More than a few traditionalists worry that gift cards are an impersonal -- or even "cold" -- means of expressing affection, akin to thoughtlessly stuffing cash into an envelope.
The solution for gift-card lovers or skeptics comes in the form of thinking outside the box: the ubiquitous, gift-card-sized box, that is -- and in getting creative.
"Being creative in the presentation will not only show you've put your heart into it, but it makes it more interesting for the person who is receiving the gift card. It puts more of a surprise factor into it and makes it more personal," says Debbie Gray, an Ocala, Fla., graphic designer.
Need some help getting your own creative juices flowing? How about a compact that doubles as a gift card holder? What about wrapping a gift card in a Christmas tree ornament or jammed into a Starbucks cup filled with coffee beans?
Check out these ideas and many more in our list of top 10 creative gift card wrapping favorites:
1. Zip it up: Hallmark's Funzip gift boxes feature cool pop-up characters in festive holiday designs and are super easy to assemble without scissors or tape. To open, the recipient simply "unzips" the package (starting at $3, available at Hallmark stores).
2. Keep it organized: Many of us have gift cards with unused balances lying around the house at any given time, and it can be hard to keep track of them. Wrap up your gift card in the GiftCard.log organizer from Buttoned Up. With spaces to write down balances and expiration dates, you can give your loved ones the gift of organization, too ($12.95).
3. Christmas tree ornaments: The best gift card wrapping can be used long after the gift card itself has been redeemed. Many popular gift-card holders come in the form of Christmas tree ornaments -- keepsakes to be appreciated year after year. Seastone manufactures several of these, and the products are only available through retail distributors, which include Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Walgreens and Kroger stores. Victorian Trading's animated music box is a beautiful ornament and gift card holder in one ($7.99 plus shipping). Or you can make one yourself: Stick the gift card in a balloon, blow it up, draw some snowflakes on it, add an ornament hook. Voila! You've got a fun, pretty gift card wrapper, with an added noisemaker bonus: The recipient has to pop it to get it open. (See our "3 fun ways to wrap gift cards" video for more.)
5. Let them eat candy: A gift card is grand, but a gift card wrapping in the form of candy is dandy. For $5 to $10 on top of the gift card price, you can sweeten the deal with a miniature box of Godiva chocolates. Yum!
6. Sock it to them: Wrap a gift card wrapped inside a fun pair of socks, gloves or slippers that will keep them guessing -- and laughing. Go crazy at the Joy of Sox -- choose from quirky mismatched socks, novelty socks, holiday socks and trendy toe socks for everyone you know. (Prices vary, with most ranging from $6-$12.)
7. Stick with a theme: It's always fun to match the gift card wrapping with the gift card itself -- hide a casino gift card in a deck of playing cards, a Starbucks gift card inside a pound of coffee beans, or a photo gift certificate inside a picture frame. Combine an Omaha Steaks gift card with a set of steak knives and a cutting board, or drop a Williams-Sonoma gift card inside the pocket of a personalized W-S apron ($29 plus shipping) or wrapped with a personalized W-S mini spatula set ($27.50 plus shipping). Look for in-store specials, too -- such as Sephora's dual-mirrored compact/gift card holder, which is free with any Sephora gift card purchase.
8. The bookmark: Gift cards make perfect bookmarks. Simply purchase a book related to the gift card -- say, a book about fashion and a gift card for Macy's or a travel journal with an airline gift card -- and you have a thoughtful present-within-a-present. For the book lover in your life, combine a Borders or Barnes and Noble gift card with a book for the perfect literary gift duo.
9. The gift card extravaganza: One great way to creatively wrap gift cards comes in the form of a wallet or purse with several gift cards enclosed. After all, who wouldn't enjoy a wallet that's already filled with spending money for their favorite stores? For kids and teens, fill the wallet with a variety of gift cards in small increments to favorite fast-food places -- McDonald's, Taco Bell and Papa John's -- and in larger increments for iTunes, Old Navy and the local mall.
10. Keep 'em from peekin': This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Hallmark's Peek-Buster bags. Put your gift card (and gift card wrap) inside one of the three motion-detector bags, and if -- make that, when -- the recipient tries to peek, a siren and official announcement (either by the "police" or the Big Guy, Santa himself) alerts the household to your illicit spy games. (Find Peek-Busters at Hallmark Gold Crown stores for $4.99-$6.99 each.)
Gray offers another salient piece of advice to shoppers: Consider the dollar value of the gift card before you choose the type of gift card wrap. "I have disguised gift cards in the past, but I would only use the more elaborate presentations if a gift card has a high dollar amount on it. I wouldn't use a major type of presentation -- a huge box, for example, to wrap a $10 gift card. For smaller amounts, I would use an ornament or a coffee mug, because you don't ever want to make the recipient think they're about to receive a great expensive present, and then only have a small amount on the card. That could end up being a disappointment instead of excitement," she says.
"Package the cards in the appropriate way, and whatever you do, don't use an empty iPod box for a fast-food gift card!"
Includes additional reporting from Cynthia J. Drake.
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