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Category Archives: Small Business Saturday

Holiday Help: Budgeting, Shopping & Traveling – Part 2 of a 4 Part Series

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If by now, early October, you don’t yet have a list of persons you’re planning to give gifts to this holiday season, take a moment and read our Holiday Help: Getting Started – Part 1 of a 4 Part Series.

In that post, I ask a number of questions to help determine your Christmas 2016 ‘who, where and when’ .  Gifting can quickly get complicated in our mobile, merged, multi-generation families and a bit of upfront planning and discussion can make the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of gifting much easier to handle.

As we proceed to budgeting, shopping and traveling recognize and accept this:  your plans are just plans. Even if your Getting Started list is perfect and fully discussed, there are hundreds of variables that will impact your acquisition of those gifts and the travel to your celebratory locations.  Here are a just a few:  weather that hampers travel, unexpected financial emergencies, unanticipated illness or injury (even the simplest of illness, injury at the wrong time can become an issue), the ability of online retailers and delivery services to meet your expectations and more.

So, why do we plan and budget?  Because without a plan, your sanity, relationships, stress level and financial control are all a free-for-all;  a plan, even with the undesired need to adjust it is healthier for all involved and puts you in the driver’s seat.

Starting with the who’s on your gift list, quickly brainstorm what you’d like to give that individual and an estimated cost.  Do the same with the travel.  If you need help with estimating the cost, use online tools but recognize some online pricing is designed to lure you into an immediate purchase.  Resist that temptation until you completed your budgeting.  Force yourself to put a gift and dollar value next to everyone person’s name on your list. Next tally up your spending based on those quick estimates.

If the total amount to be spent is within your budget, great.  All you’ll need to do is stick to your plan when you shop.  But for most of us, we tend to be more generous than we can wisely afford.  If this is true of your list and estimate, start by sharpening your pencil, do a bit more research on options and pricing, and possibly re-think another gift.

As you’re looking for ways to reduce your spending ask yourself whether there persons on your list that spend time together that could be given a great group gift?  We tend to think of individual gifts but many times a group gift is enjoyed more.

Now you need to get those gifts.  so start by planning your shopping.  Get the items within your budget that might have limited availability first.  Then plot your acquisition strategy to maximize your time, mileage and patience.  Before driving 35 minutes to the mall make sure you’ve identified all the mall gifts that need to be obtained.  While online shopping tends to be easier than the old fashioned brick and mortar store, you might benefit a stroll through a few of them.  I often find inspiration and new trends when I’m in a physical store and it always helps me to get into a festive holiday mood.  Observing brick and mortar pricing and selections can also help refine your list and budget. Use your judgement to determine if the current day’s price is likely to be the best price or will there be a sale?  If so, will that item still be available?

Determine if your ‘acquisition’ style is to spend a full day shopping and getting it all done or if you’re a slow and steady style shopper picking up one thing here another here and comparing both to online options. And as always do investigate and evaluate the retailer’s return policy.

Don’t forget about the ever popular Small Business Saturday which this year is Saturday, November 26, 2016.  SBS is the first Saturday after Thanksgiving and has been named and promoted by American Express since 2010.  We all know that Black Friday is the crazy early morning, late night shopping spree that historically follows Thanksgiving. Also online shoppers will hit the keyboards and tablets heavy on the Monday following Small Business Saturday know as Cyber Monday.  Pay attention to a store’s pre-Thanksgiving prices and specials.  Big Box and online retailers will start to reveal their deep discounts on a handful of items to get your attention (and business) 7-10 days before Thanksgiving.  At the same time Independent retailers  will reach out to you via emails, post cards, radio ads, event marketing to get a slice of your attention (and business).  Use your leverage as the buyer to get the best price from an independent retailer – ask if a particular item will be discounted after Thanksgiving and if so do they have a sufficient number or are they willing to discount the item in advance?  At Gifts To Go, we’re hosting a Holiday Open House with several discounts for same day purchases.  We also hold two week long sales on our popular Willow Tree items of 20% and will honor that discount during our Holiday Open House as well.

Start planning that holiday travel now as well.  Especially if you’re traveling by air, train or bus or renting a car as it will feel as though the entire country is traveling with you.  Seats will quickly become scarce and expected them to be pricey.

Finally, if you’re cooking or entertaining, get your menus planned and shopping lists created as the grocers will also be competing for your business and a plan will let you take advantage of great sales especially on non-perishables.

As with any well organized project, a good plan guides your actions and better equips you for those pesky adjustments that will most assuredly happen along the way to your envisioned holiday celebration.

By next month, you’ll have acquired a number of gifts and be ready to focus on shipping and gift presentation.  Here’s to a great plan!






Press Release: Small Business Saturday Book Fest & Toy Drive Launch

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SURPRISE, Arizona (November 11,2014) Gifts To Go, located on the Bell Mar Plaza, announces a Small Business Saturday Book Fest and the launch of their annual toy drive to benefit the El Mirage Firefighter Charities on Saturday, November 29, 2014.

The Book Fest features discussions and autograph sessions with local authors, raffles and discounts. “Reading is fun,” says shop owner Tammy Fraser, “and it is going to be a fun day for everyone. We have great authors scheduled and will offer out-of-the-ordinary specials including discounts hidden inside books” she shared.

John L Ketchum, author of the popular John Bodie Detective Series (Vengeance in Vallejo, Karaoke Killer and Where’s the I in I and J’s?) and Aubrey Finley Patriot Series (2020 Patriots Revenge and soon to be released, 2021 The Search) will discuss his nine published novels ($15.00), along with his military and investigative careers from 9am to 11am. Mr. Ketchum, a retired Army Lt. Colonel and recipient of prestigious military awards including two Purple Hearts, also coordinates three writers groups and is an active participant in others.

During the 10am to noon time period, Laura C Browne will be available. Readers throughout the country may recognize Ms. Browne for her work as a business coach, corporate trainer, speaker and non-fiction author helping others achieve greater career success. She will focus on Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom ($8.95), her delightful novel for girls ages 9-13 which has been praised by Publishers Weekly. Ms. Clark will donate a personalized copy of the book to the winner of a raffle held on November 29. The free copy will substitute a pre-teen’s first and last names in the role of Annie Clark in the title and throughout the novel. Additional personalized copies can be purchased for $49.95 and must be ordered in advance. Raffle tickets can be obtained by visiting Gifts To Go now through the Book Fest.

Multi-award winning time travel writer Ann Goldfarb will visit from noon to 2pm. Ms. Goldfarb, a former teacher, staff developer and school principal, is the author of seven mysteries for the teen to adult audience. Her books, including the recent The Time Borrowers ($11.95 to $12.95) are rich with science and history and include valuable study guides making them great selections for home and classroom reading.

Romance writer, Brenda Whiteside, will share the story behind the story of her six romance stories ($13.95 – $16.95) from 1pm to 4pm. In addition to novels Ms. Whiteside’s pens a frequent blog for her fans. Her works include Sleeping with the Lights On, Amanda in the Summer, The Morning After, Honey on White Bread and an anthology of short stories, “Warm Christmas Wishes”.

From 3pm to 5pm, Rev. Susan Henley, will share her spiritual expertise and books, Sara Beyond the Veil, A Spiritual Look at Dementia ($12.99) and Because of Sean, The Story of a Mother’s Courage ($13.99). Rev. Sue is an ordained Spiritual Peace Minister, counselor and Reiki Master. She can be found around the valley performing weddings, baptisms, funerals and helping her clients achieve a state of well-being.

The El Mirage Firefighter Charities have again partnered with Barnaby Street Shoppes, the retail incubator where Gifts To Go and the USPS Contract Postal Unit is located, to collect donations of new, unwrapped toys and books for local children’s holiday celebrations. Gifts To Go will provide an entry ticket to Laura C Browne’s raffle of a free, personalized copy of Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom to persons who bring in toys and books for the Firefighter Charities.

Barnaby Street Shoppes and Gifts To Go/USPS Contract Postal Unit are found next to the 5 & Diner Delux at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, AZ. They are normally open Monday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm but have added Sundays from 10am to 1pm on November 30 and Dec 7, 14 and 21. Please direct questions to Tammy at 602 -403-0646.


Can’t make it to our Small Business Saturday Book Fest?  No worries, we’re adding all these great reads to our website so you can browse and purchase online. And, as you know our USPS Contract Postal Unit will get your online purchases out to you the day your order is placed!

Everything You’ve Wanted To Know About Shipping A Box But Didn’t Know Where To Get The Answer

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The delightful season of fall is upon us – most of the country will be changing clocks next week, the marathoners will hit the streets of NYC, pumpkins are being carved and those of us in the Valley of the Sun are enjoying temps in the 80s and counting down the remaining 100 days to SuperBowl XLIX.

Fall signals the stressful season of ‘prepping-for-The-Holidays’. Packing and sending The Holiday gifts is a frequent, yet easily remedied, source of stress for many.  At Gifts To Go it is our ardent wish to eradicate this stress and we’re starting with this post.  In the spirit of continuous improvement and community involvement, we look forward to your comments.

The Box

Aside from sturdy and clean, choose a box that allows space inside to appropriately cushion for the contents.  If re-using a box choose one that provides a clear space for the addresses and remember it will be weakened the more times it is used.   Avoid boxes that have lots of text or product pictures as it will make it harder for the delivery personnel to find and read the address. Do not re-use bleach or alcohol boxes such as the kind used at Sam’s Club or Costco. Draw several lines through any earlier barcodes.  Your role as the box packer is to make it as easy as possible for everyone who touches your box along the way to handle it properly.

Gifts To Go sells a small selection of new sturdy boxes ranging in price from $0.95 (6″ x 6″ x 6″) to $1.75 (12″ x 12″ x 12″).  The postage on these boxes will be based on the package’s weight and the distance it is being sent in conjunction with the speed of delivery.

USPS offers and Gifts To Go stocks several Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes for free.  Regardless of the shipment’s weight or US delivery location, the postage of these items is standardized and ranges from $5.75 to $44.95.  See the details below. Pricing is for US destinations but Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes can be used internationally.  Global rates apply.  Also, the top loading large Flat Rate Priority box postage is discounted $2 when sent to US military service personnel.

Envelope Box Size Price Chart

A Word About USPS Delivery Services

USPS offers three delivery services for items weighing 13+ ounces:  Standard (less expensive but slower  includes package tracking online), Priority (2-4 day delivery speed in US, more expensive, includes package tracking online and $50 insurance) and Priority Express (generally overnight delivery in US, most expensive, includes packing tracking online and $100 insurance).

While boxes of all shapes are acceptable for USPS shipping, the measurement of the length of the box plus the measurement around the widest portion of the box must be less than a total of 130″; for Priority or Priority Express shipment the total of length plus widest portion must be less than 108″.  The weight limit of all parcels is 70 pounds.

Prepping Box Content

Keep in mind that alcohol or anything that contains alcohol such as perfumes or bug sprays cannot be shipped as alcohol is flammable.  Liquids can be sent but should be wrapped in plastic in case they leak and then cushioned. To the extent possible distribute the contents’ weight evenly as this will help reduce the number of times the box is dropped or mishandled. Cushion all contents and remove empty space with extra filler.  Generally rolling soft items is a more efficient packing strategy over flat folding.

Place a piece of paper with the sender’s and recipient’s addresses inside the box in the unlikely event the outer address is damaged beyond recognition.

Sealing The Box

Use tape that is at least 2″ wide and either clear or brown.  Avoid using duct tape which can become sticky.  Do not use string or twine which can become stuck in post office sorting equipment.  Keep in mind that tape will add weight that you’ll pay postage for so use only as much tape as needed to close the box.

Addressing The Box

Both the sender’s and recipient’s addresses should be legible and complete with full name, house number and street name (or PO Box number), city, state and zip code.  The sender’s return address is placed to the upper left side of the recipient’s address. Make sure the text is appropriate to the size of the box.  Either write directly on the box or affix a label.  If using a label secure all edges of the label so it cannot be torn off.  It’s a good idea to place a piece of tape across the address portions not just the edges of the label.

Need to verify the zip code?

A Word About International Shipments

The above guidelines are appropriate for international shipments.  Bear in mind that the number of persons who will handle your package before it is delivered is greatly increased given the greater distances so sturdy box, weight balancing, sealing and addressing are even more important.

Packages sent outside of the US must be accompanied by a US Customs Form.  There are two different forms; one for packages under 4 pounds and the other for heavier boxes.  At federal post offices, the USPS postal clerk will key in information based on a paper form that you complete and sign.  At Gifts To Go’s Contract Postal Unit we are operating with the newest USPS deployed system and do not have the ability to key in data.  We will direct you to a dedicated laptop where you will input the required information, including weight, value and a description of the contents.  We will be available to assist you with this process which will generate a paper customs form with a bar code specific to your package.

Each country has specific prohibitions, restrictions and limitations as to the type and quantities of materials that are acceptable for delivery.  Before preparing any international shipment, be sure to check the requirements of the country to which you are sending.

Check international shipping requirements by country.

We look forward to a season of stress free shipping and are happy to help with your questions or concerns.  We are increasing our daily supply of flat rate boxes and envelopes so come by for yours at your convenience.  We are open Monday – Saturday 9a – 5p; will be open on November 11, 2014 which is a USPS holiday.  We will extend our days of service after Thanksgiving by including a few Sunday hours through Christmas.


Small Business Week 2014 & All The Tiny Businesses

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Today, Day Two of Small Business Week 2014, brings to mind that while I consider Gifts To Go a ‘micro’ business in that I’m the owner and THE employee, there are a few slightly more micro small businesses in operation.

Gifts To Go prides itself on promoting local authors and local artists and frequently describes them as smaller businesses than itself. I tend to think of authors and artists writing or creating art feverishly in their basements, dens, spare bedrooms or kitchen tables. I’m sure they are not always working at frantic speed as I’m sure there are writer’s cramp moments, toss it out the window moments and hours of product and self introspection.

I’ve been reading this week’s material from multiple ‘expert’ sources on promoting small, shopping small and the value of the backbone of the US economy. I agree with it and am glad to be a part of it. But it strikes me there are some unsung players in the small business realm.

Consider the Etsy store owner. Maybe she makes jewelry or greeting cards or organic dog treats – regardless of product type she’s working the small business dream and hopefully making a profit as she does. Likewise give some thought to the teen, trying to save money for college, who doesn’t drive or cannot afford insurance to drive a car, who walks dogs before and after school in his neighborhood. Again a wee sized business contributing to the US economy.

So, to the volumes of written material this week, I’d add a shout out to those like the Etsy store owner and teen dog walker, those who embody the spirit of entrepreneurship in the tiniest of business settings. A strong American economy depends on all organization sizes. National Small Business Week implores us to shop small and shop local — and I add a request that you look beyond the small shop doors. An internet purchase from an Etsy store or hiring the kid next door to wash your windows will have a similar positive economic impact.

Don’t need anything you could purchase from a small retailer in-store or online? Don’t despair. Instead of shopping, give them an even greater boost – refer the great small businesses to your family and friends. Do it publicly with a review on their Facebook page or write their name and address on a piece of paper to share with your neighbor. Be active this week in supporting the locally owned businesses; we’ll all appreciate your endorsements.

Speaking of being neighborly, I’m reaching out to my neighbors near Avenue of the Arts and Bell Road in Surprise to invite the Etsy store owners and Ebay’ers to drop their USPS packages off anytime Monday-Saturday from 9am – 5pm. My small business values your business.

Thanks To All Who Participated In Small Business Saturday 2013 At Bell Mar Plaza

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Always looking for ways to improve our outreach to our friends, fans and customers (and hoping those groups are one in the same) so I wanted to share an article written by The Daily News Sun’s Jeff Dempsey. Appreciate our local paper helping us to get the message about the value of shopping local out to our community.

Businesses boost buying locally

Passport To Bell Mar Plaza – Small Business Saturday 2013

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SURPRISE, Arizona (November 18, 2013)   Bell Mar Plaza businesses (Bell Road and 114th Avenue) invite the community to  Passport to Bell Mar beginning Small Business Saturday (November 30, 2013).  The Saturday after Thanksgiving was dubbed Small Business Saturday by American Express.  

Event is sponsored by 5’n Diner Delux, Hurricane Grill and Wings, Bite Me Breads and Cookies, Imagine Spa and Salon, Son City Insurance, Son Glow Boutique and Barnaby Street Shoppes.  Arrowhead Health Center’s Surprise office, adjacent to the plaza, is also a sponsor. 

Starting Saturday, November 23, visitors can get a Passport To Bell Mar.  They are encouraged to visit each storefront before December 14 to collect a ‘passport stamp’ from each.  Completed passports can be entered into a drawing to win a $100 Visa gift card.  No purchase is required at any business. The winning entry will be drawn on Saturday, December 14.  Winner need not be present to win. 

Throughout the plaza, businesses will offer promotions and attractions to draw attention to the role small independently owned businesses play in local communities and economies. “We want everyone who stops by to enjoy the day, the season and every visit they make to Bell Mar” commented Gary Arnold, plaza spokesman.  

Santa will be onsite from 11am to 3pm and available for free picture taking inside Barnaby Street Shoppes from noon to 1pm and 2pm – 3pm.  Kids can enter a holiday coloring contest and mail letters to the North Pole from the post office. Bite Me Breads and Cookies will provide additional coloring contest seating as needed.  Also at Barnaby Street Shoppes, donations of new toys and pet supplies are being collected for El Mirage Firefighter Charities and Sun Valley Animal and 4 Paws shelters.  

On November 23, Arrowhead Health Center offers free safe skin and skin cancer screenings on November 23 along with fifty $15 cash flu shots.  On November 30, Arrowhead Health again offers fifty $15 cash flu shots.  On both Saturdays, they will conduct free consultations for osteoarthritis and neuropathy pain and provide tours of their facility.  An additional supply of flu shots will be available each day for $25 cash. 

Terrie Maxine Frankel, bestselling author and ghost writer of “Nicole Brown Simpson – The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted” and Don Rasmussen, founder of ESPN will be available to event attendees.  They will be joined by several other local authors, Local First Arizona (non-profit organization supporting local businesses) and a variety of area independent businesses. Animals 4 God, a guide dog organization, and K9-Games will make appearances throughout the day. 

For more information regarding Passport to Bell Mar Plaza, please call Tammy Fraser at 602 403 0646.

Small Business Saturday – November 24, 2012

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Whew, it was a long day but very fun.  What I found most rewarding was to see so many of my regular customers coming in to say hello, browse a bit and eagerly get their Gifts To Go Smiley Face Buttons.  Those buttons are kinda corny but not only did the Small Business Saturday shoppers receive a 10% discount on Saturday, they will receive a 10% discount on their purchases through the rest of this year!

And, the new business inside our retail incubator, Gift of Cheese, invited ABC 15 TV to come visit our humble incubator that we’re working to use as a springboard to bigger storefronts.  The reporter who showed up with Angie Holdsworth – and she came with a wealth of knowledge about different business models in general and specifics of small business growth opportunities in the Valley of the Sun.  Thought I’d share what she had to say.

It was a perfect day for a visit from an individual who covers business start ups and we are so grateful to have met her.  Thanks, Angie! And, thanks to L Huber of Gift of Cheese for sending the invite that captured her attention.