A business associate or rich uncle knows that you like to dine out.

And so you are the recent recipient of a gift card to a restaurant.

Here's the smartest thing you can do with it:

Spend it. Now. Go online or pick up the phone and book a table for a night in January and brighten up the winter's bleakness.

The very worst thing you can do with that gift certificate is slide it into your drawer to wait for a "special occasion."

If history holds, that "special occasion" will arise after the restaurant has gone out of business.

Cold? No. It happens all the time. Restaurants come and go. It's rare that holders of gift certificates are made whole, even though technically the certificates are obligations.

In the olden days, you could patch a hole in your wall with a worthless gift certificate.

Nowadays, a gift card to a shuttered restaurant makes a nifty emergency ice scraper and little else.