We work hard to earn a living. There’s always bills to pay and savings accounts to nurture. But at the same time, it’s also important to (responsibly) spend in order to enjoy the time we have on this precious earth. In general, there are two ways to increase net worth:
- Earn more
- Spend less
And those two will be the foundation that decides your financial security in life. With that said, there are definitely ways you can cheat your income bracket and boost your spending power.
Let me be clear, when you’re stretching a dollar, you’re still spending, not saving. I’ll cover that fun topic another time, as today’s article is about bang for your buck. The obvious method which most folks are aware of is a sale.
There are good sales where you can buy worthwhile products at a true discount. There are also bad sales, where stores try to fool unsuspecting customers by up marking their “retail” price in order to throw out huge “sales” to tempt customers (I’m looking at you clothing retailers). Avoid bad sales if you want to achieve the true purpose of purchasing items on sale; get more for less.
An underrated method to get a bargain, one which can be combined with a good sale, is through buying gift cards. More specifically, buying gift cards for lower than face value.
There are great cashback credit cards out there that can give anywhere between 1% – 6% for categories like movies or restaurants. What beats this, is when you’re buying gift cards at a 10%, 20%, or higher discount. Boosting your spending power with gift cards has never been easier, and the difference can be between buying a jacket that’ll last you 5 years, vs a higher quality one which will last 10 years, plus help you look like a 10.. all for the same price. You may be able to eat out at more restaurants, or watch more movies.. you get the picture. This can even save you money if you buy discounted gift cards for necessity items such as gas, or groceries.
With that said, while it’s easy to lock hundreds into discounted gift cards, there are factors at play and best practices to follow which will help reap the most benefit from gift cards.
- Check expiration date
Most gift cards that you purchase do not expire and can hold their value until the end of time, especially the ones you buy in-store and direct from the retailer. But be wary of some e-gift cards. It’s common to receive a promotional e-gift card as part of a sale bundle, and later realize that the card expires in 45 days. Also, on some popular gift card resale sites, such as cardcash.com, the value of your purchased cards are only guaranteed for up to 45 days by the vendor. This means that once you’re outside of the guarantee dates, if you find out that your card doesn’t have the value as described, then you’re SOL. With that said, if you are certain you can spend your gift card value within the expiration date, some of the best and common deals (up to 50% savings) can be found.
2. Buy gift cards for brands and items that you know you’ll use
Since you’re locking in cash for a particular store or brand, you’ll want to avoid getting locked into places that you normally wouldn’t spend money at. If you drop $50 a month on movies at Best Buy, then buying a $50 gift card for $40 is a safe bet and translate into real world saving. However, as an example, if you haven’t broken a sweat since the financial crash, then even a 50% discount on a gift card for Dick’s sporting goods is wasteful, since that’s still extra money you normally don’t spend. Some exercise might be a good idea though.
3. E-Gift cards (with no expiration) are safer
Physical cards can be lost. With e-gift cards you have the same options of using it both in-store and online, and if you store the code in your email or in a app, then you can access it anytime, anywhere. Just make sure they don’t expire, and that you know how to access it later on.
4. Not all gift cards are created equal
Gift cards for high-demand stores and brands such as Amazon, or Samsung will rarely be available for discounts, and when they happen, it tends to be more modest (5-10% range). On the other hand, places with more elastic demand (demand that’s more sensitive to price changes for you non-econ majors out there), then you’ll tend to find a larger discount (10%-30%). Think of movies, luxury brands, or products with lots of competition. To stay on the safe side, check and see if people are commenting on how great a deal something is, or if the deal is just a regular occurrence. Finally, this rule applies for selling as well. You’ll find different resell values for different brand’s gift cards even if the cards hold the same value.
5. Use your credit card cashback rewards on gift cards
This last point will likely depend on your financial situation, and on what offerings your credit card rewards portal gives you. Again, the purpose in this article is get you more for your money and not necessarily reduce spending. So if you need to apply cashback rewards to your monthly statement, prioritize that. Likewise, if your credit card company doesn’t offer you discounts on gift cards, or if the selection doesn’t suit your tastes, then you may want to skip this step. In my experience, Discover offers a diverse selection of brands with good discounts. I was able to get $100 Banana Republic gift cards for $80 in cashback rewards.
If you’re still reading at this point, I’m flattered.. ultimately, it’s because of readers like you that will make The Motley Experience, and this blog series successful. You’ve read all about the art of gift card buying, now here are some ways you can take advantage of your new learnings.
This one is simple, and I’ve already gotten several free burrito bowls, with guac, out of this promotion:
- Go to Chipotle and buy a $25 gift card (no more than that is needed)
- KEEP YOUR RECEIPT: you can now bring it in anytime before June 30 and use it at the register for a free burrito or bowl. I’ve gotten free guacamole on my free burritos and bowls, but your mileage may vary depending on the restaurant and time of day (nobody cared when I was in a rush-hour lunchtime in midtown Manhattan)
- Do this as many times as you like. I have 4 $25 gift cards, and have gotten 4 free bowls for lunch. With guac added, you are getting a $10-$12 free meal, which translates to a 40-50% cashback depending on the prices in your area.
- You must have a Samsung S6 or S7 device (or any of its variants)
- Activate Samsung Pay on your phone
And if you’ve never used Samsung Pay before and have a qualifying phone, check this promo out
Within the app, you can go to the marketplace and find several gift cards marked for a 20% discount:
- Regal Entertainment (25% Off)
- Domino’s (25% Off)
- P.F. Chang’s
- American Eagle Outfitters
Note, offer valid for select gift cards only. Limit of 2 gift card/day or max $500. Must have a smartphone that support the Samsung Pay App.
Periodically you can find a 15% or 20% off $75+ coupon for Ebay, which can be used to buy gift cards at a discounted prices. And outside of these coupons, you can still find a solid deal on popular gift cards, and earn some ebay bucks:
Gift Card Marketplaces
You can often find great discounts on gift cards on the above listed sites, and be wary of expiration dates and seller reputations. Raise.com and CashCard are known to offer sign-up discounts and give you a $10 off coupon for first time users and purchasers.
That’s it for this edition of Another Day, Another Dollar. Thank you readers for your time and support. I hope this blog series can be useful to you, and help make a difference in your shopping lives. If you’re already an experienced deal hunter and know about gift cards, then I hope my posted deals will be of interest to you. Please share your feedback below, and of course, any tips you have.
I’ll be traveling to China next week so I’m not sure when the next edition of Another Day Another Dollar will be posted. If you have any suggestions for the next topic, feel free to share your thoughts below.
Until next time, 再见!
(Zàijiàn, translation: good bye!)