How to buy a single share of stock as a gift

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If you're looking for a cool way to get your Christmas shopping done ahead of everyone else, consider giving gifts of single shares of stock. They're perfect for newlyweds, children, new retirees or anyone celebrating anything.

Gift stock shares are an inexpensive, creative and very practical way to show family and friends you care and they make you look smart in the process.

Decide for whom you'll be purchasing the stock share and choose a company appropriate to that person. For instance, a child would have fun owning stock in Disney and most motorcycle owners would enjoy a share of Harley Davidson. Newlyweds would love the sweet gift of Hershey's stock. And techie-inclined adults might relish the idea of owning even a small bit of Microsoft. There are so many possibilities.

Review a few of the different one-stock-serving websites. All will allow you to purchase a single stock from a hundred or so choices, but in addition, some make you pay for a frame for the share (required for purchase) and matte for the frame and optional engraving on the framed plaque. Some sites also charge a "transfer fee" and tack on hefty shipping costs.

Look into options to the websites that charge as much or more for the frame than they do for the stock. If you want to get a good value, do some more research.

Consider opening an account with an online broker that offers free trading programs and has a low or zero minimum account balance requirement. This way you can purchase a few shares of stock as gifts (and perhaps some for yourself) without paying a trading fee. There may be limits to how many accounts you can have that are eligible for free trading, so read the fine print.

Buy a share of stock directly from the company. Not all companies sell shares this way, but many do and information about their program can usually be found on their company websites, under the "Shareholder information" tab.