A reader is upset her boyfriend only gives gift cards as presents. Here's a compromise.

Question: I’ve dated my boyfriend for two years, and I’ve never seen him give a gift that wasn’t a gift card. He buys them for everything — my birthday, Valentine’s Day, everything. 

We’re going to his best friend’s wedding next month, and he wants to get the couple a gift card! I told him that’s a TERRIBLE idea, and he should just buy something from their registry. He says he’s always given gift cards, so what’s the big deal?

Is he right? Am I being too intense?

— Celeste in New York

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastI don’t think you’re too intense, Celeste. I think gift cards are too intense. The latest numbers from a market research firm called Packaged Facts reveals…

  • Americans spent $46 billion on gift cards last year.
  • Of that, employers gave $7 billion in gift cards to their employees.
  • Here’s the most intense stat of all: Americans “spent $11 billion on gift cards they gave to themselves.”

So your boyfriend is simply riding the trend. Still, I understand your concern, Celeste. I’ve always counseled my clients and readers: The best gifts are about emotion, not money.

Here’s how to make your boyfriend’s gift cards mean more without spending more.

Instead of simply slipping a gift card in an envelope and leaving it on the gift table at the wedding, ask him to write a handwritten note that expresses how much his friend means to him.

That note should include a story from their past, along with best wishes to the future with his new bride. You can also include a note of your own. I promise this: Long after the gift card has been spent, those notes will be cherished.

If you give gifts as a couple in the future, I suggest your boyfriend buys the gift card, and you buy the Hallmark card. It’s a compassionate compromise.


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Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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Meet the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

CPA and Chairman

Dvorkin is the author of Credit Hell and Power Up and Chairman of Debt.com.

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Article last modified on November 28, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Ask The Expert: Are Gift Cards Tacky Wedding Presents? - AMP.