Don't waste the gifts you've been given

Getting the Most from Gift Cards

by Veronica Bowman

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Were you among the lucky ones who received one or more gift cards as a holiday or special occasion gift? Have you thought about how to incorporate them into your frugal living lifestyle? You might be surprised at how many ways a gift card can help you whenever you're on a tight budget.

When you receive gifts cards, it's basically the equivalent of getting free money to do whatever you wish with. Living on a tight budget often means there's little or no money left for fun stuff after you've paid the necessary bills. You could immediately rush out and enjoy a shopping spree or dining experience with your gift card, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. However, you could hold onto it and make it work for you in a variety of ways.

Wait for Sales

By waiting until stores have end of season sales or sales centered around special days and events, you can buy more with your gift card than if you shopped before prices were reduced. If you know that sometime in the near future you will be making some changes such as moving or changing jobs, you might want to hold onto your gift card. You could use it to help with decorating your new home or to purchase some new clothes or wardrobe accessories to wear to your new job.

Boost Your Budget

If you have a twelve-month budget prepared, you know that some months are tougher on the budget than others. The months when semi-annual or annual home owner's or car insurance is due can strain a budget that is already pretty tight. Months with high power bills also put a strain on the budget. You can get some excellent advice concerning preparing a yearly budget at If you received one or more gift cards from a store that sells groceries as well as other merchandise, you could use your card to ease the budget related stress you feel on your most financially difficult months. Using the card for groceries would surely be helpful at this time. When you realize how much those cards can help when you're experiencing a financial pinch, you'll congratulate yourself for planning ahead and holding onto them.

Swap or Sell It

There are places such as that offer you the opportunity to sell your gift cards. In a real pinch or in situations where the card you received is not one you can use, this is a good way to still get some benefit from the card. You may be able to find cards for sale that are more relevant to your lifestyle or needs. Sell your card and buy one you want. No one will ever have to know how you turned their gift, that wasn't an ideal match to your preferences, into a gift you really wanted and could use.

Time It

The winter season can seem to drag on forever sometimes. By holding onto a gift card you received during the holidays, you can use it later in the season to chase away the cold, gray, winter day blahs. Treat yourself to a fun shopping spree without worrying about the budget. Buy something that will cheer you up. Fresh flowers would brighten up your home. A colorful article of clothing could improve your mood. A funny movie or book could also make you feel better.

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Big Event It

If you received a card to a nice restaurant, make going there a big event. Get dressed up for the dinner. If possible, invite someone to join you. Pretend, at least for one day or evening, that you don't have to pinch pennies to enjoy a fine dining experience.

Holding onto a gift card until you can use it in the most frugal manner is simply a smart financial decision. You could look at it as a way of extending the holiday spirit or prolonging a birthday celebration.

Take the Next Step:

  • Trade or sell unwanted gift cards with these tips.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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