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Do e-gift cards sent on social media make good holiday gifts? Not always

Giving e-gift cards doesn't mean your gift can't be personalizedOver the last couple of decades, gift cards have become the gift of choice for many. It’s not hard to see why: They are convenient to give, and recipients often enjoy them more than a gift you’d pick out for them, since it allows them to get what they want.

Gift giving is even easier now, thanks to the fact that it’s possible to send e-gift cards through social media. Over the summer I sent an Amazon gift card to my brother-in-law via Facebook. It was a huge hit, since he loves shopping on Amazon, and we keep up with each other through Facebook. It was the perfect way to send him a birthday gift he could use. But Facebook isn’t the only social media gift source. Now Twitter has gotten into the act, allowing users to send Starbucks e-gift cards to other Twitter users.

But what do e-gift cards mean for etiquette? Do we run the risk of alienating friends and family by sending gifts through Facebook and Twitter?


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 Personal Finance, Taxes 
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Gift Tax

Gift!Did you know that if you get someone a gift, you are responsible for paying income tax on that gift?

Yep, it’s known as the gift tax. Fortunately, there’s an annual exclusion involved. So you won’t be tagged for that gift card you bought your co-worker to commemorate his screaming arrival into this world.

But for the affluent, and those who are worried about the estate tax, the gift tax is very relevant. See, when you give someone a gift that exceeds the annual limit ($13,000 this year), you are required to pay income tax on those gifts on your tax return. You could also arrange it so that the recipient pays the taxes, but that requires special tax assistance.

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 Frugal Living 
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5 Green Gifts of Experience and Time

Festival Holidays!As the holiday season of sparkle and glitter quickly approaches, it’s easy to get swept up in the costly winds of buying, giving and receiving. Personally, I’ve spent way too many hours browsing the aisles (at the last minute) trying to find the perfect thing that my friend will like love not have to re-gift!! This year, instead of mindlessly scanning the shelves, take a moment and plan a gift that will create memories, warm hearts and build friendships without adding any financial stress.

Here are some of my ideas to get your creative giving juices flowing.

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 Frugal Living 
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Understand the Five Love Languages

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and it’s a day when many men and women will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on gifts, activities, and other acts of lavishness in the name of love and affection. If you’re one of the many procrastinators out there, you probably will pick your gift today. However, have you ever considered that the object of your affection has no interest in objects whatsoever? Have you considered that he or she may actually prefer quality time over a trinket? What I’m talking about is a concept known as love languages and one that my friend Fred (who writes at a home improvement blog called One Project Closer) mentioned to me today. The concept of Five Love Languages was popularized by one Dr. Chapman and you can discover your love language in a mere thirty seconds (it’s actually far quicker).

So, why am I writing about this? So many people erroneously think that gifts are the way to a person’s heart, by this I really mean mostly men (but some women). A lot of guys think that if they spend a lot of money then they can get away with something last minute that requires very little thought. I know a friend who, when he thought his girlfriend would be upset, just ran off and bought a bathrobe and some perfume for her (I have no idea if it worked but it did cost him $60). For some people, that works. For others, it’s never going to work. Understanding the love languages is crucial to ensuring that you’re spending money and effort in a way that the recipient will fully appreciate and react favorably to.

Now, back to the five love languages. They are:

  • Words of Affirmation – People who speak this language respond most favorably to words of encouragement, compliments, and other acts of verbal kindness.
  • Quality Time – People who speak this language respond most favorably to spending quality time with their loved ones.
  • Receiving Gifts – People who speak this language respond most favorably to gifts and visual symbols of love.
  • Acts of Service – People who speak this language respond most favorably to favors and things that their partner does on their behalf, regardless of size or significance.
  • Physical Touch – Vavavoooom baby. :) Actually, it’s more than that but you get the idea.

How do you apply this? Well, if you know that your partner responds more favorably to acts of service, then you know that buying him or her a lavish gift just isn’t going to get the results you want. If your partner wants quality time, give him or her quality time… not high fives or a congratulations on a job well done. And if your partner wants physical touch, heck it’s Valentine’s Day, touch them. :)


 Personal Finance 
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Giving Subscriptions as Gifts

For some odd reason, my brain is programmed to think that when you’re giving a gift, you’re usually giving something finite. Whether it’s straight cash (think Chinese New Year red envelopes), a stupid gift card, or some sort of product or service, I generally think of a gift as something that happens “once” and then never again. When I rack my brain for gift ideas, I often think of these finite type things when you can give something that lasts a whole lot longer – a subscription. Whether it’s a magazine subscription (the more common one) or a service subscription (membership to some organization they really love), giving a gift that actually keeps on giving is something that I only recently though of and it’s a phenomenal idea.

I’ll use magazines as the example run with it…

Magazine subscriptions are dirt cheap. You can find basically any magazine off eBay for a fraction of what they cost directly and for a microscopic fraction of the newsstand price. Most of the eBay sellers are reputable but if you don’t trust them, you can always turn to reliable powerhouse Amazon.com or some of the other smaller magazine shops online like NetMagazines or Magazines.com.

Magazines come every month and every month your recipient gets reminded how you got them such an awesome gift. Sure, if you got a product as a gift you get reminded every time you use it (I remember getting a knife two years ago, I still use that knife today – thanks Mattybo!), but a subscription is recurring, regular, and lasts for at least a year.

Dollar for dollar, a magazine provides the most time per dollar… if you pick the right subscription. When I read a magazine, it usually takes a few days before I actually make it all the way through. In fact, some magazines will take weeks as I will often set it down, forget about it, and then pick it up later. Magazines are nice because the articles are so bite-sized, unlike an entire book, so you can really enjoy it in manageable chunks… for a long long time.

So, next time you’re thinking about getting a gift, consider a subscription!


 Personal Finance 
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When Is A Gift More Than A Gift? [Part 3]

I am proud to present the third and final installment of the discussion between Saladdin and Tim with regards to gifts, which was spawned from a post I wrote about ideas to solve the 20% down payment dilemma. Tim and Saladdin come from two different schools of thought. As we’ve read in prior parts, Tim argues that one should not judge the gifter and simply be honored to be receiving the gift. Whether the gifter is a parent, relative, or someone else; one should accept the gift graciously instead of rejecting it out of hand. Saladdin comes from the perspective that one should not accept charity and one should work for their share in life. Both perspectives are powerful and both are certainly understandable. In this final chapter, we tie up some loose ends.

Part 1 and Part 2 are available if this is the first time you’ve seen this discussion.

Saladdin: Just as I do not think you are running around with your hand out yelling give me, give me you shouldn’t think that I am running around murmuring under my breath “Those lucky rich bastards. I really pity them driving dad’s car.” I don’t lose sleep over others. Yes I think about this stuff but in a way that I try to learn what really makes me tick. I want to understand my thought processes while maybe fixing some loose wires.

I would like to answer the question about being a parent to my girlfriend. (All the sex jokes aside here since we are just a couple of friends talking over a few beers.) I just don’t see the reasoning. It is a give and take relationship. I never consider the help a gift because of that reason. It is no more a parent relationship then with your marriage. Do you not help her? Would you stop helping her? Can she not leave you also? I just don’t see the difference. I guess you are a parent to your wife also. Maybe I just did not explain myself well enough.

I lived in Japan for 2 years. I never knew that such an importance was placed on the color of envelopes until then. Of course I was just a kid who had never been out of my home state except to see some Cardinal games.

Maybe I am getting too philosophical but off the top of my head I can’t think of too many things that do not have strings attached. Isn’t an obligation a string? As a parent, brother or husband do you and I not have obligations that are automatic and come with the territory by birth alone? Are those not strings?

The definitions of pity and jealousy, I think, separate us. They are both legitimate, human emotions and I have them both. I’m not jealous of my friend or you for that matter. As an adult I can’t recall whispering “Boy I wish I had that instead of him…” I have another friend that last week won 100K in the lottery. His wife was laid off work just last month. When he told me the thought of jealousy never entered my mind. I was actually happy for him. Of course I had to bite my tongue when he told me his spending plan. But that is another story.

But again, what is wrong with having pride?

I think we are closer then you realize in our opinions. You mention your friend and the parents buying them a house and the difference in values. Also to me it is not the gift itself but the values behind it. I think I phrased it as the way the gift was received not the gift itself.

I would like to ask do you think it right to solicit for a gift. Is it ok for someone to go to their parents and ask for 20% down?

Tim: There is nothing wrong with soliciting the 20% down payment either. If your friends and family can afford to do so and chooses to do so, why not. They in fact do have the ability to say no. We have no qualms about soliciting money from a bank, yet we somehow have an issue with soliciting money from family.

Perhaps it is the way you are explaining your relationship with your girlfriend that makes it seem you are acting the parent. We already know you acted the parent for your brother. Your expectations for her out of your assistance. It isn’t a mutual sounding relationship. We also know that she doesn’t need the assistance as she comes from a family of means.

I guess you could wax poetics all day long about pride. Many philosophers and writers have. There is nothing wrong with pride,
whether it be a proud parent wanting to continue supporting his children, or earning everything on your own…only when it turns to
hubris does it interfere with rational reasoning. I use to have the mentality that I was going to do everything on my own. Then I realized, sometimes it is ok to have others help you.

Money isn’t the end all, and it doesn’t define us. To say that somehow getting 20% from family and friends is wrong or somehow defines you and your legacy as a person, is putting an importance on money that does not exist.

With that, this epic three part introspective, for Tim and Saladdin, was very eye opening. Tomorrow I’ll write up a post in which I share my thoughts on the matter, which may or may not be of interest to you all. Again, if you have thoughts or points you want to mention with regards to what these gentlemen have said, the comments are open.


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