Last Minute Gift

Even organization and logistics enthusiasts occasionally participate in last minute holiday gift shopping. With a little advance – albeit last minute – planning, you don’t have to buy everything online and pay double the cost of each gift in rush shipping charges. And you don’t have to dread mingling with mall crowds, navigating parking lot mazes, and hearing tinny versions of Rudolph and friends on repeat. All day.

Hopefully these shopping strategies and gift ideas will help you carve out more time for celebrating the true spirit of this holiday season.

Before you join the throngs of last minute shoppers…

Think about the gift recipients who are still on your shopping list – really think about them. What are their interests and hobbies? What would they find fun and enjoyable? Jot these ideas on your list so you can refer to them during your shopping expedition. This will set the right tone throughout your shopping trip and help you identify great gifts.

Map out your shopping trip. You’ll be glad you did.

Consider where you can find the majority of your holiday presents. If you only buy locally or if you simply refuse to shop at malls, can you shop in a city that has several stores catering to your gift list? (Think: fuel and time efficiency. These are good things. Always.)

If you’re headed to the local mall, hop online and print out a handy map of this sprawling – and sometimes overwhelming – retail playground. Then highlight the stores where you hope to make an appearance, and identify a general plan for the order in which you’ll visit these retailers (based on their proximity to one another).

Tip: If you’re planning to buy a specific item, call the store ahead of time and ask if they’d be willing to hold the item for you at the cash register. Then make good on your promise to pick-up said item that day. By calling ahead, you can avoid dodging pint size children or shoppers bearing packages galore in your pursuit of a Tea Forte gift set that’s on a tall shelf at the back of the store.

Ten minutes of planning could save you hours of time rubbing shopping bags and elbows with throngs of last minute shoppers.

It really is the thought that counts.

Last minute gifts don’t require forgoing the thoughtful factor. Want to put your holiday gift giving in perspective? Just consider the fine examples set by mothers who proudly wear colorful pasta necklaces handcrafted by their children. These creative jewelry pieces are worn around town to events of all kinds, symbolizing the pure joy that comes when you give from the heart. It’s not the size or cost of the gift, but the thought that counts.

Homemade gifts
Homemade gifts are wonderful to give and great to receive – especially if the recipient has an interest in that particular item. You can make almost anything to share with those on your holiday shopping list, including:

  • All things hand-crafted, such as knit items, soaps, candles, photographs, pottery, paintings, wax stamps, carved wood pieces, etc.
  • Food of any kind – baked goods, jams, sauces, etc. Consider giving your recipients a food-of-the-month gift coupon entitling them to monthly homemade delicacies from you for the entirety of 2010.
  • Memorabilia such as completed photo albums, scrap books, and memory books, or DVDs or audio recordings of family members or friends.

Non-traditional gifts
Rather than giving yet another sweater or tchotcke to a family member or friend, consider the following:

  • Philanthropy: In honor of your gift recipient, make a financial contribution to their alma mater, their local public or school library, or any non-profit group. Don’t worry about the dollar amount – whatever you can give will be appreciated by the organization.
  • Volunteerism: In honor of your gift recipient, volunteer at their favorite non-profit group. You’re guaranteed to spread joy to numerous individuals.
  • Writing: Write about why you cherish your gift recipient…in a letter, poem, song, rap, handmade card, message on a sandy beach, etc.
  • Radio Dedication: Call your gift recipient’s favorite radio station and dedicate a song to them. Encourage your recipient to tune in at the appointed time, and obtain a recording of this audible gift for future listening enjoyment.

Themed gifts
With a little imagination, you can create custom theme gift baskets or boxes for anyone on your list in a variety of price ranges. Some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • For the movie lover: book of movie tickets (or a Netflix subscription), popcorn, candy, and a book by your favorite film reviewer.
  • For the athlete: gift card or homemade coupon for an athletic adventure (i.e. snow shoeing, batting cage, driving range, local indoor rock climbing), sweatshirt bearing the logo of their favorite team, and a Klean Kanteen water bottle with a sport cap.
  • For the dancer: tickets to a local dance performance, gift certificate to a dance apparel shop, and a CD to which the recipient can dance, dance, dance.
  • For the organic foodie: membership to a local organic food co-op (not available in all areas), seeds for springtime gardening fun, and an organic cook book.
  • For the new mom: gift certificate to a nearby spa, lotion or perfume, and a comfortable hoodie she can wear when cuddling with her new baby.

Experiential gifts
Give your recipient the gift of a fun experience with:

  • Tickets to…anything! A concert, athletic event, comedy club, museum, etc.
  • Tuition to a hobby-oriented class: cooking, art, knitting, dance, etc.
  • Airplane, train, or bus tickets…to anywhere!

Meaningful monetary gifts
Monetary presents can help you thoughtfully support your gift recipients’ needs or interests.

  • Financial gifts designated for a specific item. Contribute money for/toward: your sister’s wedding dress, your mother’s new sewing machine, your aunt’s Real Simple magazine subscription, your grandmother’s knitting habit, etc.
  • Gift cards for your recipients’ favorite restaurants; grocery or department stores; ice cream, hobby, or specialty shops; local boutiques; etc.

Here’s to thoughtful gift-giving and last minute shopping efficiency so you can focus on what’s really important – peacefully sharing the true spirit of this season with others.

* Photos by Jonathan Eggers

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