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Supplement to the Crow River Life


Gift Guide

Page 2 Last Minute Gift Guide • Friday, December 11, 2015

The economic downturn that began in late 2008 forced many holiday shoppers to curb their spending on gifts for friends and family. But even though the economy has since recovered, savvy holiday shoppers are still taking a conservative approach to their shopping, and saving lots of money along the way. Shoppers often struggle with how much to spend on gifts for their loved ones come the holiday season. The quest for the perfect gift leads many to overspend, but there are ways holiday shoppers can give great gifts without breaking the bank. • Leave credit cards at home. Stretching a budget when holiday shopping can be tempting, especially when shoppers come across “can’t

miss� gifts they know their loved ones will treasure. Succumbing to such temptation typically finds holiday shoppers using their credit cards to make purchases they otherwise cannot afford, and that only lands shoppers in post-holiday debt that can be difficult to pay off. Leaving credit cards at home when shopping for the holidays significantly reduces the likelihood that shoppers will overspend, and it guarantees they won’t be mired in debt come January. • Whittle down your shopping list. Many holiday shoppers find themselves in financial hot water come the end of the holiday season thanks in large part to seemingly endless holiday shopping lists. Lists may include coworkers, distant cousins,

neighbors, and a host of other acquaintances. Whittling down holiday shopping lists can save shoppers money. Contact loose acquaintances and distant relatives to suggest you stop exchanging gifts come the holidays, saving both parties time and money. • Make a list of gifts. Blindly shopping for holiday gifts can prove disastrous to your finances. Before heading out on a holiday shopping trip, make a list of gifts you intend to buy for each person on your list. This can help you focus your search and reduce the likelihood that you will make potentially costly impulse purchases as you wander around the mall for hours on end. • Spread out your shopping. Holiday shoppers with

especially long shopping lists can spread out their shopping over several months to reduce the likelihood that they will accumulate credit card debt or run out of cash during the holiday season. Begin shopping in late summer or early fall, periodically buying gifts for loved ones when you have the cash to do so. This has the added benefit of freeing up time during the often hectic holiday season, and it greatly reduces the risk of compiling postholiday debt. Many people stretch their budgets during the holiday season. But savvy holiday shoppers can employ several strategies to keep themselves out of debt this holiday season.

The quest for the perfect gift leads many to overspend, but there are ways holiday shoppers can give great gifts without breaking the bank.









Last Minute Gift Guide • Friday, December 11, 2015 Page 3



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Last Minute Gift Guide â&#x20AC;˘ Friday, December 11, 2015 Page 5

The advantages of last-minute holiday shopping Tackling tasks well in advance has many advantages, and often it is in oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best interest to be ahead of the game, including when the game at hand is holiday shopping. But men and women who simply canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get a head start on their holiday shopping need not fear, as waiting until the eleventh hour to do the bulk of your shopping can have some distinct advantages, too. Consumer Reportsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 2012 Holiday Poll found 9 percent of shoppers - an estimated 17 million people - planned to shop in stores on Christmas Eve in 2012. Many stores are still open on Christmas Eve, even if the doors are only unlocked for a limited number of hours. That gives shoppers one last chance to find the perfect presents. In addition to having more time to decide on gifts,

Shopping late in the season may be advantageous for some people.

here are some other benefits to shopping later in the season. â&#x20AC;˘ Smaller crowds: As the holiday season winds down, many shoppers have already completed their shopping. Fewer people tend to be in stores in the final days before

Christmas, as they are readying their homes for company or making travel plans. This can be a prime time for shopping and getting through malls or other retailers in less time. â&#x20AC;˘ Discounted prices: Anxious to reduce inventory and

make the most of end-ofthe-year profits, stores may discount merchandise even further for fast sale. Shoppers anxious to save a little bit more or come in under budget may find waiting to shop is to their financial advantage. â&#x20AC;˘ Lower chance of discovery: One difficulty of shopping early is keeping all of the gifts hidden for the duration of the month. Waiting until later to shop means only having to camouflage gifts for a few days. When you wait, curious kids are less likely to find their gifts before the big day. â&#x20AC;˘ Last-minute specials: Some online retailers offer â&#x20AC;&#x153;doorbusterâ&#x20AC;? sales at various times during the holiday shopping season. These sales may offer additional discounts or even free shipping. Just be sure to balance the benefits of the discount against the shipping

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price. If it means having to pay a premium for overnight shipping, it may not be worth the investment. â&#x20AC;˘ More time to plan: By the end of the holiday season you may have a better idea of what you need to purchase. You also may have polled others regarding what they are giving, reducing the chances of giving duplicate gifts. â&#x20AC;˘ Gift cards galore: Some people prefer to give gift cards, which are available all season long. Consumer Reports says 62 percent of last-minute shoppers grab gift cards. If you fall into that category, waiting to buy the cards wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be an issue so long as you make it to the stores before they close. Last-minute shopping has its advantages. If time is ticking away, there are still deals to be had.

Page 6 Last Minute Gift Guide â&#x20AC;˘ Friday, December 11, 2015

Gifts no sports fan should go without Few things make holiday shoppers happier than giving a gift that instantly lights up a loved oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes. All the work that goes into finding and securing the perfect gift becomes worth it and then some when the recipientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s smile stretches from ear to ear. A great holiday gift often involves someoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favorite hobby. When gifting the family sports fan, the options are endless. Sports fans tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves, and theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re liable to be just as vocal with appreciation if any of these gifts are waiting under the tree for them this holiday season. â&#x20AC;˘ Magazine subscrip-

tion: Many sports fans feel they can never get enough information on their favorite teams and sports. A magazine subscription to Sports Illustrated or another periodical focusing on a particular sport can provide insider access for a year or longer. Magazine subscriptions are typically inexpensive, but they provide lots of bang for your gifting buck, especially weekly publications. In addition, many magazines now give print subscribers access to exclusive content online, playing to your favorite sports fanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ever-growing desire for more knowledge. â&#x20AC;˘ Sports apparel: Ac-

cording to IBISWorld, a California-based market research firm, online sporting apparel sales were expected to approach $5 billion in 2012. Driving those sales are sports fans who canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wait to don the gear of their favorite teams. Apparel makes a great holiday gift, whether itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an authentic player jersey, a team logo hoodie or a personalized T-shirt that directly connects fans to their teams. â&#x20AC;˘ Memorabilia: Sports memorabilia can be costly, but shoppers can still find great deals on everything from autographed items to relics of a franchiseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fledg-

ling days. When shopping for memorabilia, be wary of auctions, where â&#x20AC;&#x153;shill biddingâ&#x20AC;? can drive up the price of coveted items. Shill bidding occurs when owners bid on their own items at auction in an attempt to drive up the sale price. And authentication can be an issue with regard to sports memorabilia. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been cracking down on fraudulent memorabilia. Shoppers without knowledge of the memorabilia industry might want to focus on less expensive items that will be a hit under Sports fans enjoy indulging in their love of a particular sport

Sports ...

to page 8

with video games, making a new game an ideal gift for the family sports fan.







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Last Minute Gift Guide • Friday, December 11, 2015 Page 7

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Page 8 Last Minute Gift Guide • Friday, December 11, 2015

Thanks to sales featuring heavily discounted items, millions of people wait to start their holiday shopping until the season hits full swing. But in spite of such bargains, overextending budgets during the holiday season is too tempting for many shoppers to resist. However, shoppers need not risk financial peril if they shop smartly and heed some dos and don’ts of holiday shopping. • Do set a budget. Establish what you can afford to spend on gifts and other seasonal trimmings early on. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average consumer will spend around $700 come the holiday season. But not every person needs to be a big spender. The “buy now, pay later” mentality that credit cards offer lands many shoppers in trouble, a sticky situation many only notice once the first bill comes due. If you cannot afford to pay your entire credit

Shoppers need not risk financial peril if they shop smartly and heed some dos and don’ts of holiday shopping. card balance off once the bill arrives, you face steep interest charges that can quickly add up. Instead, pick a set spending limit and keep to it no matter how tempting it may seem to overspend with a credit card. • Don’t be fooled by false sales. Retailers understand that a good ad-

Sports ...

vertised deal lures shoppers into their stores. As a result, some retailers mark up the cost of certain items in order to slash the prices for holiday sales. Even if you are saving the assumed 50 to 60 percent, the final cost of the item still may be higher than normal. Comparison shop and

from page 6

the tree but won’t be a hit to their bank accounts. • Video games: Many sports fans indulge in their love of a favorite sport by playing video games. Like most technology, video games are consistently reinvented, so last year’s game might already be outdated, making video games an ideal holiday gift. Those who want to go the extra mile can include a new gaming console along with the latest video game. • Tickets: Of course, sports

do your research so you don’t fall victim to clever pricing. • Do schedule time for shopping. Hectic schedules sometimes result in last-minute shopping that leads to impulse purchases. Schedule some distraction-free time for your holiday shopping so you’re less likely to rush

fans might like nothing more than tickets to see their favorite teams play. Buying directly from a sports team is a safe bet, but it can also be expensive. Savvy shoppers can explore the legal secondary market, which includes online retailers like or even league-affiliated programs like NFLTicket Exchange, where they might find more affordable tickets. When gifting tickets, do so far enough in advance of the game so fans have time to plan their trip and, if need be, take a day off from work.

into purchases before thinking them through. • Don’t double buy. Some shoppers use the holidays as an excuse to buy more for themselves than the people on their lists. While it’s tempting to treat yourself come the holiday season, this is a great and quick way to deplete your budget. If you plan on using holiday deals to supplement your own wardrobe or household needs, reduce your spending the rest of the year and save money for year-end purchases. • Do collect coupons and look for purchasing incentives. Comparison shopping not only helps you get the best price, but also it can shed light on coupons, shipping discounts and other incentives that lower the overall cost of products. Search online for Web sites that publish coupons and codes for online discounts, including free shipping. Join a store’s marketing list and receive emails with deals sent di-

rectly to your inbox. • Don’t be afraid to delay some purchases if need be. If hosting a postholiday gathering where gifts will be exchanged, it’s perfectly acceptable to delay buying those gifts until after Christmas or Chanukah, when many items can be found at even lower prices. Many stores reduce prices on merchandise come December 26, so you can wait until after the holidays to shop for items that will be exchanged with distant friends and relatives. This enables you to save more money and use any received gift cards toward shopping. • Do keep a level head. Some people forget the true meaning of the season is spending time with loved ones. Getting swept away by shopping and worrying about deadlines can make the season less enjoyable. Don’t allow the stress of holiday shopping to compromise an otherwise joyous time of year.

Last Minute Gift Guide • Friday, December 11, 2015 Page 9

Avoid the hidden costs of online shopping Online shopping saves shoppers the trouble of waiting in long lines while offering the convenience of around-theclock hours. With a few clicks of the keyboard or scrolls on a tablet, shoppers can typically find just about any product or service they desire. But additional fees and service charges that can quickly accumulate also are a part of online shopping. However, shoppers can mitigate such costs by identifying potential fees and learning how to keep them manageable. SHIPPING Shipping costs are a burden to online shoppers. Even when prices are low, shipping costs can offset those savings, especially for last-minute shoppers forced to select overnight or two-day shipping. Before completing checkout, check the estimated shipping costs to determine what the final cost will be. Avoid retailers who charge high fees or limit your shipping options. Watch for specials that advertise free

shipping, and stick with retailers that offer free or reduced shipping on particular days or times, then do the bulk of your shopping during those discounted periods. Some retailers offer free shipping to a store location. This affords consumers the convenience of shopping online without the added cost of having merchandise delivered to your home. POOR RETURN POLICY Before buying any items online, familiarize yourself with the return and exchange policies of the retailer. Although many sites post sizing charts and dimensions for furniture and other products, sizing mistakes can be made, and you may be responsible for the shipping costs when returning or exchanging items. Shop with retailers who have lenient return policies, including accepting exchanges or returns at area stores. Otherwise, rely on companies that include return labels and take care of the cost of exchanges.

RESTOCKING FEES Read the fine print when shopping online. Although rare, some retailers charge a restocking fee for returned items, particularly electronics. This fee may be 5 to 20 percent of the purchase price. IDENTITY THEFT The potential for identity theft is another concern when shopping online. Reputable retailers employ security measures to safeguard shoppers’ personal information. Encrypted Hidden fees can offset the benefits of shopping online. data, identifiable by a “locked” icon on the INTERNATIONAL check-out page, protects FEES billing information from Shopping online puts hackers. Although no you in touch with globsystem is entirely impen- al retailers. Purchasing etrable, encrypted sites from around the world are generally safe. may be easy, but navigatNever enter personal ing currency exchanges information unless a and other fees can be site is encrypted. It will difficult. cost you time and mayInternational sites be even money to refute may list the prices of fraudulent purchases, items at their currency and such issues may neg- rate, so what seems like atively affect your credit a good deal may be anyrating, even when they’re thing but. What’s more, not your fault. some shoppers may incur duty fees when accepting items from other countries, particularly if the value of the product is high. The Internet may be a good place to buy items at attractive prices from the convenience of home. However, shoppers should be aware of any hidden charges that can offset the benefits of shopping online.

Page 10 Last Minute Gift Guide â&#x20AC;˘ Friday, December 11, 2015

How to save on high-tech gifts Gadgets are among the most popular gifts come the holiday season. In 2013, CreditDonkey. com surveyed shoppers to determine what they planned to give during the holidays, and electronics were second only to gift cards among the most popular gifts to give. Sixty-three percent of respondents cited their intentions to give electronics, while the survey also found that 76 percent of people planned to request electronics as holiday gifts. Gadgets figure to be popular gifts again this holiday season. Unwrapping the latest tablet or a big-screen television can be exciting, but electronics can be expensive. Those who plan to give their loved ones the latest gadgetry should be happy to learn there are ways to do so that donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t require breaking the bank. â&#x20AC;˘ Scale back. Oftentimes people are buying more computer or data than they actually need. For example, when buying computers, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tempting to go for those that boast the most memory,

but that extra memory is only useful to those people who truly need it. A less expensive model that suits your loved oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s genuine needs will make for an impressive and more practical gift. â&#x20AC;˘ Determine necessity. Some gadgets are more a desire than a necessity. Decide if a particular device will be an asset to your loved one or just another trendy item that soon will be gathering dust. Look for devices that your loved one will make the most of. If the purchase is not warranted, save your money and look for something else. â&#x20AC;˘ Consider refurbished items. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t shy away from refurbished items, as the discounts can be steep. Refurbished items are often just items that were returned to the store because theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not needed or because the item was malfunctioning. Returned items are factory-tested and then repackaged. Opt for refurbished items that carry a manufacturerbacked warranty for greater peace of mind. â&#x20AC;˘ Consider open box items. Just because

packaging is dented or torn does not mean the merchandise inside is damaged. Purchasing a product thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not inside a pristine box can sometimes yield a 10 to 15 percent discount at retailers that offer openbox specials. Just verify that all cords, manuals and other accessories are inside the box before leaving the store. â&#x20AC;˘ Peruse previous generation models. Manufacturers release a new version of their devices seemingly every year. That doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean last yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s phone, video game console or computer is any less effective than the updated version. Models from previous years likely wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be much different from the latest models, but they do figure to be considerably less expensive. â&#x20AC;˘ Look for coupon codes. When researching products, search for coupon codes for desired electronics and retailers. Web-based retailers may post coupon codes that add up to significant savings. Just ensure that the total cost after taxes and shipping fees are calcu-

lated makes the purchase worth your while. â&#x20AC;˘ Skip the warranty. Extended warranties often cost more money than potential repairs. In addition, after a few

yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time, your loved one may be looking to upgrade his or her gadget anyway, making the extended warranty an unnecessary expense.

Gadgets make for popular yet expensive holiday gifts. But holiday shoppers can save money on electronics by employing a few savings strategies.

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Shoppers can employ several strategies to save money on gadgets this holiday season.

Last Minute Gift Guide â&#x20AC;˘ Friday, December 11, 2015 Page 11





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Page 12 Last Minute Gift Guide â&#x20AC;˘ Friday, December 11, 2015



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Make sure gifts arrive on time Come the holiday season, shipping companies work around the clock to ensure packages, merchandise and more make it to their destinations on time. What would December holidays be without gifts under the tree? In 2013, overtaxed carriers failed to meet Christmas deadlines for many packages. Some analysts say big retailers and carriers may have underestimated consumersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; growing reliance on online shopping - especially for last-minute presents. Since those mishaps, both UPS and FedEx have spent millions on upgrades. More fuelefficient planes, upgrades to air cargo networks and improved infrastructure and ground shipping operations have helped shipping companies better handle the increased volume. As shipping companies

work harder to ensure holiday packages arrive at their destinations on time, there also are things consumers can do to increase the chances that gifts make it under the tree before the big day. â&#x20AC;˘ Double-check all mailing addresses. Make sure you have the correct addresses for all friends or family members you will be sending gifts to. An incorrect address can result in packages being returned to sender or floating around in shipping limbo. All of this only decreases the likelihood that gifts will arrive on time. â&#x20AC;˘ Consider a ship-tostore option. A number of big retailers now offer various options that allow customers to purchase items online and pick them up in a nearby store. In-stock items may be available the same day, while others may have to be shipped to the store for



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When buying gifts online or mailing them to faraway loved ones, consumer must leave ample time for shipping.

a later pickup. â&#x20AC;˘ Enter shipping parameters. Signing up for either My FedEx or MyUPS gives you a little extra control over how packages are sent to you. For example, you can request that packages be held at a delivery center or you can presign for deliveries. These perks can help limit some lost or delayed packages. â&#x20AC;˘ Use proper postage. Bulky envelopes or large packages are better off brought to the post office for shipping instead of mailing them from home. Inadequate postage could stall delivery of your items and have them returned to you. â&#x20AC;˘ Research shipping cut-off dates. Shipping carriers often list the â&#x20AC;&#x153;last days to shipâ&#x20AC;? for their services so that packages will arrive by the date you need them. This way you can plan around the cutoffs. â&#x20AC;˘ Sign up for membership programs. Online retailers, such as Amazon, offer expedited shipping on many products as part of their membership programs. For example, Amazon Prime-eligible products will generally arrive within two business days as part of your annual membership fee. The added cost may be well worth the peace of mind fast shipping provides. An increase in online shopping as well as families living further apart has led to a high volume of gifts being shipped around the holidays. Plan accordingly so that gifts will arrive on time.

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