My Best Strategies for Using Gift Cards

Family, Saving

January 05, 2023

Welcome to 2023, my friend. The fact that you have opened this email makes me so very happy. It is a sign that you are determined as ever to build financial security. I am honored you continue to come to me for advice.

There is every reason to believe 2023 can be a year of building wealth. That can take all sorts of forms. Reducing credit card debt is building wealth. Building up your emergency savings is a key component of building wealth. Not overspending is a major step toward financial freedom.

And I have a strong hunch you may have a way to jump-start work on your 2023 financial goals.

A survey conducted just before this past holiday season reported that 60% of shoppers expected to purchase gift cards. Any chance you received a gift card? Or 2, or 3?

I have 2 strategies for how best to use gift cards.

1. Use It for Needs, Not Wants

If you have a gift card from a general retailer that sells groceries, or home supplies, or anything that qualifies as a “need”, I sure hope you will spend your gift card on 1 or more essentials.

Please don’t “oh, Suze” me with a story that your relative/friend/boss gave you the card as a gift, not to help you pay for essentials. I don’t think that’s really true. They gave you the card for you to decide what you’d like most. What you would value. Using the card to pay for essentials is my definition of making the most of a gift.

2. Get Paid Cash for Your Card

Okay, plenty of gift cards are for stores that pretty much only sell wants, not needs. Electronics you don’t need. Or clothes you really don’t need either. Or maybe it’s just a brand that doesn’t do it for you.

In that case, I want you to consider trading in your card for cash. Online sites such as CardCash or Raise will pay you for your gift card. Now, there’s of course a catch: you won’t get the full value of the card. Best case scenario is you might get 90% of the face value of the card. For less popular cards it might be 80%.

But if trading in gives you cash to put towards a need, I think it’s a reasonable tradeoff. For instance, let’s say you have $250 in gift cards that don’t address any needs. If you traded them in and received $200, or maybe even $220 or so, what might you do with that cash? Could it go toward paying down credit card debt? Or might you add it to your emergency savings account? Or perhaps it’s the first contribution to your 2023 Roth IRA?

All of those strike me as great financial gifts to give yourself. And what a wonderful way to launch into the year ahead.

Ideally, it would also be fantastic if next holiday season you could communicate to people in your world what cards would be most appreciated. I realize that you might not be comfortable discussing this with every person who gives you a gift. But I think there are likely plenty of people in your circle who you have the sort of relationship with that when they ask you for gift ideas, you can guide them.

And do the same with your gift-giving! Ask friends and family if there are retailers that might be especially appreciated by them. Or if you know that they are struggling to pay for essentials, a gift of cash—assuming you can honestly afford it!—is not tacky. It is the most efficient way to give someone a gift that helps them move forward with less financial stress.

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