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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Returning Unopened Merchandise for a Refund

In my cleaning this week, I came across 2 bags with an item in each (purchased in February). Now it turns out that I don't need these items, after all. One product was from Michaels and the other from Target. I thought for sure that both items would be non-returnable at this point, as they were purchased 2 months ago. Well, I was wrong (this was a good time to be wrong). Per each store's websites, Michael's allows 180 days for unopened products and Target allows 90 days (with a few exceptions named on their website). Woo hoo! The total amount that I will be getting back is only about $5, but goodness -- $5 is $5. Both stores are within a block of the mall, and I have 2 birthday freebies to redeem there this coming week, so no substantial amount of gas will be used to return these products and retrieve my $5. In fact, if I want to use this outing to get my steps in, I could walk to both Target and Michael's from the mall and not expend any gas on my returns.

Before visiting each store's website, I had assumed that returns would have only a 30-day window. So glad that I checked!

In another "small-change" area, I was also cleaning out my desk drawer and came across some gift cards that I knew had partial balances left on them. I called the phone number on the card backs to get the remaining balances, and marked each card's value with a Sharpie. Four of the gift cards can be used at one restaurant chain. When combined, there's enough in the balances to pay for a nice family lunch at the end of the month, in honor of the 2 birthday people in our family. In the past, I've tended to forget that gift cards are real money. Even if the balance is very low, the money is very real. I've got my various gift cards in a stack and am making thoughtful choices in how to spend each.

In addition to plastic gift cards, I also have some egift cards. Again, I am making careful choices in how to spend each. I think it's so easy to forget about these gift cards, as there is nothing tangible as a reminder.

Anyway, I am reminding myself that all of these little bits add up.


  1. Returning unused items is a nuisance but valuable! Yes, return what you can! Gift cards are hit or miss. We received one to a restaurant that would cost a lot even when using the gift card so I offered it to my boss who said it was a favorite restaurant. I gifted it to him.

    Good Job, Lili, that you have a little "extra" for some fun future activities!


    1. Hi Alice,
      I think you made a good call with giving the gift card to your boss. Your boss likely really enjoyed using it. Something else we've done when given a gift card that would cost us additional money to use -- we've ordered something to-go that was under the gift card amount, then came home and split it/added to it with other foods. Several restaurants offer a birthday freebie of a meal to the birthday person. But that means to use it dining out, we have to pay for several other family members. Some restaurants have let us get the one birthday person's meal to-go, so we don't all have to buy a meal out.

      Yes, it's a real luxury for us right now to be able to afford a meal out using these gift cards.

  2. I tend to forget about gift cards, also, and we have several we're trying to use. One will be at a local restaurant for a birthday dinner here, also.

    Finding unexpected money is always fun even if it's only a little. I try to return most things we don't need and keep them in my car so when I'm near or in the store, I will have them with me. Often times the item is not big enough for a trip all by itself.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      happy, happy to the soon-to-be birthday person in your family!
      My 2 daughters are driving my car most of the time, now, so I've been hesitant to put the items to be returned in the car. Otherwise, putting the items in the car is my go-to so I don't forget them. For now, I have them hanging off my kitchen chair. I'll be going out this week, so I'll hopefully remember to take them back.

  3. You inspired me to check Kohl's return policy. Unfortunately, it's only 30 days--but I'm glad I checked. I, too, tend to assume all stores have a 30 day policy. Glad you have some "found" money.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Bummer on Kohl's return policy. My general understanding is if the store primarily carries seasonal items, like clothing, then the return window is limited to 30 days. After all, the store hopes to re-sell the merchandise at the same price that it was returned for. So, I understand the policy. The item I bought at Michaels is a tube of fabric paint that I didn't need, and the Target item is extra mousetraps that we didn't need. Both in original packaging, so they can resell at the full price.

  4. In order for me to keep track of gift cards, I use a spreadsheet, so I can update each gift card with its current balance. The reason I buy gift cards is for the promotional extras, like buy $50 and receive another $10 gift card free. That's a 20% savings, and I can combine that usually with a 5% credit card bonus category. So to me, gift cards are another form of cash, which is used as wisely, with coupons and sales.

    Have a great day,

    1. Hi YHF,
      Wow your spreadsheet sounds so organized. I think if you have a lot of gift cards, this would be the way to go. You don't want to lose that money. You bring up a good point --- it's easy to forget that gift cards are money, so I have to remind myself to treat it with the same careful considerations as I would cash in my wallet. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Little bits do add up, Lili. I think it's great that you're combining errands and walking to Michael's and Target to save on gas money. I have a card with $2 and some change on it that I'm saving for the next time I go somewhere to spend money. (I'm working on doing 15 no spend days this month, so I'm being careful when I spend money.)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Wishing you well on the no-spend this month. By default, most of my days this month are turning out to be no-spend. But that's a good thing. It will help our finances in the long-run. But it's not always easy. There are so many places and things that I could easily spend my money on.

  6. As my grandma used to say, if we take care of the pennies the dollars will take care of themselves.

    1. That's a good saying to remember, and I believe there is truth in it. An extra 50 cents never sounds like a lot of money, but over a year, that's over $180.
      Thanks for the reminder!


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