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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

My Struggle with Gift Cards

I mentioned yesterday that my daughters had given me a gift certificate to a local lavender specialty shop for my birthday over a year ago. It was nearing its expiration date and I still hadn't used it. It's not that I couldn't find something I'd want in that shop. That's not the issue. I adore that shop and always make a point to step inside when I'm in the retail and restaurant area of our small town. 

I just have a problem with spending gift cards and certificates. I hang onto them for years. I'm not sure why. But I think it has something to do with my other financial habits. When you're frugal for a very long time, sometimes one's frugality backfires on a person and they find they can't spend money freely when given a chance. I think this is me. I think I hoard gift cards that are given to me because it feels like they are and will be in short supply in my life. So I feel like I need to find that "perfect" item on which to spend my gift card. The problem is, perfection in anything is elusive. I can no more find a perfect thing to buy than I can bake a perfect cake or have perfect hair. 

So, when I try to use a gift card, I look at everything and think about it all, over and over. Sometimes, it just feels easier to delay spending a gift card. I don't have the answer to this issue. But I am working on my thoughts about gift cards and using them. I want to honor the person(s) who gave them to me, and actually using it to buy something they'd choose for me is a way to honor their gift. I also need to let go of "perfect". As I was perusing the website to spend this recent gift certificate, many items were very nice. And I would have been thrilled to receive any of the lavender products. If it weren't for this particular gift certificate having an expiration date printed on it, I may have delayed choosing something even longer. But I did choose a product that I will really enjoy. And just under the gun -- on the very last date before expiry.

I just keep thinking, spending a gift card or certificate should not be so hard. I think I understand why I am this way. I'm just needing to work on solutions to this struggle. 

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a hard time spending money or gift cards on themselves. If this has been an issue for you, how have you dealt with it?


  1. Same here. Gifts and gift cards are difficult for me too. I'm more of a giver than a receiver and often with good intentions I put it in my wallet to use and then find it some time later unused. My son is a lot like too. We once even looked through a pile of high school graduation cards and found an uncashed check from grandma. Oops.

    1. Hi Alice,
      I have a bunch of gift cards in my wallet, too. I need to find a way to use these. That's indeed an oops on the uncashed checks.

  2. Speaking of unspent gift cards, we have a basket of them. My husband is worse than I am, but we both are procrastinators. Which is often a sign of perfectionism - can't do something until you know that it's just the right thing. I have been fighting this for years with some success. I think anxious personalities are more prone to this than some others. Or all of this could be as simple as out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Maybe if we took the basket out of the cupboard and put it on the table, the gift cards would disappear. We shall see.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      You could be right about a link between anxious personalities and perfectionism. Maybe for some of us, we need to develop action plans for using the gift cards.
      Good luck with your basket of cards.

  3. Oh you hit a frugal nerve with me. I do that as well. I also have a hard time when I do buy something, I then think and rethink about it - and sometimes return an item because of it. I have a hard time spending money that I feel is a foolish or impulsive purchase - almost causing anxiety. I'd love suggestions on how to deal with it as well.

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      Oh I know that feeling -- difficulty buying something that seems frivolous or not necessary. This may be linked to feeling we need to be perfect in our use of money. One thing that does help me is to have a separate budget item for things like clothing, entertainment, dining out, etc. If I see on my written out budget that there is money allocated for those things, then I feel I have permission to spend in those areas.
      Good luck to you, Ruthie!

  4. For me, it's more a matter of remembering that the cards exist! It seems that many of our cards are to restaurants or places like Starbucks and I don't always want the calorie load that comes with purchasing those items.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Oh yes! The calories. Those, too, play into delaying use of some of the gift cards, like for ice cream places. I have one of those gift cards from a couple of Mother's Days ago. I also have a gift card for a candy shop from about 10 years ago. I think I need to come up with a game plan for using these cards.
      Good luck with your cards.


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