Part of my job as CFO of the family is to keep up on bills, medical billing statements, and the general who-owes-what-to-whom that makes up modern life. Is this cable bill accurate? Why does the doc say we owe $75 when insurance says they covered it? What's with the extra copayment for that x-ray? And when was the last time we let the gas company in to read a meter??? I spend one morning every two weeks taking care of our finances, with extra phone calls to various places fitted into my work day. Those phone calls save me an average of $100/MONTH. And then I do the same for my Mom one day a month. And then, of course, I need one entire day per year to figure out taxes. I haven't gotten to that yet, although it would be to our great benefit if I could do it SOON.
This morning I got the bills paid, and then got distracted for about an hour by a minor financial matter: Gift cards.
There is an entire section of my wallet dedicated to gift cards. Right now I have two Verizon rebate cards, a Christmas Tree Shops card, a Target card, an AMC card, a Dandy MiniMart card, and two Dunkin Donuts cards. They total $184.27 (there was an additional $1.08 but I bought a McD's coffee on the way to work after I discovered how rich I am LOL). I also have cards for free coffee at CHOP, a free Italian ice locally, and frequent buyer discounts at a couple of my favorited shops.
It is estimated that approximately $2 BILLION dollars is wasted annually in the US because people do not use up the balances on gift cards. I plan to not contribute to that number if at all possible!
It can be challenging. The rebate cards, for example, will work until whatever it is I want to buy exceeds the amount on the card. Without going online or placing a phone call, there is no way to know what's on there. And if a gift card is for somewhere I don't go very often, it's very easy to lose that last few dollars simply because I don't know how much is left.
I don't do coupons. I haven't got the time or the inclination. But I do pay attention to things like the gas discount our local grocery gives for spending money there. And they give the gas discount on your entire purchase, including gift cards. So if I'm going to go to Dunkin Donuts periodically anyway, it makes sense fro me to buy myself a gift card to get the discount - provided I use the entire card.
Knowledge is power. I now have the balance written on the back of each card so I don't forget what they are worth. Some of the balances are so small it almost seems silly, but if I'm willing to pick up a penny off the ground when I see one, I should be willing to use up those balances!