Dec 232009

candlesThe Miami Herald forgot to run my column last weekend on last-minute Christmas present panic, so I’m going to share it here:

It happens every year. You’ve made your Christmas list, checked it twice, trimmed it to keep your budget in check and even almost finished your shopping.

Then comes the last-minute panic. Suddenly you’re thinking maybe you should buy just a small gift for (fill in the blank), a co-worker, a friend whose open house you’re attending, your child’s favorite teacher or any one of a number of people who isn’t a close friend and whom you didn’t plan to buy for.

Maybe just a small scented candle …

Don’t do it! Do your part to end the exchange of worthless stuff that people give because they think they should. Do any of those people really WANT another scented candle?

There are ways to acknowledge how much you appreciate your friends, relatives, co-workers and children’s teachers beyond giving them more junk they don’t need.

One friend gives co-workers laminated recipe cards for a dish she knows we’d like. She spends almost nothing for a gift that doesn’t have to be dusted and can actually be used.

I used to give people home-baked fudge and cookies, but with everyone on diets, I’ve ended that except for people I know who eat sweets. Sometimes I make up a small container with just a few cookies and a package of coffee or tea and maybe a gourmet piece of fruit.

Is your child’s teacher spending her own money to provide supplies? Perhaps a ream of paper or a box of crayons would be more appreciated than yet another knickknack.

For a hostess gift, consider something edible, either for the party or for the hosts to consume later: wine, cookies, fruit.

These days, the most valuable gift any of us can receive is time. Maybe the friend who is giving the party would really appreciate help decorating or cleaning up afterward. Your co-workers would probably really enjoy a pot of coffee and some bagels in February, when all the holiday sweets are long gone. Spend the money you would have spent on knickknacks for a lunch out with a friend.

You can also consider a really retro gift: a card with a heartfelt handwritten message about how much your co-worker, your child’s teacher, your friend really means to you. These days, those kinds of gifts are much rarer, and more precious, than one more scented candle.


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