In Defense of Gift Cards

Gift cards are divisive. Some say thoughtless, some say faultless.

This year, more than any other, I think of a gift card as safe. Safe because Christmas is only a few days away, and masses of people are headed to the mall to panic-buy trinkets for their loved ones.

I really want you to sit this one out.

If you celebrate the holidays and have a creative person in your life, I’ve got suggestions for digital gifts:

1. Dick Blick. This art store has an excellent variety of supplies – ranging from student learner to professional. And unlike writing, visual arts gets expensive fast. So instead of guessing what kind of paper or paint your friend wants, let them pick it out. Plus, it’ll take business from Hobby Lobby.

2. Duotrope. When I decided I wanted to be a writer, someone gave me a gift subscription to Duotrope. It felt like such a vote of confidence, and using this website has helped me to find publishers I want to work with. After my gift subscription ended, it was effortless and affordable to continue the subscription.

Go-to gifts for writers tend to be print items like notebooks, journals, or pens. And sure, quills look aesthetic, but most of us type.

3. Etsy. The thing I love about Etsy gift cards is that the joy is twofold. On one side, you’re
supporting an individual artist or small business. On the other side, you still get to give the gift of
choices. I used to think Etsy was all handmade items, but it’s become my go-to for branded stationery and stickers. If your recipient isn’t familiar with Etsy, you can even suggest a specific listing or seller in your gift message.

4. Lush. This specialty bath and body store has built its reputation on ethical sourcing and environmentalism. Their website has a handy “ingredient finder” for those with a preference for specific ingredients like lavender or seaweed.

Women in particular tend to be gifted beauty products – lotions and perfumes mostly. What I like about Lush for this kind of gift is that it feels more like a luxury experience and less like a hygiene suggestion.

5. The Spice and Tea Exchange. For some reason tea, like body products, seem to be marketed as a “gift for women.” I’d love to be contrary and say I don’t drink tea.

But I am obsessed with a good cup of tea. Their Coconut Oolong is perfect for my sweet tooth, as well as the Honeybush when I’m avoiding caffeine.

More than tea, this company has a wide variety of spice blends and accessories. Here is your
chance to give someone the option of buying a candle without turning you into that person who bought someone a candle.

My favorite thing about these five places, besides avoiding COVID-19, is that they’re specific. I know several people who, if given a gift card for Amazon or a Big Box store, will unerringly spend it on necessities like garbage bags and cat litter. Not because they have to – but because of self-esteem. Being given an “anything gift card” is an anxious experience for those who are hesitant to pamper themselves. A more specific gift card gives the recipient enough choice to pick what they want, but not so much choice that their guilt/practicality denies them what you intended.

And remember that merry-making doesn’t require money. For example, writing down a recipe (especially with a step-by-step-guide), is another way to spread cheer without trekking to the mall.

Stay safe and happy holidays!

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