Cash Gift Ideas

If you detest giving cash gifts–or feel tacky asking for them–try these alternative gift registries that will maximize everyone's happiness.

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Though sitting round the tree swapping cash-stuffed envelopes might seem tacky or lazy to some, in “Notes from Scrooge” (Nov/Dec 2013), Michael J. Sandel says money is the economist’s ideal holiday gift. Backing this opinion, University of Minnesota economist Joel Waldfogel notes that people value gifts 20 percent less, per dollar spent, than items they buy for themselves. So when your sweetheart unwraps the $500 diamond pendant you bought for her, those rocks take a $200 plunge.

Still, if sticking a red bow on a wad of greenbacks leaves you uneasy, we’ve found some happy compromises. Here’s a list of registries to suggest to loved ones that merge the thoughtfulness of gift giving with an economist’s pragmatism:

  • Have a favorite restaurant or shopping haunt?
    Request specific gift cards from more than 250 stores at Card Avenue, where registration is open to individuals and nonprofits.
  • Going back to school, planning a home improvement project, or taking a trip?
    Let your loved ones help you reach your goal by creating a registry for your next adventure at
  • Is there a big-ticket item, like a 90-inch LED flat-screen on your wish list?
    Break the total cost into smaller increments, and register for those small cash amounts at Simple Registry.
  • Starting your own business or raising money for a nonprofit?
    Register for cash or even start a crowdfunding project at Deposit a Gift.
  • Is your motto ‘Tis better to give than to receive?
    Create a charity registry at, and raise money for your favorite cause.

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