I have a few reasons to love the month of March. First, it signals the end of my least favorite months of the year (January and February), when time seems to drag and springtime seems eons away. Second, it commences the incline toward longer, sunnier days when I don’t feel like crawling into bed at 5:30pm. And finally, March is my birthday month. It’s also my father’s and my brother’s birthday month, making it a pricey 30 days for my mother.
I’ve received some amazing birthday gifts in my lifetime but as we get older, the process of gift-giving gets more challenging. This is especially true as I endeavor to be mindful of my budget without being a total cheapskate. I like saving money on just about everything, but I like buying gifts for other people so much that it often clouds my better financial judgement. I tend to think the cost of something is justified when it’s for someone else, especially if I think it’s the perfect gift.
I’m not opposed to splurging on a gift when I can afford it and when it’s something I know the recipient will truly enjoy. However, knowing what people want or need is a tough nut to crack depending on the recipient. For example, gifting my dad has become easier because nothing makes him happier than a pound of bold coffee beans and a homemade steak dinner. Buying presents for my brother is harder, however, since we no longer live together and I have no idea what he’s been pining for since last March.
Happily, there is one gift that’s universally well-received and represents my go-to for the last couple years. People have different attitudes about gift cards, but they’re my personal favorite gift to receive. While purchasing gift cards is incredibly easy, there are a few ways to actually save money on gift cards, some of which I’ve employed recently.
Regift: One of the biggest complaints about gift cards is the potential for them to go unused. Despite my affection for them, I’ve received a few cards that have missed the mark. I gifted one such card to my cousin for Christmas after holding onto it for over a year. Even though gift cards represent free money, I still see them as valuable additions to income that shouldn’t languish in wallets or be tossed.
Redeem rewards: Last year, I finally did something I’ve been telling everyone else to do for ages: I used credit card rewards toward a gift for my brother. Though the two $25 gift cards I gave him didn’t cost me anything at the time, I’ll make it clear they weren’t “free”; rewards are earned through spending, so at some point I did pay for these cards. However, my amazing restraint for spending money on only those things I need (ha!) made this method pretty budget savvy.
Buy at a discount: This year, I ordered two discount gift cards through GiftCardGranny.com for my dad. He got a $30 gift card to Starbucks (I paid $25) and a $25 gift card to iTunes (I paid $22.50). I spent less than my budgeted $50 and my dad actually received 10-percent more in value.
So there you have it: my tried-and-true methods for saving money on gift cards. What are your strategies for saving money on birthday gifts?