Monday, December 21, 2009

Tips and Last Minute Ideas

I know -- just a few days to go and you're panicking.

Or maybe not! But last minute gift buying is how people get into trouble. You just buy what's there and often can spend much more than you wanted to. I encourage you to go out with a list and try to stick to it. And use cash or at least a debit card if you are one of the many in this current economy who are not in a place to handle large credit card bills come January.

There's still time to order online, though you may have to pay a pretty penny to get it delivered by X-mas. The good thing about New Years being so close is that a box arriving in the lull between X-mas/Kwanzaa and New Years Eve doesn't seem late, but kind of welcome... so if it gets there on Dec 28th, in most cases, it's fine.

HERE'S A BIG TIP: When you order online, before you check out, open a new tab on your search engine and Google the store name + coupons. 90% of the time you will find a code in seconds that will save you $5, $10, 25% off your order, or get your free shipping! Just plug it into the field that will come up as promotional code and hit the apply button to see your total change for the better. I just discovered this two years ago and I can't believe how much I've saved!!

A great last minute gift that gives a lot of bang for your buck is a magazine subscription. Run don't walk to your nearest large news stand, or Barnes and Noble or Boarders where you can spend a rather pleasant bit of time acquainting yourself with the incredibly diverse collection of offerings. Each has a little card inside, which you can pilfer at no charge. Then you can either come home and look up the website or even call to expedite things.

The mag should send out a card announcing your gift, but at this late date, it doesn't matter. I suggest you buy a copy of the mag you want to give, roll it up and wrap it with a bow or put it in a shirt box in lots of tissue and wrap that. So you give the issue as the calling card for your gift to come. These can be as low as $11.95 and yet it gives ALL YEAR LONG. Best of all, they will think of you each month when it arrives. I think it's the best value out there.

Also, I still think the gift of music is a wonderful thing... and I suggest you make it yourself, putting together a play list of anywhere from 10-22 songs (whatever you have time for or your CD will hold). They key is to try to make one that's geared toward the tastes of the receiver. If they don't love Opera, don't go there. If you don't know their tastes, maybe that's not the thing to make for them, but if you CLICK HERE I wrote up a few ideas that will cost you little in time or money to make and give.

And then there are books. I hope put up the posts I've been working on with book recommendations in case you need ideas, but my Christmas starts early with step kids this year so I don't know if I will. For now, you can google best books of 2009 to get many lists. I suggest a browse thru your local bookstore or asking a knowledgeable staffer to help you pick something generally good, if you are not 100% sure of the interest of your recipient. Worst case, good quality coffee table or photo book is a safe bet.

Lastly, while I would prefer to find an actual gift for folks, many do appreciate gift cards. And when you get them to generic places like a bookstore (where they can also get CD's and
DVD's and even candy and stationery items) or a general department store like Macy's is a win win.

Get creative with certificate at a restaurant or coffee shop they like to go to. For teens and college age, (and many grown ups, like ME) an Itunes card is a sure fire welcome bet. They may also like a card to Gap or Banana Republic or Abercrombie. If someone is a new home owner or a fixer upper type, how about one from Home Depot? Newlyweds go for Bed Bath and Beyond. Starting a new Business -- try an Office Depot or Staples GC. New Parents - ToysRUs or BabiesRUs. A Tech Head (or most men and boys )-- Best Buy, Circuit City, Academy Sports Store. If they have any apple product, and Apple store card will make them think you're the coolest. There's also a card called Spafinder -- you buy a denomination and they check a website that lists many spas that it can be applied to in their area. It's good coast to coast. And don't forget the Starbucks Card...

There are also cards that can just be like cash -- AMEX or Master Card brands work like credit cards toward any purchase. Just read the fine print at the back for news of fees and expiration dates. Many cards are offering no expiration these days.

Fortunately, you can go to most CVS's or grocery stores to find all that I've mentioned.

Or, you can call any beauty salon or spa to buy a gift certificate over the phone and have it waiting at the Salon for your loved one to walk in and use. You can wrap a box with a Card inside that you make up saying as much if you want to hand them something.

You can always send food or flowers/candle centerpieces still. And I have often called a florist in the town someone lives in to get it done in 24 -48 hours, rather than relied on the extra time and fees going through national services. Just Google the town and what you want and call. I have sent cakes, cookie assortments, hams and turkeys, champagne etc by calling a local grocery store and pleading my case to the MANAGER. I have given my card number on the phone or faxed a copy of it and my drivers lisc, and they can fax ore- mail a receipt if you need one. Where there's a will there's a way. At this time of year, though folks are busier, they also are in the spirit and try harder to make it happen. Get the names of who helped you in case something goes awry. I have had incredible things happen using this method, and often want to send THEM a thank you note!

I will follow with a general list of Stocking stuffers, so come back! And keep scrolling down back to October for gift ideas. Still not to late to get items in stores near you or delivered!!! All photos on this post are mine :-)

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