25 Gift Cards That Give You—and Your Recipient—the Best Bang for Your Buck

flyparade/iStock via Getty Images
flyparade/iStock via Getty Images

Though gift cards can definitely solve your annual conundrum over what to buy those hard-to-please people on your list, deciding on a gift card is the easy part—deciding which gift card to give them, however, is where the challenge comes in.

To help you narrow it down, WalletHub devised a multi-factor ranking system for gift cards of all types, from home improvement outlets like Lowe’s to subscription services like Netflix. Researchers analyzed popularity (based on search volume), average buyer’s discount across major gift card exchange sites, average resale value, retailer ratings on popular review sites, and shipping fees, and then assigned an overall score to each of America’s 100 largest retailers.

According to the study, your best option this year is a Target gift card, with an average buyer’s discount of 5.76 percent, a resale value of $77.12, and a retailer rating of 3.09 out of 5.

But before you stock up on Target gift cards for your many friends and family members, you might want to peruse the rest of WalletHub’s data. IKEA, for example, which tied for third place with Home Depot and eBay, boasts an average buyer’s discount of 10.85 percent.

The top performers from the food industry were Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Chipotle, which all tied for fourth place (among several other companies, Netflix and iTunes included) with 50 points apiece.

Even if you’ve already decided which gift cards you’re going with this holiday season, it’s still worth looking at WalletHub’s data before you buy them to make sure you’re getting a discount comparable to (or better than) the average. And, if there’s a particularly choosy recipient on your list who’ll likely try to resell their gift card, perhaps pick one with an especially high resale value, like Costco’s $84.60 or Walmart’s $84.09.

Check out the rankings below, including overall score, and find out the full details from WalletHub’s study here.

  1. Target // Score: 70
  1. Walmart // Score: 60
  1. Sephora // Score: 60
  1. eBay // Score: 55
  1. Home Depot // Score: 55
  1. IKEA // Score: 55
  1. iTunes // Score: 50
  1. Starbucks // Score: 50
  1. Costco // Score: 50
  1. Chick-fil-A // Score: 50
  1. Netflix // Score: 50
  1. McDonald’s // Score: 50
  1. Fandango // Score: 50
  1. Chipotle // Score: 50
  1. REI // Score: 50
  1. Old Navy // Score: 50
  1. H&M // Score: 50
  1. Disney // Score: 45
  1. Google Play // Score: 45
  1. Best Buy // Score: 45
  1. Macy's // Score: 45
  1. Lowe's // Score: 45
  1. Subway // Score: 45
  1. Amazon // Score: 40
  1. Gamestop // Score: 40

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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The U.S. Postal Service Is Struggling—Buying Stamps Can Help

Inclement weather doesn't stop them, but a lack of funding could.
Inclement weather doesn't stop them, but a lack of funding could.
Pope Moysuh, Unsplash

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have drastically reduced the number of advertisements and other marketing materials they’re sending to consumers—and since a considerable chunk of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) revenue comes from those large mailings, the ongoing crisis has put the organization in a tough spot.

The importance of keeping the USPS afloat goes beyond simply wanting to preserve something that’s been around since the dawn of U.S. history. As Lifehacker explains, the institution delivers mail to every single household in the nation—be it by truck, boat, or even mule—which makes it a critical method of circulating necessary documents like paychecks and voting ballots. Without the USPS, it would be difficult to reach rural residents who might not have consistent phone or internet service.

So, how can we help? The USPS doesn’t get any taxpayer funds, relying instead on the sale of stamps and various shipping supplies. In other words, the best way to put money into the pockets of our postal guardians is to stock up on stamps.

There are dozens of different designs listed on USPS’s online store, which makes this charitable endeavor an especially fun one. You can, for example, decorate your envelope with Sally Ride, Scooby-Doo, or celebrated broadcast journalist Gwen Ifill. There are plenty of fruits and flowers to choose from, too, and even a lovely illustration of Walt Whitman, complete with a very thick mustache and a very piercing gaze. And we’d be remiss not to mention the existence of this mail carrier dog costume, which only costs $18.

An American hero.USPS.com

If you’d like to go the extra mile, you can also sign a petition to save the USPS by texting “USPS” to the number 50409. A chat program called Resistbot will walk you through the steps to add your name, and it’ll even send an automated message to your senators, letting them know you’ve signed the petition and support the continued operation of the USPS. You will have to enter your name, email address, and residential address, but the whole process takes about two minutes.

[h/t Lifehacker]