While it may be hard to put an exact dollar amount on how many holiday gifts will be returned this year, the numbers always seem to go up. At the end of 2020, the National Retail Federation expected more than 13% of merchandise sold during the winter holiday season to be sent back, equating to an estimated cost of $101 billion.
There’s one thing for certain as we close out a second year marked by a global health pandemic, giving gifts that invests in a person’s financial future or teaches them to be smart with money won’t need to be returned or re-gifted and may even be truly appreciated. If you are looking to give loved ones meaningful gifts to set them on a positive financial path, consider these ideas:
College savings accounts
One way to invest in someone’s future is by opening or contributing to a 529 savings plan to help with the spiraling cost of higher education. These savings plans work much like Roth IRAs in that you contribute after-tax money to the account, and your dollars are then invested and grow tax-free. When it’s time to pull the money out, as long as you use the proceeds for education, no taxes will be owed. Savingforcollege.com offers details on plans in every state.
Animal Crossing New Horizons
At first blush, this video game from Nintendo may not seem like a way to teach money lessons. But spend more than five minutes watching your kids, grandchildren or nieces and nephews play the popular community simulation game where the price of food changes daily and you’ll understand its potential positive impact. Players can build island communities and upgrade a home, earn miles for trips, take out a loan and even pay off debt by performing tasks such as selling fish, collecting apples or picking up sticks. This game also can be used as a conversation starter on basic money management skills such as the importance of budgeting and the tenets of supply and demand.
College exam prep courses
Sometimes a few points either way on a college entrance exam such as the SAT can mean the difference between a full-ride scholarship and a partial award that offers thousands less in aid. Online courses also can be a less-expensive option to help students who are motivated to move their scores up succeed.
Session with a financial planner
This particular present is obviously not for everyone on your list. Often parents or grandparents will arrange for their own financial advisor or planner to meet with their children or grandchildren as a way to help them learn about everything from how to budget to the value of creating short-, medium- and long-term savings goals. For a list of certified financial planners in your area visit letsmakeaplan.org.
Books on money
Maybe you have a friend or family member who could use some solid career advice to help them finally gather the confidence to find a better job or start the business they’ve been dreaming about for years. There are dozens of excellent books available to help meet those goals. Be sure, though, to match the book to the age and interest level of the person receiving it. And if you want your money to stay in your community, visit a local book store and ask the staff for their recommendations. That way, you’re helping the recipient of the book and the store owner.
With reporting by Casandra Andrews