He Says/She Says: Gift Cards

He Says/She Says: Gift Cards

I recently celebrated a birthday, and one of my gifts was an Amazon gift card. I was so excited to spend it immediately, and I instantly knew just what to get (an e-book and lipstick, of course). It’s rare that I get a gift card that Johnny can’t lay claim on and put where all our other gift cards have gone to die — the kitchen drawer.

Maybe Johnny and I are the only couple in the entire universe who has this problem, but I’m suspecting there are some other tortured souls out there dealing with this. When we get gift cards, I like to spend them immediately on wants, and Johnny likes to save them until he can think of the perfect item to spend them on — which, if you’re wondering, is never. Any gift cards we’ve gotten for Christmas for the past few years are still wishing, waiting to be spent. We have hundreds of dollars’ worth in specific store gift cards and just straight up prepaid CASH gift cards. From time to time, we’ll talk about something we want to buy, and I’ll say, “Ooh!, we could spend some of our gift cards on that!” But to no avail. Something in him just can’t pull the trigger.

But that’s just the beginning. On top of his gift card hoarding issues, Johnny also has a hard time spending gift cards on wants. In his eyes, it’s the same as any other money we have that should be used for practical purposes. Occasionally, I’ll get him to crack when it’s a “splurge” (in quotation marks because gift cards shouldn’t be splurges!!!) that’s so awesome he just can’t say no to using our stash of gift cards. And that’s how we got our GoPro last year. He holds our gift cards so near and dear to his heart that he needs an extremely noble reason to spend them.

And so because we agree to disagree, we now have a kitchen drawer that holds a very bulky white envelope. And in that envelope? You guessed it — gift cards galore. Because they’re technically ours, and not just mine, I’ve been respecting Johnny’s strange attachment to them. But I’m starting to realize that I could spend them all, and he’d probably never even know. And if he ever asked about them, I could say, “Oh, we must have lost them when we moved. Guess that’s what happens when you hoard something for so long…” Not that I’d ever actually follow through… if they get lost the next time we move, it’s just a coincidence. Do you hear me, Johnny?

But for now, they just sit. And as inflation does its thing year after year, their value becomes less and less. How am I coping with this knowledge? By pretending they don’t exist. And maybe someday, somehow we’ll find something worthy of their spending. That’s assuming they don’t expire before then.

So we’d like to know: do you agree to disagree on your gift card spending with your SO? Or do you realize, like me, that gift cards are meant to be spent in a rush on whatever whimsical object you set your sights on? We won’t judge (unless your opinion is different than mine).

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  • Reply TT July 2, 2015 at 7:59 am

    For me it depends on how I got a gift card in the first place. If it was a gift, then in my mind it is splurge-worthy as soon as the gift recipient feels like it. In fact I somewhat feel an obligation to use it quickly so I can report back to the gift giver what they got me (this is usually family), which they seem to like. If I returned something and got store credit via a card, then I would think of it as any other money, and wait until I had a good reason to spend. I will say there is something to be said for using them sooner rather than later in order to de-clutter and lower the chances of losing track of them.

    Also, I’d be wary of those cash/pre-paid cards. Sometimes the administrators of the cards will charge monthly fees if they go unused for a period of time. I just had one that charged a $1 fee per signature purchase (like a credit card), or $2 for a PIN purchase. I carefully used it all up (to the penny) in two transactions, so I only lost $2 of my $500 to ‘the man.’

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Totally agree… I like to tell a person who gives me a gift card just what it is I bought with it. I’ve never tried that argument with Johnny before… something new to add to my arsenal the next time we have this debate! 🙂

  • Reply Christine July 2, 2015 at 8:12 am

    My husband and I have this same problem! We’ve compromised by keeping any gift cards we receive personally to use (although his often end up in our drawer). We usually receive several around Christmas, and those we will use in place of our budget for the first few months of the year – for example, using our prepaid cards to get groceries, target gift cards for household items, etc. Then we throw the cash we didn’t spend into savings! It’s still a work in progress. I’m just now using up some gift cards from last Christmas, but we’re finally using our stock and a win win for both of us!

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Ooh, that’s actually a really good idea! Using them for everyday items and then putting our own money into savings is something I’ve never thought of! I have a feeling Johnny would actually agree with me on that one.

  • Reply Lindy July 2, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Are you aware that many prepaid cash gift cards actually lose value due to a “maintenance” fee from the issuer? I did not and held onto a $500 gift card for over a year until after a move. When I went to use it for new home stuff, it was only worth $480…due to a $10 service fee each calendar year. Read the fine print!

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      I have heard that before, but I’d totally forgotten about it! Hopefully that hasn’t been happening with our AmEx cards because we’ve had those for *years.* Thanks for the reminder, Linday! (And yet another excuse to spend them :))

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      I have heard that before, but I’d totally forgotten about it! Hopefully that hasn’t been happening with our AmEx cards because we’ve had those for *years.* Thanks for the reminder, Lindy! (And yet another excuse to spend them :))

  • Reply Renee July 2, 2015 at 8:56 am

    We see them as gifts, so we buy something we’ve been wanting but would not able to buy with our budget. I do keep them until I find something I really want though. Not going to waste it on something that I won’t use in a few months.

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Yes! That’s how I am, too. I want to buy something with them that I’d otherwise have a hard time splurging on!

  • Reply Jessica @ Our Young Adventures July 2, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Typically, gift cards are complete splurge-worthy money!! All of the “save for later’s” in the Amazon cart, or eating out just because we can now, or buying that thing we wanted which is slightly cheaper now because we have a gift card. Yeah, spend them! With that said, there are a few gift cards sitting in our kitchen drawer too, but I can assure you those are only because the places they go to just aren’t a convenient distance 😉

    Straight cash or a check as a gift? Nope…savings!

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      That’s what I like to hear! You’re a girl after my own gift-card-spending heart!

  • Reply Maddie July 2, 2015 at 11:13 am

    If we get a gift card individually, then the individual can do what you want with it. I usually have something bigger in mind that I save them up for or spend them right away–always on something that’s a splurge. I have a hard time spending gift money on things other than fun stuff : ) Dan usually ends up spending them on something for the family and occasionally a clothes shopping trip for him (since he shops maybe 2x a year). So that makes me feel a bit guilty, but he’s pretty minimal in his wants and needs so….

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:56 pm

      That’s what I love about husbands (most of the time)… they’re practical enough for the both of us! Johnny’s the exact same with his gift cards… when he does spend it, it’s not usually on something very exciting! But then again, he doesn’t have nearly the endless possibilities I do… makeup, accessories, books, yarn, home decor, etc.

  • Reply Dane Hinson July 2, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I always try to spend our gift cards to replace an otherwise necessary purchase. So, if we needed something for the house that we would have used our budget on, I like to use the card to cover the expense. That way it frees up some cash and is otherwise just as good as a cash gift.

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      Very responsible of you! Johnny would definitely give you a virtual fist bump if he could.

  • Reply Lindsay July 2, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Our ‘policy’ is sort of similar to Dane’s above. We usually just spend gift cards on practical, necessary items. Or, if it’s a gift card to a store we rarely (or never) visit, I hang onto the gift card until an occasion comes up that requires me buying a gift for someone else. For example, all of the Williams & Sonoma and Crate & Barrel gift cards that we received as wedding presents… there’s nothing we really need for ourselves from those two stores, but I used the cards months later when purchasing registry presents for other couples. Hmm, now I’m wondering if that make me guilty of re-gifting?

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      That’s a good idea! I don’t think it’s re-gifting at all. I would gladly accept gifts from either of those stores in a heartbeat! I think it’s a really smart way to save money on your budget, while still getting others nice gifts. Go you!

  • Reply Maria July 2, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    My hubby is just like your hubby and hoards all his gift cards. He is not allowed to hoard my gift card! My gift cards I spend very quickly on my Amazon wish list items! My thoughts about a wish list is – I wish I had the money to buy it- so a gift card granted my wish. Then I convince him to lend me his because he forgets he even has them. M

    • Reply Joanna July 2, 2015 at 11:02 pm

      Yes, Maria! We are one and the same. But I need to get better at my skills of persuasion!! How do I convince him to give me all of his cards?? Right now, I’m seriously considering thievery.

  • Reply Maria July 3, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Girl that’s easy- use your womanly powers – good home cooking ! Lol

  • Reply Tarynkay July 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

    I am philosophically with Joanna on this one as I agree that the gift giver wants you to spend them on something fun and unnecessary, but in practice, I am more of a Johnny.

    I just don’t keep a list of wants and future splurges in mind, so when someone gives me a gift card, I am stumped as to what to use it on. And then also somewhat paralyzed by indecision- what if I get the wrong thing? What if I buy something and then a week later, I see the thing I actually wanted?

    My husband, on the other hand, has a running mental list of guitar pedals, small appliances, tools, and other stuff that he very much wants. So when we get a gift card, he instantly has things he wants to use it on. If we get gift cards as a joint gift, he will use half of it immediately and he leaves the other half for me. I always tell him to just spend all of it on him, he always refuses. Then I promptly forget all about it until months later when I spend it on some boring household expense. That makes my husband nuts.

    If we get those pre-paid credit cards, we use them immediately on fancy dinners out bc we really hate the idea of losing money on maintenance fees on those.

  • Reply Ever July 4, 2015 at 5:30 am

    My husband and I usually like to splurge! We usually like either splinting it to equal parts or just letting one of us have the money. If we really don’t see the gift card being used immediately than we put it away. I think I am the one who hoards them because I have a 3 year old mac gift card that I NEED to use before it expires but I still feel guilty using it since Mac is so expensive. Over all I’d say we share the same feelings towards Gift cards.

  • Reply Kristin S. July 5, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    We tend to spend cash gifts and gift cards quickly on items we want and consider them to be outside our regular budget… we don’t tend to spend a lot on ourselves on a regular basis, so a birthday gift of cash or card is definitely enjoyed by the recipient. Not by the other spouse! What?! (Unless it’s a joint gift, obviously!)

  • Reply Rob July 8, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    In our house my wife and I spend our gift cards separately, never with joint consideration, whenever either of us feels in the mood. She spends her gift cards (usually relating to clothes shopping) on herself and I spend my gift cards (usually relating to dining out) on both her and I. That approach seems to work out well! 🙂

  • Reply Kendal July 9, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Preach, Joanna! My husband also hoards gift cards and I spend them immediately. When he does spend them, he doesn’t get rid of them – oh no, they go right back in the drawer with the spent gift cards. This makes for good times when we’re trying to figure out which one has a balance and which one is empty, as was the case when he decided to regift Amazon gift cards to his mom for her birthday. Maddening!

  • Reply Melanie July 30, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Haha I love this post. I got a $200 gift card for my 30th (February) to a spa. I just hoarded it until now and have a massage scheduled next week-because Im doing my triathlon this weekend, that massage will be much deserved…AND half of the gift card will be leftover for a future splurge spa treatment! 🙂
    I decided to just go and take out my bag of gift cards..$25 Barnes and Noble (Im buying 50 shades of Grey movie with this!), Macys, PF Changs restaurant, Victorias Secret (only a little left on it), Sephora ($24 left), and $100 to LOFT! Wa-hoo! I rarely spend my gift cards right after Christmas, but let them “treat” me throughout the year. Im not much of a shopper, so it feels pretty wild to go spend $100 in LOFT some time… Also, being single makes the gift card situation much easier in this case 🙂
    Try to enjoy the gift cards! They’re meant to be enjoyed. 🙂

  • Reply Cecily August 4, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    There are websites and kiosks (similar to Coinstar) where you can sell gift cards!

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