I saw a story recently that upwards of about 20% of gift cards go unused. People either forget they have them -- or sometimes lose the gift card all together.

Consumer Reports recently published that in 2020, approximately $14.2 billion was left on gift cards. In July, 51 percent of Americans said they had at least one unused gift card. How many do you have laying around the house?

These stories got me thinking about the handful of gift cards I have at home in a drawer -- including one that goes back quite a few years.

Will It Still Work?

For over 15 years, I have had a gift card to a local restaurant sitting in my desk drawer. It was given to me by a former boss of mine in probably 2003 or 2004. I always kept forgetting to take gift card with me whenever I went out to eat. For some reason, I never threw the gift card away, but just kept moving it around in my drawer.

A few months ago I tried to go online and see if I could determine the value of the card. Unfortunately -- because the gift card was so old -- the website could not give me a balance or even confirm if the card was still valid. So back in to the drawer it went.

Last weekend I decided to take it with me to the restaurant and see if it would work. After eating my meal, the server brought over the check. I explained to her that the gift card was very old and wasn't sure if it would even work. She said she would give it a try. I figured my chances that it would work were very, very small. To my surprise, not only did it work, but the card I thought was worth maybe $20 or $25 -- was actually for $50! It paid for my whole meal with some money left over for next time. I'm really glad that I never just gave the card a toss.

Do Gift Cards Expire?

According to the Michigan Attorney General's office: "In general, gift cards (including both merchant and bank-issued cards) purchased after August 22, 2010, cannot expire within five years of purchase. That means a merchant that issues a gift card cannot refuse to accept it 'for personal, family, or household use' if you present it within five years from purchase or when value was added. But a merchant can refuse to accept a gift card that was issued more than five years ago, if the terms and conditions were clearly and conspicuously disclosed and one of those terms and conditions was an expiration date of at least five years."

Don't Let Your Gift Cards Go Unused

Check your drawers! Do you have any unused gift cards. I have about a dozen or so. I've decided every Sunday in the coming weeks is going to be "Gift Card Sunday". I'm going to try to use one a week until they are gone. My goal is to make sure I use all of the older gift cards to make room for any new ones I might get for Christmas this year. You should do the same!

Here are some other ways to save some money...

LOOK: Here are 25 ways you could start saving money today

These money-saving tips—from finding discounts to simple changes to your daily habits—can come in handy whether you have a specific savings goal, want to stash away cash for retirement, or just want to pinch pennies. It’s never too late to be more financially savvy. Read on to learn more about how you can start saving now. [From: 25 ways you could be saving money today]

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