How many gift cards did you receive this holiday season? How many did you give? A 2019 article from the National Retail Federation said, “For the 13th year in a row, gift cards remain the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 59 percent of those surveyed…”

But, if you’re like many, some will wind up at the bottom of a drawer and never be enjoyed. An often-quoted Wall Street Journal article estimated $41 billion in gift cards went unspent between 2005 and 2011.

Here’s my question…How will you keep up with the gift cards you received and actually use them all?

The technique is really easy.

Make a folder

Take a file folder and label it “Gift Cards.” Insert a few pieces of card stock and line the sides of each piece with four paper clips along the left and right sides. Attach the gift card. You’ll be able to see 8 cards at a glance on each side. If you have lots of cards, consider organizing them alphabetically. It will be easier to tell what you have later.

We all have sheets of coupons that come in the mail or newspaper that have expiration dates. We also often buy a gift card that includes a “bonus card.” The catch is the bonus card must be used within the next month or so. Put these time-sensitive items in the front of the folder. Order them chronologically by expiration date.

Put it in the Tickler File

Take the folder you just made for your gift cards and put it in the Tickler File for the upcoming Saturday.

“What’s a Tickler File?” you may ask. If you’re asking that question, you are surely new to my work. At the end of this post, you see a link to join my email list. The first gift you receive will tell you all about the Tickler File and how to use it.

Now you have a trigger.

You’ve got too much to do already without having to remember to periodically look in that folder of gift cards. By putting the folder in the Tickler File, you have just given yourself a trigger to examine the folder.

On Saturday, when I open the hanging file for that day, one of the items inside is the folder of gift cards. That’s my reminder to examine the contents with my wife and make decisions about what cards we might like to use over the next week. Put the events on the calendar. Pull those cards and put them in a wallet or purse. Refile the folder for the next Saturday. Done!

If you can’t find it…

I’ve often said, “If you can’t find it, you might as well not have it.” The lack of simple systems causes us to lose things. It allows clutter to expand, and the problem of losing things gets worse.

With the Tickler File, you have a place for the papers in your life you wish to resurface at a particular time. With a folder inside it for your gift cards, you’ll never lose or forget about another one.

Life is too short and time too precious to waste one more day. If you are someone who stumbled upon this site for the first time, let me help you take a major step forward right now. When you join my email list, I’ll give you two free gifts. The first will get your desk clean. The second will put everything you have to do in one place. Plus, each week you’ll hear from me with nuts & bolts tools and strategies to make life easier and more productive. You’re one click away from making it happen