Just what is free money? Free means something that doesn’t cost anything. Money is what is used to buy anything. So free money is something that doesn’t cost you anything that you can use to buy anything. Well that’s clear as mud!

Okay so it is the giving time of year, Christmas. The religious side aside, and I don’t say that lightly as setting the religious side of Christmas aside is like telling the sun not to rise. Thankfully it just isn’t going to happen. But for today let’s look at the giving side. The monetary giving side. This is where that free money just might come into play.

There aren’t too many of us who haven’t received a gift card as a gift because a gift card is a gift that’s easily given as gifts go. The gift card is a monetary gift that you can spend but it has its limits. It takes into account your tastes. Sometime in the past you said within earshot of a gift card giver. “Oh, I just love the meatballs they make at this restaurant.” Cha-ching gift card to you for that restaurant. “Just look at these wonderful earmuffs I just bought at my favorite store in the mall.” Clunk, clunk. Gift card to you to shop at that store anytime earmuffs are on sale! Or how about this one, “I was looking at that HUGE on line store that sells EVERYTHING and found a rope that is twisted left handed, just what would anyone do with that?” Boom you now have a gift card to an online merchant. But, yep a “but!” But you will have to set up an account to use that gift card—and pay the shipping too because shipping is not covered with the gift card!

If you see anything there that might fit what you plan to give, STOP! I’m not saying to stop giving, just think about this. If you were to ask for a gift card what would you hope for? In asking some of the people around me we have, all but one or two, come up with this. If you are going to give a gift card, don’t do it–just give the money you will spend on the gift cart. And here’s why…

There are three types of gift card getters. Hopefully they will all say thank you—but that’s where they all split off to take their own paths. The first gift carder uses it before the sun goes down buying just the right fishing lure, earrings or toy. Usually spending just a touch over the amount of the card. Done and done.

Second types of receivers will set the card on a shelf, counter, dresser, or in a drawer for later just to find it about a year later. It has either expired or as sneaky as it sounds the store has gleaned a significant percentage off of the value of the card—for bookkeeping costs! So the card will go back into the drawer because it is very embarrassing when you are in line and are going to use the card just to find out it has expired or after fees are deducted you don’t have enough to buy what you have in your cart!

Number three will put the gift card in a wallet so it is there when the time is right to use it. Oh number three is very grateful for the gift but really the meatballs or earmuffs really weren’t all that great. They will use the card if they ever go to that place again. But not really a fan of the meatballs or earmuffs after all.

Putting all that under your hat are you like me and now see that just good ole cash is a better way to go? Oh I am all for gifts, don’t get me wrong. I love the paper, ribbon, bows, tags, boxes, Styrofoam peanuts, dogs and cats playing in the aftermath. Let’s not get carried away and only give coin. But as I have heard grandparents who live far away say, “I just don’t know what the grandkids are into,” Well if you don’t know don’t give them a piece of plastic, give them what you would want if you were them—free money. Cash, chook, folding coin, hard money, ready money, petty cash! If it makes you feel good to buy a gift card buy one for yourself. Come on you know that is what you are really doing when you buy one. Isn’t it?

Happy shopping, wrapping, sending, and especially giving of yourself to those you love.

Trina lives in Eureka. Share with her at itybytrina@yahoo.com