Last-minute shopping tips

With two weeks to go until Christmas, many of us are mired in the traditional holiday panic about what gifts to buy for our loved ones.

We wander shopping malls, examining merchandise and muttering and shaking our heads. Nothing seems to fit with our loved ones' wants and needs. Or, we find the perfect gift, but it's too expensive. Or, it's the wrong size or color or voltage.

With each passing day, the joyful deadline presses closer, until the last few shopping days arrive and we desperately grab up anything and wrap it in brightly colored paper and hope for the best. This is how bald Uncle Fred ends up with hair curlers on Christmas morning and Grandma gets a new monkey wrench.

Why does this happen, year after year? Because our loved ones already have all the stuff they need. In our credit-driven society, deferred gratification is a forgotten value. If we want something, we run right out and buy it. And everyone else we know acts the same way.

The result? If you think of an item that would make the perfect gift for your loved one, it will turn out that the loved one already has one. Each year, we're forced to go farther afield in search of gifts they might possibly need, but don't already own. And this, my friends, is how the Salad Shooter came to be born.

The solution to this perennial problem is to "think outside the (gift) box." Your family doesn't need more stuff. What your loved ones will appreciate most are gifts that show you've given some consideration to their lifestyles and their happiness.

Gifts you've made with you own hands demonstrate your love and thoughtfulness, though people will whisper later that you are a tightwad. Gag gifts show whimsy, but you'd better hope your loved ones share your sense of humor. Money or gift certificates let the recipients decide for themselves what useless crap will clutter up their homes.

Here are some other creative gift suggestions:


Christmas really is for kids, and nothing ruins the holiday faster than the crestfallen look of a child who opens an inappropriate gift and declares that Santa is an idiot.

When buying toys, you should consider durability as well as the latest hot trends. Ideally, you want toys that will not be destroyed before the credit-card bills come due. Also, avoid toys that need batteries unless you're prepared to buy new batteries every week for the rest of your life, which explains the origin of the phrase "a gift that keeps on giving."

You can be forward-looking with kids' gifts -- giving money to their college funds or donating to a good cause in their names. But be warned: The children will hate you forever.

Whatever you opt to buy for a child, make sure it comes in a large cardboard box. That's the only thing the kid will play with, anyway.


This is difficult because Christmas gifts for spouses require a knowledge of what your spouse needs, plus a touch of romance. No spouse really wants new pots and pans for Christmas. His-and-her TV remotes will not be considered romantic. Major appliances are out, too, unless your spouse enjoys playing in large cardboard boxes.


These folks are particularly hard to buy for because they've had entire lifetimes to accumulate stuff. Food items work, as long as you're cognizant of the recipients' special dietary needs. But the best thing you can do for a senior citizen these days is help them pay for their prescription drugs. Or get them a nice big cardboard box as a "retirement home."


Tricky, because you can end up paying more in postage than the gift items are worth. The best way to handle distant loved ones is to perfect this phrase: "Darn, it must've gotten lost in the mail."

If Dec. 24 arrives and you still haven't finished your shopping, go to a store and buy dozens of the same item and give one to each person on your Christmas list. We recommend the monkey wrench as the perfect universal gift. If you don't believe us, go ask Grandma.

No comments: