This year instead of giving random gift cards or sweaters that will linger in dresser drawers, think about giving a gift that saves money. With the economy tight, jobs scarce, and money crunched and budgeted to the last dime, gifts that save money all year will be doubly appreciated by their recipients.
TUTORIAL: Investing 101
When thinking about gifts that save money, think practical. Products for home improvement, saving water, saving energy or saving at the grocery store will keep "giving" back.
Controlling the temperature in your home throughout the year (heat and A/C) can save you hundreds of dollars. Programming the temperature to be comfortable when you are home and reduce usage when you're away is a practical and easy way to save on utility costs. The thermostat costs about $30 at a home improvement store; installation if needed, is an additional cost. It is an inexpensive gift that can save hundreds of dollars all year. (For related reading, see 5 Tips For Saving Money On Wedding Gifts.)
Bottled water is costs more per ounce than gasoline. A 15 ounce bottle of water in a vending machine costs $1.00 on average, or five cents per ounce. The price of gasoline on average is $3 per gallon or two cents per ounce. If you multiply that by the day, that is an expensive drink of water. An average water filter for the kitchen faucet is simple to install, costs less than $35 dollars, and the filters, which cost between $8 and $11, will last three months. Plus, your gift recipient will be keeping a few hundred plastic bottles out of a landfill. If you add a reusable, washable sports bottle to the gift you'll be saving him or her even more money.
Who hasn't sat in a parking lot and heard that dreaded "click, click" sound of a dead battery? Giving an AAA membership is a practical gift that can save all year by not only jump-starting a dead battery, but offering your gift recipient discounts on trips, car rentals, discounts at many retail outlets and discounts on insurance. Membership prices depend on your location, but typically are between $60 to $70 per year. There are several levels of memberships available. (For related reading, see Top 5 Easy Saving Tips.)
Personal Finance Books
If you have people on your gift-giving list that are young and starting out, middle-aged and planning for the future, or more mature and seeking retirement guidance, there are great books to help all of them. A number of financial "gurus" have books that can help nearly everyone at every stage of their life learn to take charge of their financial well-being. Author Dave Ramsey has taught many how become "debt free," Suze Orman gives hard advice that will help achieve goals, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko can teach you how to be "The Millionaire Next Door," and don't overlook Clark Howard and his money saving techniques. Any of these books make great gifts that will teach financial responsibility, give money guidance and help save money all year long.
Kill-A-Watt Energy Monitor
With ever increasing energy costs, anything that helps teach you how to reduce your energy consumption will help save money. One of the coolest gadgets out there is a "Kill-A-Watt-Energy Monitor." You attach the monitor to any appliance in your home and it will tell you how many kilowatts that particular item is using. Even when an appliance is turned off, if it's plugged in, it is using power. It will be very surprising what appliances use the most energy, even when not in use. Giving this can help reduce energy consumption, thereby saving money all year.
A Few Quick Gifts That Save
Here are a few quick gifts ideas that will save without breaking your own budget.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Reusable shopping bags can be bought at most larger retailers like grocers and Walmart. They can be purchased for as little as 99 cents each. A few retailers, like CVS, give customers a card that can be "punched" that will give customers savings discounts whenever they present their "green" reusable bag.
Rechargeable batteries cost a bit more at purchase, but can help you save in the long run. Most electronic devices and toys require batteries, and replacing them throughout the year can cost well over $100. Rechargeable batteries save money and save the landfill.
Fluorescent and LED Lights
Fluorescent and LED lights use nearly two-thirds less energy than regular light bulbs, are significantly brighter, and, according to Consumer Reports, will last nearly 50-times longer than incandescent bulbs. Just remember to put a "do not shake" sticker on this gift.
The Bottom Line
While these gifts may not receive the "oohs and awws" of others, they are practical, needed and will help to save money all year. With money tight, the economy stagnant and everyone needing to save money, these gifts will be appreciated and you'll be thought of each time someone turns on a light. (For related reading, see 4 Types Of Gift Giving That Will Leave You Broke.)