If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a kid, few things generate the excitement of money. Yet stuffing a few bills into a card, signing it, and putting it in an envelope can sometimes feel like taking the easy way out.
But with a little thought, a few minutes of prep time, and maybe a little helping hand from a friendly blog, you can make giving money a lot more fun and interesting. So to that end, here are twelve unique and highly creative ideas for giving money that beat the standard card full of cash.
1. Treasure Map/Scavenger Hunt
One of the best ways to make giving money as a gift more fun is to turn it into an adventure. This one works best if you have access to a big backyard or other outdoor area, but it can work indoors too if you’re in a pinch, especially with young kids.
There are plenty of different variations that you can use with this game. Split the money up and hide it in various places for a classic scavenger hunt; hide clues or riddles around the yard, each one leading to the next; or bury the money somewhere and create a treasure map that leads to it.
The great thing about this game is that it can be adapted pretty much however you want. It can last five minutes or all afternoon, and it can be a solo adventure or a group game for your next party. And if everyone has fun, it can become a yearly tradition.
2. Wrap a Gift in Currency Paper
Did you know you can buy uncut sheets of currency from the U.S. mint? You’ll pay a moderate premium for uncut currency, but it’s totally valid money (you just have to cut it yourself before you spend it, obviously).
Uncut currency makes pretty much the coolest wrapping paper ever. The only challenge is finding a way to affix or fold it so that it doesn’t get ripped or otherwise damaged when it’s removed. And be sure to make it very clear that it’s real money, not wrapping paper that just looks like money. Although if worse comes to worst, you can always tape it back together and it’ll still be good.
3. Japanese Puzzle Box
Puzzle boxes are just what they sound like: small, usually wooden boxes that can only be opened by going through a series of moves in a specific order. Having to solve this physical riddle will contribute a sense of anticipation (and maybe add a small dose of frustration). They range in difficulty from a single move all the way up to 72 moves, so make sure to buy one that’s at an appropriate level.
4. Odd Denominations, Obsolete Money, or Foreign Currency
If you’re buying for a budding collector, there are lots of interesting choices for rare and unusual currency.
The most obvious might be the $2 US bill. Believe it or not, these are still printed — though in very small quantities.
But if you want to go a little more exotic, you could opt for foreign currency (easy to collect if you’re a traveler) or obsolete American bills like Confederate currency.
As a joke gift, it’s hard to beat the Zimbabwean One Hundred Trillion Dollar bill. Yes, this is real currency that was actually printed as legal tender, the result of horrific inflation. At the time that it was discontinued, it was worth less than one U.S. dollar. Ironically, discontinuing it made it way more valuable, because it became a collectors’ item.
5. Money Saving Challenge
A great lesson in the power of savings, we detailed the Money Saving Challenge in a previous blog post. You can read all of the details there, but here is a short and sweet version: You give them some “seed money” to begin with, and the longer they hold onto it, the more “interest” they earn in the form of future money from you.
So maybe you give them $20 to start with, and every birthday and Christmas that goes by that they haven’t spent the money, you give them another $5 (or $10, or whatever you decide). Saving is a skill that many people never learn, and this game is a great way to get them started early.
6. Activity Challenge
Another way to condition some positive behavior, set up a reward for doing or achieving something good. Here’s a classic option: give them some money for every book they read over the summer.
7. Turn it Into Origami
If you’re the crafty type, origami can be a cool way to give paper money. There are plenty of tutorials and books available that will show you how to make an endless variety of objects, from simple to incredibly complex.
If you’re giving a meaningful amount of money, however, you may want to ask whether they’ll be reluctant to spend it because they don’t want to unfold your beautiful work of art. $1 bills may be the best choice.
8. Stock Cards or Certificates
Here’s another option we’ve written about before. Like the Money Saving Challenge mentioned above, this is a great way to introduce a wee one into the world of savings and investing.
9. Lottery Tickets
If you’re not the parent or guardian, you might want to check to make sure they don’t have any strong feelings against gambling. If not, then a pile of scratch-off tickets can be a pretty fun gift. Of course, they’ll need an adult to cash it in for them if they’re lucky enough to win.
10. Pre-Load a Wallet or Purse
This is a great gift for a big life event, like a milestone birthday, bar mitzvah, sweet 16, or something like that. It’s hard to beat a new wallet or a nice purse stuffed full of money and/or gift cards to their favorite stores.
On the other hand, what’s more immediately gratifying than whacking the daylights out of a papier-mâché donkey and having some money spill out onto the ground?
12. Money Soap
This is simply the most ingenious way to get your kids to take a shower. Enough said.