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Dos and don’ts

of holiday shopping


hanks 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 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 advertised 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 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

Maximize time spent on holiday shopping


he holiday season encompasses several weeks of frenetic activity, as men and women look to juggle abnormally busy social schedules with holiday shopping. While you might not be able to add hours to the day, there are certain measures anyone can take to make the hustle and bustle of the holiday season more efficient.

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 directly to your inbox. • Don’t be afraid to delay some purchases if need be. If hosting a post-holiday 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.

Shopping swallows up a significant amount of time come the holiday season. According to the latest Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, the average person will spend 15 hours shopping for presents. Women tend to spend twice as long as men in stores and online, with women logging 20 hours of holiday shopping compared to the 10 hours the average male spends shopping for holiday gifts. Making the most of holiday shopping trips can free up moments and reduce overall stress during the holidays.

Shop off-hours Consumer Reports says shoppers expect to wait in store check-out lines for an average of 3.5 to 4 hours this holiday season. Avoiding such situations can save you a significant amount of time, so shop during off-peak hours when you won’t be elbow-to-elbow with fellow shoppers. Take advantage of stores’ extended hours and shop later in the evening, when parents and their children will likely be preparing for bed and not waiting in line at the mall. Some retailers entice shoppers with early bird specials and open their doors very early, so shoppers looking to save time can make an effort to be the first person at the door when the store opens. If you must shop during a lunch hour, shop online where crowds are never a concern.

Split up the shopping Condense your gift list How much time you spend on holiday shopping depends largely on the number of people on your gift list. Shortening that list can save time and money. This may be the year for adults to collectively decide to forego exchanging gifts in lieu of devoting more funds toward gifts for youngsters. Distant friends may no longer need to feel obligated to buy presents for one another. Opting to do a “Secret Santa” or another grab-bag style gift exchange can reduce the number of gifts you need to buy, saving time along the way.

Spouses, family members and even friends can pool their shopping time and help others by tackling some of their purchases. Dividing the work shortens the time spent in stores, and a third party may have a keen eye to a deal or a unique gift when he or she is emotionally removed from the purchase. The average person finds time is of the essence come the holiday season. Prioritizing and economizing shopping is one way to make the season less hectic.

Keep a spreadsheet of your shopping list stored on your computer or smartphone so it can be easily modified year-to-year.

Create a shopping strategy Millions of shoppers flock to stores on Black Friday to take advantage of doorbuster deals, and some even get all of their holiday shopping finished on this one afternoon. Others prefer to divide and conquer over a few weeks. Decide how you would like to economize your shopping so you won’t be traveling from store to store wasting precious time. Organize your shopping list into certain categories. Then match up those categories according to the stores that cater to these items. For example, if your list mentions bedding for a new college student’s dorm room, curtains for an aunt and a set of beach towels for a friend who will be doing some post-holiday travel, group these purchases together and head to a bed-and-bath store. Such a plan in place can greatly cut down on your time spent shopping.


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Holiday shopping

on a budget


he 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

Tips for early bird holiday shoppers


etting a head start on holiday shopping has its advantages. Holiday shoppers who begin their quests for the perfect gifts at the onset of the season or before the shopping season even begins often find the financial sting of holiday shopping is easier to manage when spread out over time, and starting early can save shoppers the hassle of navigating their ways through crowded stores and packed parking lots. But even holiday shoppers who hit the stores extra early should do so with a plan in hand, which can help shoppers save money while still finding the right gifts. 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. • Avoid last-minute shopping. Last-minute shopping may unearth some great deals, but it’s far more likely to back shoppers into corners as they race against time to complete their holiday shopping. When shopping is put off until the last minute, shoppers don’t have time to comparison shop and find better deals, and that can quickly turn a holiday budget upside down. Begin your holiday shopping as early as possible, and take advantage of holiday sales. • 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 post-holiday 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.

• Establish and stick to a budget. Just because you may be starting your holiday shopping early does not mean you should throw financial caution to the wind. Establish a budget so holiday shopping won’t find you facing significant debt, which is just as difficult to deal with in late fall as it is once the holidays have come and gone. If necessary, speak to family members before establishing your budget so you can all agree on holiday spending limits. Once you have established your holiday shopping budget, stick to it and avoid the temptation of overspending just because you’re starting early. • Take your time. Arguably the greatest luxury of getting a head start on holiday shopping is the ability to take your time so you don’t end up making expensive impulse purchases. Such purchases may be your only option if you wait until the last minute to start shopping, but starting early enables you to take your time and comparison shop so you can find the best deal. If you find a great gift in a store but want to find it for less money, shopping early allows you to shop around at another store or online to see if it’s more affordable elsewhere. Make the most of this extra time, and you’re liable to save a substantial amount of money over the course of the season.

Getting a head start on holiday shopping gives consumers more time to comparison shop and find better deals. • Get creative. Starting early may allow some holiday shoppers to skip the process of shopping altogether. Creative men and women with unique skills such as woodworking or making pottery may be able to create their own holiday gifts. Homemade gifts will likely take more time to create, but starting early allows you to go at your own pace while still ensuring your special gift will be ready to go come the holidays.

• Take advantage of early bird offers. Many online retailers want consumers to begin their holiday shopping early, so they offer incentives to shoppers who beat the holiday rush. Such retailers may waive shipping and handling charges or wrap gifts free of charge for shoppers who begin their holiday shopping early in the season. These offers typically disappear once the season hits full swing, so early bird shoppers should take advantage of such offers whenever possible.


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Use coupons to save on holiday purchases

Frugal gift

wrapping ideas


oupons have long been helping consumers save a few dollars on everything from supermarket staples to toys and more. Scouring for coupons and using them effectively has evolved into an art form, with some savvy coupon users paying next to nothing for carts full of merchandise. save on gift tags as well.

The average shopper may have little experience at finding coupons, but he or she can still save some money. As the holiday season approaches, it’s likely that coupon usage will once again be widespread. Here are some ways to put coupons to good use.

• Shop at stores that allow coupon stacking. Many store policies only allow shoppers one coupon per purchase. But a select few allow shoppers to stack coupons to save more money. In such situations, shoppers may be able to combine dollarvalue-off coupons with percentage-off coupons. In addition, some stores may not limit the number of coupons shoppers can use on a single transaction. Shopping at these stores with more flexible, consumerfriendly coupon policies can add up to significant savings over the course of the holiday shopping season.

• Check the restrictions before heading to the store. When planning to use coupons, shoppers should verify the fine print on the coupon before entering the store. Some coupons restrict which items can be purchased in conjunction with the coupon. For example, some stores may prohibit shoppers from using coupons when purchasing brand name or designer products, while others may limit when the coupon can be used. Blackout dates could apply, so shoppers should visit stores when no such restrictions apply.

• Do your research before leaving the house. Just because you don’t have a paper coupon from a mailer or newspaper doesn’t mean such coupons are nonexistent. Search popular coupon Web sites for online coupon codes or printable in-store coupons. Merchandise can even be shipped to the store, which is usually free, to save you even more on shipping costs for items purchased online.

• Purchase more to save. It may seem counterintuitive, but very often larger purchases qualify shoppers for steep discounts. Consider doing all of your shopping at one retailer and then taking advantage of coupons that deduct a certain

• Glass jars: Use mason jars when wrapping smaller gifts, including gift cards, to give them an arts-and-crafts feel. • Fabric gift bags: If you’re handy with a needle and thread, sew sacks out of leftover fabric to make gift bags of various sizes.

Holiday coupons can be found in the mail, newspaper advertisements and even online. percentage of your total purchase. It could be worth it if you spend just a little bit more. • Keep track of your coupons. Coupons are no use to you if you lose them before you begin your holiday shopping. Keep them in a safe location and then remember to bring them with you when shopping for the holidays. Some coupons can be used repeatedly, so do not discard them after use. When used effectively, coupons can save holiday shoppers a substantial amount of money.


oliday shoppers spend billions of dollars each year on gifts for friends, family and coworkers. But holiday shoppers also spend substantial amounts of money dressing up those gifts with bows and wrapping paper. Shoppers may not want to spend much more on wrapping paper, bags and other ways to dress-up their gifts, and by employing a few tricks of the gift wrapping trade, they may not have to. The following are some frugal, yet flashy, ways to wrap presents this holiday season. • Children’s artwork: Over the course of a school year parents can accumulate dozens of original pieces of art from their children’s time in the classroom. Instead of relegating those pictures to a memory box or temporary glory on the refrigerator, turn them into unique gift wrap. Pair these pieces of art with colored ribbon, and everyone who gets a unique masterpiece will feel special.

• Cookie tins: Find unique cookie tins from yard sales or leftover tins from holidays past and use them as gift boxes. • Recipes: If you will be giving a cookbook or food-themed gifts, print recipes that can be used as gift wrap and then later used to make certain dishes.

• Baby linens: From blankets to wash cloths, use baby linens to wrap infant-themed gifts for new parents. • Baskets: Wicker baskets are available in various shapes and sizes. They can be used to make a gift collection and then reused over and over again. There are many creative and inexpensive ways to wrap gifts this year instead of relying on preprinted and often expensive wrapping paper.

• Newspaper: Recycle newsprint and comics into wrapping paper. Encourage everyone to wrap in newspaper for a cohesive look come Christmas morning. • Cloth: Leftover cloth from Halloween or cloth purchased to create homemade curtains can be turned into giftwrap for awkward-shaped gifts. Use decorative ribbon to seal the bundle shut. • Brown paper: Brown paper tied with twine or ribbon is inexpensive and can easily be recycled after use. Use a marker to put the names of gift recipients on each package to


How to

go green when holiday shopping can protect the environment and also save consumers money on utility bills. • Plan shopping trips in advance. The holiday season can be hectic, and as a result many holiday shoppers find themselves getting their holiday shopping done as time allows. But breaking up holiday shopping into several trips can increase fuel consumption and lead to more time spent in traffic, where vehicle emissions can contribute to air pollution. Instead of getting your shopping done on several quick trips, plan a holiday shopping trip in advance, setting aside enough time to get as much shopping done as possible in a single trip. This can cut back on some of the stress of holiday shopping and benefit the environment at the same time.


he color green is synonymous with the holiday season. But as holiday revelers deck their halls with green this season, they also can go green when shopping for loved ones.

Many shoppers are concerned by their carbon footprints. In an effort to embrace a more eco-friendly lifestyle, such shoppers may look for ways to continue their holiday traditions, but do so in a way that’s more considerate of the environment. Though the holiday season is often associated with excess, holiday shoppers can still find ecofriendly ways to put smiles on their loved ones’ faces this year.

• Purchase energy efficient products. The holiday season is a great time of year to find deals on major appliances, which may be on sale to make room for next year’s models. When shopping for appliances this holiday season, shoppers should look for energy efficient products that consume less energy without sacrificing performance. Since the institution of its ENERGY STAR® program in 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has helped consumers invest in energy-efficient products that helped reduce air pollution and energy consumption. The program has since expanded into Canada as well. When purchasing appliances this holiday season, shoppers should look for ENERGY STAR qualified products, which


• Set up a holiday shopping carpool. Many people carpool to and from work, and such a system can be employed when holiday shopping as well. Plan a shopping trip to the mall with neighbors or friends to cut back on your fuel consumption and vehicle emissions. Sedan or coupe owners may want to limit their carpools to two people so there’s enough room in the car for gifts on the way home, while minivan or SUV owners should still have ample room for multiple passengers and their presents. Remove unnecessary cargo from the trunk or other storage areas before beginning your trip. • Create your own gifts. Worried about purchasing products with excessive packaging? Then try your hand at creating

gifts instead of giving overpackaged store-bought items. Homemade gifts may be more well-received than another necktie or pair of slippers, and such gifts don’t have to be packaged at all. • Buy local. When shopping for the holiday, look for locally-produced products, whether it’s arts and crafts produced at a nearby store or organic foods purchased from a local farmer’s market. Locally produced products don’t need to be shipped to make it onto the shelves at local stores, making such products far more eco-friendly than mass-produced products shipped from factories far away. The holidays may not seem like an eco-friendly time of year, but shoppers can take steps to reduce their carbon footprints when shopping this holiday season.

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Are cash

gifts tacky or ideal?

that’s best avoided.

Advantages One of the advantages to giving cash is it eliminates waste. Unlike gifts that will never be used and simply take up space, cash will be used sooner or later. How often have you received a sweater you won’t wear or a trinket you won’t use? Sometimes people return these gifts, but very often they get relegated to a pile of belongings that will end up in the garbage or stashed in the back of a closet. Cash eliminates this waste by giving a person the opportunity to buy exactly what he or she wants.


hen faced with a gift list a mile long and no idea what to get certain individuals on that list, many holiday shoppers opt to give cash as a present. Cash gifts are easy, one-size-fits all and no one will request a receipt to return a cash gift. Still, some people are not quite sure if it is socially acceptable to give a gift of cash. There are many pros and cons to giving cash as a gift. Once a person weighs the advantages and the disadvantages to giving cold hard cash as a gift, then he or she can decide if cash is an ideal present or one

Cash gifts may be ideal for older people to give because they have limited mobility and cannot get out to the store to shop for presents. And grandparents unaware of the latest trends can give cash in a card and instruct grandchildren to purchase something they like. Some people overextend themselves during the holiday season, and a cash gift can soften the blow of holiday spending. Cash is very portable, which can make it easier for those who travel for the holidays to avoid shipping costs or extra baggage fees to take gifts on airlines.

People are inundated with a lot of stuff already, and a cash gift might be just what the doctor ordered.

Disadvantages Cash gifts may be considered impersonal and lacking in creativity. It does not take much effort to stash a dollar amount inside of an envelope and present it, so gift recipients may question their relationships with gift givers who give cash. For many people, the excitement of the holidays has a lot to do with seeing a giant pile of gifts waiting to be unwrapped. Gifting cash removes that excitement of presents under the tree. Although items can be purchased later on, the immediate gratification of tearing through boxes and bags simply is not there. Some people find it awkward to receive cash because the value of the gift is right there in black and white. It puts both people on the spot and may create some uncomfortable moments if the value of a cash gift does not match up to what the cash recipient spent on the cash giver. When gifting standard gifts, many people are unaware of what the other spent and if the item was purchased on a discount. If you gift with cash, there is

‘Tis the season for shipping gifts


ravel is a staple of the holiday season. Many men and women find themselves spending a significant amount of time in the air or on the road, whether traveling to visit family or embarking on a holiday getaway.

For those who must fly to their holiday destinations, travel can present certain obstacles, as baggage restrictions and fees have made it more difficult and more expensive to travel with gifts in tow. But savvy holiday shoppers need not worry about fitting all of those gifts into their overstuffed luggage. Shipping gifts is a far more convenient way to get all those precious presents from point A to point B, and it saves travelers money on airline baggage fees. When shipping gifts this holiday season, consider the following tips.

• Use the right box. Boxes come in all shapes and sizes, and there are packing methods to ensure gifts arrive intact. The gift should not have much wiggle room inside the box, as the


more the gift can move around the more likely it is to break. Gently shake the box before closing it, adding any padding if the gift is moving around too much, otherwise move the gift to a smaller box. A box also should not be too small, as it may break before reaching its destination. • Wrap each individual item. When shipping holiday gifts, it’s often most convenient to include several items in one large box. When doing so, wrap each item separately in air-filled wrapping or newspaper. This reduces the risk of items breaking during shipping. • Line the interior of the box with a garbage bag. A garbage bag lining along the inside of the box can help to prevent potential water damage from rain, snow or other leaky packages. • Tightly tape the box. Once items are inside the box, be sure to use professional packing

tape. Though there are cheaper alternatives available, professional packing tape is far more likely to hold up as the item travels from your home to its ultimate destination. Low quality tape could split or tear, resulting in a situation where boxes break open and items fall out. • Pay attention when reusing boxes. Reusing boxes is a great way to benefit the environment when shipping holiday gifts, but carefully examine the box before shipping it. Old labels and bar codes should be removed so packages ultimately end up in the correct destination. In addition, check any boxes for wear and tear before reusing them. Avoid using any boxes with previous water damage or tears. • Double check addresses. Before shipping items, double check the address, making sure the name, address and ZIP code are correct. Confirm the information with the recipient as well. Be sure to write the address and full ZIP code in the method the shipping company

no hiding the value. Another disadvantage is if a person gives cash and receives cash in return. Do the two gifts cancel each other out? What if the amounts are different? Dealing in cash alone can be awkward. There are ways to make giving cash a little more acceptable. If you get creative when handing over the money, this may take away from the fact that cash does not make a very dramatic gift. • Try pairing the cash with a wallet or purse to make the presentation a little more interesting. • Send the recipient on a scavenger hunt for the money, writing clues and hiding them around the house. • Create a money tree or wreath that displays the cash in an interesting way. • Fold bills into bows or tape together to make wrapping paper for a small token gift. • For children, roll up bills and put it into a crayon box or pencil case. • Fill up a large box with a lot of filler and hide the cash inside of a smaller box tucked inside. requires to ensure prompt delivery. • Include an extra mailing label inside the box. Inclement weather is common come the holiday season, and some packages may fall victim to the elements. In such situations, shipping labels can be compromised, and some shipping companies have admitted they will open the box to look for a backup label if the exterior label has been soiled. Include an extra mailing label inside the box as a backup plan.

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Gifts no outdoor Unique gift ideas for the enthusiast can resist family globetrotter


he great outdoors is even greater when you’re prepared for all of the things Mother Nature can throw your way. Holiday shoppers with a person who enjoys the outdoors on their shopping list can turn this holiday season into a truly joyous occasion with the following gifts tailor-made for tackling the great outdoors.

• Folding kayak: Kayaking is a great way to take in the great outdoors, but not everyone has the room at home to store kayaks when they aren’t being used to traverse nearby waterways. Those who live in apartments, condominiums or smaller homes with limited storage may appreciate a folding kayak, which can be stored in a closet or beneath a bed and put together in a matter of minutes. Folding kayaks that can be stored in vehicle trunks and quickly assembled once you arrive at your kayaking destination also can save kayakers money on roof racks for their vehicles.

• Waterproof backpack: A good outdoor person knows never to leave home without a waterproof parka, but what about his or her backpack? A waterproof backpack protects valuables, including cell phones, cameras and tools, from the elements. Look for backpacks with waterproof zipper systems to ensure your loved one’s valuables are fully

protected on rainy treks through the forest. • Water filter: Drinking straight from natural water sources may seem like a genuinely adventurous thing to do, but it’s genuinely dangerous as well. A hiker’s water filter greatly reduces his or her risk of suffering illness after drinking water tainted with bacteria such as E.coli. Even the most serene streams or isolated rivers can contain harmful bacteria, so a portable water filter is a necessity. • Compass: Many of us have grown to rely on our smartphone apps to get us from point A to point B. While such apps may do the job when we are near cell phone towers, phone signals are often less reliable in more remote locations, such as forests and national parks. A reliable compass is all one may need to make his or her way through the w wilderness. • Hot dog roasters: No trip to the great o outdoors is complete without roasting some h hot dogs over an open flame. But far too m many hot dogs have been lost to the fire th thanks to traditional campfire forks that don’t p provide adequate hold as hot dogs cook over a an open flame. Curly hot dog roasters wrap a around the hot dogs, snuggly holding them in place as the franks cook.


passion for traveling leads many people tto ggo abroad b d and d experience other cultures or explore the sites closer to home. Those with an avid traveler in their midst can tie into this love of exploring and give travel-themed gifts. Gifting the family globetrotter is not always easy, however. Travelers tend to bring home mementos of their trips and make it seem as if they already have everything they need. Gifts purchased at the local store may seem to pale in comparison to more exotic trinkets. But gifting travelers doesn’t have to be difficult. The following gifts should make great gifts for your favorite adventurer this holiday season. • Travel journal: Many people love to document their trips, describing journeys to exotic locales or simply a family trip to a nearby campground. Travel journals make great gifts for those travelers who want more than just visual memories of their trip. Be sure to buy a journal that’s sturdy enough to handle all the bumps and bruises that accompany a nomadic lifestyle. Leatherbound or hardcover journals should suffice. • Travel kit: Travelers know the value of a good travel kit, which can help them freshen up during long layovers at the airport or once they arrive at their destinations. In addition, a travel kit allows travelers to pack some of the comforts of home, such as moisturizer, shaving gel or a particular type of toothpaste, that might not be readily available at their destinations. When gifting a travel kit, place some of those favorite products, such as

Holiday shoppers have a number of travelthemed options at their disposal when finding the right gift for that special someone who loves to travel.

travel-size mouthwash or some luxury moisturizing creams, inside the kit for a special gift-within-the-gift. • Noise-cancelling headphones: A set of noise-cancelling headphones is a gift no globetrotter should go without. These headphones reduce ambient noise and can make it easier to doze off comfortably on a flight or to enjoy a music playlist while sightseeing in a busy city. • Maps: Domestic travelers may be able to rely on their smartphones for directions, but overseas travelers may need to keep their phones off when traveling overseas to avoid heavy surcharges. In such instances, maps make great gifts, especially if you find out in advance where your special traveler will be visiting next and gift a map of that particular locale.

• Gas card: For some, the joy of travel stems from getting behind the wheel and hitting the open road. If that’s true of your favorite travel aficionado, consider a gas card that can alleviate some of the cost of his or her next trip. Gift cards to filling stations can be purchased in just about any denomination, and your loved one will appreciate their free pass at the pump on their next road trip.


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Is your child ready for a tablet? T

ablets are poised to grow more popular in the years to come, and many children are anxious to get their very own tablet. But many parents wonder if their kids are ready for a tablet and if such devices would make good gifts for their youngsters this holiday season.

According to a 2012 report from Pew Research, 22 percent of American adults now own some type of tablet, while In-Stat research estimates 65 percent of Americans, or more than 200 million people, will have a smartphone and/or tablet by 2015. According to a Fall 2012 report by the Media Technology Monitor, an estimated 26 percent of the Canadian population has a tablet, more than twice the amount of tablet owners just a year earlier.

As tablets become the device of choice, many different manufacturers have entered the tablet market, and children have begun to ask for tablets for holiday gifts, leaving parents wondering if their children are responsible enough to own a tablet that may cost several hundreds of dollars.

Price-wary parents should realize that tablet prices vary greatly depending on the device. But a growing number of child-friendly tablets have entered the market, and such devices are designed to be more durable for children who have a tendency to drop and destroy things. Those on the fence about whether or not to purchase a tablet for a child can consider these options.

• The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids is a tablet that comes with a selection of educational functions, games and e-books.

The device allows parents to decide which apps can be accessed on the device and restrict use to certain periods of time. The Galaxy Tab 3 Kids boasts a seven-inch screen and will run Android 4.1 or Jelly Bean. The front and rear facing cameras are considerably lower in quality than Samsung’s previous products, down to 3-megapixels and 1.3-megapixels, respectively. • The VTech InnoTab tailors apps to children in a compact device. The screen is just five inches in size, and the tablet comes packed with interactive e-books, learning games and other creative tools. It also has a modest price tag for a child’s first foray into the world of tablets. • The LeapFrog Leappad Ultra is a kid’s learning tablet designed for children between the ages of four and nine. It comes with a seven-inch screen, Wi-Fi with kid-safe Web access and the ability to connect to a library of more than 800 educator-approved apps, books and more. • The nabi is an Android tablet that is geared entirely toward kids. The nabi comes in several different incarnations (nabi Jr., nabi 2 and nabi XD) depending on the age of the child and the desired features. In July of 2013, Fushu, Inc., creator of the nabi tablet, was received the “Best Tablet 2013: For Kids” award from Laptop magazine for its nabi 2 device. • The Amazon Kindle Fire is quickly becoming a go-to option for parents interested in acclimating their children to a tablet. Less than half of the price of its biggest competitor, the Kindle Fire still

allows kids to access a bevy of features. Music, movies and Amazon’s evergrowing trove of e-books are just some of the features that make the Kindle Fire a popular choice. • Though small, the iPad mini has all of the features of a larger iPad but in a more kidfriendly size. Many parents prefer the iPad mini for their children because they have Apple products and appreciate being able to share with their kids apps and information among all of the devices. Determining if a child is ready for a tablet

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Prevent identity theft

during the holidays


s the holiday shopping season approaches, consumers are once again preparing to do a significant amount of their holiday shopping online, while many others will rely on debit and credit cards to make their in-store purchases. Though banks and online retailers have made holiday shopping easier in many ways, that convenience has also made shoppers more vulnerable to identity theft.

The hectic nature of the holidays season can make it harder for holiday shoppers to recognize if their personal information has been compromised. As a result, many men and women do not realize that they have been victimized by identity thieves until after the season has come and gone.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, identity theft affects 10

million Americans each year, costing individuals and businesses $52 billion. But Americans aren’t the only ones at risk of identity theft, which can victimize holiday shoppers whether they’re shopping at the nearby mall or from the comforts of home. When shopping this holiday season, shoppers should consider the following safety measures to reduce their risk of identity theft.

• Confirm the legitimacy of online retailers. Many online scammers masquerade as legitimate businesses. Some may even steal logos or information from real businesses to make their scam appear more legitimate. When shopping online, stick to well-known retailers or verify with the Better Business Bureau or another watchdog organization that a Web site is operated by a reputable business.

• Check for a secured browser. Reputable online retailers encrypt their customers’ personal information. Look for a “locked” icon on the browser before entering payment information, or check to see if the URL has an “https” prefix, which means the site is secured.

• Beware of credit card skimmers. Skimmers are devices that read the

information on the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card. Some are planted on ATM machines or self-service kiosks at stores. They can be hard to detect. Certain skimmers can even skim the information off a card while it is still in a wallet or purse. Some devices can block the capture of signals from the cards. But even consumers who have such devices should still check their bank and credit card statements to determine if their cards have been skimmed. • Promptly check credit and debit balances for accuracy. Routinely check purchases against the records of credit card companies and banks. Log into online accounts to verify any purchases and report any inaccuracies immediately. Recognizing fraudulent activity early on can help consumers recover their money quickly and prevent any further problems. • Opt for credit over debit. Credit cards come with zero liability policies, which means consumers will not be held responsible for fraudulent purchases. Debit cards do not always offer the same level of protection, and debit cards linked directly to a bank account could put consumers at greater risk. • Keep receipts. Being cautious with receipts doesn’t just facilitate potential returns. Receipts often include a lot of personal information, including the shopper’s name, signature and credit card number. These receipts could be the doorway to identity theft.


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• Password protect everything. A lost smartphone or tablet could provide a thief with a lot of personal information if it is not locked down with a password. Also, always use a secured wireless signal when shopping online or accessing personal account information. • Don’t carry extraneous information in a wallet. A lost wallet is less problematic when it isn’t filled with scores of credit cards and a social security card. Consumers should limit the amount of personal information stored in their wallets.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2013