I was raised to believe that you never give cash as a gift, because it meant you didn't put the time and effort into thinking about what the recipient would want. People were also discouraged from giving my brothers and I money as gifts. As an adult, however, I strongly disagree with this policy.
Today I went shopping at a department store with a $70 gift card. I spent almost an hour carefully choosing clothing for Hunks and Chunks, calculating what I could get with my 15% off coupon and my credit. Shorts, pajamas, swim suits, and shirts were all carefully considered, examined, replaced or hung on the stroller. A stroll through the toddler shoe department. A wistful glance at the layettes. At the cash register, an older man with whom I had chatted about babies, empty nests, and his wish for grandchildren while he and Hunks flirted from the stroller, scooted up behind me and handed me an even better coupon and a pat on the arm.
The gift of the gift card is the time spent choosing things I wouldn't normally be able to afford, the thrill of the bargain hunt, taking time to connect with another person over baby smiles, another day between laundry trips, and the superficial joy it gives me to put my little peanuts in the clothing I picked out before they suddenly have Big Opinions about how they look. That's a pretty sweet gift.