My Own Stimulus Package: Unused Gift Cards

By  | 

Yesterday was big day here at Recessionista HQ. Why? I actually cleaned out…..gasp…my handbag! At times my handbag is akin to a black hole. Jimmy Hoffa could be found there, or even a UFO. Its full of clutter. So, during my annual, ah hmmm, cleaning, I discovered two unused gift certificates. Hiding in the bottom corner of the bag, I have a Starbuck’s gift certificate and a $50.00 gift certificate for movie theatre tickets. Eureka, savings on the way! After making this discovery (not on the same scale as the Rosetta stone, but still significant.) I did a few Google searches. I wanted to know, am I the only one sitting on my gift cards? The answer is a resounding NO. A great article from The New York Times notes that many gift cards and even gym memberships are purchased and then go unused. A few years ago the Tower Group did a report on this noting ” that of the $80 billion spent on gift cards in 2006, roughly $8 billion will never be redeemed.” This year, as we find ourselves in the throes of a worldwide economic downturn, the gift cards you may be saving take on a new urgency. Why? Well dear readers, stores are closing all over the country. Here in Los Angeles, every time I drive to work I see people out waving signs to remind me that Linen’s & Things is closing. And they are not alone. Another Google search reveals that many stores around the world are closing. There are stories about Circuit City, Radio Shack, Mervyn’s and many more. Retailers are closing in Asia and Europe as well. And that brings me back to the gift certificates, if the store you have a gift certificate for is closing, remember use it or loose it! So check your handbag, your wallet, desk drawers and where ever else you might store these things. You might just find your own stimulus package at your fingertips! 🙂


Since 2008, Mary Hall has been the author of The Recessionista Blog, which is read by thousands of regular readers in over 160 countries. An internationally recognized expert on the art of the living the good life for less, she has been a commentator on local, national, and international radio and TV shows. Her advice has been featured in over 2,000 media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Life & Style magazine, ABC News, NBC News and now The Huffington Post, among many others.


  1. Bryan

    November 24, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Funny article but great advice. I’m seeing more and more articles on folks going to use a gift card and the merchant won’t take it because of bankruptcy. I also wonder if the unused gift cards go unused, at least in part, because the recipient doesn’t have a store the gift card is for near them. There’s now a way you can get around both of these issues. Please see my blog for more info.

  2. Austin Chu

    November 25, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    That’s a great story. I’ll tell you, if people did what you just did, we’d find over $8B in unspent gift cards! that’s amazing! it’s probably more than what americans will be receiving from the bailout. I work for a company that tracks and manages gift cards and I’ve been following the gift card related issues on My advice? spend them as soon as you get them.