BLOG: 10 holiday gift-giving tips to help you shop better

By Assunta Ng

Holiday gift givers often have misconceptions. They think that gifts have to be material or that they have to be valuable.

If this is what you believe, you’re missing the boat.

Sometimes, gifts without a price tag can make a world of difference to the people you give them to. What if you could help someone to find a job, save money, or do good for the community?

There’s no magic formula. What you should buy for yourself and your loved ones is sometimes a puzzle. Just focus on the big picture when you’re shopping.

Here are a few of the principles that guide me during holiday shopping:

1. Made in the U.S.A

According to ABC news, for every $67 you spend buying American-made products, you help create a new job in the United States. Yes, we can make a difference in the country’s economy. Your determination can make it happen.

2. Time-saving, money-saving gifts

The shirts, skirts, pants, and tops I buy in the States are too long for my petite size and alterations can cost more than the item itself. Just shortening a pair of pants or shirtsleeves can cost from $15 to $30, and the turnaround time could be as long as two weeks. I could have done it myself, but it’s tedious work.

Finally, I bought myself an American-made Singer ProFinish serger sewing machine, which does hemlines in only a few minutes. During the holidays, it costs under $200. The amazing thing is that I’ve already earned back the money for the machine by altering 10 t-shirts and pants — some of which were hidden in my closet for ages.

To maximize the machine, I loan it out to a single mom, so she can use it, too.

Sam Ung selling his books.

Lena Hou

3. The gift of opportunity

Not everyone can create jobs for the unemployed, but we can give them hope, encouragement, and support. The point is, we can open many doors  for  many in our lifetime. Sometimes, you can help edit a resume or serve as a sounding board for your friends.

Through the many events the Asian Weekly promotes, we showcase the talents of the community. Case in point, during last Friday’s Top Contributors dinner, we invited 9-year-old Lena Hou to sing the national anthem. Her performance caught the eyes of two guests. Both said they want to feature her in their organizations’ events. In January, she will be performing at the Governor’s inauguration. I was so thrilled when I heard the news.

Another opportunity we gave was to Sam Ung, one of the Top Contributors. He had written a book on his experience in Cambodia. We asked him to sell his books after the dinner. That doesn’t cost us anything. He was skeptical at first, but he sold 14 books, and we were elated.

4. Invest in yourself

Not too long ago, I blogged about money saving tips in a tight economy. One of my friends asked me why I didn’t write about how to invest.

Now, I am not a financial expert, but I urge people to think not just of making their wallet fat but also of bettering their wellbeing.

Why not sign up for a yoga class? Or a Tai chi class? Or dance, painting, computer skills, or healthy eating classes? Enriching yourself with knowledge is a different way to look at wealth, and no one can take away those assets.

Sign up for a new class in 2013, you deserve that gift.

5. Teach your friends a new skill

My close friends often laughed at me since I don’t have a smart phone. I got one recently from my son. He bought an Apple iPhone 5, and I asked if I could buy his old phone.

“Just take it,” he said. To me, that’s not a gift even though I didn’t pay for it.

Candle centerpiece by Helen Chin

But the next day, he said, “You have to know how to use it.” He knew that I am not tech savvy, so he spent time teaching me how to use the phone. To me, that’s the real gift. My son’s a patient teacher who doesn’t mind someone like me, a dumb student.

6. Use your creativity

You don’t have to buy expensive gifts all the time. It’s the thought that counts. Create meaningful gifts yourself. That will produce an amazing response from your friends.

The other day, I entered my office and found a gorgeous hand-made candle centerpiece on my desk. It instantly lifted my spirits. Bless Helen Chin. She made it with a candle, candlestick candies, and silk flowers. I not only appreciated her thoughtfulness, but also her creativity in decorating our home.

My other son made me a card. Although it was simple and cost nothing, I felt my son’s love immediately. Those words and heart graphics meant so much to me that I was speechless with emotion.

7. Holiday giving to charities

Develop some giving principles for yourself when giving to charities. Do you want to support the homeless, health care, the hungry, education, job development, or art groups? What are your giving goals? Once you have them, write them down, and stick to them. I toss out those ‘ask’ letters that don’t fit our goals without thinking twice.

To support my ‘Made in America’ goal, I would only give to charities in my backyard, and not overseas organizations.

8. Show thoughtful appreciation

Each year, I have some special customers to whom I send food and wine. A box of chocolates is the easiest solution. But do some of them really need chocolates? No. What one of them needs is to de-stress, so I sent them a massage gift certificate.

This gift will follow my “Made in America” principle.

9. Support those who support you

Many of my advertisers are involved in the food business, including restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores. I shop at all these stores and take the goodies I buy to make into Asian food baskets to give to my non-Asian customers. Hopefully, I can help promote my customers’ companies and products to new customers.

Also, the Asian Weekly organizes many events at Asian restaurants during the year, so that they can benefit.

If my customers do well, they can create more jobs and provide more tax revenues to our city and state. I am all for an economically viable Asian community. Support your field

I’ve been a subscriber of The Seattle Times for over three decades, even though I can get it free online. You have to support your industry. Each year, I buy over $200 in books for holiday gifts. What better gift is there than information, entertainment, self-improvement, and innovative ideas? I make sure my money goes to support my colleagues and their work. Even more rewarding is that I sometimes have time to read the gifts before I give them away. (end)

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