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Here’s a gift card that’s picture-perfect

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Originally published: December 4, 2005

Are you tired of shopping for gifts that you hope will be just perfect, but are quickly forgotten? I have a few suggestions about gifts with more “money meaning.”

A “gift card” loaded with cash is the perfect choice when you can’t decide or don’t have time to shop. Some people think gift cards are impersonal and costly. But I’ve found a very unusual Visa gift card that continues to remind the recipient that you provided it because it has your photo on the face of the card! That makes it very personal.

The First National Bank of Omaha ( is offering these personalized “Design Your Gift Card” for $5.95, starting on Wednesday. You can load from $25 to $750 on these prepaid Visa debit cards, using any credit card of your own. Then instead of the standard holiday bells and greenery on the face of the card, you can personalize it with your photo or a family photo.

It’s easy and takes only a few minutes to do, with tools that allow you to edit the size of the image, and choose a border design to complement your photo. You’ll need your photo stored in .jpg or .png format on your computer, and easily accessible to upload during the design process.

The gift card is mailed to you to distribute to the recipient, and it is packaged in an enclosure that carries a personal greeting you created. Once received, it must be activated by calling a toll-free number.

The recipient has two years to use the money you’ve loaded on the card, but it will remain a valued keepsake even after the money has been spent.

Kid’s ATM bank

Today’s kids don’t have to be told that money doesn’t grow on trees. They know it comes out of ATMs! They sit in their car seats or grocery carts, and watch as Mom puts in the card, and out comes money. But what they don’t learn is that Mom and Dad work hard to get the money that goes into that ATM.

So, my favorite holiday toy isn’t really a toy at all. It’s the modern-day version of the piggy bank -- an ATM that actually accepts deposits of coins and currency, and updates balances up to $999. The young depositor has his or her own ATM card, and creates a PIN to access the ATM.

The coin deposit slot senses whether you’re inserting a penny, nickel, dime or quarter, and it automatically computes the balance on a monitor.

The ATM also draws in paper money. The child enters the denominations of the bills, and again the balance is updated.

When the child wants to withdraw money, he or she must enter the amount to be deducted, and then the cash drawer at the bottom opens for the withdrawal.

The manufacturer says this toy is suitable for children age 8 and above, but even younger children can learn some basic money lessons from watching their older siblings develop a savings habit. And the three batteries are included, so you can get started right away.

I ordered it online at the Hammacher Schlemmer Web site for $39.95, and it is also available at toy retailers.

The gift of stock

It’s simply too expensive to buy a few shares of stock to give to children these days. At least that’s what most people think.

But at, you can buy even a few shares of stock for a fee of just $4. Sharebuilder is a Web site designed for the small or novice investor, with a series of plans that allow you to buy shares of just one company.

The Sharebuilder Young Investor Starter Kit costs $34.95. (If you order before Dec. 20, and include the promotion code “Holiday05,” there’s a 10 percent discount, making the price $31.45).

The kit, along with a gift certificate in a denomination of your choice, will open the door to investing for a lifetime. The package includes an additional $25 gift certificate, a certificate to Young Money magazine, and a $10 iTunes gift certificate. That should pique their interest in stocks and investing.

So don’t go for those boring and breakable and predictable holiday gifts this year. Give a gift that grows in value or in meaning. That’s what the holiday spirit is all about! And that’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.

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