10 Last-Minute Gift Ideas
I know, I know. Yesterday I wrote that usually the best Christmas memories don't come from the material aspects of the holiday.
However, some of us just can't escape the gift-giving aspect of the season. Maybe it's the Dirty Santa party at work, presents for all your nieces and nephews, or something special for grandma. For whatever reason, you need to buy a gift. But you've procrastinated, and now you have just a few shopping days left. What to get that's not totally lame or a serious budget breaker?
Here are ten affordable ideas that are bound to please the people on your list.
A night out for less. Most of us enjoy a break from cooking every now and then. So a restaurant gift card is sure to be appreciated. Consider the Restaurant.com eGift Card, which is delivered to the recipient's e-mail inbox. The recipient can choose from more than 15,000 restaurants nationwide. And you'll pay just $15 for a card valued at $25.
Food and booze. Chocolate, coffee, handmade cheese, smoked meats and homemade treats make good gifts. Or spread some holiday cheer with an inexpensive bottle of wine or a six-pack of good beer (our pick: Stone IPA -- see The Best List 2010 for more of our favorite things.)
Lottery tickets. Kiplinger.com Managing Editor Robert Long says he always stuffs a lottery ticket into his wife's stocking. And personal finance blogger J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy lists a bag of lottery tickets as number one on his Christmas wish list because he loves the rush he gets from scratching off those tickets (see the SavvySugar Gift Guide: What Money Experts Want of Xmas, which also features yours truly).
Magazine subscription. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this one. You can get 12 issues of Kiplinger's Personal Finance for $12 -- and the recipient will get great money-saving and money-making advice all year. Tear out the subscription card and mail it in. For Christmas morning, wrap the newsstand issue.
Photo DVD. If your computer has a DVD burner, use it to create a slide show of your digital photos set to music. This is a great gift for the grandparents who have everything. If you're not technically inclined, print out a photo of the kids and frame it for grandma.
A potted plant. How about a truly "green" gift? You can either go with something for the holiday season, such as paperwhites, poinsettias or amaryllis (all of which you can usually buy at the grocery store). Or you can give a plant that will last for years with little maintenance, such as a succulent or cactus.
Performance tickets. Last year, my stepmom gave me tickets to the orchestra's children series -- a gift I really appreciated because it gave me a free way to do something fun (and educational) with my kids. Head down to your local box office to pick up tickets for the theater (or ballet or orchestra) buffs on your list. Another option: tickets to sporting events.
Smartphone apps. You can give an iPhone, iPad or iPod application by selecting "Gift This App" at the bottom of the app description. The top-selling app is Angry Birds ($0.99), a physics-based game that involves launching birds at green pigs who stole the birds' eggs. There's even a holiday version. For more ideas, see Best Apps for Autos.
iTunes gift card. For the teens -- or music lovers -- on your list, an iTunes gift card will let them choose from millions of songs, which can be downloaded to an iPod or computer. You can pick one up at stores such as Target and Walmart. Another idea: a mix CD. Fill a CD with your favorite tunes to share with a friend. My college roommate used to do this for me, and I always loved getting her annual compilation.
Cash. What can be easier than giving someone an envelope stuffed with cash? You can avoid looking thoughtless and rushed by personalizing a monetary gift. Include a little note saying what the money is for. For example, "Here's a little something for your vacation next summer."