CONSUMER BUZZ | ‘Tis the Season

ConsumerBuzz‘Tis the Season
by Raine Bee

The 2013 Holiday Season is in full swing!  Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other religious or cultural holiday, more likely than not the season is overshadowed by the spirit (obligation) of gift giving.  For the kids in your life, most likely their wish list is a mile long.  From Barbie dolls, to Furbies, to video games, you name it, there’s no shortage in the toys/gifts arena.  As I started thinking about what to get my own children this year, I was frustrated over the “they have everything” dilemma.  Nonetheless, despite this dilemma, every year we head to the crowded malls, surf the net continually for online dealsand even get into scuffles over that last coveted wish list item on the shelf.

Major retailers purport to have the consumer’s best interest in mind by offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales even earlier this year.  However, according to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season can account for anywhere from 20-40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales, and accounts for approximately 20 percent of total industry annual sales[1].   Let’s not be fooled, these retailers are in the business of making money.  And so should we.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we don’t buy those desired items for our children.  I too will be in line with an“I dare you” sneer on my lips, sneakers on my feet, and a caffeinated drink in my bag.   However, in addition to the tangible loot, I plan to give my children an intangible gift as well.  This year, I plan to give my children the gift of financial education and introduce them to the notion of wealth building.  Below are three simple ways to instill that entrepreneurial spirit in the children on your holiday list, whether they are naughty or nice!

Stocks–Do you have kids who love computers or video games and must have the latest and greatest in electronics?  Then, why not make your children owners in the companies where they spend a lot of YOUR hard earned money.  Stocks are a way to do just that.  Now, I’m not advocating any particular stock or any particular company and you should remember that there is a risk of loss with any type of investment product.  However, you can get started on your own and with very little upfront investment.  Think of how your children will brag to their friends and say, “yeah, I own part of that company” or “I’m a stockholder in that company.”  They can even learn to track the performance of their stock over time.  A simple online search of “stocks” or “how to invest in stocks” will generate a wealth of information to help get you started.

Recycle – I was recently in NYC and eating lunch at a local restaurant and noticed on the soda can it said “New York.”  I was surprised, world traveler that I am (NOT), to see this on the can.  My boyfriend explained because, in NY, recycled cans earn you $.05.  I remember a long time ago growing up in Pennsylvania, my father collecting the soda cans and taking them somewhere, presumably for payment (I was a child so I only have a vague recollection of this).   Apart from the fact that sodas are an unhealthy drink alternative for children, they can serve as a simple way to introduce or reinforce the idea of saving = money= goods.  To a small child watching an adult trade in a bag of discarded soda cans for money, no matter how small, teaches that basic concept.  It also teaches them to protect the planet by recycling.  Information on each state’s bottle and can recycling program can be found at: http://www.bottlebill.org/legislation/usa/allstates.htm.

Yard Sale- Another way to instill the entrepreneurial spirit is through having a yard sale.  Show them how last year’s old discarded toy, for example, could turn into cash in their pocket if they sell it.  Forget for a moment ebay and other online venues, I’m talking about the back-in-the-day, poster on a stick “Yard Sale” sign on the lawn, yard sale.   Let them see the actual exchange of the item for cold hard cash in hand.  I had my first yard sale as an adult about a year ago and it was a rush just seeing folks come in and look at my old stuff, ask how much (yes, there was some negotiations on price back and forthdespite the tag CLEARLY displaying the price of the item), and then give me cash in hand.  To a child, they would be KING.

So, as you fill up on turkey and fill up your cart with gifts this holiday season, keep in mind that old adage:

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.