Cash as Gifts: Awesome or Tacky?

My wife and I had a heated healthy debate the other day on what to give a 5 y/o for his birthday. She wanted to go searching for the perfect gift that would show how much time and thought went into it for him, and I told her the best thing you could EVER give a kid is money. Outside of your love, spending quality time, etc etc (don’t give me that look).

You’d have thought I’d suggested giving him a gun.

Here’s how the discussion went down:

“Money??? What kind of message is that? His mom is gonna think you just threw it in the card as an afterthought – there’s no appreciation there.

“But…. I don’t care what the mom thinks? I mean, she’s my friend, but isn’t the point to make the KID happy? And don’t you remember how exciting it was getting a crisp $10 or $20 bill from your grandparents growing up? It was like winning the lottery!! You get to buy anything you want!!”

“Yeah, I know – but still. It’s the message that comes across. It’s proper to take the time and effort to go looking for something special to show that you care. That’s what I’d like to see as a mother too – I appreciate that kinda stuff.”

I stopped for a few seconds to a) consider what she was saying a bit more, and then more importantly, b) show her that I was listening as any good husband should ;) I finally blurted out,

“I’m gonna have to blog about this.”

The solution to all my life’s problems ;) And, really, I genuinely DO agree that taking the time to find the perfect gift for someone IS pretty cool, but I also don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to give someone cash either. And ESPECIALLY a kid – who would appreciate it much more than any adult would. Do you know how awesome it is to see a kid’s eyes light up when a hefty $20 bill falls out of a card?? It melts my heart every time… So of course I want to do more of that. Especially to someone who has yet to receive a gift like that from me ;)

I then started thinking about all the different variables that come into play when conjuring up gift ideas too. Because the reality is there’s a LOT. Such as:

  • Their age
  • Their relationship to you (friend/family/colleague)
  • How close you are to the person (besties or aquantenances?)
  • How much room in your budget you have (Is it $10 or $100?)
  • How much time you have to get the gift (did you wait ’til the last minute?)
  • What you’ve given them in the past (can’t ALWAYS give cash or a gift card to Barnes & Noble)
  • The level of risk you’re looking to take on (do you go for something more conservative that you’ll *know* they’ll like, or do you try and wow them and go a more unique route? That has the potential to blow up in your face? ;))

The answers, and combination, of these can totally route you to a different gift in the end. You wouldn’t buy your boss the same thing as you would your mother (usually), just like you wouldn’t buy your best friend the same thing as you would a long lost cousin. And the amount of money you’d spend would probably be pretty different too.

Using these variables, here’s what we’re looking at in THIS scenario:

  • 5 y/o
  • A friend of mine’s son
  • We used to be best friends, but we’ve kinda drifted a part and are now reuniting again
  • The budget is $20
  • Plenty of time to search, as his birthday was like 3 months ago (the shame!)
  • Haven’t ever given him anything yet – see bullet point #3
  • Would like to go big, or go home!

Entering all that into my gift-o-meter, it says Cash Cash all the way, baby! ;) First, he’s a kid – and we already know he’d love it. Second, I haven’t ever given him money before, so we’ll get that nice shriek we’re going for (and no one can accuse me of “buying his love”… yet). And thirdly, it maxes out the $20 exactly ;) Not to mention I have NO idea what his interests are as it’s not like we “hang out.”

The only factor going against me here is the availability of time. We could easily go shopping and find a nice toy for him no problem, but everything else rules in my favor and I’m not trying to give cash as a means of saving time anyways – I’m going for the WOW factor here. And, admittedly, the “J. Money is my favorite!” section of all the “old” people he knows ;) The odds I pick out a gift he’ll (truly) enjoy and/or doesn’t have already is slim. And I need to bat 1,000 here this first round…

If you haven’t guessed what we decided on yet, scroll up to that picture at the top. That’s the exact bill I gave him ;) I figured I was compromising by “taking the time” to doodle on it a little, haha…

But really what ended the battle was the fact that it involved a relationship of MINE vs a relationship of hers (my wife’s). So she agreed to let me do whatever I wanted this time around, but in return I promised we’re not doing it again (for him). She also told me she was making it a point to tell my old bestie it was all MY idea, but that’s perfectly fine by me. He’s obviously gonna like it! :)

Currently, it’s all wrapped up just waiting to be delivered. But you have approximately 24 hours to convince me otherwise if you think I’m doing down the path of doom here. So spill your thoughts, dear friends! Who do YOU think is right?*

*We all know it’s the wife, but please humor me anyways…

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  1. a terrible husband... January 27, 2014 at 6:08 AM

    I’m a “give money” guy – ESPECIALLY – for kids gifts. Not sure if most kids appreciate money by 5 years old, so I’m not sure if you’re actually going to get the bang for your buck that you would for an 8 or 12 year old.

    But a lot of the parents I know (me included) would be ecstatic at cash gifts because it means one less toy to clean up, fix, assemble, clutter up the toy room. I’d almost cry and come “thisclose” to kissing you on the lips if you handed me a card with a $20 bill in it and said “hey, we were going to get a toy but if you’re anything like us you’re quickly running out of room, so we thought about it for a while and then decided to give a few bucks to get what she wants or save up for a car or college.”

    It’s all in the presentation. There’s “thoughtful” money and “Crap! It’s the 26th already!?!? Quick, grab some cash, some printer paper and a crayon!” money. The key is doing the former.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      (I now know what to get you for Christmas – I want that kiss! ;))

  2. Matt Becker January 27, 2014 at 6:24 AM

    I think the really interesting part of this debate here is weighing the kid’s reaction vs. the parents’ reaction. I can totally see myself hesitating because I would wonder what the parents would think, just like your wife. But I also agree in principle that it SHOULDN’T matter what the parents think, it’s the kid’s birthday. I don’t know. Really interesting dynamic. I do think it’s awesome to get cash as a kid though.

  3. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 27, 2014 at 6:28 AM

    We went to a 4 year old’s b-day party this weekend, and gave her a little crafting set I got in an after Christmas sale. Money would have felt weird in that context since it was a big family and friends gathering. Money in a card feels less weird to me if you’re giving it directly at a small intimate gathering, and especially less weird as the kid gets older.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      Good variable! I probably would have second guessed that myself too. In this instance, we’ll be hand-delivering the card so no need to worry about outsiders :)

  4. Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.) January 27, 2014 at 6:44 AM

    Getting cash as a kid is the coolest. I’m not a parent, so my perspective on the “what will his mom think” dynamic is limited, but if we’re talking about whether or not the kid will appreciate it, definite yes. I’d go for it.

  5. Aimee January 27, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    I personally hate giving cash unless it’s a teen and I know they’re saving for something they are buying themselves like a laptop for college or XBox or something. 5 year olds don’t understand money and they have boatloads of toys already so I usually opt for the activity oriented gift like taking them somewhere, or more appropriately in your case maybe a gift card to the movies or something with a ball pit. A 5 year old will understand the value of a trip to the movies more than $20 (especially a 3D movie!). Also, I never care what the parent thinks, but that’s just me. The point of a gift is to make the receiver feel special/happy, not to satisfy some social grace.

    Why are you giving this kid a bday present 3 months later anyway if you haven’t been in touch with the family much?

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      Huh… you know, it never dawned on me that he won’t fully understand it at 5 y/o. I guess I’m used to giving one at like 13 and up! And also guess we’ll find out pretty soon what happens in this case, haha…

      We’re giving it 3 months later mainly because we haven’t seen my friend in a while and wanted to deliver it by hand (our kids go to the same day care so we usually run into each other at least once a week, but lately we haven’t much which is weird?). We plan on seeing her tomorrow though for sure :)

      1. Aimee January 27, 2014 at 10:54 PM

        ohhh! That makes sense. I interpreted your post to mean you used to be besties and now are trying to rekindle the friendship. I was thinking “let the bday go!!”, but if you intended this whole time to celebrate the kid then sail on!

        My nephew will receive between $1 and $5 for working a full, labor intensive day with his uncles and grandfather and in the past couple years he has finally understood the real difference between $1 and $20 and is super proud of all the singles he’s saved over the years. He is 9. Also, for the record, he has ADHD and LOVES working so they take him to safe jobs to exploit his energy and keep him out of trouble. Don’t call DSS!

        1. J. Money January 28, 2014 at 6:34 PM

          Haha… so basically he’s just like me – A workaholic w/ ADHD! :)

  6. Tea January 27, 2014 at 7:30 AM

    When I was 8 years old, I was given a small teddy bear with a savings account passbook attached. Recorded in it was the first deposit of $10. In those day, that was a lot of money for a kid in my circles. It made me feel terribly grown-up and “rich” to have my own “bank account.” It was the start of my lifelong habit of saving. It takes more effort t set up a bank account for a child, but it is a nice compromise between just giving cash or buying a toy.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      Love that!!!!!

  7. Sheri January 27, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    One — I agree with “why in the world are you doing this three months late?” For a five year old that is itself confusing. Second, a compromise on the gift giving would be great: Considering who you are, a money counting bank (those can be gotten inexpensively) and starter coins might be a heck of a cool gift. 1) Money that is mine and I get to spend. 2) A digital doo-hicky that might make noise — and 3) stuff to put in it.

    1. Adam Kamerer January 27, 2014 at 7:50 AM

      I really like this idea. I started keeping my change as a kid because my dad gave me a coin sorter. I think it instilled some good habits in me, because I regularly toss my coins in a piggy bank now and use it to help pad my Christmas budget at the end of the year.

      1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        Okay, now I am second-guessing :) That is one very good idea, indeed.

        1. Kyris April 9, 2020 at 11:03 AM

          It’s not too late! :) That is a great idea and will have the kid “saving” every coin he can con out of his parents for a while.

  8. Emilie January 27, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    I think cash is fine, but as the mom to 3 young boys, my oldest at 6 is JUST starting to understand money, the power of saving and buying. I think a $20 will be lost on a 5 year old. That being said, I think buying a toy for a kid you don’t know very well is also a bad idea because you are right, what are the chances you’ll get him something he likes but doesn’t have already. I have a hard enough time finding something like that for my own children. I love the idea of the gift of an activity though – movie gift card in a bucket of popcorn with some box candy inside, outdoor toys are always a hit – this one was probably the best ROI for cost and fun I’ve ever purchased – Good luck!

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      AWESOME!!! I’d like that myself! Haha…

  9. Scooze January 27, 2014 at 7:48 AM

    I happen to think a five-year old much prefers toys to cash. Sure, cash in a card is a fun bonus but it’s not the same as an actual toy/book/game.

    In my opinion, cash gifts are tacky, even if it’s what the person wants. I call a cash gift a “wad of sweaty money” I’m reference to the cash Greg Kinnear hopes to get from his dad in “As good as it gets”.

    1. Scooze January 27, 2014 at 7:49 AM

      -in reference, not I’m reference. Stupid autocorrect.

  10. Mark Ross @moneysavingdude January 27, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    For me, giving gifts is hard. Even though I knew the person very well, I still have a hard time thinking of which gift to give. Most of the time I just end up giving cash because nobody wants to say no to free money, right? :)

  11. Jon @ MoneySmartGuides January 27, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    I’m a give money guy. At 5, I can see the argument for both sides. But it’s a great way to teach a valuable personal finance lesson too. Now that I am older, all I want is cash. When my wife and I recently got married, I wanted to just ask for cash and not gifts since we are both in our 30’s and well established. She said it would be tacky. Luckily, the majority of our gifts were cash!

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      I wanted the same! So we ended up going with a “honeymoon fund” where people could contribute and help pay for the honeymoon so it was more tangible than just cash. We got enough to pay for almost all of it!

  12. Cashville Skyline January 27, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    I still love receiving cash as a gift! As a kid, it was exciting to save the money and watch it grow. I probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it weren’t for those cash gifts I received from relatives for birthdays, Christmas, etc. It’s probably those early cash gifts that helped develop the lifelong love of saving.

  13. Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial January 27, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    I think giving kids money is fine – but I think they need to be old enough to understand what it is first. When I was 5 I had no concept of money, let alone how different-looking bills carried different values and what that meant for my purchasing power. Of course, it’s been a while since I was 5 :) and I don’t have my own kids, so things might have changed between then and now.. but my first reaction is that while I get the logic behind it, 5 is just too young to comprehend a cash gift and would much prefer a toy. Now, an 8 year old on the other hand, I think would *totally* be thrilled to receive cash. Again, there’s nothing wrong with giving kids cash as gifts, but I think they have to be a certain age to really understand what it is they’ve just received.. and 5 isn’t that age quite yet.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      Haha yeah, I was about to ask you how the heck you could remember being 5 :) I know you’re smart, but man! That would be some damn good recollecting!

  14. John S @ Frugal Rules January 27, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    I’m all for cash personally. I remember when I was a kid and I’d get a card from my grandparents or someone else and a $10 bill would fall out. I felt like I was the richest person on earth and likely spent it 50 different ways in my head over the span of a few days before deciding on something. The only thing about cash for kids is what Emilie pointed out is our 6 year old is just starting to get a grasp on money and what it means. I fear the $20 would be lost on her, though I’d have fun teaching her different ways how she could save it. ;)

  15. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer January 27, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    I think age has a lot to do with it, but that being said, all four of our kids LOVE getting cash, but probably because we teach them differently than most others do. Cash is in short supply around here as we use all extra funds to work to pay off debt. We never buy our kids things (never have) unless it’s a b-day or Christmas. Cash gives them the opportunity to contemplate how they’re going to manage it, and that’s fun for us to see. They have lists of things they want, and cash can be used to save up for those things. Or, they can save or invest. The good thing about a gift of cash is that, if it’s used correctly, it can be a great learning tool for kids. But that depends largely on the parents of the recipient.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      Yes, agreed! And perhaps this makes a case to give cash again in the future, only this time with a better plan of attack :)

  16. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life January 27, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    I’ll take cash any day :)

    I think it’s great when kids get cash because it introduces them to making financial choices. Will they spend it right away or save it up for something they really want?

    The only thing I worry about is the parents, will they think it’s tacky?

  17. Brian@ Debt Discipline January 27, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    My 3 kids love receiving cash as gifts. The fun part for me and my wife is helping them with their spending decisions. (Good teachable moments) We often give cash for kids Birthday gifts. At 5 years old a crisp 20 might not have that affect but depends on the 5 years old and his parents.

  18. Tee January 27, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    Cash, yes, but give it in one dollar bills. My 5 year old doesn’t know the difference between a $1 or a $20. Giving more bills would make him think psychologically that he hit the jackpot. It would be even better if you spent time researching origami and crafted the bills into airplanes or animals. Thrill!

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      YES!!!! I LOVE THIS!!! 20 $1 bills would be MUCH more fun to receive – damn you’re smart.

  19. Shannon @ Financially Blonde January 27, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    I actually think 5 is the perfect age to start giving cash. Cash is how we have taught our son about finances and at almost 8 years old, he has $700 in cash saved and understands the value of making financial choices.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      He’s got more than most adults have saved! And that’s not even a joke unfortunately! ;)

  20. Brit January 27, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Great debate. I’m siding with your wife on this one! At five he will be excited over $20 for a few minutes until he opens another gift.

  21. Kevin January 27, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    In general I would give cash if I absolutely do not know the person’s particular interests. I’d rather not take the risk of gifted something may end up returned, unused, regifted, unmemorable, etc.

  22. Becky @ RunFunDone January 27, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    I’m anti cash-as-gift. I don’t like people knowing how much I spent on them, I don’t like that they don’t get to be surprised by what I picked for them, and I don’t like the thoughtlessness.

    I agree with you though: Kids love cash as gifts. But actually, to me that’s part of the problem. It’s kinda gross to me when they ask for money or get all excited about money. It makes them seem money hungry. Blech. Stay classy kids, ask for toys.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      Haha…. would have never thought THAT until you said it ;)

  23. Miss Fit January 27, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    As a parent, I have always disliked all the junk toys my kids would receive on their birthdays that they would play with once and then sit in a closet for eternity. As much as my kids weren’t super excited about it when opening, they usually got the most use and enjoyment out of school mascot shirts with their last name printed on the back. Although 5 may a bit young, once they got to be around 3rd grade they really liked wearing those. I like the experience gift idea also. Cash is a pretty common gift at the kids parties we’ve attended.

  24. Dave @ The New York Budget January 27, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Agree whole-heartedly on the cash giving. How soon we forget how amazing it was to get cash money. I think the drawing on it is amazing as well.

    If you would like to compromise on future gifts, though – I don’t think there would be anything wrong with giving a $10 plus a small, <$10 gift (make sure they open the gift first thought because the $10 bill will be more exciting to the kid!)

    To a kid – the only thing better than a cash present is TWO PRESENTS, one of them being cash.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      HAH! True that.

  25. Done by Forty January 27, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    In a society that gives out gift cards (which is like a crap version of money) I personally think cash is a much better gift. I have no idea why we give gift cards instead of money.

    All that said, there is a stigma and you are swimming against the stream my friend. Be ready for a momma bear to slap you in your salmon face.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      I used to give savings bonds as gifts, but that doesn’t work too well with youngins’. It’s like a big tease! “Here’s your money! Oh, btw, you can’t touch it for 18 years” haha…

      (And bring it on, momma bear!)

  26. Stacey January 27, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    I beg grandparents and aunts/uncles to give either cash or a gift card to my boys for their birthdays/christmas as they all three are ALWAYS saving for something big (Right now my 8 year old is $80 away from an ipod) and he wants it SO BAD he can taste it. His birthday is in March and *hopefully* the grandparents pull through and just give him the cash. That’s what he wants!! But there is such a stigma with the cash – the grandparents feel it’s so impersonal. I disagree: I teach my kids to save for what they want and excess, in the form of *things*, is bad. Sometimes family disagrees with me and my kids open up stuff that they forget about a week after they open it… I hate that :(

  27. Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions January 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    This past Saturday, I took our 3 year old to the toy store to spend the gift card he got for Christmas and I love to do it. I love to see him pick out what he wants, not stuff I pick out for him because I think he’ll want it. I love to see him make decisions between all the toys he wants and the toys he can afford. So, I think a $20 bill is fun for everyone.

    That said, I don’t give cash because I can make that $20 stretch a lot farther than any kid I know — I can usually get 3 toys worth $20 each ;)

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      That’s part of my wife’s argument too actually I forgot to add up – she can get so much more with $20! But that’s only better if he happens to like EVERYTHING you give him – which are small odds. But I do appreciate the strategy behind it :)

  28. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life January 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    Growing up I always loved getting money in my cards. It meant that I could use it for whatever it is I wanted. As for parents, they should appreciate it in that it’s not another toy that’s going to be played with for an hour then thrown into a corner of the house. Unless you know they aren’t cash type of person, I find cash an easy to please everyone gift.

  29. Jenlarson79 January 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    I’m in the give cash category, but it depends on the kid. My sister would be really upset if I gave my nephew money as a gift. My son loves numbers/math/money, and he’s been interested in it since he was three, because his older sister (5) started getting allowance then. We ended up giving him a small allowance by the time he was 4, and they’re both pretty good at deciding what they want to spend their money on now, and putting some aside into savings. (another bonus was that even when they were little, they wouldn’t beg for stuff at stores…we would just ask them if they had enough to buy whatever it was they ‘really wanted’) They’re 8 & 10 now, and each have over $1000 in their savings accounts (from allowance and gifts), and my son just bought himself a 3DS off of craigslist :)
    I like the 20 ones idea that Tee mentioned, for a younger kid that might not understand the value of a $20, too!

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 8:17 PM

      You kids are ballers!! Way to raise them well!

  30. Sarah January 27, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Cash is an awesome gift for kids! If they are really young, I like to dole it out in 1’s. They think it is so much fun to open an envelope full of $1 dollar bills. Do they understand $$ perfectly? No, but neither do they understand credit cards fully, and yet they still try and steal them from my purse to play shop with. They see me spend $$. They see me use plastic. So they try and mimic it. So far they have loved cash gifts. Even my 3 year old. Every now and then she will get a $1 bill in the mail from the grandparents (big spenders!) which makes her ecstatic. $20 would blow my kids minds. I think you chose well!

    1. J. Money January 27, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      Good point on the copying!

  31. Lauren May January 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    I think cash is an awesome gift for a kid! My daughter is almost 3 and has already received a nice little stack of bills from various holidays, which we’re saving up for her. As she gets older, she’ll be able to choose whether she spends the money she receives or saves it with the rest.

  32. Kaye January 27, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    I haven’t read all of the responses, so I don’t know if I’m agreeing or disagreeing with everyone here, but we have both given money and our children have received money as a gift. They LOVE it. They can choose what they want to buy with it and they feel absolutely RICH. And there is no worry about duplicating a gift from someone else. One mom told us that money would be good because her 7 year old was saving for an iPod. Our family we almost always do it. My kids LOVE to get money though.

    Suggestion – if you give $10, give them 10 $1 bills. Same for $20. At this age, the more bills they receive, the richer they feel.

    (For reference, I have an 8 year old son and a 4 year old daughter).

  33. Nina January 27, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    My 5 (almost 6 now) year old daughter doesn’t have a clue about money. Next year when she learns to read that could change but for now she doesn’t understand it. So maybe the parents could be happy with the money (I would be, I would just put it in her savings account) I dont think the kid will love it. Maybe you could just include a small lego toy or something?

  34. Steve January 27, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    I am fine with giving him cash and letting him spend half of it on anything he wants. The other half goes into a savings / investing account and you give him regular updates in how much he has in the account.

    1. J. Money January 28, 2014 at 6:35 PM

      That’s a good idea… for next time at least – just delivered it and it went over well!!

  35. Kyle | January 27, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    I can remember when my uncle gave me a $50 bill in my birthday card, I thought I was a mack daddy. I have no problem with cash, let the kid buy whatever they want or blow it as he sees fit. Or maybe even learn to save part of it if they have involved parents. Winner.

    1. J. Money January 28, 2014 at 6:36 PM

      You always told me you were a mack daddy because you were good at picking up all the girls on the playground? :)

  36. Michelle January 27, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    We almost always give money or gift cards. I think that’s what most people want anyways!

  37. Shay January 27, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    For a 5 year old, money is really the parents. It’s just money that they would normally spend on the kid anyway. If the parents put it in savings, then the 5 year doesn’t really get a physical thrill out of spending it.
    I’d get the child a present. My youngest who is 8 doesn’t want money or gift cards. She wants a physical present she can open, touch, and play with.

  38. Revanche January 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Well, I’m Asian so money is indisputably A) Ok, B) Awesome, C) Totally acceptable as a gift for any age. ;) Woo!

    But I also believe in giving books or money if you don’t know what they’d love and you don’t see them often enough to know what they need.

    I don’t know if your friend’s kid will understand but I know I got modest cash gifts when I was little and I loved it just as much as toys because I COULD SAVE. [Yup, a natural born saver.] Believe me, when I was maybe 5 and relatives from Canada we’d never seen before and wouldn’t see again for 20 years visited? It was the $100 (which I’d also never seen before) that had me more excited than the ice cream they bought us. Then the piggybank I was gifted for my birthday a couple years later was the Best Thing In The World. I have a pic of dorky me excitedly stuffing bills into it right after opening the box.

    So my suggestion is: next time draw “spend me” on $10, and “save me” on the other $10 ;)

    1. J. Money January 28, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      Orrrrr…. mix both your book AND money idea and wrap up a good book w/ a $10’er as a bookmark?? :)

      1. Revanche January 28, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        Yesssss!! Oh I have to share with you some cool “hero” books for the kids too.

  39. Joe January 27, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Cash is awesome. I love getting cash instead of stuff I don’t really want. I think my kid is going be like this too. He loves picking coins up from the ground and putting them in his piggy bank.
    Cash is king, Baby!

  40. Stephanie January 27, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    I do a combination, but I only have to buy for my nieces and nephew. I give $50 for the birthday plus a gift they can open, but I do that mostly because they get SOOOOOOO MUCH! that it’s worth it to give them some money that can be put into a bank account or that can be used to buy something they need.

  41. Crystal January 27, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    I’m fine with giving cash as a gift for anyone – ages 0-120. I think we all light up when we see money in the card, right?

    BUT, your wife doesn’t agree. And since making her happy is as easy as picking up easy gifts like sea monkeys, magic rocks (the ones that make formations in water), or 3 bottles of silly string and some foam targets, I’d make the wife happy. Heck, you may save some money too – the magic rocks kit used to be like $8 at Walmart. And gifts like that make 5 year olds light up too. :-)

    But take the wins when you can, lol. Good luck.

    1. J. Money January 28, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      Magic rocks!!! Used to love those things!

  42. Tiffany R January 27, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    I love cash gifts. I give cash to my kids teachers for Christmas and End of the year and some of my friends think it is tacky. They give gift cards or little crap that just takes up space. The way I look at it, cash is king and they can do whatever they want with it. My kids love getting cash much more than toys. Give the cash.

  43. Donna Freedman January 27, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    My birthday is in early December, if you want to start saving for my cash-in-a-card gift now. :-)

  44. Jacob January 27, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    Commenting before I even read the post.


  45. Jacob January 27, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    Dude. I knew exactly what cash was at 5 y/o. Great choice. And the fact that you took the time to draw on it will be even more awesome.

    1. J. Money January 28, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      The doodle seals the deal ;)

  46. Connie @ Savvy With Saving January 28, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    I grew up in a Chinese household where red envelopes with cash were always given so it was actually weird for us to receive a toy or actual gift.

    1. J. Money January 28, 2014 at 7:54 PM

      Interesting how cultures can play a role in this – what does the red signify, do you know?

  47. Anne @ Unique Gifter January 28, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    I’m not knowledgeable on the whole kiddie front, I definitely wouldn’t have thought “how does this reflect on the parent.” That said, as a kid, it’s awesome! I can still tell you who gave me cash every year and how much I looked forward to it. If I had a kid, I’d probably tell them they had to save part of it, even if it was short term, haha. Maybe not a bill with a drawing on it? Well played, J.Money!

  48. Grayson @ Debt Roundup January 28, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    I would give a kid cash all day long man. You know they are going to get the same damn gifts from multiple people, so when they have to and return them, they can use your sweet gift to buy something the really want!

  49. Ally January 29, 2014 at 12:04 AM

    I hated getting cash as a kid. My parents would always “borrow” it and use it to buy food, clothes or bills. I never got an allowance either (actually, I had an allowance but it was never paid out – I was always told, “We can’t afford to pay you your allowance this week but we’ll pay you double next week.” but they never did). I loved getting gifts because my parents couldn’t take them away from me.

    Even as an adult, I hate getting cash for gifts. I usually end up using it to pay down debt or to buy something I need. Boring. I would much rather get something fun that I wouldn’t normally spend my own money on. For example, my aunt got me a beautiful scarf for my birthday last week. I don’t need a scarf as I have plenty but I was thrilled with this gift. It was way better than getting a $20 bill that would end up as part of my grocery budget plus it shows that my aunt was thinking of me when she picked it out.

    If you are going to give a 5 year old money, then I would figure out a creative way to do it as he probably doesn’t even know what money is. Like someone above mentioned, a savings account at the bank or a cool looking piggy bank with a roll of coins. For Christmas, I gave my 2 1/2-year old nephew an Uncle Sam piggy bank that gives a solute when you put in coins and a roll of coins worth $5 – he loves putting the change in it just to see the thing move. He thinks it’s the best thing ever and plays with it more than most of his toys.

    1. J. Money January 29, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      “I loved getting gifts because my parents couldn’t take them away from me.” – Awwww, so sad!! :(

      I actually agree with the money going towards something you normally wouldn’t buy yourself too – not that a kid could understand that, but it’s what *I* personally do with cash I get from people as gifts :) I’m allowed to splurge on anything I want even if it’s ridiculous (though I usually don’t since I feel bad deep down, haha…). But I def. don’t do anything boring with it which is good.

      Perhaps subconsciously I’m hoping my 5 y/o friend will get something he really wants but usually is not allowed?

  50. Ryan @ Impersonal Fiannce January 29, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    I think cash is okay as a gift in most instances. And you’re totally right- I loved getting money when I was a kid. I had an uncle that would always give us something like $10 in $2 bills, and it was (and still is) one of the best things. Even as an adult, I still prefer money.

    1. J. Money January 29, 2014 at 9:46 PM

      Damnit! I forgot about $2.00 bills – that’s the way to go, yes!! Kids (and adults) eat that up!

  51. Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans January 31, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    I’m a fan of giving money, but I can see where your wife is coming from. Whenever my mom gave cash as a gift to kids, she would fold it into little origami art, which I always thought was adorable. I’m still trying to master her ways!

    1. J. Money February 1, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      That’s a cute idea!

  52. Sue January 31, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    Five year olds do not want money as a gift. As a rule they want a nice gift unwrapping session and a playable gift inside.

  53. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen February 5, 2014 at 3:36 AM

    Love the cash! It’s pretty much the norm in Chinese culture to just give cash as a gift. This way you can do whatever you want with it and it’s lucky money because it’s been placed inside a red envelope. I loved getting toys as a kid too but its always hit and miss.