Gift CardsWhether you're looking to treat your mum on Mother's Day, or reignite the romantic flame between you and your significant other, buying gifts is never easy - and, for many of us, it's much more straight-forward to opt for a prepaid gift card.
Whilst it's true that gift cards are a god-send for lazy shoppers, those who receive them rarely complain. Instead of getting something they don't want and will never use (but dare not admit to you), they can go out and buy something they genuinely need (and, crucially, on their own time - not yours).
The pros and cons
Gift cards are the most popular type of Christmas gift nearly every year, so there's no need to feel like a Scrooge every time you pop one inside a card instead of picking something out yourself.
Having said that, gift cards should only be used as a last resort. If you know what someone needs, or better yet, you think you know what they would buy themselves using the gift card, you're much better off cutting out the middle man. Stores will obviously only sell gift cards at rounded numbers like £10 or £20, and that means they're keeping the odd bit of change left on there after your recipient has purchased something for, as an example, £8.99.
Bear in mind that gift cards also come with an expiration date. Most of the major stores give you a solid few years in which to use your credit, but some smaller ones give you a tiny window which can sneak up on you if you're not careful.
Used gift cards
Here's one thing the stores don't want you to know: some gift receivers who aren't over-joyed with their presents do put them up for sale online once they've finished with the niceties - and that includes gift cards. You can buy second-hand cards online at websites like Gift Card Granny.
No seller will expect to pull in the full value of the card, and that means you can buy one for a discounted price. Just remember not to tell your recipient that you've purchased someone else's unwanted birthday present
Online business One4All currently offer a service whereby they issue gift cards covering multiple stores - which you can hand-pick yourself to fit the tastes of your recipient. This includes the major homeware outlets as well as clothes and electronics, in case you really want to diversify your options.
While some may interpret this as a move away from being personal and thoughtful, in many ways it's the exact opposite. You can also spruce the card up by asking them to put a special photograph or message on - which isn't typically offered by high street stores that only have generic greetings cards (perhaps with a dash of snow around the festive period).
You can also pick these up at your local Post Office, in case you need one at short notice (although obviously you will then be precluded from adding any personal touches).
When the gift card is for buying only a certain store and the recipient cannot find anything proper, there is always a chance to exchange the card with another one or trade it for cash. And finally there will be no unnecessary presents that will be stuck somewhere for a long time.