Last year, the only thing my teenage nephew wanted for Christmas was cash. I was afraid he would be bored opening one envelope and then watching as my 10-year-old daughter frolicked amid a sea of shiny gift boxes, squealing over stuffed animals and modeling new clothes. So I tried to think how to make it more interesting for him.
The solution was a set of nested boxes I bought at a craft store. I put a five-dollar bill in smallest one, wrapped it, then nested it in the next larger box, added another five-dollar bill, wrapped it, and so on. On Christmas Day, my nephew unwrapped the largest box and found five dollars and a smaller wrapped gift inside. He unwrapped that box and found another five dollars and a smaller wrapped box. By the time he opened the tenth and final box, the entire family was laughing. He even posted a photo of the tower of boxes and pile of money on his Instagram feed.
This year, my 14-year-old son has cash on his gift list, too, which sent me hunting for new ways to make gifting money a little more entertaining. Here are some suggestions I have collected from other parents:
Creative Ways to Give Cash as a Gift
1. Sock it to ‘em
“My dad used to buy my teenage cousins packs of socks—the kind with six or ten pairs in them—and open them and put money in every sock,” says Kirsten Clodfelter. “They adored this gift.”
2. Just chill
“Freeze the money in ice so they have to chip away at it,” suggests Megan McClain.
It’s probably best to use coins, such as quarters or silver dollars. If you like, freeze the money in layers, so you can scatter the money throughout the ice block.
3. The thrill of the chase
Create a scavenger hunt around the house and leave a small bill at each clue.
Cheesy rhymes are totally acceptable: “Welcome to your scavenger hunt/Sorry, you’ll have to think/Your next clue can be found/Under the kitchen ____.”
“Run for your next clue/Hurry, don’t slouch/Your next clue can be found/Under the ____.”
4. A lot of hot air
Put coins or small bills inside balloons and then inflate them, so your teen has to pop the balloons to get to the money. Put the balloons in a giant box and wrap them. Inflate and wrap the balloons a day or two before they’ll be opened, so they don’t deflate.
5. The fine print
If you have a teen who loves to read, consider including a monetary surprise inside a new book or favorite magazine. “My dad bought me a fun magazine and hid money throughout it,” says Clodfelter.
6. Give ‘em the munchies
“My sister always buys a bunch of her teens’ favorite snacks and either stuffs money into the boxes or tapes some onto the package,” says Rebecca Swanson. She adds that this is a “particularly great gift for college kids.”
It’s probably best to put the money in an envelope or plastic bag before attaching it to the snack boxes.
7. Sticky situation
“Wrap small bills in layers and layers of plastic wrap,” suggests Lori Drasnin. This will create a giant ball of clear plastic wrap that they have to unwrap to get to each bill. It will take time (the better for younger kids to unwrap their gifts), but their patience will be rewarded!
Giving my teen cold hard cash for the holidays is an adjustment from the days of hunting down the newest noise-making toy or must-have video game—but with a little inspiration, it doesn’t have to be boring. Now I just have to figure out how to explain that giant block of ice in the freezer…