Money and Gifts: Things Create People as Much as People Make Them


Gift-giving is an essential component of social life that may or may not involve reciprocity. Gifts are services or goods given to someone by another person or a group as part of a formal event such as a birthday or Christmas (De Hooge, 2017). Gifts can also be given in the form of monetary rewards. It is still unclear if more money can bring happiness, but the act of giving cash as a gift or making donations increases the overall feeling of pleasure (Aknin et al., 2020). Indeed, one cross-sectional study showed that more wealth is only moderately associated with greater happiness only at higher levels of wealth (Donnelly et al., 2018). Still, I never felt that giving and receiving money as a gift for holidays is unnecessary or inappropriate, especially if presented in the form of a gift card. Moreover, I think that money is a valuable tool to achieve specific goals such as improving household, health, or someone’s clothing style. Gifts in the form of cash provide a broader possibility to choose unique and necessary items by receivers and reveal people’s true identities based on their spending.

My First Gift Card

Gifts are often symbolic representations of the individual attitude of a person who gives them and sometimes the portrayal of the receiver’s characteristics. Indeed, choosing a present is challenging, but people tend to find gifts to demonstrate their uniqueness (Givi and Galak, 2020). I knew that the $250 gift card to an online bookshop from my uncle for my fifteenth birthday was his desire to make everyone in the family read more and become entrepreneurs. He believed that I had exceptional leadership skills and a willingness to learn; my uncle wanted to provide me with an opportunity to buy and read as many books as possible. Any giver seeks meaning and value by presenting a gift (Gunasti and Baskin, 2018). Although my uncle knew that a gift card in a luxury brand shop is more appropriate for adolescents, he still wanted to deliver his big hopes for my future career with this first gift card. Indeed, I was grateful to my uncle for this opportunity to buy many fiction and non-fiction books. Specifically, the self-help books that I purchased helped me to become more empathetic and disciplined.

What Money Symbolizes for Me

As previously mentioned, money is a valuable tool to achieve specific goals. Indeed, I view money as freedom; thus, I prefer to present gift cards or money in a beautiful envelope to my friends and relatives to give them some space to select and buy things they want. I do not think I want to become an entrepreneur as my uncle wished, but I will strive for financial freedom to afford a good quality of life for my family and people in need. People make donations for various reasons like emotional connection and financial wellbeing (Bandelj et al., 2017). Financial wellbeing depends on knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and behavior (LeBaron, 2019). Although the donation is a gift, it rarely implies a reciprocal relationship between givers and recipients. However, a receiver of this donation can always return a gift in another form to society, indicating maintenance of social interaction (Kruger, 2017). I am interested in charity because my family taught me that helping other people is the obligation of every human being. Therefore, I also see money as a responsibility to create better-living conditions and opportunities for others.

Personal Relationship with Money

Being a representative of the middle class, I never experienced significant financial difficulties, which was possible due to wise saving and spending habits that I learned early in life. Many people do not view money as an object that provides happiness; they rather perceive it as “a negative force that corrupts human nature and weakens social bonds” (Zhou, Kim, and Wang, 2019, p. 5). I agree that money cannot buy happiness, but I believe that money is a necessary resource for obtaining access to better education, healthcare, and housing. Furthermore, money does not change a person, it reveals the true identity of the user. Indeed, it is thought that anthropomorphizing money creates a feeling of comfort and competence, allowing people to do more things (Zhou, Kim, and Wang, 2019). Indeed, it was found that people that anthropomorphize finances are more willing to participate in charity and gift-giving activities (Zhou, Kim, and Wang, 2019). However, I do not attribute human characteristics to cash because I view money as a static resource needed to achieve specific goals rather than my life’s aim.

How the Gift Card Shaped Me

As mentioned above, gifts deliver symbolic meaning from givers to receivers. Emotions were found to play a crucial role in the gift-giving process (Pillai and Krishnakumar, 2019). I assume that my uncle was driven by care and concern for my education when he chose that gift for my birthday. This gift changed my relationship with him shifting it to a more teacher-student format because my uncle asked me to summarize every book that I bought afterward. However, regardless of the initial reasons behind that $250 gift card, the books that I purchased changed me as a person, allowing me to develop some personal skills that helped me become a better student and friend. After reading The emperor of all maladies: A biography of cancer by Mukherjee, I became more empathetic. Furthermore, I developed better studying habits after reading Don’t shoot the dog, In search of memory, and The seven sins of memory. Moreover, I wanted to continue my uncle’s tradition of presenting gift cards; thus, I decided to find a part-time job to become financially independent from my parents and to be able to give monetary gifts.

Money and Society

Money is a tool that facilitates social interactions in the modern world. According to Stehr and Voss (2019, p. 4), “money is a store of value, a unit of account, or a standard of deferred payment.” Furthermore, money is the primary driver of societal changes, allowing for acquiring assets (Stehr and Voss, 2019). Modern society also became accustomed to gift exchange and monetary donations, which can also be considered a type of gift-giving without direct reciprocity. I think that society views money as an object that assigns value to goods and services on the global market, which is a relatively accurate representation of the role of cash globally. Simultaneously, money became a vital component of people’s daily lives, requiring most of them to work hard to earn more to afford a better life for their families and themselves.

Gift Cards in Society

A gift card became a popular way of expressing care, appreciation, and symbolic meaning to somebody on a special occasion. Many stores sell gift certificates of various worth, allowing customers with low and high incomes to afford these cards. Gift cards of a particular value are not considered an impolite gesture nowadays. Conversely, this object allows receivers to acknowledge the exact value of a present to estimate equivalent reciprocal exchange. These cards or even money in an envelope enable recipients to buy suitable gifts for them, preventing disappointment from presents chosen by other people (Gunasti and Baskin, 2018). Although many people still prefer to buy unique presents, some of my friends purchase gift cards online or in stores to present them on birthdays and Christmas, demonstrating the convenience of these items.


Overall, gift-giving is an essential and pleasurable practice that establishes unique relationships between givers and receivers. Money, which assigns value to goods and services, can also be used as a gift. Specifically, gift cards are being acclaimed in the modern world due to their convenience and unique property to show the exact value courteously. Furthermore, these items may soon replace traditional presents used to demonstrate an exceptional attitude and care. Although it became a cliché that money cannot provide happiness, it is still a valuable and integral part of social interactions. My uncle, who believed that money is a necessary tool and wanted me to become an entrepreneur, presented me with a gift card from an online bookshop for one of my birthdays. Using this card, I purchased many self-help books that changed my personality and helped me become a better human being. I think that monetary gifts should not be viewed as inappropriate because new generations need to learn about money as early as possible to adapt quickly to this fast-changing world.


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PsychologyWriting. "Money and Gifts: Things Create People as Much as People Make Them." July 1, 2022.