Do You Buy Yourself Gift Cards?

posted by Andrea | 12/18/2013

gift cards

Every year around Christmas, a whole bunch of stores and restaurants offer fabulous deals and discounts for purchasing gift cards.

Of course, the reason they do this is so that we buy gift cards to give as gifts.

The restaurants and stores make out like bandits because they get their money right up front and they don’t have to worry about returns.

Plus, there are SOOOOO many people who either lose or forget about their gift cards (over $2 Billion in unused gift cards last year alone) that the companies, stores, and restaurants can afford to offer extra incentives to encourage more gift card buying.

It’s kind of a crazy cycle — unless you’re buying gift cards for YOURSELF and have a good system for organizing the gift cards.

In that case, YOU will make out like a bandit!

I’ve already shared how much I love giving gift cards as clutter-free holiday gifts I know the recipient will like.  However, I’ve never shared how Dave and I use some of our Christmas money to buy gift cards for ourselves this time of year.

Yup, we actually buy a lot of gift cards!

We capitalize on the freebie gift cards, bonus offers, and other seasonal gift card deals to literally get free money. Then we use the gift cards for simple date nights (paired with coupons to stretch the gift cards further) throughout the rest of the year — or however long they last.

Here are some examples of gift cards we buy:

Meijer Grocery/Gas — $5 off every $50 gift card purchase

Culver’s – free value basket (about $8-$9 value) with every $25 gift card purchase

Olive Garden — free $10 gift card with every $50 gift card purchase

Applebee’s — free $10 gift card with every $50 gift card purchase

Arby’s — free dessert with every $10 gift card purchase (I haven’t seen this one yet in 2013)

If you’re looking for any bonus offers near you, check out this VERY comprehensive list at About.com.  

These are all restaurants and stores that we go to anyway (and I often get good coupons for these places too), so while we’re spending a more up-front, we’re saving A LOT in the long run.

We store the extra gift cards in our fire-proof safe and keep a couple of each in a little “gift card pouch” I have in my purse.

Then, whenever we get a good BOGO coupon or high-value off coupon, we plan our nights out accordingly and enjoy the extra savings.

Merry Christmas to us!

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28 comments

  1. Luba

    12/18/2013

    What a great way to think outside the box, Andrea! Most of us probably buy gift cards, but not for ourselves. I will keep my eyes open for these deals though I have ignored them in the past. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. :)

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  2. Candis

    12/18/2013

    What a great idea, never thought about that. When things get a little better in the financial dept
    will definitely think about that. :-)

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  3. Jen

    12/18/2013

    We buy ourselves gift cards, too! Kroger offers double fuel points on their gift cards, but a few times per year, they offer quadruple points. Whenever we’re going out to eat or have to buy something at Home Depot or something, we go to Kroger and buy gift cards first. We get the fuel points without spending anything extra. Literally free money.

    And because Kroger’s fuel prices are right in line with the local gas stations, it’s a great deal. I often save forty-fifty cents per gallon on my bi-weekly fill up. Sometimes more, sometimes a little less. I wouldn’t save nearly as much if I only did my grocery shopping at Kroger. It’s the gift cards with the double and quadruple fuel points that makes the difference.

    I also wait to buy my holiday gift cards for other people until they go on the quadruple points scale.

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    Amanda Reply:

    Giant Eagle does the same thing – where you normally get 10 cents for every $50 you spend at GE, this time of year for every $50 in gift certificates you buy you get 20 cents (good for up to 30 gallons). I actually go there, buy Amazon gift cards, then go home, load them to my account and buy Christmas gifts with them, earning free gas :)

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  4. Deb

    12/18/2013

    I did the Papa John’s one, a large one topping for every $25 in gift cards. There is an expiration date of 1/31 on the free pizza coupons (not the gift cards).

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  5. Niecey

    12/18/2013

    I need to adjust my monthly budget-Christmas savings to have a sum to do this! I have wanted to do this but without the planning in the budget, I just don’t have the funds at the end of the year. Thanks for the reminder and the advice to pair them with coupons.

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  6. Juhli

    12/18/2013

    We also buy ourselves gift card especially discounted gasoline cards occasionally offered by our grocery store with a $50 minimum purchase and discounted store cards purchased through various internet sites. Saves lots of money over a year.

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  7. megan @ whatmegansmaking

    12/18/2013

    Hey Andrea, how do you get the Meijer gift card money off? Do you just buy a regular $50 meijer gift card at the check out?

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    Andrea Reply:

    It’s just a coupon that spits out almost EVERY time I check out. It’s for $5 off a $50 gift card — so then I just buy another gift card every time for only $45 :)

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  8. Ana @ Lessons From Yesterday

    12/18/2013

    I usually buy a stack of $10 gift cards from a local ice cream shop or movie theater to give for child birthday gifts. Usually by stocking up on these at Christmastime, we get up to $25 in gift cards free. There’s typically a lot of birthday parties we get invited to, and giving gift cards takes a lot of stress out of shopping and figuring out what to buy, and the kids seem to like the gift cards. Since I have all boys, I have no idea what to buy for girl gifts, and it cuts down on all the toy clutter as well.

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  9. Melissa T

    12/18/2013

    I was wondering where you got all your gift cards when you mention them in posts. This explains it! Great idea. I’ve thought about doing it before but never have.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well we do actually get a decent number of gift cards from Dave being a teacher and coach too. And we ALWAYS ask for gift cards for birthdays and Christmases — so we don’t buy all our own gift cards :)

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  10. Chris

    12/18/2013

    I do this sometimes but not often. Something I’ve started doing is buying reduced gift cards from cardcash.com The best deal I got was 22% off Coldstone Creamery. I also buy Wal-Mart (2%) and Kroger gift cards (3% discount). I am also getting at least 1% back on the credit card I use to buy them and also get another 10% discount at the one place because my husband works there.

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  11. Cathy

    12/18/2013

    We do this for the Kroger fuel points–at the beginning of the month we think about any shopping and eating out we might do and buy those cards.

    A word of caution from our own bad experience–if you have a lot of gift cards keep them in a secure spot, like your document box/small safe. We had someone break into our house. they went through my purse and left the credit cards and checkbook but took all the gift cards. Using the gift cards was much safer for them to use-no way to trace them. Also, no way for us to get our money back!

    We don’t know if they knew through friends of friends we had a large stash or they just got lucky, but now we keep the large stash of gift cards locked up and only keep on us what we plan to use that day.

    Thanks for the tips about buying the gift cards from the stores, I didn’t realize the deals!!

    Love love your website and stop in everyday :-)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow, that’s crappy that someone would steal your gift cards!

    We do keep our extra stash tucked safely away and just a few in my purse — but I would still be ticked if the few in my purse were stollen. Seriously, some people!

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  12. Melinda

    12/18/2013

    We do this exact same thing! My husband and I go out on dates every Saturday night, and we budget $140/month for those dates. Our dates generally consist of simply going out to dinner. For the first 3-5 months of every year, we barely pay anything for our date nights because we use the gift cards we bought in December paired with a coupon. At the end of the month, we take the left over date money and save it to buy gift cards in December when they offer the bonus cards or free gifts.

    Our King Soopers grocery store offers 4x the points several times a year when you buy gift cards. This in turn gives us deep discounts on gas that we buy there. We’ve had to figure out sometimes if it was worth getting a $5 bonus gift card from buying the gift card at the restaurant, or if it was more beneficial to get the 4x points for gas by buying the gift cards from the grocery store.

    Just this December we got a very nice gift package from Texas Roadhouse simply because we had leftover date money with us the night they were offering extra gifts with their gift cards. Here’s what we got for buying $200 in gift cards:

    $200 in Roadhouse gift cards
    4 – $5 gift cards
    2 – VIP seating passes – No waiting for a table in 2014 for the entire year!
    4 – Free kids meals
    2 – Dozen frozen dough for dinner rolls, with baking instructions
    4 – Free appetizers
    2 – Wicker baskets that will be great for many uses
    2 – Bottles of Roadhouse steak sauce

    A lot of these free gifts made great stocking stuffers this year. This offer from Roadhouse was only for a limited time, but we had the money saved up, so we were able to cash in on the deal when we saw it.

    The reason we go out on dates is so that I can have a night off of cooking, and so that we can spend some time together away from the home office. We’ve been doing Saturday night date night since 1975. Most of the time, we determine the restaurant we’ll be dining at based on the coupons and gift cards we have on hand. The savings can really add up by the end of the year, and we know this because we keep any extra date money in an envelope to use for gift cards in December.

    Thanks for this post Andrea. I’m sure you’ve opened some eyes to the world of saving money with gift cards!

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow that’s an AWESOME deal? Is that “Texas Roadhouse” If so, I totally missed that one!

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    Melinda Reply:

    Yeah it’s Texas Roadhouse. We have found that in our area all of the Roadhouses offer different gifts with their gift cards in December. This particular one in Longmont, CO is very generous!

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  13. Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings

    12/18/2013

    This is such a great idea! I’m always keeping the bonus $5 or $10 gift cards for ourselves, but I honestly never thought of buying the gift card for us in the first place. Thanks!

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  14. Sandy

    12/18/2013

    We buy gift cards at Kroger for the gas points also, especially when they do the 4X gas points. We never go to Home Depot, Penney’s, Kohl’s or shop on Amazon without using a gift card. My son uses Barnes & Noble cards at his college bookstore. Since my husband has a fairly long daily commute to work and there are months when we get $1.00 off per gallon of gas, it is really helpful.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sheesh — I think we need a Kroger in West MI. Sounds like everyone is getting awesome gift card deals from Kroger!

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    Sandy Reply:

    My daughter lives in Portage and she misses it too…

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  15. Kathy C

    12/19/2013

    I never thought of doing this for ourselves! This is a great idea,

    Here’s the other thing I do when I get $5 off Meijer gift card catalina checkout coupons.

    On my grocery day, I head to the checkout aisle first and get my $50 Meijer gift card for $45. Then I use it on my groceries. It’s a $5 instant savings.

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  16. Tracy

    12/19/2013

    Years ago a supermarket in the UK used to sell stamps to go on a savings card, when you got to eighteen the last two were complimentary, I filled a card each week and got 20% off the next week’s shopping.

    But I am noticing more and more restrictions with the complimentary stuff these days, Olive Garden just sent me an ad for buy $50 get $10 bonus- great, except the bonus is $10 off two adult entrees when you read the small print. Since I most often eat alone, wouldn’t be much use for me.

    And if I’m being really frugal- which I plan in 2014 so I can pay off my mortgage and be 100% debt-free, I don’t eat out at all!

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  17. Tracy

    12/19/2013

    Just received another email offer from Chilli’s, better than Olive Garden- buy $50 of giftcards get $10 free, still restrictions though- the $10 bonus lasts to Feb 10 2014, and cannot be used with any other offers/coupons.

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  18. Julia

    12/20/2013

    Here in Australia our two major grocery retailers are Coles and Woolworths. Each year I buy an Entertainment Books which costs $65 and contains many vouchers for restaurants and entertainment venues – most of the vouchers allow 25% off the total bill or a free main course (entree in the US). The Entertainment Books are sold as fundraisers so a charity receives $15 for each book sold. Another advantage of the Entertainment Book is that you can buy Gift Cards for Coles and Woolworths at a 5% discount. I buy these in $1000 lots and use them to buy groceries. 5% doesn’t sound like much, but it is $500 off an annual grocery bill of $10,000 which is nothing to sneeze at (jaw off the floor Andrea :) – we have a large family and groceries are WAY more expensive here in Australia – if ONLY we had the couponing that you guys have).
    So YES – we buy gift cards.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — $10,000 yearly grocery bill! That is insane! I can’t even imagine how expensive groceries must be since we only spend about 1/4 that amount (granted, we are also a smaller family, but still).
    I guess gift cards ARE a big help for that then!

    Also, you probably won’t believe this, but we also buy Entertainment books here (for only $20) and $15 still goes to the charity :)

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  19. Melissa

    12/20/2013

    I’ve thought about doing this, but haven’t. I am a little tight on cash at the moment as many unexpected things have cropped up over the past 3 months. It’s a great idea though!

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