The thing about gift cards | Living with Gleigh

I love getting gift cards as gifts. But when I get a gift card from a relative, each of my family members also receives a gift card from the same relative.

I’m not complaining, it’s nice to have the freedom to buy what we want; but the thing about gift cards is you have to actually go shopping to redeem them. Shopping is not a problem for me, per se; the problem is the rest of my family needs to go shopping as well. The issue with that is they all seem to need me to go shopping with them.

Besides the obvious fact I need to drive my non-driving daughters to the store, they also need me to help them make decisions about their purchases. In my husband’s case, when the store with the gift card doesn’t have his size of blue jeans, he needs me to direct him to something else he could possibly need from that particular store:

“I’ll just get more socks and underwear.”

“You don’t need more socks and underwear. It’s been two years since you bought socks and underwear and we purchased so many that you haven’t even worn all the new ones. You just keep wearing the same seven pairs I keep washing every week and put back on top of the pile.”

“The only things I would want at that store are socks and underwear.”

“What about shoes? You can surely find some shoes you like and you were just complaining that your shoes are wearing out.”

So we shop for shoes. I can’t try on the shoes for him, so he really has to do it himself. I can, however urge him in the direction of buying the most comfortable shoes and not to worry about the expense. They were on sale and to be honest, among the four of us we’ve accumulated so many gift cards from the same department store his purchase of shoes was not going to make a dent in the gift card fund.

Then there are my daughters.  Here’s the catch: I cannot shop for all three of my family members and myself at the same time. My husband and my oldest hate shopping, so in order for them to leave the store with items, I have to take them at different times or one of them will get frustrated with the length of time we are at the store and leave with nothing.

My youngest loves shopping but doesn’t have the patience to wait while others are shopping for themselves. The bigger trick with her is she and I have to be in the right “space” to want to shop: I have to be in the mood to tolerate shopping with her because she most often rejects my suggestions, I can’t be in a hurry, and she has to want to cooperate. I have learned what the right “shopping karma” looks like within a few minutes of entering a store with her. I have gotten used to turning around and leaving a store after only a few minutes of trying.

Of course, I must shop for myself alone. It is not helpful for me to shop with my family while they sigh and groan outside the dressing room. I like to take my time and use my share of the gift cards wisely. I actually bought something when I was shopping with my older daughter, only to take it back because it wasn’t what I was looking for in the first place. When my mind is on one of my family members, I don’t think straight on purchases for myself.

So although I love gift cards, I can count the hours it will take me to redeem them all. Worse yet, if my children can’t find anything they want, they negotiate with me to buy the gift card from them. It really is in my best interested to take each of them shopping individually. There’s nothing I hate worse than a gift of a gift card costing me money.

That’s the thing about gift cards.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website Her column is available every week at under the Lifestyles section.

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