5 Reasons Why You Should Give Kids Cash for the Holidays


Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? Do you remember how hard it was to get your hands on cash? I know I'm dating myself here, but when I was young, a dollar was, well, paper money. I could get a lot of candy for that dollar. A lot. So why have I been so hesitant to give kids cash for gifts? Will I be getting them practical things next, like socks and sweaters and underpants? No way. I'm refusing to become that grown up. Here's why I'm sending cash for Christmas, and you should too.

All Kids Love Cash

I don't care how old or young they are, every kid loves the cold hard green stuff. Why? Because the Federal Reserve puts a chemical in every dollar bill that makes you instantly lose your mind and try to bargain your Pampers for an extra buck. I'm kidding. Kind of. I recently went to a young child's birthday party where she received a five dollar bill. No lie. Five bucks. But you would have thought that card held the Golden Ticket to Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory by the way she swung around the room singing. I, on the other hand, cursed myself under my breath, thinking about the $30 I wasted on books and craft supplies, which, big surprise, she did not like. Lesson learned. Which leads me to reason number two...

You Spend a LOT Less

If you're sending the gift in the mail, shipping, even for a lightweight gift, will cost you, sometimes more than you wanted to spend on the gift in the first place (you cheapo). Get them an educational game that runs just under $20, add at least $7 in shipping, not to mention the $3-$4 in wrapping, and your thoughtfulness just cost you nearly $30. Or you can get a $.99 card, throw in a twenty and send it with a $.49 cent stamp. You just shaved nearly ten dollars off your cost and became the most popular distant relative to your niece. Being popular just means throwing money at people. Look at politicians.

No Returns or Refunds

It's money. No one will ever complain about getting money. They can't return it or wish it was something else, because it can become what they want it to be. You won't have to spend hours in a mall or researching the hottest toys online just to find out she has that toy or hates that color. Whether the kid will save up the cash to get something she really wants or blow it all on candy and stick-on tattoos, money always fits, and it can be used for a great life lesson.

You're Teaching Them Fiscal Responsibility

If you want to be more hands-on and responsible, which is noble, send them an essay on the difference between Keynesian Economics and Austrian Economics, tell them to write a book report on it, and promise to send them the $20 after you receive the report. Or you can just wrap the money with the financial section of your newspaper with a sticky note that says, “You better hang on to this.” Nothing like a little doom and gloom to wake those tweens out of their Justin Bieber haze.

You'll Bond with Them

Once they get the money, have an open dialogue with them. You can get to know them and their interests by what they spent the cash on. Ask nonchalantly, “So what did you end up getting yourself for Christmas?” When they start talking about how FurReal Friends are way better than Zhu Zhu Pets, just smile and nod. Smile and nod.

Of course you'll want to check in with mom and dad before you go sending off money in case they have a particular rule about kids and cash. Be polite and ask what their preferences are. In some cases, you can offer a gift card instead. Just remember, I've never seen a kid do a happy dance around the living room for a gift card. Must be that chemical the Fed uses.

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Guest's picture

Giving cash can be a good way to really watch the budget - hard to go over a $20 gift budget if you deliver a $20 bill.

I love getting cash for gifts, but I know some people who feel that it's impersonal.

I know a family that made giving gift cards at Christmas a family tradition. They turned it into a game and had fun competing for random gift cards. Each person ended up with the same amount, but the fun was in the trading between each other. Much better than handing over a $10 gift card in a plain envelope.


Guest's picture

As a new uncle, I will definitely remember this in a few years. But for now, it's tricycles and legos.

Sonja Stewart's picture

I'm telling you, even the little tykes love cash. It's like, a law of nature or something

Guest's picture

I've read some interesting studies on the net wasted utility (cash) that goes toward presents each holiday season in America. Since people tend to give gifts people don't want or use, and they do this to each other en masse, Billions of dollars each year go wasted. If everyone just gave each other cash or not at all, Billions of dollars of waste could be avoided.

I do enjoy taking our kids to a hobby shop or craft shop and letting them spend some of the money they've saved. We make sure to reinforce who the gift was from so they're appreciative, but they actually get what they want and it's not more plastic junk sitting around the house that they didn't want or need.

Sonja Stewart's picture

I love this point. Basically giving green means going green? I'll take this angle all the way to the bank. Thanks!

Meg Favreau's picture

Although it's not always possible, I think a related great idea is for the gift giver to be the one who takes the child to the store. Then the kid gets to pick out exactly what he wants, and the gift-giver gets to enjoy watching it happen.

One of the best gifts I ever received was a book store gift certificate given to me by my boyfriend after we entered the store...although I imagine it wasn't quite as entertaining watching me shop as it would be to watch a small child.

Guest's picture

My kids have jumped around over a gift card - especially a Lego or book store one, but they do like cash. While I still prefer the lessons they learn from recieving gifts that people have made for them or purchased for them, I was amazed how many lessons they learned from getting cash and gifts cards for Christmas. With a gift card, they have a hard amount to budget to, and they really seem to shop around for the best combination. It's also taught them to factor in taxes and shipping costs (for online purchases), which is a huge thing for a kid to think about.

Cash is always fun, and there are always lessons involved. I like seeing where the kids are in their fiscal maturity as well. And it makes Christmas shopping much easier. But, I would rather the kids learn to shop for others thinking of things they would like rather than just giving (or getting) cash

Guest's picture

The whole idea behind a present is to get someone something that they wouldn't buy for themselves. To splurge on them, etc.

Cash is thoughtless and the easy way out.

Sonja Stewart's picture

Nope. If you're being honest with yourself, frequently, "something they wouldn't buy for themselves" equals, something they really don't want that badly. It's true. I know a lot of extremely thoughtful people who give cash, and it's usually because they want someone to buy what they REALLY want, without having to ask for it....
I used to feel the same way you did. But I realized it was my pride a lot of times. I would want someone to see how much thought I put behind the gift and how much I knew them. Often times, I spent more than I needed to and the person probably Goodwill'ed the stuff.
All that said, I won't give my kids cash, (hypocrite, I know.)

Guest's picture

No. It saves wasted money on shipping. Over 200$ last year. Young people want cash. Distance makes intelligent gifting too hard. Christmas is the retail Holy Day, it's crass and the definition of thoughtless. I enjoy buying gifts for my 2 + 5 step kids and their spouses x2 and grandkids 5 and counting but it has ballooned into a real burden. Each of the grown ones has a struggle getting started with their household, and cash solves a lot of problems, like having an emergency fund. The kids have way too much stuff to even keep tidy, and not enough strength to bust out of the retail enslavement.

Guest's picture

With my 4 young Grandkids (7-12 yrs. old) cash is king. They are always saving up for a big purchase (oldest recently bought an I-Pad, younger ones save up for X-Box games, etc.) I make it more personal by doing origami with the bills (there are a lot of sites -- just google.) For the adult kids last Christmas, made them each a 5 pointed (using 5 bills) star ornament, decorated with beads, etc. I used $20 bills.

Sonja Stewart's picture

I LOVE the origami idea! I got a $5 dollar bill years ago that I still haven't spent because it was folded into a ring and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!
(Now if it were a 20, I would have blown it by now.)

Guest's picture

A variation of the cash gift is to put it into a Education fund. When my friend had her baby girl I insisted she set up a account (RESP - Registered Education Savings Plan in Canada) anyway her little girl got cash (from me and others) and into the account it went. Now for birthdays and Christmas that's all I do - I feel better know the money is going somewhere useful, and momma can rest at night knowing her child has a college fund.

Guest's picture

Its because holiday no school. Kids should go on playground's and enjoy, but not to big cash. Look out your budget.