The best thing about getting gift cards is using them. But it’s hard to know when is the “best” time to use them. Some people like to use them to treat themselves for a special occasion, others use them as a pick-me-up on an otherwise hum-drum day. However, for thrifty consumers, timing the use of gift cards strategically helps maximize their dollar amount.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers planned to purchase three or four gift cards on average at an average $47 per card for a total of $27.5 billion this past holiday season.  Earlier research indicated that 42% of people who receive gift cards during the holiday season say they watch for a good sale or promotion to maximize the value of their gift cards.

Stores across the country hold their last call winter-clearance sales, such as Saks Off Fifth, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Express and rue21. It’s a great time to find rock bottom prices on merchandise that didn’t sell during post-holiday sales.  It’s also the perfect time to start thinking about donating the items in your closet that you didn’t wear last winter – or wore out and adding new items that you’ll enjoy next winter.

In addition to winter clearance clothes and accessories, other items that traditionally go on sale in March include:

  • air conditioners
  • washers and dryers
  • garden supplies
  • outdoor winter sports gear
  • luggage
  • china

There are other ways to be a smart sales shopper. Among the tips they offer online, Consumer Reports recommends these top savvy strategies:

  • “The Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers are a great way to find out about deals and promotions. Also check their Instagram and Pinterest accounts. Retailers will often reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to Cyber Monday discounts and incentives. And, of course, texts, tweets, and social media posts are an easy way to share shopping intel with your friends.”
  • “Sign up for loyalty programs. Stores often have loyalty programs that offer sales and promotions to their members first, then let them earn rewards on what they buy. Signing up for Cyber Monday shopping alerts will get you the early word on promotions, coupons, and discounts. In some cases, you can even find out whether the products you want are in stock or eligible to buy online and pick up at the store, which can save you on shipping.”
  • “If you’re using a retailer or shopping app, make sure it comes from one of the major app stores, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play. And follow these additional tips to make sure it’s not a fake app created by scammers.”

 

Once you’ve gotten the most bang for your gift card bucks, check around your drawers, wallets and car to see if you’ve forgotten one. With any luck, you’ll find a restaurant gift card you can use to celebrate all your savings!

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