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January 21st was National Use Your Gift Card Day. As a federal employee, I didn’t get it off. There won’t be a themed dinner at the local diner and the odds of discounts are unlikely.

Unlike many other national days, this one started as a joke.

One gal was jested with friends and family about how many gift cards they have and how rarely they’re used. Ghosting gift cards is a national phenomenon. The average amount of unspent gift cards, vouchers, and store credits was $175 last year, and half of the US have an unused gift card.

With $21 billion unspent, it’s hard to laugh about unused funds during an economic crunch.  

Even without the national suggestion, I avoid ghosting gift cards.

Inflation Staycation

Inflation is like sugar, best in moderation. In small doses, inflation is healthy for an economy because it can spur productivity, employment growth, and economic output. In large doses, it drowns economic health and happiness.

Gift card balances aren’t immune to inflation. Like a checking account balance, a gift card loses value over time because it doesn’t keep up with inflation. As inflation increases, even with small amounts, it creates less buying power.

For example, a $50 gift card to Starbucks could buy more lattes in 1993 than in 2023.

To prevent the eternal frustration of less buying power, or worse an expired gift card, its best to avoid ghosting gift cards.

Rearrange & Change

Sometimes it’s legitimately hard to use a gift card.

Perhaps the card is for a store that isn’t local or for a loathed store. Either way, plenty of places will exchange an unused gift card for another gift card or cash.

Frequently, I use CardCash for buying and selling gift cards. There are many other sites, but they’ve had the best deals when I shop for a card.

On the odd chance I have a card for an unliked store, I can regift the cash by buying a gift for someone else or regifting the card.  

One and done and on with the fun.

Dark Side

I’m a minimalist, not the kind that only has 1,000 items but the kind that has more than 1,000 items.

My home has less stuff than average and an automatic benefit is that I find stuff easier or rarely lose things to begin with.

From gloves to groceries, if I misplace something, I can find it quickly because there are few places to hide.

The chances of misplacing a gift card are hard because I treat gift cards like cash. I put it in my wallet and on my phone’s shopping list. I use an extra reminder about the card to ensure that when I’m getting shaken down for payment, I’ll use the card before credit.

Gift cards are treated like cash because, unlike a credit card, once hijacked, I can’t get my money back.

It’s better to use it as intended; money spent, not from my paycheck.

Avoid Ghosting Gift Cards

The best things in life are free.

It’s a sentiment that is as old as the 1857 “Therapeutic Paper” (toilet paper). Hillside hikes, scenic vistas, and gift cards are free. Free money not from my income but someone else’s.

As a gift card giver, I’d rather the recipient use the card for cash, a gift, or exchange it then for it to languish in their wallet with the dust bunnies.

In a small way, I can contribute to a loved one’s financial freedom, but only if they avoid ghosting gift cards.

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