Create a Memorable Present for Less Than $30 By Using Gift Cards

by Travis Pizel · 12 comments


When my daughter received an invitation to a friend’s birthday party, I told her to start thinking about what she wanted to give as a gift.

Fast forward a week, we woke up the day of the party with no present purchased. I suggested that we simply get her friend a gift card, which was met with a teenager perfected eye roll and comment regarding how impersonal a gift card is for a present.

Giving a gift card as a present can certainly be the easy way out. But when utilized correctly, they can be used to create a thoughtful, fun, and inexpensive gift that will not be forgotten.

Here are four great examples of gift card based gifts that I’ve personally created, each costing less than $30.

Give a Summer Treat

Summer is right around the corner, and that, of course, means ice cream. A $5 gift card could be purchased from several different ice cream vendors allowing the recipient to enjoy a yummy treat, and remember your creativity several times throughout the summer.

Choose a gift card from the recipient’s favorite destinations for ice cream or milkshakes, for them to use on warm summer nights.

Have Happy Hour Catch-Up Time

Many adults enjoy happy hour for a beverage after work to release some stress from the day.

A small gift card could be secured for a favorite watering hole, with a note suggesting a date the recipient meet you to catch up. Not only are you giving them a free drink but you’re also setting aside time to hang out and unwind.

Entertain the Gamer

I have some acquaintances that burn the midnight oil playing online games. Instead of giving them a gift card to a popular gaming store, think outside-the-box.

A gift basket filled with Mountain Dew Code Red, bags of chips, and a gift card to Steam (a popular online gaming site) is sure to get any gamer ready for the next weekend.

Caffeinate the Coffee Lover

Others like to spend Saturday mornings snuggled up with a blanket, a good book, and a great cup of coffee.

If you know someone like this, they’re sure to appreciate a package of ground coffee, a new coffee cup, and a local bookstore gift card to get that novel they’ve been eyeing for a few weeks.

Create a Memorable Gift for Less

The only limit to how you can use gift cards to create a unique gift is your imagination. There are four easy steps to creating your own gift card based presents:

  1. Choose a Theme: Choose a theme related to a subject matter or activity that means something to the gift recipient.
  2. Buy the Gift Card: Determine at least one gift card that could be purchased that goes with the theme.
  3. Fill in the Gift: Think of supporting objects that can be combined with the gift card to enhance the gift.
  4. Package It: Find a basket or box in which to not only place the gift, but to display it.

Whether you’re looking for a gift for a child, coworker, friend or family member, a gift card can be used as the foundation of a great present.

You can choose how much you want to spend, and the recipient gets as much value out of it as you spent. Using the outlined steps, you can use gift cards to create a gift that will be remembered, without having to spend a lot of money.

Have you ever created a gift card-based present? How was it received?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Chella says:

    I have a line-up of birthdays coming up next month, and am excited to have read these amazing ideas from you. I cannot wait to try them out Travis. Thank you so much

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Glad to help, Chella – I’d love to have you come back and let us know what kind of gift card packages you put together!

  • Julie Rains says:

    I love the idea of an inexpensive gift card. My teenagers have given cash as presents, which seems odd to me but safe to them. Some gift cards require a minimum of $25 but now that you mention this idea, many can be had for much less (Starbucks, Subway, etc.). Btw, I have also received gift cards for taking care of the pets of neighbors while they are on vacation, which is a nice way of showing thanks without directly giving cash.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      A small gift card is a great way to thank someone for doing a small task……my wife gets Starbucks cards (for like $5) as gifts from her coworkers. They know she likes coffee, and so it’s always appreciated!

  • Caroline says:

    If I receive a gift card that’s ”general”, say, for a particular mall or something similar, and I don’t use the whole thing, I make a note of what’s left on it, and then use it towards buying gifts at a future, possibly financially-lean time, or if it’s for a particular shop, I’ll throw in some money and get a new card with the combined amount as a gift. It makes gift-buying less costly and allows me to get worthwhile things at a price that’s affordable to me. I suppose it could be called re-gifting, but I am very sure never to give anything similar to what has been given to me back to anyone!

  • Mrs. Budgets says:

    Being strategic and planning in advance when buying gift cards can save you money. American Express has a promotional offer for card holders when they shop at Smart and Final. When you spend $50 you will be credited $25 to your account, you are able to use this offer 3 times. Smart and Final sells gift cards! We have 3 different American Express cards btwn my husband and me and we were able to stock up on gift cards for Father’s Day presents and were able to include some Home Depot gift cards for us (we are doing some updates to the home). We bought $450 worth of gift cards for only $225.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Wow, Mrs. Budgets, that’s awesome! I see at Costco they will sell $100 of gift cards (in my Costco it’s to local restaurants) for $75 – but you’re technique saves a lot more. Gift Card hacking at it’s finest – thanks for sharing!

  • Ramona says:

    I used to think that giftcards are just a lousy present, showing you have no interest in said person (nor the care to actually think about a cool present). Yet, in the past years I have started liking more this idea. The receiver can really get a nice present with it, the chances of us messing it up are smaller 😀

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Very true, Ramona, a gift card allows the recipient to pick out the actual present if it’s to a retailer. But I like to at least do what I outlined here in this post – put some kind of theme and other objects with it that takes some thought. Thanks for reading!

  • Brian @DebtDiscipline says:

    We often give movie and restaurant gift card together as gifts. This way it can become a date night or an event when the receiver gets to use them.

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