There’s gonna be a lot of green under Christmas trees this year.
You don’t have to run around for last-minute holiday gifts this weekend, because most people simply want money for the holidays, according to a recent Zelle survey. The person-to-person mobile payment service surveyed 500 people about what their holiday gifting looks like, and found that most (58%) would prefer getting money, because they can spend it on whatever they want. And half (49%) of gift givers are happy to oblige by doling out dough, with 51% of those doing so admitting it’s because “cash is easy.”
Krissy Nunis, an 18-year-old student in Denton, Texas, is asking for money to put toward a large black and gray moth tattoo that she wants to ink on her arm, which will run about $125 with tip.
“I have all the physical things I realistically need or want,” she explained to Moneyish. She also plans to give money to many of her friends, in return. “People now don’t want a whole bunch of things they don’t need or want. And giving money to someone is the easiest way to give a gift they’ll always like.”
Coveting cash in lieu of traditional presents spanned every generation in Zelle’s report; while slightly more Gen Xers (62%, and defined as being ages 38 to 53 in this report) said money was their most wanted gift, 57% of millennials (ages 22 to 37) and 56% of Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72) said the same. More Gen Xers (59%) plan to give money this year, as well, compared to 48% of millennials and 44% of Boomers.
And while less Boomers are handing out cash, those who do are very generous with it; almost half of Boomers have given money gifts of more than $100, Zelle reports, and Gen Xers are also dropping windfalls in the triple digits, while cash gifts from millennials often fall in the $25 to $50 range.
Kim Malin, 46, who lives east of Cincinnati, Ohio, is giving her teenage boys (her son and her cousin’s son, whom she has custody of) $200 apiece; one is saving for a car, and the other for a dirt bike. She’s also got a full house with her three young grandchildren, whom she also watches while working 40-plus hours a week.
“I’m giving cash because it’s less stress for me. I’m sure I’m saving myself several hours (by) giving cash,” she told Moneyish, noting that she lives 35 minutes from the nearest mall, and most of her free time is spent taking care of her home and her boys. “I think we’ve realized (as a society) that we’ve wasted so much time and effort for little reward. Unless someone specifies what they want, we are guessing — and usually get it wrong.”
In fact, a recent U.K. survey commissioned by GoFundMe found that the average Brit receives three unwanted Christmas presents each year, which means gift givers are wasting 1.4 billion pounds (about $1.78 billion) on gifts that the recipients ultimately hate. And a report from Optoro, a tech company that helps retailers manage returns, found that people refund gifts to the tune of $90 billion during the holiday season.
Not too long ago, giving money (or asking for it) was considered a faux pas for being impersonal on the giver’s part, or greedy on the recipient’s. But now even etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore gives money a pass. “Cash is king. It always comes in the right size and is rarely, if ever returned,” she said. “Just make sure you insert it in a heartfelt card with your sentiments.”
And if you’re asking for money, keep it classy. Whitmore suggests requesting a gift card instead of hard bills. “It’s tacky to ask for cash,” she said. “If someone asks what you want, you can say something like, ‘I’ve been saving for a rafting trip, so a gift card from XYZ store would come in handy.’ But let the person decide if they want to give you money or not.” And be gracious with whatever you get.
P2P apps like Zelle, Venmo and PayPal also make it easy to transfer funds to our family and friends with just a few swipes on our phones and tablets, or a couple of taps on our computers. “Technology like Zelle is enabling that shift … it’s on your phone, it’s in your bank’s app, it’s fast, easy and secure,” Zelle’s chief data officer Ravi Loganathan told Moneyish. “And people are generally time constrained. They don’t have the time to buy stuff that is relevant to folks, so the practical aspect of giving cash is that the recipients can then use it to buy what they want. So there’s been a cultural shift.”
It’s a wrap on presents from Alex Tran this year, as well. The 34-year-old mother of a six-year-old flies with her family from Seattle to California for the holidays each year, and learned the hard way that physical gifts carry a lot of baggage.
“The last time we had to bring ‘things’ home, we had to pay an additional $25 for checked luggage. It seemed unnecessary,” she told Moneyish. “And it was heavy stuff, too, like picture frames and things that were impractical to carry with us.”
And with 20 people to shop for, there’s is just no way she can tote everything with her. So she and her partner are giving everyone gift cards; likely $100 to Home Depot or Amazon for their parents, or $25 to DSW and Forever 21 for their teen nieces. And Tran would personally love to get money to spend at Amazon, Nordstrom or Bed, Bath & Beyond. “I’m glad it’s come to the point where everyone just loves gift cards; that makes shopping very easy, and I don’t have to carry a lot of stuff home,” she said. “It does take the magic out of opening a gift, but our entire family has become more practical as we grow older.”
Malin agreed. “I remember cash being insensitive, but I think the younger generations look at it differently. My teens don’t mind the cash … they can do what they want,” she said. “And so many of us are in credit card debt (that) asking for cash to pay a bill is a great gift.”