This may be a joyous time of year, but it is dampened by some grim economic realities. Natural gas prices are sky-high, and oil isn't far off its top price for the year. The U.S. personal savings rate is a negative number. A study released this year said 30 million workers in the U.S. are “seriously financially distressed and dissatisfied with their personal financial situations.”
What a bummer. But here's a thought: Spread the wealth this season by buying gifts that tackle some of America's thorniest money problems.
The National Retail Federation expects that $440 billion will be spent around Christmas this year, and that the average consumer will spend $565 on gifts. Some of that money could be spent on items that make statements about the current state of business and the economy. Why not surprise those loved ones with something meaningful and financially inspired?
To be sure, some people have been waiting all year for the socks you always give them. Other people are praying you'll deliver Microsoft's Xbox 360, Apple Computer's iPod nano, or a doll and outfit from the American Girl store.
Giving a donation to a charity or nonprofit is a wonderful gesture. It might not, however, sate your friends' and family's own consumerist desires. David Shipler's The Working Poor is an illuminating look at some struggling Americans, but Aunt Mary might rather have the latest Harry Potter.
With this in mind, we have assembled some practical, thoughtful gift ideas for the special people in your life. Your money can't buy them happiness, but it can buy them some market commentary they'll enjoy.