It can be easy to let the feeling of free money overtake you when you have a gift card melting a hole in your pocket. This can lead to silly or poor spending decisions, and in turn, a wasted opportunity to maximize spending power with money other than your own. And while not every gift card might be eligible to be put toward something useful, there can be ways to make the most of -- or at least more of -- certain gift cards.
Our family tries to maximize our efforts when shopping with gift cards by abiding by the following rules.
Shopping the Same
When we've got some free cash to blow in the form of gift cards, it's easy to start shopping differently or buy different products from what we normally do. However, part of our making the most of these gift cards comes in the form of sticking to our guns like we do when we hit the stores with our own money, making smart buys and not letting the smell of free money get to our heads.
Therefore, we still make a list, we still price compare, we still buy store brands, and we still only buy what we need, not what we want, even though we have the option to overindulge a little with our gift card.
Looking for Deals
Even as good "power shoppers," we still find it's easy to start to make that grab for the first product we see when shopping with gift cards. However, even with a gift card, we make an effort to momentarily restrain ourselves before making our product selection. This lets us check product pricing, unit sizes, unit costs, and look for sales or discounts before choosing which product is the best buy.
Still Using Coupons
With a gift card, since it's not really our money that we're spending (even though technically it is once the card actually becomes ours), I find the desire is sometimes there to just ditch the coupons for once and head out to shop unencumbered. However, I know that by doing so, we're only reducing the buying power that comes along with our gift card, in turn reducing its effectiveness and reducing the amount of product it will buy before having to turn to our own hard-earned dollars.
Saving Gift Cards for Special Treats
Sometimes we get cards that can't be used for grocery shopping or wherever we'd like, but are instead for specific spots such as restaurants, toy stores, electronics stores, ice cream shops, etc.
Instead of just going out and frivolously blowing the balances of these cards, we instead tend to save them for special occasions. It's great when we can go out to celebrate a family birthday or just a special dinner or treat with a gift card, sometimes used in conjunction with a coupon, which can make the card go even further, saving us more money in the process.
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