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Cash gifts -- tacky or practical? Gifters weigh in

SEBRING -For the last few years, Loring Hill has been sending cash gifts to his family in Vermont.

He used to send checks but keeping track of them was getting hard, and sometimes they got misplaced.

So, the retired snowbird stuffs cash in a Christmas card and mails it.

"I don't know what they want," he reasoned. "I don't know their sizes."

In the last few years, especially when the economic downturn started,

cash as gifts started getting popular.

When Consumerreports.org surveyed Americans last holiday season, 37 percent were considering giving cash gifts. Another 46 percent were contemplating cash equivalents: gift cards or gift certificates. Only clothing and toys ranked as high, they say.

"As a gift, cash is king, especially during the holidays. Nothing trumpets its value more clearly than a crisp Andrew Jackson $20 bill or a smirking Ben Franklin C-note," the group adds.

While most children are drawn to cash, some adults prefer money, too, in part to help pay off bills.

Giving cash also takes the stress off gift hunting, some say, and lets people buy what they really want.

That trend also raises the question of the etiquette of cash-gifting to family and friends.

Needless to say, not everyone likes the idea of just handing cold dollar bills.

Trifornia Rudolph gives gift cards instead. So does Robert OConnor.

"No cash. Cash is not a personal thing," Rudolph said.

Some people like to combine them together.

Donna Rowe sends her 11-year-old grandson a gift and sometimes cash.

"He likes it," she said of the monetary gift."I like him to have some cash, too."

Sometimes, she gives a cash gift to help pay a pricey item on family members' gift list, like her son-in-law's, who wants a sound system in the $300-$400 price range.

Rowe is going to send some cash for his birthday to help pay for it, but he gets a gift, too, she smiled.

Kathy Wilds also has been giving cash or gift cards to family members for years. "The way I look at it, it's the right size, color, and what they truly wanted," she wrote on Highlands Today's Facebook page.

A lady who did not want to give her name said she gets crisp dollar bills from the bank before putting them in a card.

There are also ways to dress up the cash gift to make it more personal, such as tying it with ribbon or a gift bow.

Wisebread.com had some other fun ideas for the crafty at heart: Making origami out of the money; or bunching all the dollar bills in a balloon, blowing it up and gifting the balloon along with a pin in a box.

The caveat, of course, is that the person getting the gift has to figure out that the balloon has to be popped in order to get to the real present.

While cash donations or gifts are common during holidays and birthdays, they are getting popular as wedding gifts too, some say.

Catey Hill, a resident financial expert at David's Bridal told CBS News, that it's "perfectly fine to write out a check for the couple."

She said many brides and grooms actually prefer it, especially after the recession. The average typical cash gift is around $150, she said.

Parents and family giving their children cash gifts can also use this opportunity to make it a teachable moment and get them to learn basic budgeting skills.

JD Financial Solutions & Insurance Group Inc.'s owner Joseph DeRenzis said the basic thing to do is to start a bank account.

To learn about how to save for college, go to savingforcollege.com, he said.

Another "cool" thing parents can do, and DeRenzis did it for his daughter with a Disney share, is to buy one share of a company, on oneshare.com, and hang it on the wall.

"Whether their passion is all things Disney or their hearts belong to Harley, stock ownership is the ultimate way to connect someone to their favorite company," the web site says.

"It's pretty cool," DeRenzis added. "They get to hang it on the wall."