Gifts for the financially challenged

Piggy banks, $12 and up. Review: Check the

Piggy banks, $12 and up. Review: Check the selection at UncommonGoods.com, featuring the oversized computer key above (to help you save, get it?), $12. Also available is a "swear bank" to both build savings and clean up language, $14. "College students can decorate their dorm room with piggy banks and save money, too," Gamm says. Search uncommongoods.com. (Credit: Handout)

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In years gone by, the young and financially challenged on your holiday list may have gagged at the thought of receiving a gift to enhance their financial literacy.

You may recognize these strugglers as those who "hope the month runs out before the money does," says Michael Kresh, a certified financial planner in Islandia.

This year could be different, though, as coupon use and shopping our own closets have replaced runaway consumption for many consumers.

To help find a middle ground between the nifty and the stuffy, Newsday invited Kresh and money experts Dara Duguay, Sharon Kedar and Scott Gamm to help review money-related gifts.

For the gift-giver, a bit of advice: "Don't overspend. You don't want to set a bad example for the recipient by purchasing a gift that's too expensive and one that you can't afford," said Gamm, 17, of Woodbury, and founder of HelpSaveMyDollars.com (Click here to connect.), a site for teens.

Gift: Consumer Reports Money Adviser
Cost: $29 a year
Review: A quick-read, non-advertising-based monthly newsletter on money basics, ranging from credit to spending to investing. This is a trusted source, says Duguay, author of "Please Send Money: A Financial Survival Guide for Young Adults on Their Own" (Sourcebooks, $16.95). And, for the gift-giver, "It's a price you can't beat." Call 800-234-1970.

Gift: Piggy banks
Cost: $12 and up
Review: Check the selection at UncommonGoods.com, featuring the oversized computer key above (to help you save, get it?), $12. Also available is a "swear bank" to both build savings and clean up language, $14. "College students can decorate their dorm room with piggy banks and save money, too," Gamm says. Search  uncommongoods.com. (Click here to connect.)

Gift: Stock shares
Cost: Prices vary
Review: This can help develop "the concept of ownership" and an interest in saving and investing, Duguay says. Focus less on performance and more on matching the stock with the recipient's interest, such as an emerging energy company for someone interested in wind technology, Kresh says. You should still have time to get a gift-wrappable stock certificate issued, he says.

Gift: iPhone or iTouch,
loaded with money applications
Cost: $99 and up
Review: Check Apple .com for devices and apps. Gamm suggests these free or low-cost apps: Mint.com for managing money from anywhere; iExpenseIt, to manage expense reports; GasBuddy, to search for best gas prices. Young people have these devices in their hands all the time, Duguay says, making it convenient to track spending. Still, Kresh suggests a less expensive option: money management software, such as Quicken, which has a basic money and budgeting starter for $29.99.

Gift: Sessions with
a financial planner
Cost: Varies
Review:
If you have a planner, ask about getting a discounted or even complimentary session or two on money basics, which Kresh said he's done with his clients. For the planner-less, Kedar, a co-author of "On My Own Two Feet, A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance" (Adams Business, $12.95), suggested Garrett PlanningNetwork.com, (Click here to connect.) for fee-only planners who charge by the hour or project. Some work virtually and specialize in Gens X and Y. The Network offers $25 to $1,000 gift certificates. 

Gift: Personal finance book
Cost: Varies
Review:
Kresh recommends "Zero Debt for College Grads: From Student Loans to Financial Freedom" by Lynnette Khalfani (Kaplan, $14.95). Or check out personal-finance finalists in the Books for a Better Life Award run by the Southern New York Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. (Click here to find.)  Among them: "1,001 Things They Won't Tell You: An Insider's Guide to Spending, Saving, and Living Wise" by Jonathan Dahl and editors at Smart Money (Workman, $16.95).

Bailout! The Game
Cost: $29.95
Review:
Yes, this banking-meltdown parody, developed by a mom to help explain the federal bailout to her kids, could be seen as Monopoly in reverse. Bailout players in their roles as executives of shaky banks vie to be the biggest loser to get the biggest bailout. Kresh says he supports "any game that gets young people to think." But, with so many hooked on virtual games, Duguay suggests this for those who'll play on an actual game board. See Bailoutthegame.com. (Click here to connect.)

Gift: BJ's or Costco membership
Cost: $45 and up
Review:
It's a great gift for purchasers of bulk items, Kresh says. But Gamm says, "If you give this to a compulsive shopper, tell them to buy only necessities. . . . This membership is supposed to save you money, not cost you more by purchasing things you don't need." Visit Costco.com, (Click here to connect.) and for BJ's store locations where gift memberships are sold, visit bjs.com. (Click here to connect.)

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