Begin your Christmas savings now

I've reached the age where the loved ones I gift are beyond toys, and I've taken to giving gift cards so they can buy their heart's desire. I'm also in the habit of dropping the day's pocket change into a jar on my dresser. Today, I realized this would be a great way to fund next Christmas.

What brought this to mind was an article about Coinstar, the automatic coin sorting machines seen in many groceries. I don't use them because I don't like giving up the 8.9% counting fee. However, instead of cash, one can choose gift cards for bookstores, theaters, restaurants and other merchants. When you buy one of these, the sorting fee is waived. I figure that, by the end of the year, the daily change from my pockets will buy enough cards for everyone on my Christmas list.

One-stop shopping and a painless savings program; now that's what I call a good Christmas shopping experience.

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