Our wallets, unlike our waistlines, tend to thin out over the holidays. Consumers are expected to spend, on average, more than $1,000 on gifts, decorations and candy this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.
Like battling the mall crowds and untangling decorations, bracing for the financial impact has become an unwelcome but seemingly inevitable holiday tradition.
But what if holiday presents could save or even make money? Here are some gift ideas that do exactly that, if not immediately on receipt, then in the long run.
1. A good pair of walking shoes
This gift could save us all $117 billion collectively. That’s the amount of money that the Centers for Disease Control say lack of physical activity costs annually in health care costs.
Walking for 2.5 hours a week — just 21 minutes a day — can cut your risk of heart disease by 30%, health experts say. In addition, walking has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep you mentally sharp.
Walking isn’t the only activity that burns calories and boosts your health, of course. Treadmills, gym memberships, personal trainer visits, even the old-fashioned jump rope all can help the recipient earn better physical fitness, which leads to fiscal fitness.
But a pair of solid walking shoes is my gift of choice because walking requires no special skills, can be done almost anywhere, and can be combined with other activities, such as shopping or catching up with friends and family.
So step up and give a gift that can save money, potentially a life, and fits conveniently in a shoebox.
2. A coin counting bank
A coin counting bank, which can be had for as little as $6, can provide digital readouts of "deposits." It's a fun way, especially for kids, to realize that keeping track of pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters can add up surprisingly quickly to serious coin.
Change, as philosophers say, can be a good thing.
And remember: Hanscom Federal Credit Union members can take advantage of our free coin counting machines at select branches.
Not all coin banks are created equal, of course. Tiffany & Co. sells a coin bank that (uncannily) resembles a soup container with the label steamed off. Except this can is sterling silver and costs $1,000. That’s a potential disaster on recycling day.
So that one might not offset its cost any time (or lifetime) soon. But with more traditional coin banks, recipients can really cash in.
3. An energy-saving gift
They might not be the most exciting presents under the tree but light timers, LED lighting, energy-efficient power strips and thermostat timers, among myriad other energy-conscious products, will save on utility bills.
For example, energy experts report that consumers can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning their thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.
That’s something a thermostat with a timer can help you do more easily and conveniently, making it a particularly warm gift.
Any present that saves energy makes the world and your wallet a little greener.
4. A U.S. Savings bond
Many of us dislike giving cash as gifts during the holidays. An option is to give a U.S. Savings Bond. They're backed by the U.S. Treasury so they're a secure way to give a gift that keeps on giving. They can be purchased electronically or in paper version; both take a bit of planning so start now and visit www.treasurydirect.gov.
They're a great gift because they grow in worth, which can encourage the recipient to think about the value of saving.
5. A Board game
Giving a board game ensures bonding during game nights with family and friends, one of the least expensive entertainment options out there.
But they can also teach you about bonds. And stocks. And even more advanced concepts such as real estate strategies and short sales.
There are board games for all age and experience levels, from the traditional that we have all played (Monopoly and Life, for example) to newer versions offered by financial gurus.
All of them teach (or reiterate) basic concepts of economics. And when that happens, you are guaranteed to win.
What are you going to do with all your holiday savings? Start by downloading our free Money Management Planner to help you make the best decisions with the cash you have in hand.
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