Well, Christmas was almost three months ago, and I’m still working on using up some of the gift cards we received as gifts. Last week, I used a promotional gift card that I received from a store by simply making purchases with gift cards that I had received as Christmas gifts. That’s right, I got free money for spending free money.
So, here’s how this works. I had $50 in gift cards. The store was running a promotion that gives you a $20 gift card with the purchase of two mega boxes of diapers. So I bought two boxes for $27.99 each. I was able to use two different vendor coupons, one for $1 off and one for $3 off. This brought my total to around $52. I paid with my gift cards and walked away with another $20 gift card. Last week, when I had my mind set on a specific gift for my niece’s first birthday, and found this store was the only place I could purchase it, that promotional gift card I’ve been holding onto seemed even sweeter!
Here are a few tips on making the most of your gift cards:
-Keep a running list of things you need to purchase for your kids. Diapers and wipes are obvious. Think beyond that. Think about your child needing a potty seat in six months; that you’re one virus away from needing another bottle of infant Tylenol; or the fact that your toddler is going to need a helmet this spring. This way, when you get a gift card that could go toward purchasing items on your list, you’ll have a little reminder of practical ways to spend it.
-Don’t spend extra money in order to spend your gift card. This is something to consider when you receive a gift card to store that isn’t located near you. If you can, wait until you have an additional reason to make the trip in order to save your gas. You don’t want to waste $15 worth of gas to spend a $10 gift card. Keep in mind that most stores offer the convenience of shopping online with your gift card. If you can find free shipping, or shipping costs as much as it would cost in gas to make the trip, buy it online!
-Make practical purchases. If you can use your gift card to knock a few dollars off of your grocery bill or fill up your gas tank, consider those dollars freed up in your budget. You can now use that extra money you saved on whatever you please, making your gift card as good as cash!
-Shop how you normally shop. Apply your normal shopping style to all of your purchases. Just because it’s free money doesn’t make it any less valuable. So don’t pay more on an item than you normally would just because you’re using a gift card to purchase it. Go in with a plan as you normally would. Check your email for coupons, look through the store’s sale flyer, and sift through your coupon organizer to see what deals you can combine.
-Go on a date! Don’t forget about your gift cards to restaurants. Next time you’re tempted to order take out, remember that the cash you’d drop on a tip for a $50 meal paid for by a gift card is probably less than or equal to what you’d spend if you ask your husband to pick up a pizza, a side of garlic knots and a 2 liter bottle of soda. Treat yourself to a date, or bring the kids out for a fun family night.
-Splurge…. a little. If your kids get a gift card, it’s okay to plan ahead and buy them some clothing for the next season with it. It’s great to make practical purchases that benefit both your children and yourself. It’s also okay to let them pick out a toy they want. Let them have a little fun with it, just don’t blow it all.
-Think of someone who needs it more. Here’s another opportunity to help someone in need without blowing your budget. If you have a gift card to a toy store, let your kids pick something out for themselves, and let them pick something out to set aside for the toy drive next Christmas. If you’re buying groceries with a gift card, throw a few extra items in your cart to donate to the food bank. If you know of an organization collecting items for a raffle, give away that gift card you’ve been meaning to use for a year.
You can go to great lengths to continually stretch your gift cards. Stores like Kohl’s, Target, and Babies R’ Us all offer deals where you can use manufacturer coupons, store coupons, sale prices, and earn free promotional gift cards (or Kohl’s cash) with eligible purchases. Whether you want to take the time to hunt for deals or not, remember to use your gift cards! There have been many times that I’ve suddenly realized that I’d been walking around with a few hundred dollars in my wallet that I forgot I had.
Andra Baehr lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. She is a stay-at-home mom who recognizes the truth in the old saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.” You can also find her working at Baehr Family Financial from time to time.