Nobody in Singapore would ever say no to free money, yet we find it so awkward to give money as a gift.
It’s fine to dole out money to your elderly parents or give a big fat ang bao at a wedding, but when it comes to friends and colleagues we have to buy Christmas and birthday gifts for, it seems somehow inappropriate to hand over cash, and signals that you just couldn’t be bothered to shop for a proper gift.
Now that Christmas is coming, you might be wondering how you can hand out cash gifts to some of the people in your life without things getting awkward. Here are five socially-acceptable ways to do so.
Ang bao or green envelope
Singaporeans already hand out money on many occasions including Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa and of course, the numerous weddings they get invited to once they’re of a certain age.
Offering money to someone as a gift suddenly looks a lot more thoughtful when you slip it into an ang bao or green envelope. This is especially so if you are a lot older or occupy a more senior position at work than your recipients.
Don’t put the cash into a regular white envelop or you’ll look like you’re offering a bribe.
Get a store voucher
So you’re obliged to get your recipient a gift, but you have no idea what to buy and don’t want to just purchase a generic Body Shop gift pack he or she will never use.
The easiest way to give money without looking like you’re doing so is to purchase a store voucher at a place your recipient shops at.
Don’t know where your recipient likes to shop? When in doubt, err on the cheaper, more conservative side. So if you’re buying a voucher for your secretary, he or she would probably appreciate NTUC Fairprice vouchers more than Louis Vuitton ones.
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Put the money towards helping the person reach a goal
Handing over a couple of banknotes feels very transactional, but adding a note telling your recipient that the money is to be used towards the fulfilment of a certain goal close to their heart instantly makes your gift appear much more personal.
For instance, if your friend is planning to take off on a year-long round-the-world trip next year, a great birthday gift would be a cash contribution from a group of friends to help fund the trip.
Present the cash with a personal note
Giving money can seem a little thoughtless, like you couldn’t be bothered to think of something a little more personal for your recipient.
Combat that by attaching a personal note. In this era of text messages and Facebook comments, a handwritten note is worth more than you think.
You could also present the cash to your recipient in a non-threatening way, such as folding your bills into a tshirt or heart.
If it’s a small amount, don’t just give cash
If you are only prepared to give a small amount of, say, $5 to $20, don’t bother to give cash, as that amount isn’t going to buy your friend much more than a hawker meal and, let’s be honest, $5 stuffed into an ang bao looks a little sad.
Instead, use your small contribution in a tongue-in-cheek way. For instance, you might buy your friend $5 worth of Toto tickets, or $5 worth of pick ‘n’ mix sweets. Such gifts don’t take a lot of effort and don’t have to be terribly personalised, but will still make your friend smile.
Have you ever given cash as a birthday or Christmas gift? Tell us how you presented it to your recipient in the comments!