Ahhh gift cards — you love 'em til you lose 'em or carry 'em but rarely use 'em (a shopper's nursery rhyme, you're welcome). Sure, they seem like the ideal present. Almost as good as cash, but more personal. And on the surface, gift cards are not exactly a waste of money — right up until you realize that nothing actually costs $10, $25, $50, or $100 on the nose, and then what? Are you just going to throw away a good $7.78 or are you going to carry around an extra slice of plastic in your already overflowing wallet?
News flash: What's meant to be a win/win with these buy-what-you-want gifts ends up amounting to a whole lot of nothing — or less than nothing, really. $41 billion of wasted present potential has supposedly built up in non-redeemed cards since 2005. And the 80% of shoppers who relied on gift cards this year really aren't helping the situation. Sure, a Starbucks card will always be swiped, but what about that $4.99 you have left over at Saks?
Photographed by Laura Miller