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Creative Money Giving For The Holidays

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generic, holiday, shopping, sales, gift cards

(Photo credit ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

420x316-grad-lee Dee Lee
Dee Lee is a Certified Financial Planner who received a diploma in...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Being creative about buying a gift for someone can be exhausting and if they don’t like it you have to return it! So consider giving cash as a gift. It certainly is quick, easy and never returned.

Stick it in an envelope or a fancy box and you are good to go. When my children were younger every year for Christmas they each got a $50 bill from a bachelor uncle. And each Thanksgiving they would begin to fantasize about how they would spend that money when it arrived.

If you want to be a bit more creative, give a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant. My daughter gives us a gift certificate and we spend most Tuesday evenings in January eating hamburgers at Gibbet Hill Grill. But be sure it’s a restaurant the recipient likes and not your favorite Mexican place.

Also some restaurants like, Not Your Average Joe’s, are offering a deal with gift cards. Buy $50 worth of gift cards and get another gift card worth $10 for yourself.

The grocery stores, nurseries and drugstore chains offer gift cards. Starbucks is a go-to card for my nieces each Christmas. They love it and it’s easy for me.

Consumers spent $87 billion on gift cards last year. This is big business! But some gift cards are trouble.

Massachusetts law requires that gift cards and gift certificates be redeemable at full face value for up to seven years. Federal law only requires five years so be forewarned. A gift card issued by a national bank follows the federal law. They may have hidden costs such an inactivity fee after six months of non-use. You want to purchase store issued cards and stay away from the bank or mall issued cards.

According to the Tower Group, a research firm, lost or unredeemed gift cards puts billions back into the pockets of the merchants.

If you are giving a gift card, be sure it’s for a store or service that the recipient will use. And beware of stores possibly going out of business. Linens-N-Things and Sharper Image are two examples in the last couple of years.

And if you are not happy with a gift card you received, I have found some resources for you. There are some sites on the web that allow the consumer to swap or sell their gift card. Here are just a few; Swap A Gift, Gift Card Rescue, and Card Pool.

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