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Nine Good Gifts (and One Bad One)

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Getting the perfect gift for someone is hard, and it’s even harder when you’re on a budget. Here are some ideas for personalized gifts that your friend is sure to remember.


1. Start Baking
Homemade cookies, breads, cakes—as long as you avoid making fruitcake, who doesn’t love getting baked goods? Baked goods are a great way to show affection for someone, particularly if you personalize them. Do a little digging and find out your friend’s favorite kind of cookie. Or if you have a specialty, start a new tradition and cook it up every holiday season. Plus if you have kids, you can put them to work and make it a family event. Printing out labels or stickers can also put some personality into how your package your sweets.


2. Make Someone a CD
Not to promote pirated music, but this is a nice gift and popular favor at weddings, showers, bar mitzvahs, etc. And it’s personal. Customize the case and you’ll be giving a unique gift that people will appreciate. And the best way to learn about new music is through friends, so if you are lucky enough to have a lot of friends who are DJs, encourage them to share. Who said the “mixed tape” was dead?


3. Take Someone Out for a Drink
Coffee, wine, or a cocktail can all be inexpensive, and it’s spending time together that is the true gift. Don’t make it just another ordinary meet up. Take the time to listen and to laugh, so no complaining about jobs, significant others, or the weather. Look for an unusual venue, like a new place you’ve been meaning to try, and go during a less busy time. For example, in New York, boutique hotels are hot places for locals to hang out. Not only do they have lots of comfortable places to sit and lounge, but you’re more likely to get great service with a dash of glamour. Pretend you’re on vacation for a moment, and mentally you will be.


4. Go Green
Bring someone flowers, a small plant, or a mini herb garden. Everyone loves getting green gifts and keeping our leafy friends alive is a year-long endeavor. Seed packets are also nice gifts for someone who already has a garden and you may even find yourself reaping the fruits from their future harvest.


5. Buy Someone a URL
For about $10 a year, you can reserve a URL for someone. Make it silly, romantic, or practical. If you know someone with a business idea or just has something to say, this is an original and useful gift. And since it’s one of the first steps to building a Web site, it may inspire the recipient to set a project in motion, right in time for the new year. 


6. Manicures
$10 manicures are a dime a dozen, and for women, spa treatments rank high on the list of desired gifts. Share the experience with a friend and get quality time together, plus you’ll both leave with the perfect holiday party accessory: polished nails. And lots of manicurists make house calls, believe it or not, so think about getting a group of friends together and making an evening out of it. Throw on a facemask and you’ll get great photos, too (just don’t post them to Facebook). And gents, don’t pretend like you don’t need a little beautifying as well. I’ve yet to meet a man who doesn’t love the occasional mud mask.


7. Custom Stationary
Are you a designer/artist/illustrator or self-taught Photoshop guru? With some nice paper and a good printer, you can give someone their own stationary for writing holiday thank you cards. Don’t just use clipart and a template; get inspired and use your skills. If you know a budding entrepreneur, offer to do their business cards as a gift. If you do a good job, who knows, you may find yourself with a second career.


8. Photo in Frame
Everyone loves getting photos. And frames can be really inexpensive or are easy to make yourself. This is an especially great gift for family, but friends will love it too. Personally, I learned Photoshop years ago by distorting my friend’s photos for laughs. So if you want to enlighten someone by giving them an “extraterrestrial” version of themselves, don’t hesitate. ’Tis the season to morph. Of course, a more traditional approach is to go back into the archives and see if you have any photos from your past that you want to share.


9. Plan a Museum Trip
Museums are affordable, sometimes even free entertainment, and they are a great backdrop for shared experience. What better way to spend a few hours than wandering around together surrounded by artful masterpieces, dinosaur bones, or antiquities? Explore what your hometown has to offer and invite a friend to spend the day with you. You’ll be sure to gain knowledge and insight, and certainly create a memorable experience together.


Don’ts!
Don’t give coupons for babysitting, massages, knitting classes, etc. These seem played out and redemption is awkward. Instead, make it easy on your loved ones. For example, if you know of friends who recently had a baby, just call them up and say, “Hey, do you want a couple hours to yourselves tonight? I’ll come over to babysit.” Tell them it’s your way of giving them a little something this time of year. They’re sure to appreciate it.


Remember, the key to giving a good gift isn’t just about getting them something unique. Show them how well you know them by getting a gift that is uniquely them, yet something that they might not think to buy for themselves.

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