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Where to find uncommon, unique, and one-of-a-kind holiday gifts
Everyone wants to be a good gift-giver, but let’s face it; some people are just more talented than others. They have an innate ability to find the perfect, most thoughtful gift for every person on their list. Every. Single. Time.
We all know that the holidays should be more about spending time with friends and family and less about the gifts your giving. But, we also know that when you do find that just-right something, you’re secretly giving yourself a high-five inside. And, with the holidays right around the corner, the pressure is on!
Check out these local and online shops that just might have what you’ve been looking for. Unique, reasonably priced, stylish, trendy, practical, or otherwise perfect items that will take your gift-giving game to a new level:
Uncommon goods is an online marketplace that was specifically designed to connect creators with consumers who were looking for truly unique items. They offer creative designs by independent makers that serve a purpose, solve a problem, use interesting materials, or are otherwise, well, uncommon.
Oprah’s favorite things—her most loved products of 2019—have finally made it to the pages of Town and Country Magazine. As usual, it’s quite the list of ideas complete with links to online merchants (ahem, Amazon). From a motorized makeup brush to the Magic Hands truShiatsu Neck and Back Massager, these are gifts everyone will love.
Etsy has the handmade, vintage, and independent products market covered. But, with its thousands of stores and millions of items to peruse, the holidays might be long gone before you get through them all. Here’s a cheat sheet of the best shops for functional, fun, pretty, thoughtful, and never-a-bad-choice gifts for every person on your list.
From crazy to creative, you’ll wonder why it took so long for someone to come up with these problem-solving, laugh a little, but utterly genius products. It’s the little things, like the Magic Bun Maker or the Sleepy Cloud Travel Pillow that make life a little easier. Give a gift that’s fun, practical, and inspiring, and they’ll remember you all year long!
5. The Grommet
The Grommet is a fan favorite for sure. It’s the best online store for innovative new products that are anything but ordinary. Local makers and small businesses are where they hunt for the most distinctive finds. Visit their website and sort by recipient, hobby, occasion, and even personal values. If you love Shark Tank, you’ll be head over heels when you discover the Grommet.
Millennials will opt for an experience over a material gift any day so, if you have a certain one of those on your list, check out Clout 9 Living. With over 2,200 unforgettable adventures, you’ll easily find something for every interest, taste, and style–all within your budget. Food tours, bike tours, glamping, wine tasting, balloon rides, skydiving, and more. What’s not to love?
If you think that Minted.com is just for holiday cards, you’re in for a surprise. For those hard to shop for friends, parents, grandparents, and, well, everyone else who makes that list, check out these thoughtful gifts. We love the art gifts like the heart snapshot mix, the love you to the moon & back photo collage, and the reindeer ears print! You’ll capture the sweetness in a gift that lasts forever.
No time to ponder all the choices and make a decision? Text them a photo, and they’ll text back with three photo gift designs selected especially for you and styled with your photo—for FREE!
Town and Country called it “The mecca for monogram must-haves.” Mark and Graham is a space where customers can find beautifully crafted products that can be transformed into one-of-a-kind pieces with a monogram. For him, her, baby, teens, family, happy couple, pet, or host, their curated gift guides will inspire you.
Choose among hundreds of monogramming options to create the most perfect present that can be enjoyed for years to come. Whether it’s a wallet, money clip, toiletry bag, tech case, pajama set, credit card holder, tote, or any other accessory, it’s sure to be the perfect fit!
If online shopping doesn’t bring you enough holiday cheer, here are a few local gift shops that will make you look like a gift-giving guru:
24 Milton Avenue, Alpharetta, GA, 30009 / (404) 414-5765
Sis and Moon’s Local Mercantile is an eclectic shop in Downtown Alpharetta where “artists, makers, and beautiful-thing-lovers unite.” The shop features curated items from both new and vintage sources, including some of the owners’ original designs. Local makers and artisans contribute to the curious mix of furniture, art, jewelry, household items, and miscellaneous blend of rediscovered and reinvented items.
15 West Park Square, N.E., Marietta, GA 30060 / (770) 792-6734
Doodlebugz is a whimsy gift shop in Marietta Square. The quaint store is filled with unique treasures like inspirational art, jewelry, clothing, home décor, non-traditional gifts, and more. They work hard to find artists and items you can’t find in every gift store, and their inventory is always changing. If you’re looking for trendy, specialty items, you won’t be disappointed.
211 Market Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009 / (678) 624-7733
The Red Hound specializes in helping their customers celebrate special occasions and holidays by offering beautiful home decor and gifts for babies, kids, hostesses, teachers, friends, and family. They’ve partnered with some talented local and regional artists, as well as national brands, to bring you one-of-a-kind pieces that you’re sure to love. Check out their Sid Dickens Blocks, Nora Fleming serving pieces, Caribbean driftwood candles, mahogany teakwood fragrance diffusers, hand-embroidered pillows, and gourmet foods.
5950 State Bridge Road, Johns Creek, Georgia 30097 – (404) 502-2172
50 Canton Street Suite 104, Alpharetta, GA 30009
All Inspired is a Johns Creek boutique where sassy, spunky style meets grace and gratitude. Slow down for a while, take a deep breath, and enjoy a holiday-themed latte while you shop for the perfect gift. You’ll find something for everyone, whether it be a trendy tunic, the perfect pair of jeans, an inspirational sign or picture frame, or a piece of handcrafted jewelry. Even better, you’ll find that almost all of their jewelry, signs, and pottery are created by amazing artisans from right here in Georgia!
5. elle B gifts
3130 Mathis Airport Parkway, Suite 304, Suwanee GA 30024 / (770) 889-9992 and 50 Canton St, Alpharetta, GA 30009 / 470-361-2040
elle B Gifts offers unique and fun personalized gifts for guys and girls, friends, tweens, and babies, too. You’ll find specialty wine glasses, car decals, engraved jewelry, pilsner glasses, party tubs, college-themed items, home décor, leather-bound journals, personalized stationery, cozy blankets, and more! They also embroider items on site. Check them out at either of their two locations and knock out your holiday shopping in one stop!
Have a favorite local gift shop? Tell us about it below.
Do college students need a checking account?
Perhaps it hasn’t hit you yet. If you are or soon will be a college student, financial responsibility is an essential lesson. The sooner you learn it, the better off you’ll be, not only through college but for the rest of your life. But, for now, let’s focus on college life and how opening a checking account now can make it easier.
Cash is okay for covering small costs, but what about the bigger ones, such as parking passes and living expenses? It’s not safe or feasible to keep that much cash on hand. By opening a checking account that comes with a debit card, you can knock out those expenses quickly and securely. Also, if you plan on having a part-time job, you’ll need to have a checking account to take advantage of direct deposit. You’ll also enjoy the ease of online bill pay to cover utility bills, etc., if applicable.
College is a time when most students have to learn how to get by with less. Worn-out sofas, care packages from home, and cheap eats are the norm. Those who learn how to manage their money well do best. A checking account makes it easier to keep an eye on your limited funds, create a budget, and reconcile your account. These are lessons that you’ll be glad you learned in college because you’re really going to need them once you graduate, get a full-time job, and, for some, start a family.
Which account is best for you?
As previously mentioned, most college students are working with limited funds. If you’re one of them, you want a checking account that offers the features you need but without expensive fees.
Keep in mind, many financial institutions will advertise “free” checking accounts with no fees, but they come with strings attached. Be sure you check out the fine print. Students tend to sign up with a bank or credit union that’s on or close to campus. It may be well worth your effort to expand your search to find a better option. Generally speaking, you can expect better rates, fewer fees, and exceptional customer service from a credit union. By making smart financial decisions now, you’re laying down a solid foundation for success that lasts well beyond college.
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10 Top money mistakes not to make in your 30s
So you’ve graduated from your carefree 20s into your responsible 30s. While you’ve matured over the last decade and gained some valuable experiences, you’ve still got chances to take and mistakes to make—some of them more costly than others.
You’re likely thinking about your relationships, your career, buying a home, or even starting a family. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a critical time for money management. A new decade brings new challenges, so we’re here to spell out some of the financial oversights that can keep you down for the count.
Here are 10 of the top mistakes people make in their 30s and how to avoid them.
1. Planning for your senior status
It seems like it’s 100 years away. You’ve started to climb the corporate ladder or have just taken the first step towards making your first million. The secret to saving for retirement is recurring contributions and compounding—small deposits that will grow over a long period of time. Be sure you take advantage of your company’s retirement plan and maximize the company match, or open a traditional or Roth IRA and commit to regular investments. Consider this: If you invest $1,000 at the age of 30, make monthly deposits of $100, and earn 7% interest over the next 35 years, you’d have more than $192,000 when you reach age 65. Amazing, right?
2. Putting all of your eggs in one basket
Your retirement account, however, is not the only place you should invest your money. It’s important to diversify your savings. In your 30s there are sure to be some big ticket items, like paying for a wedding or buying a home or a new car. Open a savings account or a brokerage account and think about your long-term and short-term financial needs. Diversify your assets among, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash to reduce your risk and be strategic with your liquidity.
3. Doubling down on debt
Your 30s are the prime time for promotions. You’re earning more and likely spending more, too. You can afford nicer things, but sometimes this can be a slippery slope. “Keeping up with the Jones” is a real thing, and once you get caught up in that world, it’s difficult to get out.
Using a credit card is an easy solution, and it can help when money is a little tight, or you need to make online purchases. When you can’t pay it off at the end of the month, however, you need to reevaluate your budget and your spending. Debt is a useful tool that can help establish your credit, but when you’re paying astronomical interest on your purchases month after month, you’re creating a burden that can wreak havoc on your finances.
4. Setting yourself up to be house poor
Now that you’re making more money, you might consider buying a home. Hopefully, you’ve saved some money for a down payment and have analyzed your monthly expenses to determine how much you can realistically spend. A mortgage is a long-term commitment. Sitting on the floor eating ramen noodles so you can “afford” the biggest house in the best neighborhood is no way to live. How can you save for your future if all of your financial efforts are spent on paying your mortgage every month? It’s not a purchase you can easily return, so shop smart. You’ll be happier in a home where you can live within your means.
5. Living on the uninsured edge
Insurance can feel like a waste of money, especially if you don’t have to use it. When you do, however, it pays off big time. No one wants to think about a health issue or a home disaster, but it happens. Generally, insurance in your 30s should include health, disability, life, home (or renter’s) and an umbrella policy. Insurance is largely personal, so talk with a trusted advisor to help determine your needs. Keep in mind, too, that the younger you are, the less you’ll pay for life insurance and the healthier you are, the less expensive your health coverage will cost. Buying insurance now can save you money in the long run.
6. Delaying discussions about money
When you’re dating, finances are not a fun topic, and when you’re engaged, no one wants to ruin the excitement by talking about money. Financial differences between partners can be a serious issue if it’s discussed too late in the relationship. If you’re already walking down the aisle, it’s easy to say you’ll figure it out later, but it’s the number one reason couples argue and a path that can quickly lead to divorce.
You may come from different financial backgrounds or have different ways of making financial decisions. While they don’t have to match perfectly, you should be able to come to a mutually agreeable system to manage your household finances. Once you merge your assets, it becomes a much more difficult conversation. Don’t bring it up on your first date, but start thinking about it before you’re head over heels.
7. Splurging on your first born
Everyone parent wants their child to have the best of everything, but too many times that translates to a house full of toys, clothes, accessories, and top-of-the line items. We get it. With all the excitement and lack of sleep, it’s hard to make smart financial decisions. But, if you don’t take the time to check your spending, you’re savings, and your sanity will be gone before you know it.
Do you need the elaborate carriage-style stroller or the Gucci footie pajamas? Should you order the custom crib bumpers or buy those cute little Ugg booties? Think about the necessities, how long you’ll use them, and what your budget can handle. Your sweet little bundle of joy will be loved no matter how much you spend.
8. Giving into the need for a new car
Years ago, people used to keep their cars until they ran them into the ground. Now they buy a new one every two or three years. While you can rationalize it all you want it’s still a huge depreciating asset and making a purchase every few years leaves you with a never-ending car payment. Today’s experts recommend spacing your new cars 10 years apart. Buy a new one, pay it off in five years, and for the next five years, start saving for your next car’s down payment. If you take good care of it, you may even get a few bucks when you trade it in.
Given the frequent turnover rate of cars these days, you might also consider a used car, or “pre-owned” if that makes you feel better. It’s already depreciated at someone else’s expense, and if you buy from a reputable dealer, you could save some serious cash. Before you head out for a test drive though, check Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of how much you should pay.
9. Looking at your career in the short-term
You probably have 10+ years of work experience by now. If you’re not loving your job or there’s no opportunity for long-term growth opportunities, now is the time to switch gears. With your knowledge and experience, it’s the opportune time to update your resume and see what else is available. Chance are you’ll be more valuable to the competition and should be able to negotiate a higher salary and more responsibility.
This is the time to position yourself for your peak earning years. With new job offers, strongly consider the company’s benefits, like health insurance, life insurance, a dental plan, and 401(k) plan. Do they offer telecommuting, a flexible schedule, or a car allowance? While your salary is important, your entire compensation package, which includes your benefits, should be the real measure.
10. Not being prepared for the worst
People lose their jobs, homes need expensive repairs, family members get sick. No one really expects those things to happen, but they do. You need to be financially prepared for emergencies. A few hundred dollars won’t cut it these days, so make sure you have a plan. Experts say that you should have at least 6 months worth of living expenses tucked away in a place where you won’t be tempted to dip into unnecessarily.
All that you’ve worked for could easily be swept away during a crisis and recovering financially may not be easy. If you haven’t been saving for something like this, start now. It may be the most important things you do to protect you and your family.
The time to get serious is in your 30s. You’re getting ready for a lot of life change, and you need to set yourself up well. Surround yourself with people you trust who can advise you and keep you accountable. Avoiding the pitfalls by keeping your finances in order and focused on the future because the here and now will be gone tomorrow.
What you need to know before lending (or borrowing) money from family
In the midst of a financial crunch, most people consider borrowing money from a family member to be a better option than a bank or credit union, a good friend, their 401(k) plan, or even a low- or no-interest credit card. While most people look to their family as the non-judgmental, do-anything-to-help, ideal solution to their financial dilemmas, there are pros and cons to entering into this arrangement for both the lender and the borrower.
It seems like a simple transaction
From the borrower’s perspective, the application process is simple—just ask. Other than explaining why it’s needed, there are typically no other requirements to meet, not even a credit check. Even better, family members are often generous enough to loan money for free. Most don’t charge any interest, or if they do, it’s much lower than the best rate a bank or credit union could offer.
Family members are often eager to help, but if they’re lending money, they should understand their motivation behind their offer and the risks they assume in doing so.
The details define the loan
When a family member loans money to another family member, details need to be documented, and specific expectations must be set. Conversations around money are tough and sometimes extremely awkward. Think of this as the price you pay for borrowing money from a relative.
Discussions should address the reason for the loan and whether or not the lender is expecting to be repaid. A repayment schedule should be agreed upon, including dates, amounts, and method of repayment, and steps that will be taken if the borrower defaults on the loan.
The borrower should be able to provide the plan for repaying the loan and address the possibility of missed payments. Discussions should also define any rights that are granted to the lender until the loan is repaid in full, like approving large purchases or vacation plans, reviewing a monthly budget, or monitoring bank accounts.
The more detail discussed before the loan is issued, the better chance of preserving the family relationship. Many family loans are successful, but, in order to avoid tensions, communication must be continuous, clear, and in writing. While some family members might consider this too formal, it’s for the protection of both parties.
Lenders need to protect themselves
Any time you lend money, there’s a risk that the borrower will not be able to repay the loan. While you may have every confidence that the borrower will be true to their word, lenders should consider collateral to secure the loan. In the case of default, the sale of any named asset could help recover the outstanding balance.
Speak with your attorney to discuss any additional risks that you should address in order to protect yourself. You can also ask your attorney to draft the written agreement that includes the agreed upon details of the loan and its repayment.
Tax implications to consider
In addition to ironing out the details of the loan, there are serious tax issues to consider. The transfer of large amounts of money can alert the IRS. Even without any wrongdoing, it could trigger an audit into your finances.
There are also rules that address the minimum interest rates that can be charged on personal loans and a potential gift tax that can be assessed in some cases. There may be other tax implications that you hadn’t yet considered, so be sure to talk with your tax advisor before you set an interest rate, sign any documents, or transfer any funds.
Single in the City: Financial tips for flying solo in Atlanta
Being single has some real advantages, like the ability to sleep starfish style, the freedom to come and go as you please, and never having to worry about someone else hogging the remote. But, there’s also a lot less built-in accountability. When you’re working with a single income, your saving and spending habits not only need some guardrails, but they need a reality check once in a while.
Singles in the city have more opportunity for dining out, shopping, and entertainment, which can easily translate into serious spending. We’re not saying that you need to pay your rent, binge-watch Netflix, and eat ramen noodles until you win the lottery, but if you incorporate a few of these helpful tips, you’ll find that your finances and your future will be substantially less stressful and a lot more fun.
Create a budget
A budget is the foundation for financial success. Whether you’re running a business or managing your weekly paycheck, you need to know where to allocate your resources. Monthly bills, retirement savings, your emergency fund, trendy wardrobe, and caramel latte addiction are all vying for financial attention. And those tickets to see Drake at Phillips Arena aren’t far behind.
A budget will allow you to pay your monthly expenses on time, stash away some savings, and know exactly how much discretionary income you have to spend. It will inevitably make you decide if those Lululemon leggings are more important than running through the Starbucks’ drive-thru every morning or if your weekly visit to DSW is the best use of your lunch hour.
Enlist a money mentor
Accountability is a big part of accomplishing almost anything. Everyone needs someone to gently counsel them and help them talk through important decisions, like buying big-ticket items. Find someone you trust who’s a little older and wiser, and can speak from experience. Allow them to keep you accountable and know that even when it’s uncomfortable, you’ll be better for it in the end.
Create your monthly budget, meet for coffee, and then talk through your financial plan for the month. Give them permission to ask the tough questions and allow yourself to answer them honestly. Listen to their feedback and recommendations. They’ll inevitably help you avoid their past mistakes and help you work toward financial success.
Recognize impulse buying
Ever find yourself mindlessly surfing online retailers like Amazon, H&M, or Nordstom Rack? You don’t need another pair of skinny jeans, but there they are, and they’re on sale! Boom—there’s a quick $60 you’ll never see again. If you thought about it for more than a few minutes, you probably would have passed.
Ever add another item to your cart so you can qualify for free shipping? Sure, spend another $35 on a shirt you’ll probably never wear just to avoid the $7.99 shipping cost. It makes you feel like a savvy shopper when really, you just got duped into spending more than you intended. Why can’t you leave Target without spending $100 every time you walk through the door? We feel your pain. Work from a list, shop with intention and avoid surfing the web to pass the time.
Find some free or cheap entertainment
When you live in a busy city, there’s always something to do. Fun doesn’t have to cost you anything, especially in Atlanta. Every Wednesday night, Centennial Olympic Park has Wednesday Wind Down and free music. Visit the National Archives and trace your family tree. Run, walk, or bike through Piedmont Park or visit the Atlanta Farmer’s Market. Make plans for the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival or take in a Singles Event at Buckhead Church.
If you want to pack a lunch and head OTP, you can hike the Indian Seats Trail, visit Toccoa Falls, shoot the Hooch, or relax on Lake Altoona. Avalon in Alpharetta hosts a live band on the lawn every Friday night in the summer, and their Athleta store offers free yoga classes. Grab a friend and go!
Some things you don’t even have to leave home to enjoy. Invite some friends over to watch your favorite TV show or host a game night. The possibilities are endless.
Shop consignment stores
Consignment shops and vintage clothing are all the rage. If you haven’t ventured in, you’re missing some great bargains. Not all the items will match your style, but you can snap up some gently used, designer clothing, purses, and accessories at affordable prices. You’d be surprised at how many people want to offload last season’s styles. It’s always an adventure. You never know what you’ll find, and the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun.
Here’s an extra bonus: If you’re a fashionista and have items that no longer fit or flatter you, consider a consignment shop as a way to purge your closet and make a few extra dollars.
These are just a handful of ideas that can help you stick to your budget without feeling the pinch. Atlanta is never short on entertainment, so do some research, find some things you’ll enjoy, and consider some new experiences. C’mon, it’ll be fun!