Shopping For A Deal

You can spend a fortune this season--or just look like you did

Shopping is one of the main sources of holiday debt for many americans. Although cost is no object for a few, most of us spend at the risk of exceeding our budgets–especially this time of year.
This season’s holiday gift guide offers what every consumer wants-choices. We feature value and and high-end priced versions of seven popular holiday items. But it’s the practical tips we include from industry experts that will help you get your money’s worth, no matter what your price range. (For more gift ideas, see “The Fun-damentals of Learning,” Techwatch, this issue).

THE JOY OF WRITING
PENS
Advice for consumers: The key to finding the ideal quill is not to find the best one, but rather the one most suited to the needs of the person you’re buying for. “Choose a writing utensils as you would a pair of shoes–try out several and go with the one that feels the best,” says Sam Zagoory, pen designer and owner of Rebecca Moss Ltd., a stationery store in New York.

One tip is to ask the dealer or salesperson to “test drive” the pen on a blank piece of paper. It should glide smoothly and easily across the writing surface and leave no ink clots behind. Ultimately, price will probably be the deciding factor. Expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $15,000, or more.
Expensive
Product: The Parker Snake Fountain pen
Price: $2,500 or $12,000
Features: Available in two models, shown here: the 32-gram, sterling silver version, worth $2,500, or the 50-gram, 18K gold, which retails
for $12,000.
Accented with platinum and emeralds, both pens feature a special, altitude-defying, twin-channel feed and ink collector system. Each pen comes in a snake-embossed leather gift box, and includes a certificate
of authenticity and its own serial number. Call 800-BEST-PEN. Value
Product: Namiki’s Vanishing Point Fountain pen
Price: $95
Features: Designed for everyday use, it combines the elegance of a fountain pen with the practicality of a retractable quill. The only ornate feature is also pragmatic in design–the 14K gold nib conforms to writing pressure over time, providing a smoother line.
Included is a black leather gift box and a lifetime guarantee. Call 203381-4808, or visit Namiki’s Web site at www.namiki.com.

STAYING DRY IN STYLE
UMBRELLAS
Advice for consumers: These are ideal gifts: everyone needs one, and the generally unisex, one-size-fits-all dimensions make selection easy. “Construction and fabric are the two most important elements in a good umbrella,” according to Carol Bederman, owner of Liberty Umbrella Co. in New York. Make sure the frame is sturdily built (an inexpensive frame
will blow inside-out when it’s windy) and the handle is solid. The fabric for the arch can be nylon or cloth and should be waterprooftreated.
This doesn’t mean you should forget about style. “An umbrella should be a fashionable extension of its owner,” says Bederman.
Expensive
Product: Burberry
Price: $195
Features: Originally Burberry’s of London, the company is most famous for its raingear, first designed for World War I British officers. Many decades later, Burberry’s has expanded, and its top-quality merchandise
is available in America.
The Burberry umbrella, in trademark tan plaid or black, featured here, is a

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