Stick to your budget by paying with gift cards

Total-money-makeover Justin discovered a great way to hack a debit-based budget while holding onto the convenience of credit cards:

We know a lot of people who use envelopes to budget their spending [Dave Ramsey's envelope system is a popular methodology. — Ed.] , but we found that we were still spending the easily-accessible cash, especially to randomly go out to eat. We came up with a different plan: gift cards!

We reload a Kroger gift card every month with our grocery money. This way we can't spend the money on unnecessary items but if we do need something to eat on the run, we can stop in to the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken or a salad. True, it may not be in the budget, but it's cheaper than a restaurant.

Plus, our grocery store partners with local gas stations, so for every $100 we spend on groceries using a gift card, we get a 10 cent-per-gallon discount on gas. Shell has teamed up with Kroger so you receive the same discounts/benefits, so in order to get some extra points and get more off your gas, put grocery money on your Kroger gift card but buy Shell gift cards for your gas so that you receive an additional $0.10 off for every $50 you spend on non-Kroger gift cards.

If you use Amazon's Subscribe and Save, you can also purchase Amazon gift cards from Kroger.  Type the gift card information into your Amazon account online, and Subscribe and Save will use that amount first before it deducts anything from the credit card you entered when you subscribed.

Related: Stockpile gift cards for the new baby's arrival

Also: Simple budgeting: tips and tools


  1. Christina says

    I thought about doing this years ago, but then there’s the concern of losing the gift card, or forgetting to use it, or “too bad you have money locked up there when you really need it elsewhere” – I might try and start small with that for places I *always* go, it worked recently with a Jamba Juice card (which I got when they were offering a free 16oz with it ;-)

  2. kelli says

    Our only preschool fundraiser is selling Scrip cards — basically the preschool buys gift cards through a discount program then sells them at face value and keeps the difference. It would be great to benefit the program as well as keeping the budget!

  3. says

    One local supermarket offers a 10% kickback on giftcard purchase to your favorite local charity. We put 500$ a month on gift cards, and buy all our groceries there.