Friday, December 27, 2013

How to Organize Those Gift Cards

Christmas has passed, and if you are like me, you have received gift cards to your favorite restaurants. In addition, you may be a subscriber to Groupon, Living Social, or a similar program allowing you to buy meal vouchers at great discounts.

As great as these cards and vouchers are, they are no good if they are not used. Each year, billions of dollars worth of gift cards go unused because people lose them or simply forget they have them. The Wall Street Journal estimates $41 billion in gift cards have gone unspent between 2005 and 2011.

How can you keep from joining this crowd? Wouldn't it be great if you had a place where you could put these little gems, a place where they would periodically hop up and say, "Remember me? Spend me." The solution is actually very simple.

All you need is a set of tickler files plus one more blank file folder. Label the additional file something like "Gift Cards," or whatever appeals to you. Put all of your gift cards in that folder. As for the Groupons and other vouchers, put them in that same folder and organize them by expiration date. The voucher with the most immediate expiration goes in the front of the folder.

Put the entire folder in the tickler file for the next time you would like to be reminded that you have gift cards and vouchers to spend. Saturday has always proved to be a good day for me. On that day, the file folder of gift cards and vouchers becomes a trigger to sit down with your spouse and decide which ones you may wish to use during the next week. Pull those candidates from the folder. Place them in the tickler files for the days you decided you wanted to use them. Pick a day you would like to see this folder again and put it back in the tickler file. That's it.

Nothing slips through the cracks. Periodically, you are reminding yourself what gift cards and vouchers you have remaining and any expiration dates. The process can take as little as one minute. Having that file folder appear in the tickler files means you never have to think about it.

Every year, people waste billions of dollars through lost or forgotten gift cards and vouchers. This year, the situation need not describe you!
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