Friday, December 30, 2011

Gift Card Management for Kids & Teens

Kids & teens learn to manage gift cards

My kids really like getting a few gift cards for presents.   My younger kids view them as a “free” shopping trip and enjoy getting to use a plastic card like the grown-ups.  My teens like gift cards because they are just darn picky when it comes to gifts and would often prefer to pick out their own stuff.    Whether or not you like gift cards, the reality is that at some point your kids will have them and will need to learn to manage them appropriately.  With four kids in our house, gift card management can occasionally get challenging.    (Several of these obstacles prompted us to add a gift card tracking feature to MoneyTrail.)

Here are some of our common obstacles and the solutions we have developed over the last few years.

Problem:  Wanting to use their cards right away
Solution:  Make them wait a few days.  My younger kids used to get very excited when they would get a gift card.  They just couldn’t wait to go to the store and use it.  They would often buy things just because they wanted to use the gift card.  What a waste!  Now I have them wait for a time period and really think about what they would like to use the card for.  Instead of burning a hole in their pocket, the gift card becomes an asset and they treat it as part of their net worth.

Problem:  Lost cards
Solution:  Keeping up with the physical cards themselves can be tricky because the kids would lay them down and forget about them.  The cards would get shoved under wrapping paper or make their way under the couch cushions.  Then, I was faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to reimburse them for a lost card.  Now, as soon as my kids get a gift card, I have the kids immediately put the gift cards in their wallets or give the cards to me. 

Problem:  Unused cards
Solution:  There are occasions when my kids will get a gift card to a store that doesn’t interest them.  It’s a waste of money to buy something just because you have a gift card for the store.  Kids need to be encouraged to save for an item --- not just buy something because it is convenient.  If it is a store that I shop at, I will buy the card from them at face value.  There are also websites that will buy unused gift cards but often charge a fee for that service or give a reduced value.  (I haven’t used any of these sites so I do not want to give a recommendation.  A quick Google search of “gift card exchange” will give you lots of options.)

Problem:  Mixed up cards – whose Target card is whose?
Solution:  To prevent mix ups, I have occasionally written their initials on the back of the card with a sharpie.  Simple but effective.
Problem:  Fees
Solution:  We check to see if there are any fees associated with the card.  If there are fees or expiration dates, we record those notes in their MoneyTrail account.
Problem:  Unknown balance
Solution:  If your kids have only used a partial bit of the gift card value, it can be difficult to keep track of the remaining balances.  By entering a gift card into their MoneyTrail account, kids can see the remaining balance of their gift cards very quickly. 

Problem:  Forgotten cards
Solution:  We enter the cards into their MoneyTrail account.  Because they are waiting to use their cards, they sometimes will forget they even have them.  Once the cards have been entered into their MoneyTrail accounts, we see the total value in their summary of accounts and don’t forget that they exist!

Gift cards are becoming more and more popular.   Kids and teens need to learn to manage their gift cards just as they would their own cash.  With a little planning and an organized system like MoneyTrail, gift cards can become an asset for kids, not just a free shopping trip.

Photos taken by the Whitlocks

1 comment:

  1. I also love gift cards. until now, i still get some from my friends and loved ones. i still find using them cool. thanks for the great article by the way.