Who doesn't love receiving cash gifts? The gift of money allows your recipient to buy anything he or she would like, without your having to guess or potentially send a present you think is clever but goes right into their garage sale bin. These days, especially, a little windfall allows your recipient to enjoy an indulgence, such as a manicure, a massage or a fabulous box of truffles. Even better, there's no guilt associated with spending this extra money. It's for pure enjoyment.
Joel Waldfogel, professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota and author of "Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays," mentions that recipients of cash gifts appreciate the full value of the present, since they know the amount. In contrast, Waldfogel says that recipients perceive traditional, non-cash gifts at 20 percent less than the giver paid, so giving them cash creates a greater sense of satisfaction. Applying this "perceived value" to gift cards would seem to make sense, but Waldfogel says that 10 percent of a gift card value is never used, and retailers can't claim the unclaimed cards as revenue for years. So it seems that cash gifts stimulate the economy, while pleasing gift recipients with a pocket full of money they can enjoy spending.
Interested in giving cash gifts? Here are some creative ways to present those cash gifts, making the gift even more of a thrill:
--Origami. The artistry of folding, curling and otherwise shaping crisp dollar bills into shapes and sculptures is a fun way to present cash gifts. You'll pay just a small fee extra for an origami artist to make money roses, money hearts, even little shirts created from $1s, $10s, $20s, even $50s or $100 bills for a more extravagant gift. You'll find lessons at YouTube to try your hand at money origami, books on the topic at craft stores, and expert origami artists who can create your cash sculpture for you. Many florist shops offer money rose origami to insert in floral arrangements or to give as gifts, and at the Etsy shop "Paper Affection" (http://www.etsy.com/shop/PaperAffection), the artist will make blooming roses and other shapes from American and foreign currency.
--Feng shui red prosperity envelopes. In a recent interview on the Oprah.com site, financial guru and best-selling author Suze Orman says that she likes to give money in red feng shui envelopes, which -- according to the ancient philosophy of attracting energy, luck and other positives via symbolic placement of items -- makes a gift of the envelope itself. When the recipient finds a cash gift in the red envelope, he or she can then remove the cash, fill the red envelope with nine coins of any type and then place the lucky envelope at the entrance to a room or in a room's "financial corner" to attract wealth and financial health.
--Wallet stuffing. Giving a gift of a stylish wallet or change purse gets even more exciting when the recipient opens the wallet to find a nice stack of crisp $20s or a pile of $10s for a voluminous gift.
--Stand-ups. Look at cute and creative place card stands, with themed bottom designs such as starfish, little chairs and other items, and metal stands designed to hold printed place card signs. Instead of those little printed cards, slip in a crisp $5 or $10 to each of six or eight standup holders, and either display this gift on a table, or wrap them all together in a pretty box, with the place card stands becoming the secondary gift the recipient will use again and again.
--Gift tins. At the craft store's wrapping and party favor section, you'll find trendy, patterned flat gift tins designed for holding gift cards. These zebra-striped, sports-logo, or other themed gift tins are the perfect holders for your cash gifts -- and again, the gift tin can be used again.
--Paper bands. As an easy do-it-yourself craft, simply cut a length of patterned paper -- perhaps from a pad of scrapbook papers -- to create a two inch-wide band that you wrap around the pile of money. Secure with double-sided tape, and decorate with a rubber stamp design, sticker, wax seal or a message you write on the band in metallic marker.
If your recipients live far away, you may be tempted to send money via PayPal, but be aware that your recipient may have to open a PayPal account if he or she doesn't have one, and PayPal may charge a fee to the recipient (or to you, if you offer to pay it.) If you decide to mail money to a faraway loved one, do so safely, using trackable and insured mail, and check the U.S. Postal Service's website (http://www.usps.gov) for the most current regulations about mailing cash nationally and overseas.