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Christmas Cash by Guy Williams

Christmas Cash by Guy Williams

Having a hard time thinking about what to give for Christmas?

For most recipients from millennials to middle schoolers, cash is a great gift. Most banks have attractive bill envelopes. Simply select the desired amount, insert, and you are done. For smaller gifts, you can have some additional fun by using two dollar bills. Yes, they are still around, and legal tender, but you may need to order them in advance from your bank.

I know that you are thinking, what about a gift card instead? Well gift cards have several disadvantages. The first is that many are business specific, meaning that is the card is only good at one type of store or coffee shop. This makes redemption cumbersome, and requires a visit to a specific brand name shop. Cash works everywhere.

The other serious disadvantage of gift cards is breakage, which is the retail term for the number of cards that are never used. Breakage typically runs at around 30%. This means that on average, one third of your gift will be wasted. The other negative aspect gift cards is expiration dates. You pay today for a service that may never be delivered. Do you get interest or your money back? No, when the expiration date occurs, the retailer dances a little jig and counts your payment as pure profit.

If you still feel the need to use a gift card, at least get a general purpose gift card, such as the MasterCard gift cards sold by banks. They can be used anywhere. Your intended recipient may need groceries more than a latte at the coffee shop.

Now what about close relatives or friends where cash is not appropriate? For these people, I prefer shared experiences. Christmas Eve church services, the Christmas boat parade, Luna Fete in Lafayette Square and caroling in Jackson Square are some of my favorites. In addition, all of these are free events.

Due to our shared experience in the Katrina flooding, and more recently the Baton Rouge flooding, most of us are trying to live simpler lives with fewer possessions. Gutting a house and putting a closet full of gifts that my relatives thought were too good to use on the curb made me rethink gift giving. I now realize that memories and good times together are more important than objects that may never be used.

Of course, we are in a food city, so consider one of the many revillion dinners that are hosted by great restaurants throughout the area. The costs vary but if you match the experience to the guests, a good time will be had by all.

 A friend told me about his tradition of hosting a Christmas brunch and asking everyone to bring a gift to be given to one of the non-profits collecting to help children in the metro area. This can bring everyone closer to the meaning of Christmas.

When people ask me what I want, I encourage them to buy a gift from Heifer International. This charity helps the poor around the world by buying farm animals from chickens and ducks up to cows and providing them to farmers who are in need. They have animals at almost every price, and the thought of someone getting a start on rabbit farming because of my friends puts a real smile on my face.

Finally, I would encourage people not to borrow money for Christmas. After the memories have faded the bills will arrive in January like a cold rain. People who truly love you would not want you to suffer from the financial pain of paying off a large Christmas credit card bill . After all, for Christians, we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, who gave up everything to give us peace. Financial anxiety is not peaceful.

All the best for a Merry Christmas and a debt free New Year.

Guy Williams is president and chief executive officer of Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Company. Their Kenner branch office is located at 3410 Williams Boulevard. Marcel Gonzalez, vice-president and branch manager can be contacted at 565-3656. Brian Behlar, vice president and commercial lender, can be contacted at 565-3661. Visit Gulf Coast Bank and Trust’s website at

Article Posted On: December 19, 2017 - By: Allie Munster

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