Monday, September 24, 2012

Cutting Our Moving Costs with Gift Cards

Our family tends to relocate quite often. With our moves though, often come quite a few extra costs. With our most recent move back to the Chicago area from the west coast, we’ve once again encountered moving expenses in the form of storage fees, travel costs, and now we must hit the stores to restock our kitchen cabinets.

To combat the costs that come with such purchases, we have a few tricks up our sleeves in the way of gift cards. Rather than just blowing these cards on fun when we got them, which can certainly be a temptation, we instead kept them as a sort of cash reserve, knowing that they could eventually come in handy -- and boy have they!

Our Needs
So now that we have to reestablish ourselves in a new place, there is plenty of stuff we need. From food and toiletries, to cleaning supplies, paper products, and similar items, we have numerous items from which we rid ourselves before our last move or that we gave away to family.

Most of our needs come in the way of food items. We must again load up on the staples. Everything from milk, bread and eggs, to salt, pepper, spices, ketchup, and condiments, we’ll have to start from square one, which means that our initial grocery bills will be hefty ones.

Our Cards
We had several gift cards at our disposal for these shopping purposes. The first of these cards were Wal-mart specific gift cards, thoughtfully given to us by my uncle as Christmas gifts. Another card, graciously came by way my wife’s aunt and uncle (also as a Christmas gift), and yet another card was left over from a small bonus my wife had received from her work the previous year. The cards from my wife’s work and her aunt and uncle were prepaid credit cards.

How We Planned Our Card Usage
Since we could use the prepaid credit cards (one worth $50 and the other worth $40) in a variety of locations, we saved those for more unique purchases. Since the Wal-mart gift cards (worth $325) were store-specific, we centered purchases such as our cleaning supplies and certain food items that we knew were available at Wal-mart for low prices, around these cards. And since there is a Wal-mart superstore located near us, we could actually load up on many of our grocery and toiletry needs as well, though we saved certain items on our shopping list for the local dollar and grocery stores.

Where We Spent and What We Saved
Our first shopping excursion was to Wal-mart for cleaning supplies and toiletry items. This first run was done the day after closing on our condominium so that we could clean the place before officially moving in.

We spent $103.88 on items such as cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, a new landline phone ($20), dish soap, laundry soap, and similar items.

After a good scrub down, and getting all our stuff moved in, we headed back to Wal-mart a week later to load up on food. Still, we didn’t let having our gift cards sway us in our regular buying patterns, sticking largely to the “Great Value” store brand options, which we found to be quite good and much cheaper than their name brand counterparts. In this way we loaded up on all those necessities that I mentioned we’d need. From sugar, salt, flour, and cooking oil, to coffee, coffee filters, pasta, syrup, condiments, juice, and all the rest, we laid out $179.03 more in Wal-mart gift cards, bringing our total used in gift cards so far up to $282.91. The remaining $43 on these cards went to later grocery store purchases for around-the-house type items such as food items that we realized we’d left off our lists on our initial trips.

However, we were careful in our shopping; realizing that certain purchases might be on sale at area grocery stores or the dollar store. Therefore, after a $14 cash purchase at the nearest dollar store for things like plastic bins for our son’s toys, a bathroom trashcan, superglue, and the likes, we hit the grocery store for most of our meat purchases and other things that we could buy cheaper there than at Wal-mart, for a total of $101.72, $90 of which was covered by the $40 and $50 prepaid credit cards.

Therefore, by saving our gift cards for a rainy day rather than just going out and blowing on frivolity, we managed to get moved into our new home, our cupboards stocked, and many of our cleaning supply purchases covered for multiple months for an out-of-pocket total of just over $25 of our own cash.

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