Why we typically spend more than the gift card value

I read an interesting article on SavingAdvice.com (a site i highly recommend if you are serious about saving money) on the dilemma gift card recipients face in redeeming the “full value” of their gift cards. My personal experience has been that i always end up spending more than the gift card value. I have not really thought about why that is until i read the SavingAdvice article, which got me thinking, so i did some research on the issue.

It turns out that I am not alone. According to a survey by the Michigan Retailers Association, on average, consumers spend 20 percent more than the gift card’s value. Also, 61 percent of recipients spend more than the gift card’s value. These survey results explain why retailers have come to love gift cards. But getting back to the point I was trying to make; “why do consumers spend more than the value on gift cards?”. Is it because of our desire to spend the “full value” on the gift card? Or is it because we are willing to spend some of our own money when someone else is picking up part of the tab? I think it’s a little bit of both.

The average consumer does not like to see money go to waste, and when you have a gift card worth $50 and the item you want costs $45, you have to make a decision. Do you just get the item for $45, knowing that the $5 remaining on the gift card may never be spent? Or would you rather spend an extra $15 out of pocket and get the item worth $65 that you’ve always wanted? I find myself always choosing the latter. In cases where there is nothing else in the store that i want, i may pick up an item for say $10, which ensures that the full value of the gift card is spent, even if it means i will have to spend $5 i was not planning on, or even though that item I picked up for $10 may never get used.

What about you, Readers? Do you spend as close to the gift card value as possible or do you end up spending money you had not planned on to get the “full value” of your gift card? Please post your comments in the comments section below.

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