Black Friday is approaching, so if you’re among the majority of Americans who waited until this month to do your holiday shopping, it’s time to formulate a game plan. One reason we tend to put off shopping is that we don’t know what to get for the people on our list, as trying to find that ‘perfect gift’ for everyone is one of the most stressful aspects of the gift-giving season. It’s also one of the reasons some families choose to avoid the tradition altogether (it certainly saves on the holiday budget!).
To make your shopping a little easier, a recent survey released by the National Retail Federation shows exactly what’s on most people’s Christmas list: gift cards. Gift cards? Yes, gift cards. 69 percent of women and 53 percent of men say gift cards are at the top of their list this year.
If you’re like me, I tend to consider gift cards a last resort for those hard-to-buy-for people. You know – the ones who have ‘everything’ or don’t want anything. But as it turns out, people actually want them. Why do you think that is? Are people thinking more practically? Getting pickier? Trying to be less wasteful? Tired of getting gifts they can’t use and don’t want? It’s probably a combination of all of this, but the bottom line is that it could make your holiday shopping a whole lot easier! Still, there are ways to buy gift cards more effectively, efficiently, and even save money while you’re at it.
Cater Cards to the Individual
Gifts cards may be easier than picking out a gift, but they still require careful thought. Returning gift cards you can’t use is a little more difficult than just returning something to the store. Of course, there are still ways to exchange them online at sites like cardpool.com, cardcash.com, giftcardgranny.com, raise.com, cardhub.com, etc. But if you take the time to verify which stores your family and friends shop at first, you’ll save them this step.
Consider Services, Not Just Retail Stores
You can also get gift cards and certificates for services like spa treatments, salons, massages, car detailing, and more. This might be a better option for the people on your list who don’t actually enjoy shopping with the extra benefit of supporting smaller businesses.
Buy Discounted Cards
Some of the same websites that allow you to exchange gift cards also sell them at discounted prices (the average savings is around 13 percent). It seems strange, but it’s a thing. Purchasing online may also give you a wider selection than you’ll find in stores.
David’s Note: I’ve ran into a few cases of fraudulent cards where you get a non-usable card when the actual gift card arrives in the mail. This is no problem if you are buying it yourself since you can simply contact customer service of the discount gift card site and they will reimburse you right away, but keep this in mind if you want to buy them for someone else who may not know how to get reimbursed.
Earn Gift Cards
You can also earn gift cards to give away. There are many ways to do this, but a few easy ones are using search engines like swagbucks.com and bing.com, which award redeemable points, and taking short surveys about products and services you use. While you’re at it, you can earn a few extra gift cards for yourself.
Purchase Gift Cards with Rewards Credit Cards
Many rewards credit cards give you a certain percentage back on purchases made in supermarkets, so using them to purchase your gift cards while you grab your groceries will essentially save you that 3 to 6 percent.
Gift cards are the ‘in’ gift this season, but not everyone falls in that 69 or 53 percent. Use these tips to save time and money purchasing the right gift cards for those who prefer them and you’ll have more time (and money) to thoughtfully choose personalized gifts for the rest.