So, your kid just graduated from elementary school, had a birthday, or had another special occasion – and now they’re all loaded up with gift cards from friends, family, and you!
Buying gift cards for your kids is the easy part of the process – believe it or not. Now comes the hard part – taking them shopping with their gift cards, and helping them select the right items.
We all know how hard it can be to go shopping with kids – and when you add in the complexities of gift cards, things can get out of control, fast. The last thing you want is to get stares in the Target toy section because your kid thought they had more money to spend – and now they can’t afford that Star Wars action figure they had their eye on.
So to help you as you shop with your kids, and redeem gift cards at toy stores, electronics stores and more, we’ve put together this handy guide for redeeming gift cards with your kids.
1. Hold On To Their Gift Cards Until It’s Time To Go Shopping
It’s hard to overemphasize how important this is. We all know that kids are not exactly responsible with their valuables – and if you don’t hold onto their gift cards before you go shopping, they could easily misplace or lose them.
Obviously, you don’t want this to happen. Losing a gift card is a surefire way for your kid to have a tantrum – and they’ll be sad and disappointed for quite a while.
So, don’t let them hold onto their own gift cards until it’s time to go shopping. Explain to them that this is for their own good – and that as soon as it’s time to redeem them, they can have them back. They’ll likely agree without much of a struggle, especially if you point out what will happen in they lose the cards. (They’ll miss out on their presents!)
It may also be helpful to write down the total balance of the gift cards, and record their expiration dates and other information. This will help you keep track of the card balances before it’s time to go shopping.
2. Plan Ahead For A Day Of Shopping
If your kids have gift cards to more than one or two stores, you need to be prepared to spend a few hours shopping. We all know that, with kids, even a simple trip to the grocery store can take an hour or more.
So if you’re going to be visiting multiple toy stores and “big box” stores like Target and Wal-Mart, make sure that you’re planning for a day of shopping. Have water and snacks in the car, plan which stores you’ll go to first, and take other basic steps to prepare for the day of shopping.
If you know exactly where you’re going, it will be much easier to plan your day, and to help your kids understand what’s expected of them at each store.
3. Explain The Limit – And What Will Happen If They Go Over The Limit
It can be a bit difficult for kids to understand gift cards, and what happens if they spend more than the limit of the gift card.
Make it clear to them that the gift card is, essentially, just like money. They can only spend as much money as there is on the gift card. If they go over that limit, they will need to know what will happen.
It’s up to you whether or not you choose to cover the cost of an item if it brings the total purchase price up higher than the value of your child’s gift card. However, it’s usually best to enforce the limit of a card strictly – and if they want to spend more than that, they can use their own personal spending money.
If your kids are not prepared for what will happen when they spend too much, chances are that they will be upset. So make this very clear before you head out on a shopping trip. If they are bringing along extra spending money, hold onto it for them, so that they don’t lose it or misplace it.
4. Be Prepared For Mistakes
It may be tempting to steer your kids in the direction of “better” gifts, but don’t be overly-protective, or try to convince them about what toys they should buy. Be prepared for mistakes, because they will teach your kids lessons that will be useful in the future.
For example, if your child decides to spend a gift card to Target on a bunch of cheap, junk toys – and they break within a few days – your child has learned a valuable lesson. It’s usually better to spend a bit more on a higher-quality toy than it is to buy a bunch of inexpensive, low-quality toys.
Let your kids spend their gift cards on anything they want – within reason. This will help them learn valuable lessons, and make them feel more independent. They may be disappointed if they get a low-quality gift at first – but next time they shop, they’ll be able to make better decisions.
5. Let Them Do The Math (But Step In If It Gets Too Hard)
Shopping with a gift card is a great opportunity for real-world practical lessons in math, and budgeting. If you have a very young child, you may not be able to let them do the math – but you should still explain the costs of every item to them.
If you let your kids calculate the cost of each of their items, as well as sales tax, they’ll learn a bit more about how to shop and budget, which is a skill that will seriously help them in the future.
However, don’t be afraid to step in and help them with the math if it’s too hard for them, or they’re confused about things like sales, clearances, and tax.
6. Encourage Them To Save Up For A Bigger Purchase
If your kids aren’t able to find items that they are really interested in at the store, you should try to steer them away from just impulse-buying a few items to use up the balance of their gift card.
For example, if your child wants a specific NERF gun from the store, and they are out of stock, they may be tempted to just buy lower-cost toys, so that they can have something to play with, and the trip isn’t “wasted”. It’s common for kids to just buy something to avoid leaving empty-handed – but this is a bad habit that could be troublesome in the future.
Don’t force your kids not to use their gift cards. However, you should point out that, if they spend the value of their card now, they won’t be able to use it on something else that they really want in the future. For example, a video game that is coming out next month, which they have mentioned wanting – and which they won’t be able to get if they spend their gift card on non-essential items now.
7. Be Patient And Don’t Rush Your Kids
It’s tempting to treat a shopping trip for spending gift cards just like any other shopping trip – and to focus on efficiency, and quickly getting everything that you need. But you should avoid this temptation.
One of the most things about gift cards – for people of all ages – is that they give you the opportunity to take your time, browse quite a few items, and pick out the things that you want to buy. This process is almost as rewarding as receiving the gift card, itself!
Chances are, your kids don’t get the opportunity to spend money on anything that they want very often. That means they’re getting a special chance to do so – so you should do your best to make it feel special by being patient and kind, and waiting. Even if they spend 15 minutes agonizing between two toys, it’s worth the wait!
8. Make Sure They’re Fed And Rested Before The Trip
This is especially important for kids who are younger and less mature, usually under the age of 10 or so. If your kids are hungry, tired, or otherwise cranky, you could be setting yourself up for a – very public – meltdown.
So, before you decide to go on a big shopping trip, make sure that your kids have all of their basic needs met. Feed them a nice lunch, make sure that they’re well-rested and in a good mood, and that you have snacks, water, and other necessities that may be required on a multiple-hour shopping trip.
9. Stock Up On Coupons To Save Cash
If you are a habitual coupon-clipper, you can plan your shopping trip so that you’ll be able to use some coupons to save money when shopping with gift cards. This can help your kids “stretch their dollar” even further, and afford higher-priced items.
A few days before you go on your shopping trip, you can look for coupons for major stores online, using websites like RetailMeNot or Coupons.com. You should also be on the lookout for promotions and coupons sent to your email from the stores you visit, and for coupons that may be included in local newspapers, mail circulars, and other such printed publications.
Again, this is a good way to help your kids spend their money more effectively – and teach them the value of good personal budgeting and spending. They’ll see that, if you take the time to find a great deal, you can get a lot more for your money, and this will help them develop better spending habits.
10. Consider “Buying” Gift Cards From Your Kids
Buying gift cards for kids isn’t always easy. There’s always a chance that, when you or a loved one buys a gift card for your kids, you’ll get one that they’re not really interested in. For example, they may not want a gift card to Target or WalMart, and would prefer one to a store like GameStop instead.
This can be a difficult situation to deal with, as a parent. If your kid gets the wrong gift card, they may be sad and disappointed.
One way you can deal with this is by “buying” gift cards from your kids. If you can use the gift card, you can simply offer to buy it for cash, for the full value of the card.
This lets you turn your kid’s unwanted gift cards into cash. Then, they can spend their money wherever they want – and they won’t be disappointed about their gift.
Buying gift cards from your kid is not always the right idea. But if they are really disappointed about getting the wrong gift card, and you know they won’t use it, it’s a good way to turn a bad gift into a great one!
Got Gift Cards You Don’t Need? Sell Them Now!
If you end up buying gift cards from your kid, and you don’t need them, you may be wondering what you can do with their value. You don’t want to let them go to waste, or expire. So, what should you do with them?
Sell them online to EJ Gift Cards. We buy gift cards from hundreds of different brands, at competitive rates. You can get most of the value of your gift card back as cash, via PayPal. This way, you don’t waste any money – and your kids will still be happy after you buy their unwanted gift cards.
Interested? Learn more about what cards we buy now. If you have any other questions, you can take a look at our FAQs, or contact our support team. Looking for more tips on spending gift cards? Our blog is full of advice, gift card hacks, tips and tricks, and more!