By Sandra Houston
Director of the College Illinois! Prepaid Tuition Program
November 16, 2015

I must admit, a couple of years ago I was caught up in the Black Friday frenzy.  I stood in the freezing cold at 4:00 a.m. waiting for the stores to open in order to find the perfect Black Friday deal. And even though I was the 100th person in line and the store only had three of the items I was looking for, I was confident that I would snag the deal of the day!  After all, I wasn’t a novice… this wasn’t my first time at the rodeo.  The day before Black Friday, I had gone to the store and mapped out my strategic plan.  I knew exactly where to find the Tickle Me Elmo I was planning to buy. Instead of wasting time going down the center aisle, I would cut through children’s clothing, zigzag through the electronics section and head straight for the Black Friday deal I was looking for.ISA_FY16_NewsletterQuickGraphic_TRF

Fast forward to Black Friday morning…  I was determined to land the Black Friday deal I’d come for.  So, when the store doors opened, with laser focus I speed walked towards my destination with a glint in my eyes, adrenaline pumping and determination in my heart.  I followed my strategic plan, reaching the toy section in less than 2 minutes. Elated, I grabbed the Tickle Me Elmo from the shelf clutching it to my heart as a surge of elation coursed through my body. Mission accomplished! I was the proud owner of 1 of the 3 Tickle Me Elmo Black Friday deals.  Well, almost the proud owner… I still had to stand in line to pay for my deal of the day for over an hour.  But it was all worth it!  I couldn’t wait to see happiness on my nephew’s face when he opened his gift.  After all, all toddlers wanted a Tickle me Elmo – right?

Catapult forward to Christmas day.  The family is sitting around the fireplace, sipping hot chocolate with carols playing in the background as the children open their gifts.  It was just like a Norman Rockwell painting. That is until my nephew opened the gift from me.  I sat on the edge of my seat in anticipation as he tore the bow and wrapping paper from his gift.  As the wrapping paper billowed in the air, I couldn’t wait to see the look of exhilaration on my nephew’s face when he saw the Tickle Me Elmo.  He looked down at Elmo with a blank expression on his face.  Jumping up from my seat, I sat beside him on the floor and began to tickle Elmo.  Just as Elmo began to giggle and roll on the floor my nephew burst into tears. “I’m scared” he said burying his face into my shoulder. Trying to console him I said “Honey, just tickle Elmo’s tummy and he’ll laugh.”  Apparently, I had traumatized the poor child because he ran to his mother, with speed a sprinter would have admired, crying as he looked back at me and said emphatically, “Don’t like Elmo!”  And so, that was the end of my Black Friday shopping excursions.

We all want to find the perfect gift for a child but many times the “perfect” gift is broken or forgotten before the Holiday season has ended.  So, instead of waiting in line for hours on Black Friday to find the perfect gift, why not give the gift of education?  Why not consider a 529 college savings or prepaid tuition plan — a gift that will benefit your child for years to come.  Visit to learn more about 529 plans, and perhaps you will actually find the “perfect” gift!


About the Author

Sandra Houston is director of the College Illinois! Prepaid Tuition Program