When preparing to give a gift, at what point do you decide to purchase an item, give a gift card, or to give cash? For me this is always a tough decision, and even though time is usually the deciding factor in making my decision, I always hope that I choose a memorable gift to give.

I still have memories of gifts given to me more than 30 years ago, and I never forget whom the gifts are from and for what occasion or reason I was given a gift. During my high school and college years, my mother gave me cards with puppies on them for each of my birthdays. I don’t remember the amount of the monetary gift inside the card, or if there was one, but I will always remember puppies on the cards.

Another memorable gift is one from my aunt, who encouraged me to learn to swim when I was in college. One summer, I pushed past my fears and signed up for swimming class, and as a “you can do it; just hang in there gift,” she sent a bathing suit for each day of my five-days-a-week swim class.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the bridal shower of one of my best friend’s daughters. Keep in mind, I have known the future bride all of her life. But I struggled when selecting a gift. She is registered at some of the popular stores. I could have ordered the gift online or picked up a gift card from practically anywhere; but two or three years later, would she recall who gave her gift cards? And truly speaking, where is the wow factor in opening a gift and it is a gift card? Do people say, “Oh my, what a lovely gift card?” Or when writing the thank you note, is there excitement in writing, “Thank you for that great gift card”? I am just wondering.

Now, some might say cash is always a good choice, and I do agree. Cash is a great gift if spent intentionally. For instance, we gave our daughter a Sweet 16 birthday party a few years ago. During planning, our main goal was to just make it memorable party. I had no idea she would receive such awesome gifts! So I encouraged her to open a savings account. The birthday gifts went toward the purchase of her trusty used first car. Even though her car gives a new meaning to pre-owned, she is proud of her first major investment.

So one may ask, why didn’t I just let her spend her birthday gifts as she pleased? I decided to take advantage of that occasion as a way to reinforce the importance of saving, and to value the sacrifice others make to give.  

Being mindful of graduations, weddings, and college or life preparation gifts, I would like to leave you with some tips on choosing the right gift.

- Consider your relationship to person receiving the gift. I decided to give my friend’s daughter cash; however, instead of buying a money sleeve or random card, I wrote her a heartfelt letter sharing wisdom I have gained from marriage. She allowed me to read the letter during her bridal shower, which I hope added a special memory for her.

- Remember to give from your heart. Don’t ever be ashamed of what you have to give. Give what you can afford; if you can’t afford to give what you really want to at the wedding/graduation, etc., give when you can. I have never been told that it is too late to give a gift.

- Be thoughtful and intentional. Choose something that fits the occasion. If you decide to give an item, purchase it from where they are registered. If someone has just graduated and they have a job or is job hunting, what a great time to gift them with a gas card!

Now what about those of us on the receiving end? I have been told that saying thank you never gets old. And I could, and might, write an entire article on saying thank you and how to do it, but I will just say make sure you say it whether using a thank you card by snail mail, an email saying thank you, or if you are sending a thank you text message. Just remember to say thank you.

Giving gifts is a rewarding way to say congratulations, I am proud of you, keep on pushing, and I love you!

T.A. Jones is a regular contributor to The Warren Record and the author of “A Summer with No Ice Cream.” She can be reached at terryalstonjones@gmail.com