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Generous Gift Buying Guide for a Budget

Generous Gift Buying Guide for a Budget - TaxACT

How can I buy all the gifts I need to give and still stay on a budget?

Ever since I was a child, I was a born giver. My mom used to scold me because I gave away my doll to a neighbor girl.

“Why did you do that, Ellie?” my mom would say as she shook her finger at me.

“Because I had two dolls and she didn’t have any!”

I still love to give gifts but I don’t want to go over budget and make my family pay the price for my generosity.

By following the tips listed, you and I can both stay on budget and still be generous givers.

The Number One Gift Choice: Gift Cards

Whether you are shopping for a special birthday gift, holiday present or anniversary surprise, chances are better than not that you will consider buying a gift card for that person on your list.

But there are a few things you should be aware of before you buy.

Store Closings. After you’ve purchased the gift card, a store may shut its doors. You really have to be cautious in buying gift cards because when a store files for bankruptcy or closes, it’s up to the bankruptcy courts & too often, they don’t have to honor the existing gift cards.

Some closed stores in recent years walked away from $20 million in unhonored cards!

Fees on gift cards. In 2010, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD) was put in place to protect consumers and retailers in the area of gift cards.

This protects prepaid branded cards (AMEX, Visa, MasterCard) from having an expiration date less than five years from purchase.

Furthermore, dormancy, inactivity and service fees cannot be charged until after 12 months.

BEWARE: some of these cards can still charge fees every time the balance is checked, the card is used, customer service is called, or if you need a replacement card. Read the fine print before you buy.

Stolen numbers. Before you buy a card, especially one that is hanging on a rack among the public (as in a grocery store), inspect the card to make sure stickers are not removed and PIN numbers aren’t visible. Or ask for a card that is behind the counter or hasn’t been stocked to the rack yet.

Be sure to also get a purchase activation receipt when you give it to others. Thieves are writing down numbers and pins and then periodically checking online to see when the cards go active, then they steal the balance on the card.

Gift cards are still a popular and practical way to go in today’s economy.

In fact, some families may appreciate a card to a major discount retailer because it will allow them to buy groceries and clothing.

If you pay attention to the gift card details, it can be a great gift to give.

Buying Online

One way to stay on budget is to “layer the savings.”

Here are the steps to save big online:

1. The first step is to go to mySimon , Amazon or Bing, which are shopping robots that will search the internet for your item to find the best deal possible.

2. Once you’ve found the best deal, the second step is to go to a code site such as RetailMeNot or CouponCabin to find the codes you need to save even more. Sometimes these codes are for free shipping, gifts, or discounts.

3. The final step is to get a rebate for your shopping, by going to Ebates or SlickDeals.

On some of these sites, for example, if you have an account and get your friends to sign up under your account, you can earn $5 per referral. There are hundreds of participating online sites that will give you a rebate off of your purchases and you get a check at the end of each month.

Year Round Purchases: When to buy and when not to buy

One of the best ways to save is to pay attention to the calendar and buy gifts when they are on sale seasonally.

A new set of 1,000 thread count Egyptian sheets for your college student can be a great gift—especially if they are purchased during one of the biannual white sales so that you pay half the price.

Here’s a guide to when you should purchase certain items to get the best deal:

Toys. While it’s hard to beat the post-Thanksgiving and Christmas sales, there is another good time of the year to buy—August.

Not only can great deals be garnered on summer toys like playground equipment and swimming pools, but other “high space” items are cleared out in preparation for the upcoming seasonal toy stock. This can save as much as 65%.

Video Games. The season’s new games are usually released during the holidays and that’s the time to find the best selection.

But if price is a consideration, then just wait until January or February, after the initial hysteria has died down and the savings can be even more significant.

Televisions and Electronics. Yes, blowout sales on electronics typically happen around the holidays, but April is truly an even better time to find deals in this category.

Most Japanese companies end their fiscal year in March. This means new models are coming out on the market and it’s time to get rid of last year’s models. Discounts for as much as 20% to 25% or more can be had during this time of year.

Are you a born giver? If so, what is one way you plan to save even as you give to others this year?

Photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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About Ellie Kay

Ellie Kay is a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good Money shows. She is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fourteen books including her newest release, The Sixty Minute Money Workout (Waterbrook, 2010). For money savings links visit Ellie's blog.

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