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Countdown To Christmas

Countdown To Christmas

If the thought of purchasing Christmas gifts for friends and family amid the throng of pushing, determined shoppers gives you and your wallet an anxiety attack, try out the following tips to purchase gifts for under $25 that people will want and remember (in a good way!).

At least have a general idea of the gift recipient’s interests. Pretty basic, right? Nope. We’ve all received a gift at one time or another that was so general it could have been for anyone (think of that shoe shine kit or coffee mug you got last year), and even though it was the thought that counted, a little more effort in the thought department is always appreciated.

Listen, Listen, Listen. Has Uncle Joseph been dropping hints about wanting to build a shelf in the garage? Get him a do-it-yourself home improvements book (skip adding a First-Aid kit to the gift if he’s not too good at home improvements—it’ll kill the mood, trust me). Did your mom just comment on how badly she wishes she could get her nails done? Purchase a manicure/pedicure for her at your local spa.

Make a list. It helps if you write out a list of all the people to whom you are giving gifts. Also, write down what gift you are giving each person as well as how much it’s going to cost you; that way you won’t unexpectedly deplete your checking account and/or be reduced to selling your plasma by the time January rolls around in order to pay your rent.

Shop at a store with multiple departments (think Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, local mall) so you can cover a lot of bases at one time or purchase several gifts from the same online store to save both time and shipping costs. Many online retailers offer discounted or free shipping at this time of year. If you can, enlist someone to go with you to the store, split the list in half and meet back at a designated spot in order to cut down the amount of time you spend in the store (it can get crazy in there, remember the day after Thanksgiving?).

Remember to give a gift that you wouldn’t mind receiving if you were the recipient. This is not the time to repackage that awful striped hologram-reindeer sweater you got last year. If you don’t know what to do with it, make it into dusting cloths. One year I had the amazing pleasure of receiving a re-gifted-gift that still had its original gift card attached to it.

Create your own gift basket without venturing into the land of “Weird and Corny Gifts” or “it looked like a good idea at 3 a.m.” Pick a theme and go with it, as long as it’s not offensive. Do you have a friend who’s going to Mexico in a few weeks? Get him or her a vintage travel poster of Mexico (, a string of chili pepper lights, CD of Mexican guitar music … you get the point.

Here are some more gift basket ideas to start your creative juices flowing.

For the domestic:

picture album

disposable camera

picture frame

caption stickers


cookie jar

cookie recipe

cookie cutters

cookie sheet

For a child:



small stuffed animal

classic children’s bedtime storybook (think Where the Wild Things Are)

For a pet lover:

colorful animal chew toys

different types of treats

a few colorful tennis balls

heavy colorful food dish

For a gardener:

a few packets of flower, herb or vegetable seeds

trowel or spade

gardening gloves

bag of soil

flower pot

And if you’re still stuck:

Gift certificates: The key to gift certificates is that you want to enable the recipient to purchase things for him/herself that he or she would not ordinarily buy but wants anyway (without having to add any of his or her own money to it). Anything ranging from a gift certificate for a nail salon to time on the golf course/in the batting cage to restaurants to an electronics/gaming store is always a good bet. A $25 gift certificate to a high-end store where the cheapest thing is $95 is a little disappointing.

Hopefully this helps. Still no luck, a greeting card with money inside always makes a great gift—just ask any college student.


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