Okay, I know I'm a little late with this, but it turns out that I get stressed and fall behind at this time of year too!
You know I don't want you to buy a bunch of useless stuff for your loved ones that will turn from holiday joy to clutter in the blink of a New Year's party. So what should you get your kids, your co-workers, your BFF and your boo? Here are some suggestions.
Consumables. My rule of thumb is to get something your giftee already uses, and if possible a much nicer version of it. Fancy shaving cream and top-shelf whiskey come to mind. Other consumables: candles, soap, matches, candy, fruit, wine, windshield defogger, fancy salt, subway tokens (or the modern equivalent), lip balm, epsom salts, hard-to-find spices (with recipes), the latest gourmet energy bar, bottles of Vitamin D (good for northern climes), flower bulbs, a really great ballpoint pen... We're looking for things which will be used up by the time next December comes around.
Experiences. By far the greatest gifts, and there is something for every budget. Dinner reservations, trips to the spa, movie tickets, plane tickets, concert tickets, museum admission, bungee jumping, camping trips, historical tours, cooking classes, knitting lessons, fencing lessons, gym memberships, haunted house tours, Comic Con tickets. The list is endless, and there is not a person in the world who doesn't want a ticket to something or a trip somewhere or a class of some kind. And no clutter! Unless of course you take up a new hobby that includes a lot of gear. So stick to the tickets where possible.
Time. This is the one thing nobody seems to have enough of, so how about buying some for your friends and relatives? This could include childcare, taking over the grocery shopping (or any other time-consuming errand) for a month, offering to drive the kids to some of their many activities, walking the dog, planning a vacation, researching products or services, painting the living room (my sisters did this for me one year, it was fantastic), takeout once per month. These are gifts you give someone close to you, whose time travails you know well. Bonus: many of them do not cost a dime, just your own time.
Finally, useful stuff. This may not feel festive enough for everyone, but in our house receiving socks for Christmas is met with great joy. New flannel sheets, an emergency kit for the car, an immersion blender, fireplace tools... All things I'd have to buy for myself, so how nice of you to do it for me! We're pretty practical here chez Williamson; gifts don't have to be particularly innovative or expensive to please us. Here's what we don't want - stuff that will clog the cupboards and sit on shelves and make us feel guilty for not appreciating it more.
So go forth and finish your shopping, and see if you can do it without bringing a load of junk into the house. And because my children do not read this blog, here are some of the things they'll be getting in their stockings this year.