it’s true.
If you invite me to your child’s birthday party, I will probably buy them something plastic.
But it’s not what you think. In fact, I could have titled this Why Gift Cards are the Best Gift Ever. But, let’s move on.
I know I’ve said it before: stop filling my house with stuff. Plastic, wooden, metal, magnets, snaps or clips. I don’t want it. Errr… most of it (yes, my kids both have Amazon wishlists… the grandparents would be lost without it!). So when it comes to gifts, why do I buy plastic? …because some plastic offers experience.
I’ll never forget certain gifts I got as a child: tickets to ice shows, an amazing lunch in New York for my 16th, seeing the Lipizzaner horse show with my Dad. Experiences.
So, I started giving gift cards. For favorite restaurants, places to shop, or for credit to shop anywhere! Although I remember a few years ago, the thought was gift cards are so impersonal. For me, gift cards have always been my favorite. I get to treat myself and my family to great meals, shop for things I would never give myself the opportunity to, and put money towards whatever I want- even some bills!
When it comes to my kids… and maybe even yours, I want to give you the same freedom. So I shop plastic! I hearken back to my 2016 word: autonomy. I am giving others autonomy to get what they want. And I love knowing that others can have an experience on me! My spark was ignited when, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine in Philly answered my text of “What can I send to ***** for his birthday?”
“I really want to be honest. I feel like I can be that with you…” So many sentences start like that with my friends and myself. I feel honored. And yes, you can always be honest with me. “*** and I really want to get him a swing set! Like the wooden one you were talking about! Remember?” She was talking a mile a minute. “We cleared the ground and measured and we’re saving, but we would love to give it to him for his birthday and, well, I know you know what happens when you have good intentions.”
“Yeah, the total road to Hell.” We laughed, but I pushed her. “What can I give you? Cash? A gift card?”
“We’re shopping at BJ’s for the same one you like. Maybe a gift card?” She paused. “Oh. Oh God. How embarrassing. I shouldn’t have asked.”
We sent a gift card. And, as I do during birthday season, which runs from mid-winter to summer, I designate $20-35 per child (I wish we could do more, but for now, that’s where we’re at!) and work within that for every birthday.
As I write this, I ask friends to please ASK FOR WHAT YOUR CHILD NEEDS. What you need!
Do you want to bring your child to Disney? Ask for gift cards. Ask for cash. Ask. Ask. Ask,
After Addie’s first birthday someone mentioned to me they were offended we shared that she had a wishlist. To be honest, we made one because Addie could not use many toys for kids 12+ months. She just wasn’t there, and we wanted her to have things for where she was. But, as I saw her enjoy the perfect gifts for her, I realized, I wanted that for her every year. I wanted her to enjoy her birthday- almost like the holidays- with gifts perfect for where she is in life. So, I offered my apologies and explained why we shared her wishlist… and this person still didn’t like it. “Back in my day…” and oh my, have I been back in the day!
But we are in this day. I want to give your child something awesome. Something they will remember. And not remember about me, but about their parent, or their choice. Yep, their choice.
A few weeks ago Addie told me she wanted to take me to lunch. “If we go the The (Corner) Bakery now, we can’t go next week with friends because we don’t have enough for that right now. So do you want to go this week, or next?”
“I want to go with friends next week. I want to save my Bakery money.”
So… we saved it. And we went to lunch the following week together. And Addie decided that.
Having gift cards has given Addie the tools to manage money.
She is 3.
She takes me out to lunch. She asks me if she can get new leggings. She wants to know if a treat is “in the budget”.
#nailedit kid. You nailed it. And because she gives so much thought to whether we, as a family or she, herself, can afford something, I often share with her how we get there. “Want to go out to eat tonight?” I give her a teaser to dinner as we head to dance class Tuesday nights. “YES!” She exclaims. Well, dinner is free for you at Uno’s tonight, so let’s go! This has led her to wanting her birthday party here. And taught her to coupon, plan, ask for what she wants and budget to get there.
And I love that. I love her ability to plan ahead.
So, I love gift cards. I love the experience they give to us. I love the option to eat/shop/get what we need, as individuals. As family. And I love the lesson. To save, spend, or share our money (yes, I’ve used gift cards given to me to buy things for those who need).
And so, I leave you with this: ask for what your child would love. Ask for what they need. Ask for what works best for you- as a family. Just ask. Let’s stop being embarrassed because we want our kids to have the latest Shopkins, or because we want to give them the gift of tickets to a musical that we would love funds to afford. Let’s ask for the opportunity to have a family dinner out.