Perspective: How to Make Gift Cards Special this Holiday Season

Holiday shopping season is upon us and it’s time to get your shopping lists together! Consumers will be preparing for holiday shopping while trying to stay on budget. Many struggle with finding the perfect gift that’s affordable, but still meaningful. One solution to consider is gift cards.

Gift cards continue to be a popular purchase–89 percent of consumers purchased and/or received a gift card last year–and Christmas is the most popular holiday to give gift cards, according to First Data’s U.S. Gift Card Consumers Insight Study .

Here are some creative ideas to help make gift cards extra special this holiday season without overstretching your budget.

Creative pairings

The tell-tale envelope in a stocking or tiny gift bag makes it obvious that someone is getting a gift card. Instead of the typical wrapping, make the gift more fun and personal by putting it inside another gift. Better yet, try pairing it with complimentary items, like a music gift card with an iPod or iPhone to help get that music library started.

For the couple that needs time together

Set a budget for you and your loved one. Make a rule that the gift has to be something that you can do together. Want a getaway but plane tickets are too expensive? Get a Frontier Airlines gift card to put towards airfare. Need a date night? Get a Lettuce Entertain You gift card and let your loved one choose where to go for a romantic dinner. Be creative and do something fun together.

For the teenager

Gift cards are a smart way to teach young adults how to budget because they help enforce spending limits. Buy your teen a wallet filled with gift cards to their favorite stores like Best Buy, McDonald’s or Applebee’s. For the 16-year-old who just started driving, buy gift cards to gas stations like BP to help them get to all the things and places they love.

For the fitness fanatic

Friends who work out together have more success meeting their fitness goals, so give your friend a gift card to Sports Authority or Eastern Mountain Sports to motivate them to get new gear and get in shape.

For the grandparent

A Williams Sonoma gift card can be a welcome gift for a grandparent, and you can make the gift more personal by going shopping together and spending the afternoon learning the family’s secret apple pie recipe. This is the perfect gift that creates an opportunity to spend more time together.

Holiday readiness kit

The holiday season is filled with parties and no one likes to show up empty handed. Stock up on inexpensive gift cards that you can bring to these events. We also tend to forget about the mailman, teachers and other important people in our lives. So this holiday season, have an emergency stack of gift and greeting cards for all occasions.