Day 10 of the Spending Freeze Challenge – Gift Cards, Coupons & Your Inbox

Happy Day 10 of your Spending Freeze! We’re continuing the entertainment discussion today with three spending traps that pop up in our family during our spending freeze months – gift cards, coupons and my email inbox. As a reformed coupon user, I’m here to share some realizations that have helped me be better at money management and helped us save money as a family.

Gift Cards – Gift cards are not a bad thing – until they become a reason to shop and over spend. Maybe you’ve received a card as a gift from a friend or family member or have been lucky enough to win one in a drawing or contest of some sort. Maybe you have a stack of them sitting in a drawer that you haven’t used and they are calling your name this month. Here are some suggestions for putting them to good use and not crushing your budget.

  • Restaurant gift cards are great – if they cover the cost of your entire meal. If the card is for $20 and my family of four is hitting up a sit down restaurant, we know we’re going to spend money. An easy solution – use the card to order take out or to indulge in a dessert-only trip. Do your best to stay within your spending freeze guidelines or set the card aside until the challenge is over.
  • Have a gift card you know you’ll never use? Consider, for a fee, using a service that converts your unused cards to cash. My local grocery store uses the Coinstar company. Google “gift card exchange” and you’re sure to find a version of these kiosks in your area.
  • Regifting – yes, yes, I know this is the word we don’t want to hear, but hold on to those unwanted gift cards for the upcoming holiday season. Save them for emergency gifts or donate them to a charity raffle at your children’s school or sports organization.

Coupons – Same thing here as gift cards. Coupons are not a bad thing – until you find yourself savagely hunting through Old Navy to find the perfect item that costs exactly $3.29 because you have a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 and $46.71 worth of merchandise in your basket. Here are my suggestions for coupon management.

  • Sort mail at the door. Whenever possible, ditch those mailed flyers, ads and post cards right away.
  • Stay wary of the “Spend ____ get ___ off” style deal. These are known spending traps. Use them wisely and only at times when you had ALREADY planned to spend the larger sum of money.

Email Deal of the Day  – During our first spending freeze, I went through daily temptation in my email inbox. Living Social, Groupon and retail ads & coupons piled up and I had to force myself to delete them time and time again. While Living Social called to me with family bowling discounts, Groupon sang my name with salon gift card specials.  I started a massive unsubscribing effort and have been thrilled with the results. My overall email volume is down and I no longer have the daily distraction of deciding if the “deal of the day” is really worth it. If I need a discount for something I’ll seek it out. No more email notifications required. So, that’s my suggestion. Spend a bit of time one day during your freeze and start unsubscribing from the massive number of places you’ve given your email address to. I think you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

Day 9’s Post

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