We all receive gift cards on occasion – those plastic little nuggets of kindness that people sometimes give to each other as a gift in lieu of a tangible item. While we always appreciate the gesture, all too often we file these gift cards away in the back of our wallet and promptly forget about them. And it is there that the trouble begins. These cards lie dormant for weeks, months, or even years, exerting subtle influence over our life and torturing us in ways we don’t even realize.
Are your gift cards controlling your life? Do they have you trapped inside a plastic prison? Here are the signs to look for:
• Every time you open your wallet and see the gift cards tucked inside, you experience an intense flood of negative emotions – anxiety and guilt because you haven’t used them yet, fear that someone is going to steal your wallet and take the gift cards and you’ll have no way to prove they were there, and anger toward the gift giver for placing this burden on you in the first place.
• You rack your brain trying to come up with things you can purchase with the gift card that might be vaguely useful. You find yourself thinking “Hmm… a battery operated travel-sized shampoo dispenser isn’t such a bad idea after all! Or maybe I can use one of those magic balls that absorb dust from the room!”
• You plan your weekend shopping trips around getting to those stores where you can use the gift cards.
• You make a purchase at the store, but forget to use the gift card, and then beat yourself up relentlessly because you didn’t use it.
• You live in chronic fear that the gift card is too close to your ATM card in your wallet and is somehow going to suck the life force out of it or gnaw away at its magnetic strip.
• You find yourself pulling out the gift card by accident at the most inopportune times. You accidentally flash your Victoria’s Secret gift card at the creepy security guard in the lobby instead of your identification, and then freak out because you know he is now picturing you wearing lingerie.
• Your sense of value is becoming distorted. You are holding on to a gift card that’s more than two years old solely because it has a remaining balance of $1.75 on it. Yet, you lost that much change on the street last week when you dropped your wallet and it didn’t even faze you.
• When you watch the news and hear stories about companies going out of business, you feel fear in your heart that your gift cards won’t be honored in federal bankruptcy proceedings.
• You measure your net worth in 401(k), savings accounts and gift card remaining balances.
Do any of these conditions sound familiar? If so, your gift cards are controlling your life. But don’t worry — you can fight back and reclaim your freedom using the three R’s of recovery: Recognize the symptoms; Remember that you are a strong person and you don’t have to put up with this crap any longer; and finally, and most importantly, Regift those gift cards! Copyright © 2010 Alison James