Thursday, July 14, 2011

Long-Distance Gifting

Today is my birthday so I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about a relevant subject:  long-distance gifting.  I may have mentioned this before, but my family and friends are spread out over several provinces and states, so I rarely spend special occasions with loved ones.  That’s not to say we’re out of touch.   By various means, me and my nearest and dearest always take time to send good wishes, loving thoughts and, sometimes, gifts.  Over the years, though, our gift-giving has evolved and, I think, for the better.  Instead of sending packages across the miles, we now send money or gift cards.  To some, cold cash may seem a cold gift.  For those of us trying to make the best of long-distance relationships, these gifts offer as much love as any other.  Here are the reasons why we’ve chosen this means of giving.

First of all, when we were sending actual presents, shipping was always part of the cost.  The larger the gift, the more that additional charge grew.  Some Christmases, hubby and I spent over 30% of our gift-giving budget on shipping.  In leaner years, that definitely impacted the sizes, weight, and shapes of gifts chosen.  Even buying online or by phone incurs transport and delivery fees.  Shipping seemed to waste funds that could be better spent on the gift.

Other reasons for sending cash are personal aspects.  When people don’t see each other for long periods of time, it’s hard to know which colours they currently wear, or what items they might want.  Sizes and needs change.  Tastes vary.  Choosing the perfect gift may be an engaging activity, but it’s complicated, even when shopping for those you see regularly.  Despite all efforts, there are bound to be times when exchanges are required.  That’s when distance can further complicate matters.  If you wish the recipient to be able to exchange the item, then your shopping is restricted to national or chain stores.  Even then, exchanges or refunds can prove tricky if a gift-receipt isn’t sent along with the gift.  Heaven forbid you should choose that unique sweater from a local artisan’s shop.  If it doesn’t fit or isn’t the right colour, the gift must be shipped back for exchange, and then reshipped.  That sweater’s overall cost sky-rockets and, depending on the distances involved, it can also mean a long delay for the recipient.

The third reason is not a difficulty; it’s an opportunity. When living in the same area, it’s not unusual to treat a friend or family member to some kind of event, favoured entertainment, or out for a special meal.  When you don’t live nearby, those experiences are harder to share.  Sponsoring them, however, is as easy as slipping a cheque or money order inside the card.  No extra shipping costs.  No exchanges necessary.  A perfect fit every time!

As a recipient of cash gifts, I can speak to another benefit.  In managing our budget, I often don’t permit myself to partake in “frivolous” activities, or buy personal items that are more want than need.  It’s hard for me to justify personal spending.  Gifts of cash, however, encourage me to do or buy things I’d normally deny myself.  To my way of thinking, that makes those gifts all the more delightful!

When shipping costs, limited retail options, and exchange issues, narrow gift choices, the giving process becomes the antithesis of happy experience.  And shouldn’t giving be a joyous thing to do? If not, why bother?  So, if you have loved ones living far away and you’re looking to stretch your gift-giving dollars, or simply treat a distant friend or family member to a special event, consider sending cash.  Rather than being cold, it’s actually pretty cool!
Now, I’m off to eat cake…oh! and dream up ways to spend my birthday gifts!