I just threw away $75 in Borders gift cards. Before ultimately admitting defeat, I had confidently gone to barnesandnoble.com to redeem them. I recalled that B&N had taken over when Borders had gone out of business, so I assumed that they would accept my gift cards. Boy, was I wrong.
Annoyed, but still determined, I did some internet research to see if anyone would accept them, or if I was in fact out of luck. The only results that seemed to surface were accounts of people who were also looking to redeem their cards, and the answer was always the same: NO. In the midst of my research, I chanced upon an article published on a financial advice site that was encouraging people to redeem their cards back when Borders was initially going out of business. The article was written in 2009. Really? I had had those gift cards on my desk for more than three years?
I once read that a large percentage of gift cards purchased are never redeemed, and that companies actually rely on this as a bonus source of revenue. I’ve never been a big fan of receiving gift cards for exactly this reason – they have to be redeemed. In theory, I love the idea because it feels like free money, but the further action it requires then becomes yet another task that I may or may not get around to.
I got to thinking about what other money I was leaving on the table. I delved further into the pile of “I’ll get to it later” items on my desk. I rediscovered a $25 Amazon gift card, a $500 spa certificate and three free sessions for a nutritionist that I had won in an auction at least four years ago.
One of the important principles for creating abundance is receiving. And “receiving” in this context means not just “having” something, as in the case of the gift certificates sitting on my desk, but actively engaging with it. In other words, I don’t benefit from the true value of the gift certificates until I actually use them.
I noticed that this extended into other areas of my life as well. For years, I yearned for a weekend country home. We finally bought one about a year and a half ago. This spring, we were busy as usual, and didn’t make it up to the house as much as we would have liked. I began to get the same yearning feeling that I did before we bought the house. Then one day, I realized, I HAVE what I want… I already OWN the house, and yet, I’m left with the same feeling of scarcity because I am lacking the EXPERIENCE of actually using the house. Similarly to the gift cards, it’s there and available for me, but I don’t get value out of it or experience the abundance of it unless I use it.
How many things do you own right now, that you were so excited to get but don’t use often or at all? A bicycle? Clothes? An exercise machine? How about friends that you love to hang out with that you don’t call or see often enough? Or that vacation time you’ve accrued at work but are too busy to take? It’s often not the things themselves that matter, but the experiences we hope to have in relation to them – experiences like sitting down with the kids at your country house to play a game before they’re grown and are no longer interested, or using your new iPad to Skype with your elderly parents.
Take some time today to slow down on the accumulation of things, and utilize what you already have to create the experience of abundance. I think you’ll find it worthwhile.