Scary story time: You give someone a thoughtful gift certificate, maybe for a massage at the spa they have been eyeing, or for the drawing class they have been talking about wanting to take. You lay out the cash, give them the card. They are thrilled! They thank you. And then, they don’t use it.
I’ve been on both sides of this horror show, and on both sides it feels bad. The giver feels frustrated that they spent money that’s not getting used; the recipient feels guilty for not being enthusiastic enough, organised enough, brave enough or whatever to go use the gift. Sure, the point of giving gifts is the giving, but could it just be a little less wasteful?
Yes! Take inspiration from the time-honoured tradition of hand-drawn coupons, but instead of “one free hug”, write out a coupon for the thing you’d have bought the gift certificate for. “Good for one drawing class” or “good for one massage (by a professional, which I will pay for)”.
This works best with close friends and loved ones – your husband is more likely to say, “Hey, I found a cooking class I want to book,” than is your coworker – but those are the people with whom you’ll usually be hyperaware of not having used your thoughtful, generous gift anyway. This way, the gift is still thoughtful, but nothing goes to waste.