Christmas has passed, and if you are like me, you have received gift cards to your favorite restaurants. In addition, you may be a subscriber to Groupon, Living Social,  or a similar program allowing you to to buy meal vouchers for half price.

As great as these items are, they are no good if they are not used. Each year, billions of dollars worth of gift cards go unused because people lose them or simply forget they have them. How can you keep from joining this crowd? The solution is actually very simple.

All you need is a set of tickler files plus one more blank file folder. I like hanging files for my ticklers. One reason is the ability to slide manilla folders into them.

Label the additional file something like “Gift Cards, “Gift Vouchers,” “Free Food,” or whatever appeals to you. Put all of your gift cards in that folder. As for the Groupon vouchers, put them in the same folder organized by expiration date. The voucher with the most immediate expiration goes in the front of the folder.

Put the entire folder in the tickler file for the upcoming Saturday. On Saturday, the file folder becomes a trigger to sit down with your spouse and decide which ones you may wish to use during the next week. Pull those candidates from the folder. Place them in the tickler file for the day you decided you wanted to use each one. Refile the folder for the next Saturday.

Nothing slips through the cracks. Once each week, you are reminding yourself what gift cards and vouchers you have remaining and any expiration dates and making using them part of your weekly planning. The process can take as little as one minute.

Every year, people waste billions of dollars through lost or forgotten gift cards and vouchers. In 2012, this situation need not describe you!