How to Budget Using Gift Cards

People being what we are, it’s easy to come up a little short on cash for things we need and want. However, using gift cards to budget and control spending sets clear limits and helps keep track of where the money goes.

Take Care of Business First

If you know how much money you spend on gas every month, then consider buying a gift card in that amount instead of hitting the ATM every time you need to fill up.

This cuts down on “extra trips” as well as makes you plan to make the most efficient use of your time while running errands. When you sit down to look at what’s left of the monthly budget, you’ll know that you’ve practiced due diligence to keep the car on the road.

If you need to budget for meals at work (because not everybody cooks or packs a lunch), consider buying gift cards for only your favorite restaurants. Five lunches or dinners at $10 per meal means a $50 gift card. If you eat on the run, keep gift cards for fast-food like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.

A better move may be to buy gift cards for the grocery stores where you shop. Having $25 or $50 in reserve helps ensure that you won’t have to live on potato chips and ramen noodles between pay checks.

Budgeting for Online Shopping

It’s simply true that you often get better value by shopping online. No gas expended, no time lost in traffic – just a little leisure to hunt great deals.

Think about what you need that’s just plain easier to have delivered (like socks and underpants), and you’ll have even more incentive to look for low shipping or no shipping.

If you’re an Amazon shopper, pick up gift cards that establish your budget for a month. You’ll also find gift cards for major brick-and-mortar chains like Walmart and Target who offer online ordering and free in-store pickup.

Shopping on eBay is now less an adventure with “Buy It Now” (no waiting for auctions) and PayPal gift cards. Plus easy guest ordering means that you don’t have to have an eBay account unless you want one.

Take time to shop around and look for the best deals. Sometimes you’ll even find steep discounts on gift cards themselves.

Budgeting for Extras

Should your new monthly budget permit it, you can establish gift card budgets for extras like iTunes and Starbucks.

Retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, Family Dollar and Dollar General carry iTunes gift cards, often in multipacks. You’ll find rechargeable Starbucks gift cards at the same places.

Gamers and app freaks can control their spending by budgeting for credits with iTunes and GooglePlay gift cards.

At the end of the month, total up how many times you’ve been to the ATM. There should be more money left in your bank account than last month. And maybe more than ever.

A good gift card doesn’t expire, and it’s easy to replace if you lose. Keep your receipts just in case. Should you like refillable gift cards, remember to replace them every few months to protect your digits from prying eyes.

Gift Cards Make Excellent Gifts

Bank some love with family and friends, and ask for gift cards in lieu of cash on your birthday and at Christmas time.

It’s a much more secure way to budget, and if you find yourself refilling more than once a month, you’ve identified an area for improvement, and at least you’ve tried to stick to a budget.

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