Easy last-minute gifts that will save the world (or at least make you feel good)

Posted by Lauren Hall-Stigerts on December 21, 2013 in Editorial -- Share:

Zoinks! Less than a week left until Christmas and there’s still holiday shopping to do, huh? Are you allergic to anxious holiday shopping crowds? Don’t want to spend your last paycheck on overnight shipping? Refuse to succumb to consumer overindulgences by buying more clutter for the home?

I hear you – most shopping options at the end of the season are stressful and the pile ‘o stuff can be overwhelming. But I have a solution! In fact, it might even reduce your stress, impress your gift receivers, cost less than most gifts, be one-of-a-kind, and make the world a better place in the process.

Satisfy your gift giving by saving time, supporting your local businesses, and making a difference. Here are a variety of ideas to get you started – some you can even buy and print right from the comfort of your couch.

 

Regional treats: local food and beverage

Many have worked the national grocery chain into their weekly source for food. While convenient, large grocery stores don’t always offer the chance to try local selections. Your gift receiver might be surprised at the variety of food produced within miles of their home!

Membership to a local farm

Give the gift of fresher food right from where they live! Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way to support local farms and get the freshest food right in the neighborhood.

CSA Pears
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CSA membership is based on paying a monthly, semi-annual, or annual membership fee to gain access every week to whatever is growing. Buy a membership to your friend’s or family’s local CSA and treat them to a fresh and healthy lifestyle. Find a local farm.

Food made around town

CSAs take care of the fresh produce, but how about the snacks and beverages we so crave? With a little out-of-the-box thinking, you can find a garden of delights made right around town. Collect themes of regional food and create a gift basket!

Local meats, cheeses, wine, beer, tea, seafood – you won’t always find these at the grocery store. Here are some ways to find the tasty hidden gems.

Farmer’s Market
Many towns now have farmers’ markets that feature not just local produce, but local hand-made foods such as honey, preserves, candy, and more. However, they’re generally outside and may not be available at this time of year depending on your local climate. Find your local farmer’s market location and hours.

Local Food Basket
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Local Tourism Association
Many cities are great at promoting local businesses. Visit your city’s government website and look for links to a local tourism association. Tourism sites will list many of the noteworthy delicacies and where to try them – beer, wine, and more.

Specialty Stores
Get out of the big box stores. Take a breather from the outlet malls. There are many small, local specialty shops to be had around town.

Check out retail directory sites like Yelp and search for the local foods you’d like to build up your gift basket with. Visit smaller shopping areas that might not have the chain stores – these tend to attract the small, local companies.

Sometimes grocery stores do sell the local cuisine, especially those with a sustainable focus such as Whole Foods.

When in doubt, ship it out

If the local farm does not offer a CSA or you don’t have time to put together a basket, never fear! Treat your gift receivers to yummy, healthy food delivered right to their front porch. (Don’t worry – these are no “Jelly of the Month” clubs.)

Simplify sustainable produce shopping without visiting the farm. I’ve been a big fan of Full Circle this year because they keep my kitchen stocked with family-owned farm produce delivered right to my doorstep. The great part is that Full Circle’s website allows you to customize your order based on what’s in season.

Knoshy
Photo credit: Knoshy

If your friends and family have more of a snack tooth, try Knoshy – a monthly artisan treat club ($30 per month). The carefully curated box offers food from small, passionate producers across America, and usually food I normally have no idea existed.

 

Charitable giving

Yo dawg, I heard you like giving so I'm giving you the gift of giving

You’ve probably heard that connecting with others – helping make the world a better place – is a key component of happiness. So by that logic, could giving to a charity in the name of your gift receiver be one of the best gifts ever? Let’s find out.

Select a cause they’re passionate about

This is a time to get personal. Think back on memories with the person you’re buying a gift for:

  • Is there a challenge they’ve had to overcome – in their health or social life?
  • Do they have a particular fondness for animals?
  • Which current events have they reacted strongly to?
  • What themes can you gather from their favorite movies and TV shows?
  • What was the last activity they volunteered for?

Homelessness, international philanthropy, healthcare research, animal adoption – the list of causes to support are long and the possibilities are endless. Use Charity Navigator to help you select an organization with a good reputation.

Helping hand
Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina via Compfight cc

Prefer to buy a physical gift? You can purchase items where proceeds go to support a charity of your choice. For example, Free Set sells clothing items created by women who escaped the human trafficking black market.

Gaming charities

Here’s the perfect charity for your game-playing friends and family: video game charities. Organizations such as Child’s Play and Extra Life raise money through the power of gaming to improve the lives of hospitalized children.

Let them pick

Giving your friends and family the choice of which cause to support has two major benefits: 1) It takes the pressure off of you to make the choice, and 2) They will have an active role in giving back by selecting the cause!

Organizations like Just Give offer gift cards where the recipient can select a charity from their website. Another fantastic organization is Donors Choose – the gift recipient can select a real school project to back, and then they receive thank-you cards in the mail from the class!

 

An experience to remember

Making memories means even more at a time when less stuff makes us happier. Give your friends and families the experience they would love but feel guilty buying for themselves.

Entertainment

Media can cheer up our spirits or open our eyes to the world around us. What a wonderful gift.

Buying gift cards to the local cinema will certainly not go to waste. Support the local arts with gift certificates to the symphony, live theater, or the museum.

Symphony
Photo Credit: Dr. RawheaD via Compfight cc

Are they gamers? Buy them online games that they can play right away. (Hm, I think I know someplace you can buy game gifts. ;) )

Help save time and money

Take a little stress off of their backs by buying them experiences and services they already use!

Restaurants
Going out to eat is a treat. Buy a gift card to their favorite restaurant. (Even better: pick one up from a locally-owned establishment.) And if you’re short on time, find a restaurant that allows you to print the certificate right from their website.

Memberships
Practical types will love my next idea: a membership to something they already subscribe to. Buy them credits toward a streaming online service, a gift card to apply toward their favorite airline, or (if you’ve got a rapport with them) credit toward their gym membership.

Extra-special experiences
How about the services they want but wouldn’t buy for themselves? A few of my favorite ideas are photography packages, traveling car detail services, spa packages, or private lessons for something they’ve always wanted to learn (such as skiing or cooking).

 

Make them something!

The classic holiday gift. Think about it: before national retail chains, before Black Friday, before department stores… people made stuff. And with the revival of the arts and crafts culture, there is no shortage of ideas to tackle.

Crafts

Crafting can be an affordable gift solution. You’ll just need some time to make your glorious glitter-guilded genius. What are you good at – needlework, welding, building structures from toothpicks? Check Etsy and Pinterest for instant inspiration.

Craft Mario Mushroom
Photo Credit: Amy Dianna via Compfight cc

For gamer-related crafting, you’ve got a great resource right under your nose! My BFG blogging colleague Lisa wrote a post just for you: Gamer DIY and Real Life Crafting.

Baked goodies

Everyone thinks of baked goodies at the holidays, but sometimes you get burned out on making the same goodies every year.

STEP AWAY FROM THE FRUITCAKE! I could list all the usual recipe haunts, but how about something a little different?

Pac-Man Ghost Cookie
Photo Credit: betsyweber via Compfight cc

Have ingredients you want to use but don’t know what to make? I’m a big fan of Big Oven’s phone app. Plug in the ingredients you want to use and the app will provide you with a long list of related recipes!
 

Whew! That was quite a list. Now dash away, dash away, dash away all, and pick up those smart gifts while you still can!

What’s your favorite last-minute gift?

Written by

Lauren is a lifelong gaming fan. She expresses her love of strong female pop-culture characters by costuming at conventions. Internet marketing consulting, playing the clarinet and sax, practicing martial arts, and geeking out over tea keeps her busy the rest of the time. Find more of her shenanigans on Twitter @hallstigerts and Google+!

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