I know that there are mixed opinions out there regarding giving a gift card (not as personal, yadda yadda yadda) but I really enjoy giving & receiving them because it feels like an extension of the holidays (or the birthday, or whatever the event may be) - the excitement continues because the gift is not over.
Regardless of how you feel about gift cards, once you have them, it is far too easy to misplace them. After our move a couple of months ago, while unpacking his "junk box" into his newly assigned "junk drawer," Todd came across a restaurant gift card that I had given him. For Christmas. 2012. Sigh. Leaving aside the fact that we need to come up with a way to organize Todd's junk drawer (or maybe just organize Todd), I realized that I needed to rethink that way that we make use of gift cards so that we actually remember we have them.
2. If you have an account to the store, like iTunes or Amazon, add the gift card to your account right away. In the past, I have avoided doing this because I want the card to go towards something special. This usually leads to me forgetting that I have the extra money until after I make the actual purchase. No bueno. Unless there is a specific purchase that you are saving up for, ignore the desire to save the gift card for a rainy day. If there is something that you are saving towards, see #4. Plus, many stores give you the option of loading the gift card but not using it unless you select to do so.
3. Get organized! Keep all of your gift cards in one location. If they all fit in your wallet, great. If not, find a small box to keep at your desk, or an enveloped to keep in your bag, or tape them all to a piece of paper and hang that on the bulletin board. Whatever works, so long as all of your gift cards have a home. The trick here? Actually returning the cards to this home if they have a remaining balance after use, or if you receive more cards throughout the year. This removes that scramble for the &#^$*(@ gift card at the last minute.
4. Keep that list of gift cards. This is if you want to get real about being organized. If you have more than can fit in your wallet, it can be difficult to remember what you have while you are out & about. Put the list of gift cards, including their balance, in your phone. Or, if you are less than tech savvy, on a post it that lives in your wallet. Update it as you use them, either deleting them (crossing them out, for you post-it users) or updating the balance. If you are saving towards something special, this list is especially useful because it allows you to easily track when you've hit your mark. N is a huge Lego fan, and he's also a smart Lego shopper. Knowing that he is likely to get the smaller (still ridiculously expensive) sets as gifts, he saves his gift cards (for well over a year, sometimes) so that he can purchase larger sets, and keeps a running tally so he knows when he's hit his mark.
5. Enjoy them! Head to that movie, buy that bracelet, or enjoy that snack, and then don't forget to drop the gift card sender a little note letting them know that you did. They'll appreciate knowing that their gift wasn't lost in, you know, a junk drawer. I am totally letting it go now, I swear.
Are you a use-them-all-now type of gift carder, or do you tend to hoard them like me? What are you best tips for keeping track?