Living Off Of Gift Cards
Me trying to figure out what to put for Google SEO on an article like this, oy vey. So I went with living off of gift cards. It is a weird title and it is an equally weird goal. But, having recently passed the midway point of January I figured I should update everyone on my progress. Some things have gone better than expected while others haven't gone as well as expected. Here is a link to the original article talking about why I am doing this.
I should say I cheated a little bit, well not in my mind, but you may beg to differ. I used some Target REDcard coupons from their recent round of sign ups to help soften the blow of this goal. I figured it is a coupon, so it is like using any other coupon, but I figured I should mention that.
I'll give you a breakdown of my progress and some things I learned along the way about maximizing some of these programs.
My Current Gift Card Balances
First things first. Let's take a look at what I started with and where I am now.
|Gift Card / Store Name||Starting Amount||Current Balance|
|Panera Bread ||$25||$25|
|Buffalo Wild Wings ||$50||$50|
|Visa Gift Card ||$200||$80.28|
|Home Depot ||$50||$50|
Thoughts On Our Current Balances
Well, we have more left overall than I would have thought. The $160 in Target coupons helped big time with expensive paper goods products and some food. I didn't expect the gas money to go so quickly and the $200 in Visa gift cards are getting pretty low. Luckily I have Speedway points that should be able to snag us 25 free gallons. I am not sure if that will carry us through the month so I probably need to save some of the Visa gift card balance for that too.
We used the $50 in Buffalo Wild Wings gift card but I was able to finagle another one. I purchased it on Amazon using my gift card balance. This is a big no-no with Amazon. They don't like buying gift cards with your Amazon balance but I am in this to win it so I did it anyway. Anything for the goal! I needed another one because my son loves to go there after bowling on Saturdays. I have enough B-dubs points to cover the chicken but need something for the tip and drinks etc. We have been able to get out of there for around $25 each time so far, including tip, because of my points stash.
I figured the food money would be a lot lower by now. On the restaurant gift cards, I went for the low hanging first for sure. I focused on programs I knew how to maximize and really stretch. The plan was to save DoorDash and Uber Eats till the end as a grocery stop gap since you can order that on the apps. It doesn't look like we will likely need to do that though.
Some Pointers I Learned Along The Way
I wanted to share some things I learned while using these programs and deep diving them a bit. I joked with Sarah at the beginning of this that I was a restaurant gift card savant, but I found some intricacies I wasn't aware of before.
I am a bit surprised by this but figured I should share. I have gotten a few comments about the Chili's gift cards and why I have so many. Chili's gift cards work at On The Border (one of our favorites) and Maggiano's Little Italy. We won't be spending any of them actually at Chili's. So if you like either of those two places and always see Chili's gift cards on sale, snatch them up!
It is kind of annoying, but Chipotle only lets you use one gift card online per order. I ended up putting the overage from our order on the Visa gift cards. I could have split the orders into two to burn most of both cards but I didn't want to get stranded with two low level gift cards. That would have made it much more difficult to get the value out of so I decided to go this route.
McDonald's probably has the best fast food app in my opinion. They have a ton of coupons and a decent points program. They also give out freebies often like fries on Fridays or 6 nuggets for the McNuggets 40th birthday. The problem has been that you can not use multiple coupons on one order. They even fight the double dip by giving you a time out when you use one. That stops you from using self kiosks for two orders. The work around is having two people there with accounts though. Sometimes that isn't possible though. This rule does not seem to be in place if you redeem points for an item and order it and then follow that up with a coupon order.
If you order twice within a week then you can use their $3 off for picking up your order offer. I was also targeted for a free bread when redeeming half the normal points which was nice. I had to order that separately since it wouldn't stack with the deals on the bigger order. Don't sleep on their cheesy buffalo chicken appetizer either!
Buffalo Wild Wings
I love B-dubs program. The fact that I had a nice stash of points is helping this month for sure. The really cool thing I figured out is that coupons on your account stack with points redemptions. I had a $5 off of $15 offer but our bill dropped below that amount since I used points to cover the chicken. Even though the bill was like $12 it still triggered the $5 off. The same thing happened the next week with a bonus points for spending over $20 offer. So that money wiped off by points still counts towards those spending offers.
Be sure to activate your Target Circle spending offers each month even if you don't think you'll hit them. We had one for getting $20 back for spending $80 multiple times. We should get that $20 free after our next grocery run there. I will also mention that buying 3rd party gift cards online count towards these goals too. I plan to try in store as well, which I imagine works the same way too.
I wanted to point out that gas stations that offer a cash price that is cheaper than credit are worth checking out with gift cards. Many of those gas stations give you the cash price when you swipe one of their gift cards. That is the case for BP and Shell at least. This makes your money go a little further.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this zaniness so far. Or, at least enjoyed it more than my wife has! I will say it has been fun trying to stretch things wherever I can, like a game with no end. It is funny to see that everything I thought would be an issue hasn't been so bad and everything I didn't worry about is where the pain point is. Hopefully you don't see me hitchhiking the last few days of the month!
For those that brought it up jokingly when I started this whole thing, I am down 2 pounds right now. So, take that! 🙂