Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

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June 14, 2013
Frugal Father's Day: Gifts for Dad that won't break the bank

Last month, we offered up some low-cost, last-minute ways to celebrate your mom on Mother's Day. Now we're doing the same for dear ol' dad. We've gathered some tips from various websites, including and In no particular order, here are 10 low-cost, but heartfelt, Father's Day gift ideas:

1. Fund a dream

Every dad would like to have some luxury that's slightly out of reach: a new car, a vacation trip, a fancy sports item or cool new tool or gadget. Get him started toward his goal by creating a "Dream Fund." It can be as basic as labeling a jar filled with loose change or opening a special savings account. It's not the amount that counts, but that you support his dream.

2. Car wash

Grab a bucket, some cleaning supplies and a window squeegee. Then get busy washing and polishing your dad's car or truck. Don't forget to shake out the floor mats and vacuum the kid crumbs off the seats.

3. Custom golf balls

If your dad's a golfer, here's a fun one: Personalized golf balls. Using your permanent markers, take 12 old golf balls and color them up: his favorite sports team (Giants' black and orange, anyone?), family caricatures, goofy faces, the possibilities are endless. For a novelty presentation, put the decorated golf balls in an empty egg carton.

4. Brown bag it

Does dad take his lunch to work each day? Make up tickets that promise you'll make his favorite sandwich and bake a special dessert daily for a week. Decorate brown bags or splurge on a new insulated lunch tote. Don't forget to tuck in a funny note each day.

5. A day off

Make this Sunday - or let him pick a future date - that's his alone to spend exactly how he wants: watch TV, hit the bike trail, putter in the garage, head to the golf course, hang out with the guys. It's an all-day pass to do exactly what he wants: even if it's just sitting on the couch.

6. Meal deals

Some restaurants and fast-food outlets are offering special Father's Day deals for dads. TCBY Yogurt, for instance, is offering all dads 6 oz. of free frozen yogurt on Sunday. Buca di Beppo, the Italian restaurant chain, is giving dads a free cannoli dessert if you print out the online coupon.

Search online to see if your dad's favorite restaurant is offering something special. Most are good for dine-in only and only on Sunday, June 16.

7. Get crafty

Sites like's Frugal Living offer crafty, low-cost gifts you can make yourself: paperweights, photo frames, mouse pads, even a duct tape wallet. If your dad likes ties, buy a cheap one at a thrift shop and personalize it with paints. Or make a photo collage or favorite photos of the two of you.

On Saturday, the West Sacramento Ikea store, at 700 Ikea Court, is offering a free pre-Father's Day craft activity from 2 to 4 p.m.

8. Garage/garden cleanup

Surprise dad by putting in some muscle to free him up from chores. Spend a couple hours organizing, cleaning and sweeping out the family garage. (Just don't throw anything significant away.)

Ditto for dad's yard or garden: Pull weeds, rake leaves, trim shrubbery. We saw an online post by a couple of sons who gift-wrapped their bag of weeds, just to show Dad how much work they'd accomplished on his behalf.

9. Board, not bored

Most every dad has a favorite board game that he played growing up: from Parcheesi to Pictionary, Monopoly to dominoes. Bring back some retro, childhood nostalgia and organize a game hour with one of his favorite board games. Don't forget some favorite snacks, too.

10. Thank you, Dad

Perhaps the ultimate gift is just telling dad how much he means to you. Putting words on paper that he can read and re-read is one of the easiest, least expensive but most memorable gifts you can give. List 10 things he taught you or write a short story of how he influenced you. Or make a video or digital greeting. Talk about a funny family outing, a special vacation, your favorite memory growing up.

No matter the medium, a "Thank You, Dad" message is straight from the heart, not the wallet.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

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