shopping; Give cash as a gift|
There are no service charges when
your recipient uses the stored-value card for services or merchandise. But if
the card can be used at an ATM, there generally is a fee. And if the card isn't
used within a certain time period, its value could be eaten away by a monthly
Many people prefer gift cards because they are widely
accepted. They also are a good choice if you want to send money outside the country
because the monetary exchange is automatic and usually at a better rate than what's
available at a store or exchange kiosk.
certificates and cards
There's always the old standby of a gift certificate
to a favorite shop. If you'd like to offer a choice of stores, a certificate (available
for a small fee) from GiftCertificates.com will provide your gift recipient a
choice of about 300 places to shop.
Most merchants also sell their own gift cards redeemable
for services or merchandise. You can buy them online or at the retailer. But read
the fine print; some of the cards are fee-ridden.
Bonds may be boring, but they're a gift that grows. The
minimum purchase of a Series EE or I bond is $25 and they are available at most
banks, although Uncle Sam would prefer you buy
them online. Delivery takes about three weeks, but many banks offer certificates
that say the bond is on its way, or you can print out a savings bond gift certificate
of the U.S. Treasury.
Buying a savings bond requires a
Social Security number. If you don't have the one of the person you're buying
the bond for, use your own. Even though your number will be printed on the bond,
you'll incur no tax liability. The Treasury says the Social Security number is
used for tracking purposes only, in case the savings bond is lost, stolen or destroyed.
Consult your broker or
check out the Mutual
Fund Education Alliance's list of funds that accept investments as low as
$50. At ShareBuilder
as little as $25 will get a portfolio started, but don't forget to add in the
transaction fees. At OneShare.com
you can buy one framed share of such kid-popular businesses as McDonald's or Disney.
Your cost depends on the price of the stock, plus a service charge.
The United States Mint sells collectible coins. There are a lot of possibilities
on the agency's Web
site, but an affordable choice is the 10-coin United States Mint Proof Set
of the five state quarters issued in 2003 (Illinois, Alabama, Maine, Missouri
and Arkansas) in proof condition. The collection also contains proof versions
of the Lincoln penny, Jefferson nickel, Roosevelt dime, Kennedy half-dollar and
the dollar coin featuring Sacagawea.
If the recipient hangs
onto the coins for a few years, they'll likely be worth more than face value.
But if times get tough, they spend as well as standard pocket change.
the big bucks
Families often take advantage of the holidays to share
the wealth. Large estate planning isn't really a do-it-yourself project. Professional
help from a lawyer or an accountant can save everyone lots of grief.
But one move a financial professional might recommend
is giving away some assets now to reduce the amount that could eventually
be subject to estate taxes: assets in excess of $2 million in 2006.