Start spending. I know, this sounds strange coming from me — but I really mean it. Start cashing in your gift cards and certificates now. Behavioral economists warn us that when we are presented with no immediate deadline, we are likely to save the gift card and never use it, thus contributing to the millions of dollars in gift cards that go unused. Not a nice way to treat a gift from Grandma.

So why don’t gift cards get used? Here are the reasons Consumer Reports got from a survey of consumers in 2007 that are still true today:

  • Over half of consumers indicated not having the time (to redeem the cards); followed by not finding anything they wanted.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents who have unused cards from last holiday season did not use their gift card because they forgot about it.
  • A good proportion of consumers will never redeem their gift cards from last season because the card is lost or expired.

Clearly, our nature is to shun the redemption of the gift card. Knowing this — get cracking and start shopping. Be sure to use this exercise as a teachable moment to introduce some “smart” shopping strategies.

Start making a list of what your child wants or needs. Point out that by shopping now, your child can stretch those gift card dollars out as most retailers have sales as they struggle to unload inventory to make way for the new inventory. If nothing strikes their fancy, ask your child to consider selling the gift card to you for its face value so you can use the card on your list of wants and needs.  Then they can save, spend, donate or invest the cash as they wish.

Once the gift is in hand, don’t forget the thank you note to the giver to let them know what you did with the gift card.

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Susan Beacham
Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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