Lisa’s Top Seven Ways to Make that Generic Gift Card More Special

HEY!  You there with the gift card in your hand! Please tell me you are not going to just put it in an envelope and sign your name. Please!

I know you’re busy.
I know you have lots of people to buy gifts for.
I know there’s a good chance that you have no idea what to get—and a gift card does mean the recipient can select whatever they want.

BUT…will putting that gift card in an envelope make your loved one feel special? Will that gift card bring the two of you closer together?

Probably not.

When you just slip that gift card into an envelope, you are missing out on a precious opportunity to show the person that you’re aware of what makes her smile and what matters to her. Even worse, you are skipping out on a chance to connect more deeply with a loved one.

Not too long ago, I met a very talented musician, Kimberly Faith Jones, who said she never knows what to get her nephews, so she just gives them iTunes gift cards. It seems to work well enough she said, but it wasn’t particularly exciting—especially since she does the same thing every year.

After we chatted, guess what she’s doing this Christmas? She’s still giving her nephews iTunes gift cards, but this time she’s putting together a playlist of suggested music—from songs that remind her of each of the boys to classic rock standards that she thinks they should know (Free Bird anyone?) to some new indie bands that she’s played with. She’s also going to include a note explaining why she chose each song, including a few that she and the boys’ dad (her brother) rocked out to when they were growing up.

YAAAAAAAY! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE when an ordinary gift is transformed into something special that can bring loved ones closer together. Kimberly was crazy excited to create personalized playlists and to be able to share her passion with her loved ones. She couldn’t wait to hear what her nephews had to say about the songs and thought the gift would provide a meaningful way to connect with them…which can be especially tough with teenage boys!

Maybe you’re not a musician, but I promise you too can transform that generic gift card into a much more special—and personal!—gift with a little bit of effort. Here are my Top Seven Ways to Make that Gift Card More Special:

1. Select a gift card to someplace they’ll love
Nowadays, there are gift cards for everything from stores to restaurants to island resorts and pretty much everything in between. Remember to pick a gift card that matches the recipient’s taste, not yours.

2. Tell them WHY you selected that particular gift card
Gifts are an amazing way to help people feel loved and to feel seen. I always recommend including a brief note explaining WHY you chose that particular gift card. The reason for your selection may be obvious to you, but sometimes people can’t read our minds (if that were true, my husband would actually put the dishes IN the dishwasher instead of leaving them on the counter.)
For a gift card to the Gap, the expressed sentiment might be,“I remember when we were at the beach and you borrowed my blue sweatshirt. You mentioned how much you loved it, so I thought you might find another favorite one here.” Wow! You’ve recalled a happy shared memory and you are enabling your loved one to enjoy something similar in the future.

3. Highlight something the person might enjoy with the gift card
This is easy to do AND impactful—whether for someone you don’t know particularly well or when you have absolutely no clue what to get a loved one. If you’re giving a gift card to a restaurant, include a menu (you can print one out online) and circle a dish they might enjoy. If you don’t know what toys your niece/nephew/cousin’s child is hoping for, a gift card to a toy store can work well. Just print out a picture of a toy you think they might like or one that you enjoyed as a child: “Your mom and I used to play Scrabble every night. Ask her who usually won.” Suddenly, that shared information creates a much closer connection.

4. Select a gift card that reflects a shared interest
Always select a gift card that the person will enjoy, but if you can select one that reflects a shared interest, even better. If you and a friend both love to read, a gift card to Barnes and Noble or Amazon would be a great choice. Wrap the gift card up with a bookmark and a note that says, “Let me know what book you select! I’m always looking for my next great read!”

5. Use a gift card you select to deliver a compliment
Who doesn’t love a compliment?! If you’re unsure what gift card to select for someone, think about something you admire about them. For the girlfriend who always looks so put together, a gift card to Sephora or Ulta so she can add some goodies to her make-up bag would be a great choice. For the very fit co-worker who always finds time to exercise, a gift card to a sporting goods or athletic wear store would hit the mark. Don’t forget to mention the compliment—I promise they’ll smile when they think about it and when they redeem the gift card.

6. Give a gift card to reduce the person’s pain points
I recently visited my mom who had broken her elbow and hip. One day, I noticed she was sitting at the kitchen table—in the dark. When I asked why, she told me that she didn’t want to turn on the lights, because it would use up the light bulbs, and if the light bulbs burned out, she wouldn’t be able to change them. (Deep sigh.) This Christmas, I will be gifting her a monthly handyman service to handle those things that she can no longer do by herself. While she didn’t necessarily ask for a handyman service, she will definitely appreciate having her “Honey-do” list completed every month. Fingers crossed she turns on the lights.

7. Wrap the gift card creatively
There are as many ways to wrap a gift card as there are types of gift cards! For a gift card to a kitchen store, wrap it up with a bow and a spatula. For a gift card to the hardware store, put it in a box and “write” the person’s name in washers glued to the top. For a gift card to Target or Walmart, include a roll of toilet paper and a note, “I wasn’t sure what you wanted, but I figured you could always get something you needed.”  To see this in action, check out a tip I recently shared on a news segment.

Gift cards play a valuable role in the gift giving world. They’re convenient and you don’t have worry about whether or not you got the right size/color/style. But…just putting a generic gift card in an envelope suggests that your loved one is generic. And I don’t believe that. Special people like you have special people in their lives. Delight and connect with your loved ones by transforming that ordinary gift card into an extraordinary gift. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

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