This post is featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted at Invest It Wisely
I celebrated my 30th birthday a couple of months ago and had a great party with all my close friends. To me, being able to play host to a bunch of people I care about is a really great thing to do and more than enough in terms of making my birthday special. Naturally I ended up with a few presents, but I didn’t expect gifts. To be honest, there isn’t really a lot that I need or want, but I was more than happy with the presents I did get.
In addition to having a great time with my friends I also had a nice dinner with my family and that of my wife’s (it was more like a birthday week by the end of it all!). As far as family goes, gifts are still a big deal so although I didn’t expect anything, it was highly likely that I would be receiving gifts from parents, in-laws and brothers and sisters. My wife had already done some ground work interrogating me until I finally broke down and revealed something I did desire, so the family was prepped and happier for it.
What Do You Desire?
I had given the whole 30th birthday present thing quite a bit of thought and finally come up with something that I thought would be appropriate and was also something that I had been thinking about for some time. What I wanted was a good digital SLR camera.
The idea of a good camera was both practical (we are forever taking photos of our gorgeous daughter) and a luxury at the same time. I’m definitely no amazing photographer, but I like the idea of something that is lasting, very useful and also fun toy all at the same time. Basically it ticked a lot of the boxes for what I considered to be a good milestone birthday present.
Obviously a good DSLR costs a bit of money and far more that any one person should spend on a present, at least as far as I’m concerned. What I did get though, was a lot of very lovely birthday cards with some very handy birthday dollars enclosed. Some people don’t agree with this type of gift giving as they don’t feel it is personal and I would never suggest it without an alternative, but it was perfect in this particular case.
How Are You Going to Get It?
Armed with my newly acquired birthday wealth I began my online search for my camera of choice. I had done lots of research beforehand and new what I wanted, but what I needed was the absolute best price I could find. As with many things these days, the best deal for me ended up being through a seller on eBay.
Everything was set, I had found my dream camera for a dream price, but after all my searching it turned out that I was about $150 short. I wasn’t surprised, I had been aiming for the absolute most I could get for my money (as should always be the case), but it turned out that the most for my money was more than I had. At this point I guess I could have just bought the camera on my credit card and tipped myself the rest as an extra birthday present or promised myself that I would pay it back over time, but really I’d only be cheating myself by doing that.
I’ve always found that if you want something badly enough and really focus on ways to get it, then you always get there in the end. Instead of giving in to instant gratification, I thought about how I could find the additional $150 I needed to get what I wanted.
There is Always a Way
Like most people, my mind immediately turned to the most obvious way to source the extra money I needed. My wife and I allow ourselves a weekly allowance of $50 each, some people may think that is a lot, while others may think it is very little. For us, this amount works quite well and we get to spend it as we see fit. So if I was really good with my money, I could probably have the camera in 3 weeks. Not bad, but still a little wait and there was a good chance it might take longer if I bought a couple of coffees during the week or a few beers on the weekend.
Instead of accepting my need to wait, I decided to think a little longer on other ways I could get the money I needed for my purchase. I couldn’t work overtime at work, so that was out and finding an extra income stream would take time, so that was out too. In terms of a quick turn around, the logical conclusion was to find something to sell. If I had wanted to, I guess I could have scoured the house looking for things to sell on eBay, Craigslist or Gum tree, but I had recently finished reading an article online about trading in gift cars which had given me an idea.
I had changed jobs around a month before my birthday and as a parting gift, my workplace had given me a gift card for a store. It was a great gift and I’d already gone and bought some things I wanted, but I still had close to $200 left on the card. a quick Google search showed me that there was indeed an Australian website that offered this service, so I filled out some easy forms and was soon trading my gift card for cash on cardlimbo.com.au.
Obviously there is a cost to this type of transaction and with very little competition in Australia Cardlimbo don’t need to be too generous. The website says they will give you between 60%-80% of the balance value on your card and I ended up getting 80%, so I was pretty happy. The transaction cleared within a few working days and I had the additional money I needed to buy my camera outright, without needing to resort to credit. Really it didn’t take too much effort at all.
If you have a gift card you don’t need, you might like to try this yourself or at least keep it in mind. Alternatively, you can shop for gift cards on sites like this to save a few bucks as well. If you live in the States, you have far more choices, but the principle is the same. Here are a few sites you may like to check out:
- Plastic Jungle
- Gift Card Rescue
- Card Pool
I’m now happily snapping photos of my family and pretty well everything else in sight too. I love my 30th birthday present and perhaps even that bit more because I found a creative way to get what I wanted. I hope that this story inspires you to find creative ways to get what you want, when you want it, without needing to resort to debt.
Have you found other creative ways to get what you want in the past?