All I want to give or get for Christmas is cash.
And if you’re honest, deep down, that’s what you’re thinking when someone asks you what you want.
“Please, just give me the money so I can buy what I really want — or need,” you’d like to say. “Or pay a bill.”
But that isn’t polite or politically correct for Christmas.
Yes, I know there are those of you out there whose love language is giving. This is your holiday of choice. You love to shop in search of just the right gift. It’s your calling. You’re on the lookout all year for the perfect thing.
It’s the reactions you get that the rest of us strive — but fail miserably — to achieve. For you, it goes like this: The person opens your gift and there is an immediate shriek of delight. It’s just want she wanted. It’s the right size. It’s the right color. Or it’s meaningful. You get a tight hug that lasts long because the gratitude is greater.
The pressure and expectations that you perfect-gifting people create make it hard for the rest of us. It’s why we untalented gift-givers end up buying ugly sweaters, singing-fish wall plaques and Chia pets. If we can’t get it right, at least we can make the person laugh.
Or we just give up and grab what’s on sale. We slog through stores with our shoulders slumped hoping — praying — something will jump out and be the right gift.
When we give gifts, this is how it goes: The person opens the present and there isn’t a squeal of joy. For a fleeting moment — because he or she was raised right and was taught to be grateful no matter what — we see disappointment on the receiver’s face. We didn’t get the right size. We chose a hideous color. We get an inauthentic, “This is nice.” In the most egregious breaks with etiquette, we are immediately asked for the return receipt. Our hug is a light back tap.
It is we bad gift-givers who have contributed considerably to the billion-dollar trend in Christmas gifts — the gift card.
Second only to clothing, the National Retail Federation found that 56 percent of shoppers said they will give gift card. Spending on them is expected to reach $27.5 billion this year.
Nearly 93 percent of American consumers said that they have given or sent a gift card, according to Gift Card Granny, an online exchange site created for people trying to get some value out of unwanted or partially used cards.
We terrible givers aren’t even getting the right cards. LendEDU.com, an online student loan marketplace, decided this year to do some analytical research to come up with a list of cards people don’t want and those that they do.
The site looked at 101 of the most popular gift cards on the market, ranking them based on five factors — how often they were searched on Google, if there are buyer discounts, average resale value, satisfaction with the card and whether there’s free shipping.
From bottom up, these retailers had the lowest-ranking gift cards:
Here are the highest-ranking gift cards of 2016:
“We wanted to come up with gift cards that the receiver will actually like or sell for a good amount of money,” said Nate Matherson, co-founder and chief executive of LendEDU.com.
We are told that gift cards make giving easy. That’s not necessarily true. A gift card can become a burden.
You may be relegating someone to eat at a restaurant they don’t fancy or shop at a retailer that doesn’t appeal to them. Or you might just be throwing money away.
I’m a gift-card hoarder. To honor the person’s thoughtfulness, I don’t want to use the card any old time. Let’s say I get a Target gift card. I don’t want to buy toilet paper or other household items I might need. Instead, I hold onto it until there’s something special I want.
Gift cards aren’t so great when you think about this: Almost two-thirds of receivers spend an extra 38 percent beyond the value of the card, according to Gift Card Granny. Close to $1 billion went unredeemed in gift cards last year, according to CEBTowerGroup, an insight and technology company.
These last statistics back me up. For those of us who are not perfect-gift givers, maybe our money would be better spent if we just give people cash. Bet then we’ll get better hugs.
Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to wapo.st/michelle-singletary.