A Little Something

By Bev Bennett | CTW Features

This year let simple inspirations, not grandiose aspirations, be your guide as you shop for holiday gifts.

To please everyone on your list while staying within your budget, look beyond the season’s hot items and focus instead on practical, yet pleasurable presents.

And don’t worry; you won’t be alone in your approach.

“Saving is contagious,” says Tim Henderson, consumer strategist for Iconoculture, Inc., a consumer research company in Minneapolis.

In years past, “We went through aspirational buying, looking for the higher-priced item,” says Henderson. This season, he believes shoppers will prefer to give practical gifts: purchases the recipient needs, that promote good causes or that display the giver’s talents.

So don’t be too quick to dismiss the adage,“It’s the thought that counts.” Think – and then find ways to give your loved ones simple, enjoyable gifts. Here are some ideas.

Small Indulgences

The Moisture Stick, a roll-on moisturizer to relieve dry knees, elbows, cuticles, lips and more, weighs half an ounce, is suitable for carry-on luggage and comes in five scents, including Rosemary Mint and Tangerine Melon ($5, Deep Steep).

A battery-operated, stainless steel milk frother will whip hot milk into a foamy cap for coffee in minutes (Aerolatte, $10 – $30).

Personalized Gift Baskets

Amplify the impact of an assortment of practical gifts by assembling them in a themed gift basket.

You can create a personal yet economical indulgence basket, following a tip from Jennifer Melnick Carota, a licensed therapist and gift-shopping strategist in the Pittsburgh area.

Buy lotions and potions in sets and break them up, so one basket gets the lotion, another the dusting powder. Here are a couple of tantalizing suggestions:

Extra Rich Shea Butter comes in floral and fruit scents as well as unscented ($7.50 for a 0.35-ounce tin, Mistral).

An affordable set of body luxuries includes solid perfume, body butter, soy candle and a set of matches. The sets are available in one of four scents: Avalon Juniper, Mediterranean Fig, Tuscan Blood Orange and Hawaiian Ruby Guava ($12.95, Pacifica).

Modest Gifts in Great Packages

Make the wrapper as meaningful as the gift. For example:

Buy a bag of ground coffee, put it in an attractive coffee mug and wrap. Add a measuring spoon to the ribbon.

Buy a small ice bucket; set two Champagne flutes and a small bottle of Champagne in the bucket. Wrap.

Pick up a pair of women’s socks in a fun color or pattern. Fill with nail polish and pedicure supplies.

Plants with Added Benefits

Cooking herbs keep on giving throughout the year. You’ll find herb pots in supermarkets or garden nurseries. Buy a set of four herbs, such as thyme, mint, basil and rosemary; arrange them in a container that sits on the windowsill, which your loved one can use in several favorite recipes.

Fair-Trade Gifts

Fair-trade items are made by hand and sold for prices that ensure the artists receive a fair price and the opportunity to earn a living wage. Look beyond the usual online suppliers to local retailers that can provide the full provenance of their fair-trade merchandise.Every item tells a story.

Fair-trade jewelry, widely distributed, is often distinctive. A Harmony Red Agate Stone Necklace, handmade in New Delhi, India and distributed through world-shoppe.com, features clusters of glass and wooden beads around a large agate. The wood beads are made from scraps from a local furniture factory. Sales of the necklace help women in New Delhi send their children to school and feed their families ($28.50).

Accessories fashioned from discarded containers and packaging are another popular fair-trade fashion theme. A “Trashy Tote,” handmade in Ghana, also from world-shoppe.com, is aptly named for the plastic waste that’s recycled to produce the bags ($23.50).

Green without the Ga-Ga

Junk-mail clutter is a nuisance, but a bulky electric paper shredder isn’t exactly a lean, mean eco machine.

Opt for Stainless Steel Shredding Scissors. The multiple blades shred paper and credit cards, yet the gadget is small enough to fit in a desk drawer ($8.99, The Container Store).

Reusable cloth bags are a great alternative to both paper and plastic, especially when the bag fits in your purse or desk drawer. Lots of local retailers offer unique designs and sizes. Some of the most useful are those that miraculously fold into tiny, portable rectangles. The cotton canvas CarryEco bag is 17 inches wide, 26 inches long and folds into a 7-by-4.5-inch pouch ($16, Tokyo Bay).

Sustainable Gifts

Shop local gift, stationery and accessory shops for handmade beauty products that can be used and used again. Spotted at the Bodytime shop in Berkeley, Calif.: bath soap wrapped in a snug felted wool “coat.” The wool, dyed in several vibrant colors, can be used as a washcloth. The soap fits inside and comes scented with lavender or calendula citrus. The felt casing shrinks along with the soap. When the soap is used up, make a slit along the edge and insert scraps of soap or a new bar ($18, Bodytime).

The Gift of Time

Create personalized coupons giving a service your loved one needs, wants or enjoys.

“The list is endless and limited only by imagination,” writes Elliott, leadership strategist with The Berkana Company, LLC, Columbia, S.C.

She suggests an evening of babysitting, walking the dog, organizing a closet or baking a batch of cookies.

Buy festive postcards and describe the gift and any redemption instructions on the card. The recipient can redeem the coupon by mailing back the postcard.

Themed Gifts

Build a gift around someone’s interests, says Carota.

For example, if you’re giving a sports fan tickets to a game, add a hat, shirt or jersey.

A seasoned baker can always use a new cookie sheet, especially if it’s packaged with an oven mitt.

Even the family dog would much prefer an assortment of chew toys rather than a single one.

Gifts for a Cause

Ten percent of the purchase price of every box of Choxie St. Jude Thanks and Giving Truffle Bars and Cookie Truffle Collection goes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Artwork created by St. Jude patients and siblings adorns the packaging ($10 each, Target Stores).

Ground Coffee Kitchen Soap is a blend of milk soap and ground dark coffee that’s designed to eliminate kitchen odors. The St. Louis company gives employees paid weeks of community service. ($12 for an 8-ounce bar, K. Hall Designs).

Creative Re-Gifting

Picture frames are the number one gift people re-give to others, according to Carota.

But don’t just rewrap the same frame. Turn it into a desirable personalized gift by placing an inspirational poem or a letter from a child to a parent – or reverse – in the frame. “It makes a great office gift,” Carota says.

© CTW Features

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