83% of Americans Prefer Cash to Holiday Gifts

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Everyone says that it’s the thought that counts. But thoughts don’t pay the bills, which is probably why the vast majority of Americans say they’d rather receive money instead of a thoughtful gift this holiday season.

That’s according to a survey by Western Union, which asked Americans whether they’d prefer to receive $50 in cash or a gift worth $50. An incredible 83% of respondents said that they would take the cash. And it’s not simply a matter of taking the money and buying themselves a gift that they want: 42% said they would spend the money on basic necessities, while only 26% said they would actually use it to splurge on something for themselves.

As always, you need to consider the source – Western Union is, after all, a company dedicated to helping people send each other money, so we suppose they would be big proponents of the idea of sending cash instead of gifts this Christmas. (And keep in mind that the service isn’t free: Sending $50 via Western Union will cost you an extra $5 in transaction fees, and that number goes up with higher dollar amounts.)

Still, what the company says makes sense. While a Christmas consisting of family and friends exchanging wads of cash isn’t exactly festive, no one knows better than you do how you like to spend money, so receiving cash that you can spend on anything will probably bring you more happiness. And it’s telling that most people would rather put the cash toward paying bills and buying gas: While holiday spending is expected to rise this year, it seems that the lingering effects of the recession still have people worried about financial security.

Of course, some people choose to skip holiday gift-giving altogether. Here’s how to explain that unorthodox approach to family and friends.

Matt Brownell is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at matthew.brownell@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @Brownellorama.

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