I have a confession to make… I am a gift card hoarder.Now, first of all, let me say that while we stay pretty frugal in my house, we accept gifts graciously and like to celebrate with them. So I have never looked into selling gift cards that were given to me for birthdays or other celbrations as it would just feel weird and guilt ridden to me. I know that a lot of people are into that and if that’s you- you are probably not suffering from being a gift card hoarder like me. And maybe this blog post isn’t for you… except for sheer amusement at one of my personality quirks.
My husband makes fun of me for squirreling gift cards and gift certificates away. Especially when I can go on such use it or lose it purging sprees in an attempt to make our household more minimal. But not with gift cards. I always thought this was a deeply sensible choice- the perfectionist in me figured it was frugal to save the gift card for the PERFECT occasion or to buy the MOST NEEDED item.
Here are a few ways this practice has been a mistake:
*I have held on to MULTIPLE gift cards to stores that have CLOSED as in TOTALLY GONE OUT OF BUSINESS before I could ever use them. The value of these gift cards could have been a pair of shoes or an item of clothing- the value of them now is ZERO. They have become another useless piece of plastic. These still hurt to think about. I could have picked some dang cute shoes instead of waiting for the revelation about the perfect shoe I should have spent it on.
*On a similar note- some cards and certificates do have expiration dates. This is less common now for gift cards, but I once had a high school graduation gift card that had a “service charge” on it after the first year I believe… that service charge had eaten over half of the value of my gift before I got around to using it. Huge mistake. Also, some of the certificates that I hoard have expiration dates because they are not traditional gift cards- they things like prizes from the summer reading program or part of the swag I got from a race I registered for. By not keeping careful track of expiration dates or waiting for the perfect time to use them, I neglected to make a plan to use them at all and they are now trash just like the cards I mentioned above. My goal this year is to redeem ALL of our summer reading prizes! (Have I mentioned I’m obsessed with the public library? It is truly a gift to society…)
*Inflation is real and your gift cards won’t grow in value. If anything, your buying power is going to diminish. $20 to subway back when they had five dollar footlongs of your favorite sandwich is just not going to buy you as many sandwiches anymore. Not to mention maybe you grew out of your subway phase… unless you are waiting for a specific sale (ie Black Friday or back to school deals, or for a clothing item you need to be at the end of a season when it may go on clearance) then the time to spend is soon. And even if you are waiting for a specific sale, you better make sure you don’t miss it and have to wait until the next year when you may not even remember where the card is… which brings me to my final point that has helped me realize the mistake of gift card hoarding…
*Accidents happen: You can misplace these things and no one is going to give you a new one. You can accidentally delete the email with the redemption code (looking at you, my dear sweet children who like to play with my phone and cause havoc with my email…) or your loving husband might accidentally throw the diaper bag in the washing machine without taking out your wallet first, destroying some of your gift cards and your dutch bros punch card which was completely full and just waiting for you to redeem a free drink… hypothetically speaking on that last one of course…
And yet even after acknowledging all these ways that gift card hoarding has proved a mistake, I STILL have trouble spending a gift card, just taking the leap and using it! Now I’m not saying to put zero thought into where you spend gifts, if you read this blog with any regularity you know that intentionality is HUGE for me, but my new rule of thumb is to make a plan when I get a gift card or special certificate for some free thing or another to use it within six months. And put the plans to use it on my calendar.
Anyone else a gift card hoarder or have stories about using gifts certificates wisely vs. in ways that were a mistake? Hoping I’m not all alone here…
4 thoughts on “Just spend the gift card…”
I hoard gift cards too! And yarn, and blank notebooks—I want to wait to use them for the perfect thing, which of course never comes along. The only times I can reliably get myself to spend a gift card is when it’s to somewhere I already shop regularly. Then I’m happy to use it instead of money!
Oh man- notebooks and really pretty journals used to be a weakness of mine too!