This Is One of the Best Holiday Gifts to Give an Adult

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  • The holiday season can be expensive and stressful for a lot of people.
  • Gift cards give you the chance to show someone you care while also recognizing that your taste may not be the same as theirs.
  • Gift cards for groceries, gas, or other essential expenses can be an incredibly thoughtful way to help relieve an adult's financial stress.

Inflation is up, buy an adult some groceries.

Ahh, the holiday season. It can be a magical time of year, but for many people, it can also be stressful, with higher demands on our working hours (as there are quotas to fill and assignments to finish before workplaces shut down for the holidays) and bigger expenses for things like gifts, holiday meals, and possibly also travel. Winter often comes with a big checking account hit.

If you're deep into your own holiday shopping and facing a list of adults to whom you're related, may I make a suggestion about what to get them? If you opt to buy gift cards for necessities, rather than more traditional gifts, I can guarantee many of them will be extremely happy, and even relieved in some cases.

2022 has been plagued by inflation, with the Consumer Price Index Summary's October report showing prices up 7.7% from October 2021 to October 2022. That's just the overall number. Grocery costs (or "food at home," as it's designated by the CPI) is up 12.4%, and gasoline is up 17.5%. If the adults in your life that you're buying gifts for are like most Americans, eating food and driving a car are two pretty crucial expenses, and you have a golden opportunity to relieve some of those elevated costs. Here's how.

Gift cards are a great gift for adults

Gift cards occasionally get some flak for being the supposed lazy way out if you have to get someone a present. I dispute this, as gift cards can still give you the opportunity to be creative and show you care, while also recognizing that the person you're treating might have different taste than you (and may be trying to cut down on the amount of clutter in their home).

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And more so than that, gift cards can be a great way to help relieve someone's money stress. Consider paying for the following necessities instead of giving a physical gift that may not be needed or truly wanted.


Remember that 12.4% inflation figure from above? Food has become extremely expensive for a lot of people, and unlike knick-knacks or a new TV, none of us can live without it. Your adult gift recipient likely spends a lot at their local grocery store, so it is a really thoughtful gift to find out what store they prefer and spring for a gift card to it. If they like grocery delivery, you could even get a gift card for that.


While gas prices are not as high as they were in the spring or summer, they are still up from the doldrums of early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when no one was doing much traveling. If you're buying a gift for someone who has a long car commute to work, a gift card for gas will be appreciated. Check to see which gas station chain they use most often and purchase accordingly.

Auto maintenance

Oil changes, brake replacements, and getting your winter tires put on (hello from a place that gets real winter) all cost money. Even if your gift recipient has a car they've paid for in full, ongoing maintenance is part of the cost of car ownership. And since car repairs can pop up any time, helping to cover this cost is a nice gift indeed. You might consider sending cash or a check for upcoming auto expenses if your gift recipient uses a one-off mechanic rather than one connected to a big chain like Midas or Jiffy Lube.

Consider cash as well

If I've already got you considering buying gift cards for the adults on your list, take one more leap with me and consider giving money in the form of… cash (or perhaps a check, which will spare you the trip to an ATM and any resulting fees). You can certainly tell the recipient that your intention with this gift is to help them cover their essential expenses during this expensive part of an already very expensive year.

Another option is a gift card not tied to a particular store, but to a credit card issuer instead, like Visa or Mastercard. These are generally accepted everywhere, and speaking from experience, it's very nice to whip one of these out at the grocery store checkout, rather than having to reach for a credit card to pay that tab.

Remember, turning to gift cards for necessary costs makes your gift giving easier, at least for the adults in your life (kids generally have no qualms about receiving toys and other "stuff" for the holidays). Their taste in things like sweaters, books, and kitchen appliances might not be the same as yours. So if you want to help guarantee that your gift will truly be appreciated, rather than returned or re-gifted, consider giving some financial relief for the holidays this year.

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