Wednesday, May 7

Didn't Work for Me: Gift Card Budgeting

In theory, budgeting with gift cards was great. In reality, we didn't even make it one month.

What didn't work:
  • My spending at various stores is somewhat inconsistent
    There is one store where I spend the majority of my grocery money, and another where I buy the majority of my specialty items. However, I don't spend the same proportion of the total at each store regularly. Depending on what I'm planning to cook in the upcoming week or two, I may need more items from the specialty store. Additionally, sometimes my local grocer has a great sale on a few items that I want to purchase. Because store fliers usually are only published weekly, I wouldn't know at the beginning of a given month whether or not I'd be buying 18 pounds of butter three weeks later.
  • Two words: cheap(er) gas
    While no gas is cheap these days (we're up over $3.75 a gallon here), I do generally look to buy gas at the lowest price available. Often that's at one of two local stations, but sometimes there will be a better deal somewhere else. I really didn't like the idea that I'd have to pay more for gas, just because I didn't have the right card.
  • Generic gift cards come with fees
    I had considered purchasing a portion of my budget in basic Visa or American Express gift cards to deal with some of the issues above. Unfortunately, for a $50 card, I'd have to pay a $3-$5 activation fee. I wasn't willing to spend up to 10% of my budget for the privilege of using my own money.
So, there you have it. What sounded like such a good idea at the time, in actual practice really didn't work for me.

Check out more cautionary tales at this week's special WFMW: What DOESN'T Work For Me.


  1. That's interesting. I am considering doing gift card budgeting, but I only go to WalMart and Albertson's, and Costco Gas. I've found a website that donates 1% of your gift card purchases to charity. Appreciate your perspective on this!

  2. I'm also trying the gift card budget idea. At the beginning of each month I'm going to buy three cards: Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and The amount is always going to be the same for each card, that way my monthly bank statement will remain a constant. I won't always spend everything on each card every month, but each consequent month I will spend the remainder of the previous month's card before I spend a single dollar on the current month's card. It's much easier to have a bank statement that reads : transaction #1: $150.00 than it does to have one with thirty transactions for amounts ending in 7, 3, 6, 9 and/or 1. When it comes to money, the mind prefers 5s and 0s (mostly 0s.)


Sorry--I've had to close comments down because I've been getting so much spam.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.