New car on your teen’s wish list? Put a bow on these gifts instead

by Sharlyn Petit

You can’t blame them for trying. You probably remember when you were newly licensed and ready to drive a sparkling set of wheels to call your own.
   Maybe your teen is sending you hints or laying the guilt on thick with stories of so-and-so’s parents surprising Danny with a giant-bow-on-the-roof present, poised in the driveway under lightly falling snow on Christmas day. Yes, they really sell those giant bows to the public.
   
Every year growing up, my mom would ask for a Lexus. Sure enough, my dad always found some Matchbox or Hot Wheels miniature version to hide in her stocking. She never got her Lexus, and to this day my dad still laughs to himself about how clever he is.
   
You can’t turn on the TV this time of year without seeing Santa trading in Rudolph for a red SUV, or mom cruising around in her new “sleigh” just in time to finish her to-do list before company settles in.
   
Let’s help curb that new-car desire with a few practical (read: boringly safe and probably underappreciated) gifts for your teen driver. Smaller bows required.

  1. Roadside emergency kit. My aunt gave me a kit of my own, and I kept it into my adult years. When it was stolen out of my trunk during a break-in, I was fuming mad. This gift falls into the category of “they’ll appreciate it when they need it.” Ranging in complexity and contents, there’s a version out there for every price range. Most sets include: booster cables, flashlight, cable ties, first-aid kit, electrical tape, rain poncho, and hazard triangles.
  2. Something personal. Maybe your teen is the next new driver of the family car. Gather a collection of goodies to help make the ride feel less hand-me-down and more personalized. Car seat covers, a license plate frame, a keychain, travel mug, or floor mats are all easy to customize. Anyone else thinking these items are destined for a gift basket? Check out the “no cell phone” pouch in this pre-assembled kit.
  3. Gift card for the essentials. When all else fails, or if you run out of time, there’s always the Gift Card Mall at your grocery store.  HINT: All teens secretly wish you’d ditch the socks and underwear gifts anyway. The basic to and from will require fuel, so grab a gas station gift card. Every trip needs good tunes, so go for an iTunes gift card, or a gift card for a subscription service like Pandora or Spotify. Then there are snacks. Look for gift cards for on-the-go food options to restaurants along your teen’s route.

   Any of those options will help ease the heartache of not getting a new car. Whatever you do, don’t opt for the toy-car-in-the-stocking gag. It won’t go over well.

by  Jon Osterberg

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