All about the challenges of Midlife Finance

Choosing the Perfect Gift

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have gone on their merry way… and you didn’t buy a thing. Does that mean you’re out of luck, getting the perfect gift at the right price?

Naahhhh.

 Plenty of bargains are still out there, thanks to a recovering economy and less-than-stellar Black Friday sales results. Companies are still interested in getting your money, even if it means a little less than they’d hoped. There are other options, too.

DON’T SPEND — OR MAKE IT LESS

*Don’t be tempted to splurge now, just because you resisted on Black Friday. Some people have made BF a ‘no-shop’ tradition — and that’s fine. Spending those saved bucks wisely — or not spending them at all — is harder.

*Can you afford it?  How much are you in debt…and do you have a plan in place to reduce that debt? Maybe it’s best to wait.  (Perhaps this saving-and-not-spending plan is anti-government; it’s not fueling the economy. But it does help you feel more smug. After all, you’re not paying extra tax to support THEM…whoever your elected officials are.)

*Give to those who really need it. Would Aunt Sadie like bath salts…or the chance to give a community a new well? Millions of people still don’t have access to clean water or healthy food; groups like MCC are doing their part to help, with donations from people like you. Many organizations even provide gift cards to let your recipients know.

Groups like Samaritan’s Purse let you load up a shoebox with special goodies — then ship it around the world to children, many who will get no other present for Christmas. Your own kids may especially appreciate this chance to help someone their own age. (It’s not too late to build and donate one online, either.)

WHEN YOU DO SPEND:  MAKING IT COUNT

*Check in first at sites that regularly post deals. Moneysaving Mom is one of the best. Crystal Paine finds good stuff on her own. (A recent deal led shoppers to appliances at Kohl’s that ended up costing as little as $5 each — with free shipping!) But she is quick to add other bloggers’ finds, as well as free samples, sales (many which only last a day or two) and other opportunities. Stop by every day or so; the best items go fast.

*Get added ‘bucks’ when you do shop. Swagbucks has a “shop” option that earns you ‘Swagbucks’ for everything from buying flowers to booking a hotel — provided you click through from their site first.  Programs like Ebates let you earn cash back, or give discounts. (Refer someone, and the savings add up even more.)

*Use rewards programs. Gift cards are easy to send — but when you’re getting a bonus for sending them, the treat is extra. Many restaurants are offering $5 or $10 coupons when you purchase $25 or more; an extensive list is here. (Our own favorite, Red Robin, adds a movie ticket to the latest Hobbit epic when you purchase a $25 gift card.) Treat your favorite people — then give yourself a free meal, as well.

Stretch the savings even more by subscribing to rewards clubs whenever they’re offered….or answering surveys. Red Robin throws in a free burger whenever you purchase 10 — as well as a gratis birthday burger. Outback will give you a free ‘bloomin’ onion’ appetizer at the next visit, if you take a few minutes to fill out their survey. Check online before you go — or on your receipt.

*Look for free shipping. Online sites, including Amazon, offer this, in hopes of snagging your dollar. (And if they’re not in your state, you’ll often not be paying sales tax, either.)

*Add apps. They save in sneaky ways, by finding the best prices in your area, as well as online. Those results can help you take advantage of other guarantees — Wal-Mart’s price-matching policy, for example. Show them the same item for a better price; voila, they’ll match it. (A list of helpful apps is here, to get you started. It helps to have a smartphone, but many of these can be accessed just by computer, as well.)

*Start early next year.  January discount sales won’t solve your holiday issues — but they’re great sources for birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts, and other goodies. Also, watch the people and friends you love. What restaurants do they really like, what movies are they drawn to? Do they need additions to their wardrobe? (Clothes are often discounted early in the year, as well as around the start of school — and the change in seasons.) Note their favorite colors or foods. These can all lead to something that delights your favorite person.

Another possibility: ask them what was their best gift ever.

 These ideas should help you find the right present — for them and you.

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