published Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Consumer Watch: Last minute tips for holiday shopping


by Ellen Phillips

“Oh, me, oh my

It’s time to cry

No gift for Sam

Or one for Pam!

What should I do

To get these two?

OK, OK, so my poem is a little lame, but, hopefully, it gets the point across. Many of us need a last-minute gift or two to either give or to have on hand and, faced with all the hectic hysteria of the holiday season, we’re not quite sure where to turn. Let me offer a few suggestions culled from previous columns, as well as new ideas, that may help to find a late gift or two; goodness knows, I don’t want any readers to worry it’s “time to cry”.

• Check dollar store deals. Toys and novelties line the shelves, from coloring books to fire engines for the neighbor’s kiddie. My grandchildren when young loved to get a $5 bill and try to decide what great items they could scrounge up. How about candles? They make a first-rate gift, and you can find an assortment at the dollar store. Decorate with a pretty ribbon and/or place the candle on a fancy plate (also found here) and, voila, a spectacular presentation.

For the cook, buy a bunch of spices — usually costing $1 — found on these shelves. Also, don’t forget jar/bottle items, such as olives and condiments, as well as sweets and cookies. Place some or all of them in a (dollar store) basket and tie a (dollar store) ribbon around the handle.

• Grocery store gifts are a good last-minute problem-solver. A bag or two of gourmet coffee or freshly-baked cookies from the bakery are a delicious touch. Pick up a pretty plant, such as a Christmas cactus or poinsettia to decorate the giftee’s home. And supermarkets carry an abundance of gift cards, including American Express or the like. In small up to large denominations, the recipient will have a ball gifting themselves with your present.

• A charity donation in the person’s name is a wonderful idea. Perhaps that person is a cancer survivor; donate to the American Cancer Society, for example. Give blood — the gift of life — or bone marrow to honor a recipient. If your honoree is an environmentalist, perhaps give a small tree or shrub or plant one yourself in his honor. Or go online and contribute to any organization that I suggested earlier this month in the giftee’s honor.

And regardless of your faith, culture, or inclination, have a very Merry Christmas.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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