The (Not So) Final Word

Grab two pencils and gimme a drumroll...

Over the last thirty days I have saved...more drumroll...


To honor this momentous day I need to celebrate, Granny-style.

Ashley Dressed Up as Gift Card Granny

I am in absolute awe of just how much we saved, just by buying discounted gift cards. If I factor in coupons and sales, that number inches closer to $320--and I'm not that great of a coupon clipper! Saving 10% off the top is evidence enough to keep up buying gift cards as part of our budget. So here's a month-end review of the biggest and best of the Gift Card Granny Challenge.

Biggest Payoff
After spending close to $300 on Home Depot purchases to renovate the block's ugliest yard (mine) we saved around $30 on the project . Almost 10% percent off sells the heck out appliances, as it should anything else in a home improvement store. So on top of the regular 10% off appliance deals (or more on national holiday weekends), get another almost 10% off with discounted gift cards. Plus the lovely folks in orange always updated the balance of my card for me with a Sharpie. Good customer service, guys.

Best Purchase
This is tricky. Probably my favorite thing that I purchased was an adorable Ann Taylor Loft top for with my 20% off gift card. It was love at first wearing. Hubs is already a bit sick of looking at it, but I can tell it will be a long term favorite. The Babee Bouquet I bought for my sister-in-law also tops the list for cuteness and deal-worthiness.

Biggest Regret
I grossly underestimated the amount needed for grocery and drugstore purchases, considering prescription medicine we needed to purchase this month. Being without insurance temporarily, we're stuck paying cash price for doctor visits (which charge much less for cash-paying patients) and prescription drugs (heinously expensive). What would cost $15 when I was a teacher with benefits now costs $130--with no generic available! So purchasing a Walgreens gift card with even 5% off saves a considerable amount.

Best Discount
At 30% off, both the 1800Flowers and Fandango Bucks cards were well worth the value. And I finally got around to seeing Rango--loved the western tributes and overall cleverness of the film. Smart, intellectually stimulating and totally not for children made it a perfect night out. Next time I'll have to score a discounted gift card too so I can enjoy a Diet Coke with the flick.

Biggest Challenge
Spontaneous people are always attracted folks who like plans. Let's just say I love my data as much as Hubs loves to throw a toolbox of wrenches in them. Let's go out of town tomorrow! Let's ditch making dinner tonight and head out! How about we go to that restaurant we don't have a discounted gift card to? All of these small choices lead to consequences down the line. The meat in the fridge will go bad if we don't make it tonight. That restaurant gift card needs to be saved for our night out with the neighbors. But life isn't a straight line, and it would be mercilessly boring if two like-me-minded people ran the show. It's still a huge challenge to accommodate for the random parts of life when sticking to the Gift Card Challenge.

Best Online Shopping
Gap takes the cake here. With never-ending free shipping on orders of $50 or more plus the ability to shop several stores at once, I found some great deals and never had to burn an ounce of gas getting to a store. Plus the "I prefer being naked" cheeky tee for the Zoolander hunk is just plain delicious.

Biggest Hassle
Merchandise credits can be fickle. Some are treated the same as gift cards while others have many limitations. My yucky experience trying to buy clothes at, then at the store but unable to earn Gymbucks opened my eyes to the shadiness of merchandise credits. Know limitations of each card you're buying--expiration date, online or in-store shopping, and rewards redemption.

Best Food Experience
I'm going with Chili's on this one. After scoring an average of 11.5% off cards and having friendly, fast service, this restaurant is perfect for our growing family. Of course, only Chick-fil-a offers healthy options kids like with a play place thrown in--we blew through that one in nine days.

Best Gift Card Alerts
Grocery gift cards. Period. These suckers go so fast that I have to keep an eagle eye on them. Just two days ago a $200 Kroger card sold for $175. Did I check my mail throughout the day to jump on that deal? Snooze and lose. Grocery as well as gas gift cards are fully on my radar. With the Middle East being in even more turmoil, prices and their discounts are headed in opposite directions. Every percentage point counts here.

Biggest Lessons Learned
Buy slightly less rather than more than you need on a card. Make sure you know exactly what you'll spend with a gift card or you'll become another statistic. 82% of gift card holders have a remaining balance on their card and as many as 27% remain unused for months or are never redeemed. Gift cards are a source of revenue for good reason! Use them wisely as part of a budget and save money at the same time.

This is not the end, either! I fully intend to purchase airline gift cardsfor an upcoming trip in addition to paying with most of our monthly expenses with discounted cards. Gift Card Granny is on the move...vivre le plastique!