Melissa Schmalenberger, Published August 18 2013
Ms. Simplicity: Having a system ensures gift cards aren’t forgottenRight now, could you show me where you store your gift cards or frequent-buyer cards? Better yet, I may be standing in line by you at Target and you slap your forehead and say that you forgot your gift card in your junk drawer.
Or maybe you are like me and have lost gift cards at some point. I realized within a week of getting a gift card that I had lost it. It was a local store and they keep a record of who buys a gift card and the amount. I went in and explained the situation and the response I got was “gift cards never expire.” Well, that didn’t do me much good because I knew it was gone. Thrown away in some excited organizing purge in my house.
I vowed from that day that I would never misplace a gift card again. I now have all of my gift cards and frequent buyer cards in a little Rolodex in my purse. Once I get a card, in my purse it goes. Once my kids get a gift card, in my purse it goes.
I have written before about how to organize them, but now it seems like I need to remind people to use them. I am often surprised at how long it takes to use a gift card, even if they are organized. Stores love selling gift cards as they know statistically that many will go unused. So what can you do to ensure that you use your gift cards.
E Keep them organized.
E Keep them in a place that when you shop they are near your person. If you don’t have a purse, keep it in the glove compartment of your car.
E Make sure you only keep gift cards with balances in them. They all have a number or website you can call. Find out the balance and write it on the back with a Sharpie.
E Make a point of handing the empty gift card to the store employee when it is empty so you don’t take clutter back.
E Challenge yourself to use all the gift cards you have in a short period of time. I can tell you that I have many clients who have massage gift certificates that are years old (I am guilty of this too). Use all those gift cards up in a weekend or a week.
E Give your kids the gift cards to use at a store with you and they can only spend the amount on the gift card. If you have a frozen yogurt gift card for $17.16, figure out how many ounces you can have to equal the gift card amount.
E Donate unused gift cards that you know you aren’t going to use to a charity silent auction.
E Pay it forward at the coffee shop. Leave your coffee gift card at the drive through to use on the cars behind you.
E Shop for a charity. For stores that you never shop at and know you won’t use anything on yourself, use the gift card and buy items that you think a charity needs and drop it off at the charity.
E Use within 24 hours of receipt. When you get a gift card try to use it as soon as possible. That way you don’t forget about it and misplace it. I wish I would have used that gift certificate that I received for the massage within 24 hours, then I wouldn’t have misplaced it.
So take some time this week and figure out how you are going to better use or organize your gift cards. Are you going to schedule those massages? Are you going to get a cup of coffee? Are you going to find a charity or pay it forward? Whatever you do, just make sure that you put a system in place and use those gift cards in a timely basis.
MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at www.mssimplicity.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.