Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The Gift Card" - Holidays Plus or Minus?

Well, it is that time of year again. Time to start pulling out the old wallet and start the old consumer institution known as holiday shopping. Now, I know that holiday shopping is one of the greatest sources of anxiety during the holidays. Especially for parents with demanding children. So, thankfully, "ART OF FUNCTION" is here to help with some very very cool holiday gift ideas.

Now, to start off, I am a big proponent of shopping online during the holidays. Especially, if you have a large list and limited time. A good high speed Internet connection is all you need to button up the holiday shopping. In fact if you are smart, you can knock it out in a few hours with some simple planning. Quickly, here are a few tips to making your online shopping experience worth while.

  1. Make a list. Yeah, just like Santa, sit down and create a check off list of those you need to buy presents for.
  2. Budget. You don't want the dreaded four figure credit card bill that flops on your mail stack a month after Christmas like an unwanted fruit cake. So, after you are done with the list, right an amount next to each name of what you want to spend. Also, at the end, do yourself a favor and add up the total, and add an additional 20%, that will cover taxes and any shipping costs.
  3. Be specific with your Vendors! Narrow the scope of who you shop from online. For example, Amazon is great since you can get different types of gifts from them.
Also, many, many stores offer pre-wrapped options, and such, so you can have the vendor deliver the present directly to your relative or friend, without it going through you. Hey, you are already paying for shipping, no need to pay for it twice!

Now on to the real subject of this blog... GIFT CARDS! Now, for me, these are perfectly acceptable gifts for people. The trick is, you have to get them gift cards for a store they frequent and enjoy. This says, "Hey, I recognize you are interested in this. And I want you to get what you need." Gift Cards are solid choices as well for folks who shop online a lot, and for people who are a little older. Kids and Teenagers tend to not like gift cards because they want something in hand on Christmas. That's important to recognize about the person on your list. Do they value the experience of shopping or do they value opening up a big box on Christmas day... or Christmas Eve for all you impatient weird families. If they like a box, then take some time to get them a present!

Also, notice I am saying Gift Cards, not certificates. Gift Cards offer security, they offer convenience as well. They slide easily into a wallet or purse. This makes them vastly superior to the xerox copy you get from Bob Evans.

So, here are some great gift card ideas.

  1. The Visa Gift Card: This one is versatile and secure. It works just like a visa credit card, but it carries an amount of money on the card. You determine of course the amount, and it can be ordered on line. The best part about this gift card is... you can use it anywhere visa is accepted! Great for those of you who want to give 'Cash' but want to hand over something a little slicker than an envelope of green backs.
  2. iTunes Gift Card: Perfect for the person you bought that IPOD for last year. You pick these things up anywhere... grocery stores, 7-11's, you name it. These are my favorites, because you can redeem them on the iTunes Software browser and you are off and running. An the cards also work for downloading videos and movies, not just music... the only downside are fixed prices, but hey? Such is life.
  3. STARBUCKS / COFFEE BEAN Cards: I put these two together, since it's pretty much the same thing. For the non conformist, by them a Coffee Bean card, for everyone else, Starbucks is just fine. You could go buck wild and visit Pete's; however, make sure there is one near your potential beneficiary. Moving on! The Coffee Card is great for that someone who has a once a day habit. It is something they use daily and will remember you daily for it. Also, these gift cards are 'recyclable' in that you can continue as to add funds to them.
  4. Barnes and Noble card: I love getting these, because I can use them at Barnes and and the store now offers a wife variety of both books, dvd's and music to choose from. This is great when selecting a gift card vendor. Do they have a wide variety of items to purchase? If they do, that is great because it offers the recipient more selection and better use. Especially if you do not know someone that well, and you want to get them something they could use.
  5. Best Buy Gift Card: Now, if you are actually reading this, you have some technical acumen, so you have heard of big box store Best Buy. It's a national chain with a pretty good online store. So, this is a good card for the tech geek in your family, or the DVD fanatic, or Gaming fanatic.
There are other ones to look out, Netflix, GameFly, maybe your friend or relatives' favorite organic grocery store. And for heaven's sake, don't be afraid to be practical. I welcome the gift card to Trader Joes. It's great to get a free week or two weeks worth of groceries, especially for all the struggling actors out there, like me.

Happy Holidays!

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