How to handle gift cards that you don’t pay for?

I have recently received $600 in gift cards. What would be the proper way of entering these into my budget? Do I put these into a gift card account or add them like cash even though they can only be used at specific locations?

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  • Since they are specific locations, you have a couple of options.

    1) Don't include them in YNAB at all, and just use them.

    2) Add them as accounts (or even a single gift card account) and budget the balances into your categories.  If it's spending you would normally do in your budget, you could even keep those  categories the same and use the funds to increase your other categories since you would use the gift card instead of your own money to make the purchase.

    It really depends on whether you want to be able to track the spending you do using the gift cards (and use that spending data to inform your future budgeting). Generally I only track the gift cards that we bought with our own money and not received from others... and even then only if the cards could be used for spending in multiple budget categories.

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  • Given the value on the gift cards in your question, which suggests to me that it might take multiple transactions to use up the cards, I would prefer to create specific gc accounts to track the cards as I spend them down.  I currently have 4 gift card accounts: 2 different grocery stores, 1 gas station, 1 coffee shop.  I tried one generic gift card account, but it got confusing trying to figure out how much was left on the cards for specific vendors.  I have been buying gift cards for my regular go-to vendors as part of a monthly fundraiser to support my youngest sister's kids' sports activities.

    A gift card account is basically just a cash account. When you enter the opening balance, it will add that amount to your budget as new incoming funds to be budgeted. Feel free to budget the value to any category(ies) of your choosing. This may seem incorrect at first blush because you know that you can only use the cards at a specific vendor(s). Trust me, the value to your budget is entirely fungible. If I send you a $100 gift card to a specific grocery store, you can add the incoming $100 to your vacation category because my gift allows you to repurpose the $100 you would have normally budgeted of your own monthly money to groceries.  When the card is at zero, and if you don't intend to use a gc for that store again, you simply close the account.

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