How I Purchased 3 Gifts — For Next to Nothing!

3 free gifts

Guest post from Abby of Humani Tribe

As an entrepreneur, my income is not always predictable. It’s tough for us to know from week to week how much will be incoming, so my husband and I live by our budget.

However, we also love being generous and giving thoughtful gifts. So when this fall wedding season hit and I found myself responsible for a shower gift and two wedding presents, I wanted to give generously — but within our means.

Now, after getting three gifts for $10, I put together this guide so that you can use to hopefully learn from my mistakes:

1. Compile all your gift cards and figure out the balances.

If you use a consumer rewards program such as Bing Rewards or Swagbucks, you may have unused gift certificates you’ve earned in the past lying around.

Likewise, use the website or 800-number listed on the back of store gift cards or same-as-cash cards (ex. Visa gift cards) you find in your wallet or purse to check your remaining balance on each.

Even balances of $3-$4 can come in handy, as you’ll see in the points below. Use a permanent marker to write the balance on each card for your own reference.

2. Determine which stores are offering free shipping.

This is important to know, since you’ll have to figure out a way to cover the cost of shipping using your gift card or pay for it outright.

Use a site like to filter stores offering free shipping.

3. Pick a store to purchase a gift from.

The important thing here is to pick the store ONLY if it meets all of these criteria:

  1. You have a gift card for the store or a same-as-cash card
  2. The store is offering free shipping.
  3. You can earn consumer rewards by shopping there.

This is the Big Kahuna — this is how you’ll get items for free or very cheap!

Once you know where you will purchase your gifts, then you’ll need to decide HOW you will purchase them.


My 3-Part Purchasing Action Plan

This is how to go about purchasing the items with low-balance gift cards. I’m offering three purchases as examples of different ways you can pay.

Gift #1: Purchased with Gift cards.

I started my purchase by going through Swagbucks shopping portal in order to earn SB for my purchase. I had $20 in Target gift cards to spend.

I bought one registry item and two small supplementary gifts for a total of $20. Target was not offering free shipping, but I could get in-store pick-up for free. I applied the two gift cards.

Gift #2: Purchased with a store gift card and a same-as-cash gift card.

Again, I started my purchase by going through Swagbucks shopping portal in order to earn SB for my purchase. I noticed that Swagbucks was offering 4 SB/dollar on outdoor items at, which is right up the alley of one of the couples whose wedding we’re attending soon.

I found a great gift for them at $14, and I had $15 in Amazon gift cards. Amazon was not offering free shipping, so I needed to pay for the shipping with the remaining balance on one of my Visa gift cards (See how I didn’t follow my own advice? There’s a reason I suggest you only shop at stores offering free shipping!).

I applied the Amazon gift cards first, then used the Visa gift card for the balance.

Gift #3: Purchased with several low-balance several same-as-cash gift cards.

This was my last gift to purchase: a small something for my cousin’s bridal shower. The problem was that I had no more store-specific gift cards to use, just several Visa gift cards, all of which had quite low remaining balances.

I found out my cousin is planning to take a dream honeymoon a couple of months after the wedding, so I had my “theme” idea for her shower gift — travel gear!

I used RetailMeNot to figure out which stores were offering free shipping, and what I ended up with was a code for free shipping AND 30% off any item (even clearance!) from J.Crew Factory.

Again this time, I made sure I could earn Swagbucks from J.Crew Factory, and I made my purchases by starting in the Swagbucks shopping portal.

In order to get around the low Visa gift card balances, I bought three travel-themed gifts on three separate transactions. (Since Visa and other same-as-cash gift cards are processed like debit cards, they can’t be combined on purchases. The bank has to process them for the whole total only. This is why I made the three separate transactions.)

I chose an item that was on clearance, then I applied my 30% off + free shipping code, and finally made sure I had a Visa gift card with enough remaining balance to cover the total.

Because none of my Visa gift cards had a balance more than $6, I did pay for the largest item at J.Crew Factory using my personal debit card. However, that still left me with a total of $10.06 out of pocket for a shower gift and two wedding presents.

Since both weddings are out of state, it was really important to keep gift costs low — and now we can give generously without worrying!

Abby Woody is the editor of Humani Tribe, and an avid drinker of single-origin coffee and small-batch gin. She loves hiking muddy trails with her dog Brida and getting her passport tattooed at customs. She enjoys writing about self-acceptance and finding peace within. 

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Katie is a wife and homeschooling mother of four who writes at Cincinnati Cents about saving money and having fun as a family without breaking the bank. She enjoys sharing new recipes, ideas for frugal family fun, and tips for spending less at the grocery store.

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