If you are still scrambling for some last minute ideas in these final days leading up to Christmas (or for the next several days of Hanukkah), and don't want to fight the last minute shoppers at the mall or even for a parking space for that matter, consider some of these ideas.
- The Entertainment or Enjoy Book. I know the Entertainment Book is nationwide, and even available in some areas of Canada. These are great gifts for anyone, my parents get me one every year! Full of coupons for local restaurants--usually the equivalent of buy one get one, everything from breakfast, lunch and dinner--as well as local businesses (car washes, dry cleaners), sports events, theaters, museums and activities (movies, bowling, miniature golf, etc). Usually ranging between $25-35, they are available at several stores locally, including the grocery store and Rite Aid.
- Get your GROUPON! If you don't already subscribe to the daily email deals from Groupon and Living Social (and the much newer Google Offers), sign up now! Daily deals offer a deal for typically half off of the usual price of the deal--be it dinner, a wine flight, bowling, tickets for shows & events, memberships to local attractions (zoo, museum etc), mani-pedis, massages, anything is possible! Not only have J & I been prompted to try new places by getting some of these deals, we have also been able to take advantage of things like the South Side Slopes Step Trek. Last year, when putting together a gift basket for my supervisor at work from the team, we were able to purchase a pedicure special for a great price. (It even included a glass of wine in the experience!) Knowing she would be unlikely to treat herself to something like that, we jumped on the offer. Most deals are only available for a day, so you do have to check your email daily. Typically when you click on the deal, it will tell you how long you have to purchase, be it hours or days. Once purchased, you can print the coupon from your computer to slip into someone's stocking! Living Social & Groupon also have getaway deals, so don't hesitate to look at those as well. J & I were lucky enough to snag a 2 nights for the price of 1 deal from Groupon for the Bedford Springs Resort where we celebrated our First Anniversary. That enabled us to use the gift card we had planned to use to pay for the room for dinners and a visit to the spa!
- Lottery tickets & gift cards--Let's face it, everyone loves scratch-off tickets and gift cards, right? Even those of us who love to cook like to go out to eat, whether it's pizza or Outback, Eat n Park (for Pittsburghers!), Olive Garden or Bob Evans. Many of the grocery store gift card racks now have packs of gift cards--3 $10 Pizza Hut cards, 3 $15 Applebees or Chili's gift cards, etc. that make gifts to the mail carrier or paper carrier easy. Also the variety of scratch off tickets in various price ranges make a fun and easy way of gift-giving. I recently bought several (as in $60 worth!) for various folks like the letter carrier, paper carrier, the girls at the Pretzel Shop and *maybe* for a special someone's stocking. I bought several $1 tickets that I have kept in my purse and handed out to various folks in my travels. The cashiers who waited on me when I shopped for last minute gifts, the bus driver, the cute elderly lady who was also on the bus, the receptionists at my doctor's office, and the Starbucks barista. So many have just been "tickled pink" by a $1 ticket, I think I will make it a point to do this every year!
- If you are short on cash, do not underestimate the gift of a good deed. If you have long hair and want to go for the gusto, donate 10 inches to Locks of Love, who will use it to make hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children suffering from medical hair loss. Have tea with an elderly neighbor or family member, walk your neighbor's dog or shovel their walk when they are under the weather, make some treats for a neighbor or friend who lives alone. I recently made a batch of my mom's tuna noodle casserole for a co-worker who was having surgery and going to be off for a few weeks to recover. Instead of making a pan, though, I sprayed a regular size muffin tin tray with cooking spray, and dropped spoonfuls of the casserole in each tin cup. I baked as directed, and when finished, the casserole "muffins" popped right out. I wrapped each individually with plastic wrap, this way she could grab 2-4 at a time to thaw out and heat in the microwave depending on how she felt and her appetite. Try it with your favorite casserole, it's a great way to spread the joy over several weeks to someone!