How Gift Cards Saved Christmas

Gift cards are here to stay, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Speaking from personal experience, they are convenient and add a lot of fun to the holiday season.

This is a reality that bears out in the numbers. According to a recent piece from the Washington Post, Americans will be spending billions on them this holiday season, and the amount is only a piece of what they spend annually.

“Americans are projected to spend nearly $26 billion on gift cards this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, and many of those sales have taken place in the four days leading up to Christmas,” the Post states, adding that close to “75 percent of Americans say they will buy at least one gift card for the holidays.”

On an annual basis, the amount placed on gift cards totals $120 billion, meaning Christmas only accounts for around 20 percent of the final tally.

As the Post notes, gift cards “have become staples of company events, family holidays, and children’s birthday parties.”

But perhaps it is not just what they bring to the table that makes them such great gift ideas. It’s a personal belief that gift cards actually save Christmas.

Allow me to explain.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons

There are very few people in my family that don’t work through the holidays. This is a reality you can likely relate to. Even now, I’m sitting in my office pounding out a living on my laptop while wife and baby are at home on Christmas Eve night.

When ready to leave, I will call a security number, and the man who answers will let me out only to work the rest of his 12-hour shift.

He will be relieved in the morning and likely sleep most of the day. His “celebration” probably won’t begin until 4 or 5 p.m.

In other words, time is a commodity most don’t have. Sure, few will actually be punching a clock on Christmas Day, but even that is changing dramatically.

While several years ago it was unheard of that any business outside police, fire and healthcare providers would be working on the holiday, a 2014 poll from USA Today revealed that more than a quarter of Americans planned to work on Dec. 25.

(Or rather had to work on Dec. 25.)

If you’re working Christmas Day, it’s unlikely that you have a lot of time to shop for every person in your family.

Gift cards are able to step in as a failsafe. In so doing, they trivialize the crass commercialism that has come to dominate the holiday.

You see how the Black Friday rush brings out the very worst in people. By just buying gift cards and being done with it, you are checking the obligatory gifting box, while giving loved ones something they can put to good use.

More importantly, you don’t have to stress out about Christmas shopping journeys that last for hours and effectively drain every last bit of joy from the season.

Because of this, it is not a stretch to say that gift cards have actually saved Christmas for millions of Americans fed up with what the holiday has become.

Image via Amazon

Of course, not everyone is happy with the rise of the gift card. One Post commenter even said they hate them.

“I can’t tell you how many unused ones I have lying around,” the commenter explained. “They’re a scam because sellers know that. If I can’t find a gift, I vow never to give a gift card again as long as I live. Hard cold cash is the best if you can’t buy a gift that can be wrapped in paper and ribbon!”

But what do you think, readers? Are gift cards great for the spirit of the season, or do they drain the fun out of everything? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

[Image via ShutterStock]