Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Only 24 shopping days 'til Christmas! Give the gift that's always the right style, the right color, the right choice. A GCF Visa Gift Card is always the perfect gift for any occasion. Stop into any GCF branch to purchase a GCF Visa Gift Card for someone special!
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Still haven't found the right gadget gift for that special techie in your life? Technology changes as quickly as I can write this sentence. Shop too soon and you may find your gift outdated before the package is even unwrapped.
Laptops are shrinking, netbooks becoming more powerful and tablets quickly gaining popularity. The lines distinguishing one product from another have become so blurred that they're almost nonexistent.
Manufacturers are scrambling to keep pace with current trends. In this frantic industry, that means shifting gears for models already on the production line to match features your competitor just unveiled on their latest gizmo.
Many of those expected to be this season's hottest sellers aren't even scheduled to hit the marketplace until December.
The business sector should love the new Hewlett Packard Mini 1103. It's designed for mobility with WiFi, WLAN and Bluetooth connectivity. Choose between a 3- or 6-cell battery. It features a 10.1 inch display, up to 320GB of internal storage and Web cam. The 1.83GHz Intel Atom N455 is the company's smallest processor to date. It weighs in at a mere 2.7 lbs. and priced at $299.
Acer has a new entry for the business set as well. Their TravelMate 5542 features AMD dual-core processing, a 15.6 inch display, 1.3 megapixel camera and up to 320 GB hard drive. Pricing at $549 and up.
The consumer crowd might want to consider a Lenovo Idea Pad U260. Ergonomics drove the design for this beauty with rounded edges and a glass touchpad. It has a 12.5-inch display and the option of a 320GB hard drive or 128GB of SSD flash-based storage. Prices start at $899.
Apple didn't abandon the laptop market with the launch of the iPad. Their new MacBook Air design was influenced by the company's success in the mini-market. It can be yours for $999 and up.
Steve Jobs was met by cynicism in April 2010. The Apple CEO stood before members of the press to introduce his company's newest offering, a product whose development wasn't quite cloaked in secrecy. Rumors had been swirling for close to a year that Apple was developing a product to fill the market gap between a laptop and the company's highly successful iPhone.
"What gap?" naysayers were asking. They wondered who would buy such a device. Did Apple finally introduce a dud?
Hardly. Nearly 3 million were sold in the first 80 days. During the second quarter 2010, Apple had sold 4.19 million iPads worldwide.
The iPad allows you to surf the Web, watch movies, play games, read books, download music and all of those other neat apps available on your iPhone. Plus it performs most computing basics for the business traveler. At 9.5 in. x 7.5 in. and a mere 1.5 lbs., you can stick it in your coat pocket and carry it wherever you go.
The lithium-polymer battery keeps it running longer than the Energizer bunny.
If you're not in a rush for an iPad, you may want to hold off until after the holidays. The iPad 2, originally scheduled to be available in time for Christmas, has been delayed until April or May.
The second-generation version is expected to have both a front- and rear-facing camera to allow video chats via Apple's FaceTime application. It's also reported to have a USB port.
BlackBerry's Playbook, a new tablet still in production, is expected to be available around the same time as the iPad 2.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab Android is the closest competitor to the iPad currently on the market. It's 7.4 x 4.7-inch profile fits better in your hand than the bulkier iPad and at half the weight at .83 lbs.
It's the first tablet to feature two cameras for video chat. And the Android operating system is good for multitasking. But that's where its benefits end.
Typing feels a bit clunky. And browsing the web is jerky. Tabs and pages don't flow smoothly. Battery life is nothing to write home about.
Smartphone and tablet pricing vary by provider, as well as whether or not you enter into a service contract with the carrier.
Holiday Shopping Ideas
If you are like me, every year it gets harder and harder to come up with gift ideas for people on my shopping list. What to get for the uncle who has everything? What to get for the picky friend? Here are just a few unusual ideas that I have come across that may help make your shopping easier.
Are you looking for a gift for someone who likes hiking, walking, or nature trails? How about the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass? The Annual Pass is available on the U.S. Geological Survey web site for $80.00. A Senior Lifetime Pass is available to U.S. Citizens age 62 and older for only $10.00. The Annual Pass is valid for one year and includes admission for pass owner and accompanying individuals in one passenger car to enter federally operated recreation sites across the county. For sites where a per person entrance fee is charged, the Annual Pass covers the pass owner and up to three accompanying adults. Participating sites include those run by the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. The Annual Pass covers only the admission fee and/or standard amenity fees. It does not include any expanded amenity fees and/or concession/activity fees. If you have questions about passes, call 1-888-ASK-USGS and press 1 or check out the U.S. Geological Survey's web site.
Looking for a gift for someone who enjoys boating or the Civil War? The NOAA Office of Coast Survey has hundreds of charts available for all regions. In addition, NOAA has assembled a collection of maps, charts, and documents prepared by the U.S. Coast Survey during the Civil War. Over 400 documents are available in their "Charting a More Perfect Union" collection. Check out their web site.
Shopping for a gift for a member of the military? How about a reproduction of a World War I or World War II recruiting poster? The National Archives has all kinds of historical posters, books, and booklets available. Visit them online. Another good idea is to request an original flag that has flown over the U.S. Capital. Requests are processed through your U.S. Senator's or Representative's office. Many members of Congress have directions and order forms available on their web sites. There is a fee that varies based on the size of the flag purchased. The Architect of the Capitol issues a Certificate of Authenticity with each flag.
Finding the perfect gift for a lawyer or law student? There are a wide variety of gifts available from the Supreme Court Gift Shop. Just a few include: holiday ornaments, glassware, coasters, candy dishes, statues of Lady Justice, totes, posters, pen sets, games, golf balls, puzzles, DVD's, books, bookends, cuff links, pins, scarves, and key chains. Point your browser here.
Looking for a gift for someone interested in politics or someone who collects china? How about a teacup and saucer from the Presidential China collection used during the Washington administration or an authentic JFK rocking chair? A wide variety of gifts are available online from our Presidential Library Gift Shops. I found the Washington cup and saucer on the Truman Presidential Library web site. I found the rocking chair on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum web site. Other types of items available include books, key chains, magnets, statues, photographs, ornaments, jewelry, shirts, hats, ties, aprons, pillows, planters, and so much more. A list of Presidential Libraries is available on the USA.gov web site.
Don't know what to buy the parents who have everything? How about providing for the pet in their lives by covering veterinary costs? Even the cost of routine exams can add up, making it difficult for those on a fixed income. Pets are dear to their owners. The peace of mind that comes from knowing their furry friend will be protected is priceless.
These are just a few ideas that may make your holiday shopping a little easier this year. For more unusual ideas, check out USA.gov's web site. They provide a wide variety of gift ideas, including books, memorabilia, collectibles, and more. They also provide information on shipping, shopping tips, and ways to save money. Click here.
As we move towards the end of the year, tax time is right around the corner. There are still quite a few unresolved areas for Congress to finalize as the year draws to a close. For the most part, these are tax cuts that were scheduled to expire unless Congress extends them. For instance, capital gains rates increase in 2011 with the lowest tax bracket increasing from 10 to 15 percent. Dividends and interest will be taxed at ordinary income rates, not the lower capital gains rates. These cuts will be affecting many - including retirees relying on investments to fund their retirement.
Some areas to think about include taking gains in 2010 instead of 2011. Consider taking income in 2010 instead of 2011 while the tax rates are lower, including retirement distributions. You might also want to convert IRA's into Roth IRA's and pay the full tax in 2010 while rates are lower instead of spreading the income over two years. Defer deductions like property taxes or charitable contributions to 2011, lowering income in the higher tax rate year. There may be other considerations like education loans or medical assistance that could be impacted when making decisions about shifting your income. As always, consult your tax advisor to evaluate your options.
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