As a young adult not far from her teen years, I remember exactly how it feels to be gifted free stuff. Free meals, books, and hobby-related items always made for a fantastic day in my book. So, for my cousin Holly’s 16th birthday last week, I remembered that feeling and decided to give her what I most appreciated at that age: a gift card.
When you give a teen a gift card, you’re handing over a sense of freedom, and the excitement of holding the reigns. They get to be carefree and do fun things that they normally would have to ask mom and dad to fund. It’s an always-appreciated luxury for a teen who might not have much disposable income at hand. Holly’s lit-up expression is the perfect example of how well these gifts go over.
But teens also want to know they’re being seen and heard for who they are and what they’re truly interested in. With a little personalization, or creative packaging ideas, your favorite teen will be assured you love them for exactly who they are, and who you see them becoming.
Details Make a Gift Card Personal
Teen culture still seems to revolve around the mall and the movie theater, so get started by asking parents or friends which spots your teen visits most. Take a trip to the mall to get a physical gift card instead of printing one online, and be sure to do a little browsing in-store. If you notice that your teen’s favorite style is in, include a handwritten note with your card that says, “Looks like boho style is right on trend for 2017. Can’t wait to see what artsy items you pick out!” Write “Love, from Aunt X” on the front of the card in sharpie when you get home, and your teen will be sure to remember you later when they go to splurge.
If going to the mall isn’t possible, you can still win by printing off a gift certificate to your teen’s favorite online store. Gift cards to Etsy, Modcloth, or Amazon always seem to go over well, because teens tend to have astronomically long wish lists already made on these sites. I know Holly has been lusting after some Modcloth boots this season, so I made sure to include a picture of a popular pair on the certificate. With Amazon, you can even print a gift card with your own photo. Pick a silly one (maybe even a candid shot) to ensure smiles.
If giving a restaurant gift card, consider which places your teen goes with friends. If there’s a Chicken Express near school that they visit frequently, note that, “This is to fund those after school snack runs!” If Starbucks is a rare treat, specify, “This card is good for those weekly PSL cravings!” Your teen is still free to use the card however they wish, but they’ll know you put extra thought into their interests.
I’m always amazed when a gift card is in a specific amount perfect for what I’ve been hoping to buy. A bookstore gift card for $50 is like gifting two hardcovers, for example. A $30 gift card to Sephora might provide the two shadows your teen has had their eye on for months. Or, give movie theater cards in typical Friday night price increments, and let your teen know it’s for them to treat their bestie to the latest flick out next weekend. Getting a card in a custom amount shows that just a little more thought went into your gift—especially when you specify what the cash is for.
Get Creative with Gift Card Packaging
I knew how much Holly would appreciate her surprise Modcloth fund, but I was still stuck on how to present the gift to her at the party. I didn’t want to just hand her the piece of printer paper, after all! So after doing some Pinterest sleuthing, I picked up a couple of inexpensive items to create a miniature gift basket. Holly had fun opening the present, and was excited to discover the cash hidden within—personalized packaging makes for gifts that keep on giving.
If you’re looking to level up your presentation, it might help to think about those PTA raffle gift baskets. It’s all about the visuals with this strategy—sparkly ribbon, crinkly clear wrap, and colorful accents create a mini gift basket of any teen’s dreams. Here are some of my favorite ways to transform a simple gift card into a visual feast:
- The Coffee Shop Explosion: The coffee mug and gift card combo is a classic. I like to dress it up even further by filling up the mug with the teen’s favorite sweet snacks—bonus if they’re homemade by you! Include a pack or two of their favorite gum or mints, which teens tend to devour during classes.
- A Mani-Pedi Package: Tie together a cute pair of flip flops, a current teen magazine for mid-spa browsing, and a nail salon gift card. This gift goes over especially well if you offer to take care of transportation and go along with your fashionista for quality time together.
- A Fast Food Surprise: Create a three-course meal for your teen by combining appetizer, main course, and dessert gift cards for them and a friend. A winning combo might be a chicken wing stop for starters, the local pizza place for dinner, and the corner fro-yo counter for dessert. When you pick up the gift cards, ask for an extra cup, lid, and straw from one of the locations. Fill the empty space with a handful of ketchup packets (or Sonic mints) and tuck in the cards. Handing over your “drink” will leave your teen surprised and laughing when they realize what’s really inside.
- A Movie Night Bucket: Another classic gift basket idea gets a twist here. Give your teen a movie theatre gift card in a specific amount that’ll cover a movie for them and a friend, and suggest that you’d happily drop them off and pick them up. Pack an inexpensive plastic popcorn bucket with a few dollar boxes of their favorite movie candy, and you’ll be saving them the exorbitant concession prices as well.
One final idea is to combine forces so your gift card packs a bigger punch. Team up with another friend or family member and put together this creative gift. Pick up a dollar store 8×10 frame and print out a document with the words, “In case of emergency, break glass,” leaving space for affixing a few gift cards. Enclose the gift in the frame, and you’ve got a punny gift that your teen will definitely be surprised to open.
Teens can be the hardest category of recipients to shop for, but with a well-presented gift card up your sleeve, an excited expression is sure to be your reward. This is a perfect way to express to your teen that they’re seen and loved. And, you’ll feel good about giving them the green light to free spending—within the limits of the gift card, of course.
If you’re looking for more ideas to make gift-giving easier, be sure to check out our gift guides for an endless supply of inspiration. The elves are ready with even more gifting strategies on our Facebook page, Instagram @Elfstergram, and on Twitter @Elfster—connect with us there for unique ways to make every occasion celebratory!
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