If you have kids, you’re probably biting your nails down to the quick worrying how you’re going to find–much less pay for–this year’s super hot fad toy, Zhu Zhu the Robot Hamster. But don’t be so stupid! The thing about fad toys like Zhu Zhu is that they’re about 30% fun, 30% marketing, and 40% media hype. You can bypass all that nonsense and make your own in less than 20 minutes, and for a fraction of the cost.
If you want to spread some fiscally sound good cheer this year, consider asking your friends, relatives, and coworkers not to give gift cards backed by the major credit card companies. Why am I making such a sour suggestion? Because a new study from two consumer advocacy groups indicates that most of the population still doesn’t recognize what a money trap those little plastic cards can be.
Look, we’re not going to sit here and pretend to know a lot about parenting. But unless Ambras syndrome runs in your family, we can’t imagine why you need to teach your 7-year-old how to shave a baby. The toy tattoo gun actually looks like a lot of fun, though.
Your dog thinks he’s so fancy, walking around and ejecting poop wherever he wants like a furry softserve machine. You know what would put him in his place? A harness that lets you attach a poop bag to his butt. For the curious, there’s a video below that includes action shots.
Here are some practical gift ideas that your family can use the next time they go looking for a Christmas tree and get trapped in the snow for three days. Unlike too many of the “gift lists” the media spits out each December, these are fairly affordable items—most of them are priced between $20-$40. Or if you’re really on a budget, you can go for the $4 gift and give your loved one a Spork XM, made from a “durable polycarbonate that brings its weight down to a half-ounce.”
The evolutionary cycle of gadgetry is fast enough now that you can score some great deals on last year’s products, which are perfectly fine for all but the most technologically literate (or obsessed) people in your life. A perfect example: the first generation Zune, which can be found for as low as $80, has a bigger screen than a non-Touch iPod, and a 30 gigabyte capacity. Yes, it’s also got lots of drawbacks. But that’s why it’s $80, and for the average consumer who just wants a decent mp3 and movie player, it does the job nicely.
Kiplinger’s idea of a good Christmas present for a teenager is helping them start a retirement account. We kind of think the average teen is going to have a hard time understanding why that’s a “better” gift than, say, a game system, but the underlying idea is sound. As long as your teen worked at some point in 2007—even babysitting counts—he can open a Roth IRA. But other people (that means you) can fund it, up to the amount the kid earned in wages.
J.D. at GetRichSlowly was asked by a reader for suggestions on good presonal finance books to give as a gift this year. He points out that giving such a gift is a sensitive matter, since it can be received poorly if the recipient isn’t in the right frame of mind. On the other hand, he writes, “It was because a friend gave me a copy of Your Money or Your Life that I finally turned my finances around.” Here are his suggestions for books geared toward children, teenagers, young adults, and “old folks.”
If you’re a data and/or gadget junkie, or you know someone who is (and they’ve already got enough Ambient Devices), infosthetics has put together a guide to 20 info-centric gift ideas—like this $29 poster that maps the “genealogy of pop/rock.”
For $1,000, a small California-based company called 23andMe (financed in part by Google) will decode your DNA and tell you whatever it can about your predispositions, health risks, and family traits—for example, whether or not you’re in line for the same heart disease that affected your father and grandfather, which is what the author of the Wired article wondered. (Turns out he’s not, but he’s at a higher risk of developing glaucoma. When one door opens…)