The Thing About Gift Cards

This post has nothing to do with foster care.

But it has everything to do with seeking to live a simpler and more minimalistic life.

I have a stack of gift cards that has been piling up for years, and most of them are for stores I don’t even shop at. Some came from a credit card company my husband used to use—when his reward points were about to expire, he had the option of claiming the points in magazine subscriptions or gift cards (cash was not an option). I’m glad he claimed the gift cards—the last thing I need is more magazines sitting around that I don’t have time to read.

But here’s the thing about most gift cards: they actually cause me to spend more money on things I don’t even need or want.

Take the Pottery Barn gift card I’ve had for a couple of years. It is for $25. Know what I can get from Pottery Barn for $25? Me neither. Maybe some cloth napkins (we use a lot of those in our house), but I buy them from thrift stores, so it would not feel good at all to spend $25 on cloth napkins (not including shipping) when I can get them from Value Village for $5 (and often they are Pottery Barn brand!)

Here’s the other thing: I’m trying to get rid of clutter in my house, not add to it. So another candle holder or tchotchke tray, which is about the only thing I can buy with $25 at Pottery Barn, is not the direction I’m going in right now.

We are planning to relocate next summer (2020). While I have been trying to become more minimalistic for the past three years, the decision to move in a year has motivated me to go even further. So I’ve started the long-game of purging, simplifying, and just generally making life cleaner and simpler and more imaginative in our home.

And it’s been awesome! The kids are playing outside more. We have gotten rid of a lot of toys and they are playing with things that are household items that would otherwise be sitting in closets (suitcases are a favorite play item—they pack for trips and then travel to the front yard, where they set up house. Also, blankets. There’s a lot of blanket play going on in my family. It’s delightful.)

So this brings me to gift cards. I confess that I have always felt obliged to use gift cards, whether they are from stores I shop at or not, and whether I needed anything from those stores or not. I have purchased clothing I didn’t really like because I got a gift card for an unrealistic amount of money and didn’t want to spend a lot of my own money, so I shopped only clearance items, where the pickin’s were mighty slim ($25 at Anthropologie, anyone?). I have purchased a lifetime supply of body spray because someone gave me a gift card to a beauty shop and I felt compelled to use it.

Unless it’s for a store or restaurant you know someone loves and frequents (an Amazon gift card is always a safe bet with me, and a fast food gift card is helpful sometimes, if it’s for a place we actually eat at), a gift card can actually be a burden.

Today, I relieved myself, thanks to a web site called Card Pool*.

I parked myself in front of my lap top with my stack of cards and amassed close to $150 in credit on Amazon. (You can also get a check in the mail, but now that I’m in seminary, I’m buying a lot of books from Amazon, so this will be very helpful to me. Way more helpful than another compulsory bottle of body lotion).

Of course, they take a percentage of the card’s value. But when I think of what it would cost me in time and gas to drive to the various stores where I have gift cards and then trying to pick out exactly $25 worth of things I don’t need… I’m happy to let them have their fee so I can get credit for things I do need to buy—like books and audiobooks and movies on Amazon!

If you’re looking to simplify and escape the pressure of spending gift cards on things you don’t want/need, this might be worth checking out.

I personally feel a bit lighter today.

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*Full disclosure: if you use this link, you get $5 off your first order and I get a $5 credit. I’m not sharing this to get the credit, though—I wrote this blog post before realizing there was a referral reward 🙂

One thought on “The Thing About Gift Cards

  1. Alex says:

    Terrific post! I had not heard of Card Pool. I’m an Amazon user, so this will be helpful. Thanks for the tip! Also, I’m not actually relocating like you are, but a few months ago I decided to tell myself I am to make it easier to purge, clean, and simplify – and it’s worked. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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