If gifts are part of your holiday tradition, chances are good that you have experienced the unique stresses associated with gift shopping. The scenario is likely familiar ‐ armed with your gift list and the best of intentions, you hit the mall. Your objective ‐ to find a gift for everyone on your list which will a) delight the recipient, b) convey your originality, wit, and impeccable taste, and c) appear generous without breaking your budget. After all, you’ve got 356 stores plus a food court and ice rink to choose from, so you’re bound to find something… If after three hours you have made no purchases and your stress level is stratospheric, think about taking advantage of one of the following no‐shopping‐required gift ideas:
1. Tickets: To a concert, theater, sports event, or exhibition. Order online or by phone. Be sure to find out if there are cancellation or date‐change penalties.
2. Photographs: Look through your last few sets of photos to see if you have a nice shot of the recipient with his/her family or friends. Have an enlargement made and present this in an original card or interesting frame.
3. Food: You can make welcome and inventive gifts if you try something more original than the traditional holiday sweets and snacks that everyone has too much of already. Think about items that can be used at a later time, such as herb‐flavored oils in attractive bottles, homemade preserves, or even flavored liqueurs. Another option is to present a prepackaged “dinner in a bag.” Make a pot of hearty pasta sauce and freeze in individual containers. Add a package of dried pasta, a bottle of wine, and some biscotti. Attach a card and a bow, and you’ve got a gift guaranteed to please your equally stressed friends and family members.
4. Gifts bought online or by mail: Almost everything is available through the internet or catalogs, and if you order early, you’ll have ample time for returns and exchanges. Free your schedule and plan an evening of “shopping” at your computer or on the sofa with a pile of catalogs. Avoid the impersonal look of sending gift purchases directly to the recipient. Have them delivered to you so you can personalize the wrapping and card for each.
5. Gift certificates: For a special meal, outing, or event for you and the recipient. Make a creative, written invitation, perhaps accompanied by a small gift. Ideas include evenings out, special meals prepared by you, services at a day spa, or even something simple such as afternoon tea or a movie night. Parents always welcome gift certificates for an evening’s babysitting with young children. To avoid appearing that this is a last‐minute solution, show your sincerity by including plans for the event in your invitation, and suggest a tentative date for the activity.
6. Flowers, coffee, wine, or other deliverable items: Instead of sending things now, arrange for delivery at a later time or at intervals throughout the year. Many florists offer packages such as monthly or quarterly delivery of seasonal arrangements. Gourmet shops will often do this too, in the form of coffee/wine/cheese “of the month” programs. These are great options for hard‐to‐buy‐ for people or for corporate gifts.