It's almost Christmas 2011, but for many holiday shoppers, last-minute gifts are beginning to seem like the only option. Before you grab as many gift cards as possible or pick a book (any book) from the nearest Barnes & Noble, take a second to look through our last-minute gift ideas list.
Whether for your mother or your kid sister, for your closest friend or your new boss, here are gifts that are easy to find, easy to get and easy to afford.
This holiday season, take a page from our last-minute gift ideas. We're sure this Christmas will be a lot less stressful if you do!
For Close Friends and Family:
These are the people who mean the most to you. They're been there through thick and thin, they probably made you the person you are today... and then Christmas Eve rolls around, and you have yet to think of a single present to show how much you care. From your football-loving sister to the dad who can't stop cooking, here are personal and thoughtful gifts that are still easy last-minute finds.
1. Sports Game or Concert Tickets: You should know your friends and family well enough to figure out what team they'd like to see play or what musician they'd kill to watch live. Armed with that information, all you have to do is take to the Internet and find an event nearby. They'll never know you purchased those tickets on Christmas Eve, but if you choose well you'll be a favorite far beyond New Year's Day.
2. Netflix Subscription: As much as customers may hate the company, they still love the service, and offering to pay for a year of free DVDs and instant viewing is sure to make you a family favorite.
3. How to Cook Everything App: For less than $10, you can get the entirety of Mark Bittman's James Beard-award winning cookbook, including advice on equipment, technique and ingredients, cooking photos, shopping lists and a built-in timer with each recipe.
4. Louis CK Live at Beacon Theater: Of course Louis CK is funny, but the comedian's latest special is also insanely cheap and easy to buy. All you have to do is go his web site, download it for $5 and burn it, and you'll have a present that will make your adult friends laugh all through Christmas.
5. Gift Baskets: Lame when you buy one at the store, amazing if you put it together yourself. This Christmas, go to Target or Walmart and pick up a bunch of inexpensive baskets and ribbons. Then fill the baskets with little knick-knacks and presents that your friend or family member would enjoy. Have a father who loves to cook? Put in some good olive oil and vinegar, a fun apron and quirky kitchen tools like a melon baller or an avocado slicer. Have a sister who loves reading and writing? Follow that book theme and stuff her basket with things like a new paperback, bookmarks and a leather-bound journal.
For Kids (or the Kid in Them):
Your little cousin, new sister or teenaged nephew are probably expecting presents even if you're not coming over for Christmas, and who are you to disappoint? Nor are these gifts limited to children, especially if you have a friend or older family member who still enjoys the goofy things in life. All these gifts are easy to find, but the kids in your life will still love you for getting them.
1. Homemade Coupon: Does your niece need a ride to the mall more often than her parents can take her? Does your cousin love to hang out with you when you babysit, but you just haven't had the time? This is the moment to give back to the little guys in your family, be they five years old or 16. It's also a great way to give a present to the parents, too, like offering to take them to a movie while their mom and dad relax at home.
2. Fun Winter Gear: Kids often forget to stay warm during the winter, especially if they're sporting bulky snow pants while the rest of their friends are wearing Hello Kitty gear. Make keeping toasty fun by getting them a gift like Arizona's critter gloves, running for $15.99 at JC Penney.
3. Cool Candy: Don't get too carried away here, unless you feel like facing their dentist's wrath. Rather than just buy them a bunch of Snicker's bars or a Russell Stover set (a bit rich for kids, anyway) try something like Buddy Bars, which have cute animal faces and come in flavors like key lime, caramel and peppermint bark.
4. MightyText App: For the tech-savvy high schooler in your life. The app itself is free, but few enough people know about it that it's still a great last-minute gift for the holidays. Download one app on their Android phone and the other on Google Chrome, and you're able to send and receive text messages through your browser, using your cell phone number. Similar apps are available for Apple products, as well.
5. Classic Children's Book... And Its Adaptation: There are so many remakes of classic stories out there that it can be hard to convince kids to read the original first. Cut out the middleman and deliver them both at once, so that if your little sister really does decide that Percy Jackson & The Olympians is her favorite movie, she can have a first book in the series to tide her over for a sequel.
For Co-Workers, Bosses, and Casual Friends:
Most of the time, you aren't expected to get gifts for your co-workers, and certainly not for your superiors. More and more offices, however, are getting into the holiday spirit by hosting Secret Santa swaps, and there are some instances where a present may feel necessary even if you don't know the person that well.
From the friend you run into at the coffee house to the co-worker who just helped you get promoted, here are some gifts that say Happy Holidays! without veering too much into the personal or threatening your bank account.
1. Wine: available everywhere, appreciated by (almost) everyone. If your boss is more of a beer drinker, mix and match some local brews for a fun holiday samples.
2. Ferrero Rocher: These chocolates aren't very expensive, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the box, checking out their wrapping, or by their quite decadent flavor. Just make sure nobody has a hazelnut allergy.
3. Gift Cards: Easy to find, easy to buy, and easy to please. This helps if you don't know your new friend as well, or if you want to thank your co-worker for a great project but feel anything beyond $15 at Starbucks is pushing it.
4. Shatterproof Ornaments: This is especially good if you have an office holiday tree, but it's best used as a gift for a friend who's putting Christmas off or a co-worker who's expecting a kid soon. Sure, these might be a little late for the holidays this year, but your forethought will be appreciated when the dog knocks over grandma's antique ornament on Dec. 25.
5. Scented Candles: These are always welcome around the Christmas season, and say Happy Holidays! without veering into the personal. It also sends a message depending what scent you choose, so be sure to think carefully about whether you want to choose Red Apple Zest or Soothing Zen for your boss's Christmas present.