While we attempt to stretch gift dollars this year, there are a few safety tips that can guide us through a financially diminished holiday experience.

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While we attempt to stretch gift dollars this year, there are a few safety tips that can guide us through a financially diminished holiday experience:

Avoid gifts that keep on taking. The iPhone may be the year’s coolest product, but it can be the worst gift. Ditto for anything else that requires a service contract; it is the 21st-century version of giving someone a puppy.

Making the service contract part of the gift helps, but that brings the average cost of the iPhone to about $2,500 and pushes it well out of gift-giving range. (On the other hand, an iPhone accessory is acceptable, like the V-Moda Vibe II headset, $128.) Its fabric wire eliminates tangles, and a noise-reduction component improves the audio.)

You don’t need the latest. We always want the newest toys, and not just to look cool — last year’s model simply doesn’t work as well. On the other hand, older components will do enough of what you want and they cost a lot less.

Try this: During your next retail shopping trip, find the coolest camera and ask about its predecessor. The store probably has boxes of them it will sell you for 30 percent less than the new stuff.

For instance, the Canon PowerShot A590 IS ($119) doesn’t come in multiple colors and is too big to slip into your pocket. Still, it has three things that make it worth the investment: good picture quality, ability to exert manual controls and ability to use standard AA batteries.

When in doubt, give storage. Even with the plethora of inexpensive, attractive storage drives, the idea of backup is still foreign to many people. But having an extra drive or two around the house decreases the possibility of data getting completely lost.

There is also the idea that the best drives come from manufacturers who have been around for a while — like Seagate or Western Digital — but as drives become a commodity you may as well base the choice on color or shape.

One possibility is Seagate’s FreeAgent Go series, which is available in 10 colors. It lists for $120 for a 250GB version, but it is turning up for much less. In any case, you should never pay more than 50 cents per gigabyte.

— Charles Bermant