Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Give the Gift of Improved Finances

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Give the Gift of Improved Finances

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Christmas is upon us, and I still haven't bought anything.

I just haven't mustered the energy to shop. And I'm not alone. A survey conducted Dec. 3-5 by RetailMeNot found that 87 percent of consumers still had holiday shopping to do.

Maybe you haven't finished your shopping because you don't know what to buy. Perhaps I can help. How about a money-minded gift?

Give cash. Cash is king, and it's really supreme when used to help pay someone's bill. Times are still pretty tough for a lot of people. So rather than give them something they don't need, help them get out of debt, catch up on an overdue bill or get ahead of one.

Be careful with this gift. You don't want to support a pattern of bad financial management. But you can help an otherwise financially responsible close friend or family member who has experienced a hardship. You also need to be careful not to offend. People can be prideful.

Create a gift certificate offering specific help with something. Offer to pay a cable bill or utilities for a month. Put that on the certificate. Regiftable.com allows you to personalize a certificate with five nice themes. (Click on the link "Don't Want to Regift.") Write a letter expressing your desire to help them not with a handout but a hand up. If you can, when the certificate is redeemed, pay the bill directly.

Give knowledge. Reading is fundamental and essential to understanding personal finance. Give someone a subscription to a magazine that can literally enrich his or her life. They may not jump for joy. But you don't know how many times I've heard someone say, "I have no idea how to invest."

I read Black Enterprise, Money magazine (published by Time) and Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. I would be thrilled to get a subscription to Consumer Reports. My husband and I consistently consult Consumer Reports before purchasing a lot of things -- a car, household appliances or any electronics. But the magazine provides so much more than product reviews. The writers provide unbiased analysis of so many personal-finance issues.

With this gift, get the current issue of the magazine you want to give and include a note that you are providing a year's subscription. …

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