10 Last Minute Gift Ideas Without a Trip to the Mall

No guilt trip here. For whatever reason, you’ve waited till the eleventh hour to finish (or start) your holiday shopping. Now you’re faced with a time-and energy-sucking trip to a crowded mall or a gift card you can purchase online. As someone who has often put off until the last minute what I could have done months ago, I’m offering up 10 gift shopping tips to keep you from losing your sanity. You’re invited to post your own inspired ideas.

1. Visit a newsstand and pick up a current issue of a magazine tailored to a recipient’s interests. Tie it up with a ribbon and note promising that a year’s subscription is on the way, which you can then go order online. A variation on this theme might be a subscription to someone’s hometown newspaper – a welcome gift for anyone who’s homesick. 

2. Your local hardware store is bound to be less crowded than the mall and you’ll find an amazing array of gift ideas like a really good flashlight, a cordless drill, a set of screwdrivers and bits, a supply of rechargeable batteries and a recharging station or a portable fire extinguisher. One of the most useful gifts I ever got was a big spool of kitchen twine and some heavy duty kitchen shears (I think of the giver every time I truss a chicken). 

3. Your neighborhood nursery is blooming with gifts any gardener would be glad to get. These include everything from a houseplant in a pretty cache pot to good quality clippers or hand towels, leather gardening gloves, wind chimes and garden gnomes. Tuck in a few packets of seeds or bulbs.
4. The drug store (or hair salon) is a treasure trove, especially if you have teenage girls on your shopping list. Put together a manicure kit with tools, a couple bottles of cool polishes and other supplies. Tuck some lip gloss, eye shadow, liner and blush into a pretty cosmetic bag. Combine a natural bristle brush, with a bottle of high-end shampoo and conditioner in a nice basket. 

5. Got a stress cadet on your list? A gift card for a massage wrapped around an aroma therapy candle or inside a relaxation CD is a ticket to bliss. 

6. The grocery store is a wonderful resource for last-minute gifts. The possibilities are endless. Package of imported dried pasta, a bottle of good olive oil and a chunk of parmigiano-reggiano cheese; a half dozen essential dried herbs and spices; an assortment of canned and bottled hors d’oeuvres like smoked oysters, stuffed olives, roasted peppers along with some gourmet crackers; a selection of mustards with dried sausage and a six-pack of imported beer. These can be tailored for any price range. They’re also age- and gender-neutral, so you can keep a couple on hand should you need to produce a gift on the spot.

7. The stationery store and post office. Who couldn’t use a roll of stamps and a set of note cards? If you need to elevate the gift, include a nice pen.

8. Give services. Maid service, yard or garden service or auto detailing are just a few ideas. 
9. Promise coupons are always a good fall back gift, especially for young kids who are short on funds. Promises can range from washing the car to walking the dog or babysitting. 

10. There are people who really do have everything and don’t need (or want) anything else. Make a charitable donation in their name. If you want to up the fun factor, consider something like Heifer.org, which lets you give a flock of chickens, a hive of bees or even a cow to help families around the world become self-sufficient. They’ll even send a pretty “in-honor” card or email to the recipient.


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