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I Declare a “Spend Your Gift Cards” Weekend!

by J. Money on Friday, June 4, 2010

Golden BarYesterday’s post reminded me that I’ve got a crap ton of gift cards lazying around that need to be spent. And the longer they collect dust, the better the chances of them expiring!

Chances are I’m not alone here either.  I forget what the stats are on this (and I’m too tired to Google it right now) but I think it was something like the average person having around $30 worth of unused gift card dollars.  Or something like that, I dunno.  I might have just made that up ;)  But the point is , if we don’t use up whatever gift cards we have we’ll lose them!

So mixed with my intense desire to go shopping these days, I am declaring this weekend the weekend of gift card using! Hurrah!  Spending that won’t mess up your budget!

Here’s a breakdown of all the cards I need to get rid of:

  • Vanilla Visa Gift Card: $2.38 — Approx. 1 1/2 years old
  • Chase Gift Card: $171.79– Approx. 1 year old
  • TJ Maxx: $12.49 — Approx. 8 months old (a return put back on gift card)
  • iTunes: $10.00 — Approx. 2 years old.  This one should be easy :)
  • Crate & Barrel$50.00 — Approx. 1 year old… a wedding present that we got 1 YEAR after our wedding!  Guess someone follows those etiquette rules? Although I don’t think I’ll ever understand the point of that one…

That’s almost $250 buckaroos just waiting to expire! And who am I to not give them a fighting chance?  I don’t know about you, but this seems like the perfect way to get out there and have some fun.  Maybe pick up some things we ordinarily wouldn’t? (for some reason a $180 trash can from Bed Bath & Beyond comes to mind…even though that does seem pretty wasteful (no pun intended).)

The only downfall I see here would be if you happened to have some duds in your stash.  The cards you really just hate and have no desire to use (Red Lobster card when you’re allergic to fish?)

If that’s the case, check out one of my posts from 2 years ago on sites you can trade them in at. More work on your behalf (and most of the sites takes a fee), but at least you’ll then be benefiting from them.  Or if you’re really lazy, you can just hand them out as gifts one day!  Just because they suck to you doesn’t mean they’ll suck for everyone ;)  The whole “one person’s trash is another one’s treasure” type thing, right?

So yeah – this weekend I’m gonna do my best to spend some of these bad boys.   I can’t promise I’ll get through them all, but at least now I have a mission.  It really is the perfect opportunity to spend guilt-free!  Wanna join?


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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robin June 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

We’re lucky in Massachusetts, because gift cards can’t expire! It’s my motto, “Use it before you lose it!” Because if I lose my wallet – those gift cards are gone!

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2 jolie June 4, 2010 at 9:47 am

I think I only have one gift card in my possession right now for a local restaurant. It was a gift given to me by a student at the end of last year. We just haven’t been there yet.

Timmy gift cards are popular up here in Canada and they are a common gift for educators at the end of June. Last year I think I received five or six, for $5 or $10 each. I used each and every one of them with much gratitude.

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3 Megan June 4, 2010 at 10:33 am

I believe the only gift card I have right now is for $10 at Macy’s. Probably wouldn’t get me very far haha. And I might have a couple dollars on a cell phone rebate card.

The downside I have experienced with gift cards is you still can end up spending your own money. For example, if you have a Barnes and Noble card for $25, you might think it’ll cover the cost of a hardcover and two paperbacks, but in reality you’re spending at least a little more because that “cushion” the gift card covers make you think you are entitled to an extra dollar or two of your money spent. It gives you the illusion that you have covered most of the cost, so why not spend that extra? Does that make sense?

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4 Sarah June 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

Sounds like a fun idea! I always have a sh@& ton of gift cards in my wallet, mostly due to losing a reciept and thus having a credit put on a gift card. Anywho… The only down fall to this type of spending is the sheer fact that I KNOW I would go over the amount alloted on the card. I would end up spending $150 at crate and barrel and thus not saving anything!!! We are having a neighborhood sale tonight and tomorrow and I plan to take any money earned and buy something frivioulous.

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5 Nate St. Pierre June 4, 2010 at 11:09 am

Dang, you’re right – I have a bunch of cards sitting around too. I should use those bad boys…

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6 Ace @ aceofwealth.com June 4, 2010 at 11:35 am

Haha, what a wonderful idea. I looked around and I have $200 of gift cards that are unspent myself! Daddy’s getting a new pair of shoes!

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7 JMK June 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I’m holding $50 in Chapters cards from Christmas and was holding off using them until we finalized our summer travel plans – I figured I’d use them to buy travel guides for wherever we decide to go, plus a trashy novel to read when I get there. We’re still debating our holiday plans so that will have to wait.

I’ve also accumulated 3 cards totalling $125 for my favourite clothing store. I got them for Christmas and my birthday last fall. I’m going to be changing jobs in the next few months, so these are going to fund a free refreshing of my work wardrobe – I need a few new things to spruce up what I have. I’ve worked from home the past 15 months and haven’t bought a single item for the office in nearly two years.

The one thing I may use up this weekend is the $25 I’ve earned on my Shoppers Drugmart (Canadian chain) Optimum card. I could use it to pick up regular household stuff which would be sensible, but always seems like an unimaginative way to use up the points I’ve been collecting for months. In the past I’ve used them to purchase Christmas gifts – really, is there anyone who you can’t shop for in a drugstore? Ours has sections for photography, books, DVDs, CDs, kids toys, etc etc. I do my Christmas shopping here and there all through the year and try to be finished by Halloween. If I don’t see anything I need or even just want, I’ll probably try to pick up another gift to tuck away for Christmas. Getting my Christmas shopping done early gives me more of a retail rush than buying something for myself most of the time.

I haven’t checked the balance on my Air Miles card in ages and this is a good reminder. I usually cash those points in for gift cards at stores we would go to for everyday purchases (groceries, gas, Home Depot, etc). Yes you can get more interesting stuff (electronics, housewares etc) but I find it an expensive way to get those products. I could look at them as “free” because I earned the points doing my everyday purchasing, but I manage to always look at the trade off of not getting the grocery or gas card. Yes the kettle or coffee grinder would be “free” but did I need them? I know I need groceries and a $50 card for that would actually save me money, so by that reasoning the appliance isn’t free anymore, they are costing me $50.

I used to love to shop for my home and could justify almost anything. Over the past 2-3 years I’ve become so frugal that even that just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I’m just no fun at this am I? I’m out of practice and frankly I think it’s best if I stay that way. Our house is too full as it is so until I commit to a serious purge of our lives, I just don’t get any joy out of shopping for more stuff just for fun.

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8 Rainy-Day Saver June 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I know I have well over $100 in gift cards. Maybe I’ll join you in the spend-a-thon this weekend! I just don’t hit the mall often enough to use them!

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9 Carrie June 4, 2010 at 1:05 pm

one law i just love here in california is that giftcards never expire or have any fees attached to them! i only lose them if i actually lose them.

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10 Stella June 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I have a $25 Starbucks gift card–but I don’t drink coffee. I also have about $20 or so from an Amazon gift card. Hmmm….

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11 J. Money June 4, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Robin – WOW, very cool! So then you just gotta make sure you don’t lose them ;)
jolie – Timmy? Never heard of but free money is free money :)
Megan – Crap, yeah that DOES make sense actually. Maybe you can make it a game though and see how close you can get to $25 w/out going over? As long as you’re filling up with stuff you actually want and not junk. Haha…
Sarah – Yeah, just gotta stay strong my friend!
Nate St. Pierre – An early xmas present for me? ;)
Ace @ aceofwealth.com – Hah! Really? That is awesome.
JMK – Wow, you’ve put a lot of thought into this! haha….love it :) You’ve got a hefty stash too, well done. I hear ya on it being harder to spend these days, I’m going to have to force myself to at least try harder this weekend. I’d like to get some new graphic tees and shorts – all my stuff is starting to get ragged w/ my new frugality.
Rainy-Day Saver – Want to see who can get the closest to using them? ;) You’d probably win though…unless I can figure out a way to use them at all the yard sales this weekend! Now THAT would be cool – a gift card that is accepted at alllllll yard sales!
Carrie – Dang that’s great….i wonder if DC area is like that too actually now that I think of it? i just assumed they all expire here!
Stella – Gift time! To me! ;)

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12 finallygettingtoeven.com June 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Thanks for the reminder. I will have to dig mine out and i guess the first thing i should do is see whether they are still any good. I have one from a high-end dept store that is about 3 yrs old, was worth $50, probably worth nothing now but honestly i never step foot inside the store to begin with so it always slips my mind. I am in for the challenge, at least the part about finding out if it has any value, maybe next week i can actually make it to the store.

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13 KJ June 4, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I know the price is ridiculous, but we LOVE our Simple Human trash can! Go for it!

I understand the small balances, but that $171 one? I would have spent that instantly! Have fun… I’m the type that uses gift cards within a month of receiving them.

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14 Bucksome Boomer June 4, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Well, if you do buy that trash can, use one of BBB’s 20% off coupons. I spend gift cards pretty fast so don’t have any right now. What I do have is a couple of restaurant.com certificates that are about six months old.

Thanks for reminding me to dig them out and try a new restaurant!

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15 Gina June 4, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Okay just so you know regarding the Vanilla Visa Gift Card: $2.38
If they try to run a charge thru on the card for $2.39 it will get rejected so you have to get a patient cashier.

Have fun shopping!

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16 Donna Freedman June 5, 2010 at 2:59 am

This sounds very stressful, J., and I’m a little worried about you. Please send me the Chase gift card. I’ll take care of it so you can get some rest.

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17 Shopaholly June 5, 2010 at 6:50 am

What a great idea J! I only just spent a giftcard I got at Christmas but that’s probably the longest I’ve ever had one last. Hope you get some wicked stuff!

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18 jolie June 5, 2010 at 11:32 am

Timmys = Tim Horton’s. Coffee chain :-)

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19 JMK June 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Jolie – yay Timmies!
You cannot use VISA in the store (only AMEX and Mastercard) and I might feel silly paying the $1.52 on a credit card, so I have my Tim’s card set up online to automatically reload from my VISA. This way the card never runs out and I get the Aeroplan points on my VISA. At their website you can do a one time load onto the card, or set up auto reloading. I have it set up to put $30 on whenever the balance drops below $5.
I’ve cut my coffee addiction down to 2/wk but I still insist on getting my mileage points whatever way I can. It all adds up. I’m annoyed when I can’t pay for something on my VISA. We’ve now got enough points for our family of 4 to fly to Europe this summer! Woo hoo!

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20 Christian June 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I have that trash can! I say go for it.

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21 J. Money June 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm

finallygettingtoeven.com – Sounds like a plan :) Knowing is half the battle as a certain someone always used to say.
KJ – Really? Awesome! I started knocking off a litle of the balance already this weekend, but we hadn’t made it over to Bed Bath & Beyond yet where I saw it…it may have to wait ’till next weekend, but glad you enjoy yours!
Bucksome Boomer – YES! On both 20% bbb coupons & new restaurants :) Let me know if you found a good one!
Gina – Well that blows…but good to know!
Donna Freedman – Haha, why doesn’t that surprise me?
Shopaholly – Hi my dear! Lovely seeing you on here :) Thought about ya while out in Europa last week…one of these days I’ll find a way to get closer to your town :)
jolie – Ahhhh, will file that away thx!
JMK – WOW. Either you guys spend a crap ton of money, or you’ve found a way to pay your rent/mortgage on the Visa! ;) Or work expenses. Or you’re just awesome, I don’t know which. Haha…
Christian – 2 more for the trash can, I’m getting more convinced!

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22 Donna Freedman June 6, 2010 at 4:45 pm

J.: I’m only thinking of your continued health and well-being. Stress is not good for you.

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23 MyFinancialObjectives June 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Man, I NEVER have gift cards. I don’t really know why, guess I just don’t come into situations where I receive them too often!

Dude, that is redic! almost $250 in gift cards, that’s no small sum! Go spend some MONEY! :)

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24 basicmoneytips June 7, 2010 at 7:12 am

Companies love selling gift cards and prepaid cards, because there is always a healthy percentage of them that go unused. People throw them in drawer and they expire and eventually get thrown away.

If you do not want to use them, there are sites you can sell and trade giftcards as well. Might be something to look in to.

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25 J. Money June 7, 2010 at 9:42 pm

UPDATE: I spent a whole $12 this weekend :) But hey – at least I tried!

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