Around this time of year, almost everyone gets a gift card or two. Sometimes it’s to stores we don’t visit and sometimes it’s to places we love and would shop at anyway.
Let’s say you received the choice of a $50 to either Brookstone, where they have lots of cool gadgets, or a $50 gift card to your neighborhood supermarket, where you shop regularly.
Which would you choose?
Some argue that taking the Brookstone card is better because it’s supposed to be a gift and it’s not meant to simply be used on daily items we need to replenish, but that it should be used on something we wouldn’t buy for ourselves. That way, it feels like a present, which is the point of having a gift card in the first place!
With a supermarket gift card, we get to spend money on the things we need and as people who care about personal finance, reducing our grocery spending for a month (and throwing the extra money into savings) can be a big deal!
I would rather take the supermarket gift card. I know I will use it. I can spend it on the things I need rather than on the things I want. While gadgets are nice sometimes, it really is just adds to clutter and becomes something we forget about fairly quickly.
What if you could take cash?
Cash is better than the Brookstone card, but having it in my wallet would be too enticing. In a supermarket, there aren’t too many options for buying things we don’t need. At most, it’s a few dollars for the name brand vs. the store brand. With cash, we are constantly enticed to buy things we don’t need.
I recently received a $100 gift card to a store similar to Brookstone in that it’s not a store I typically shop at. Instead of finding something I probably don’t need, I plan on selling my $100 gift card, probably for $80-$85 dollars. Sure, I’m leaving $15-$20 on the table, but at the same time, I’d much rather have $80 of something I want than $100 of something I could live without.