Last Minute Quality Giving on a Beer Budget

December 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

How fast this time of year has come…again! It’s cliché to say how time flies, but this year I can honestly say it really did, faster than ever before. So here we are in the midst of the holidays with 2 days until Christmas, Hanukah is over and the New Year looming.  I have put together some good, quick (and cheap) ideas for gift giving because any assistant knows, the best rule of gift giving is to make sure it is something the person would like want or need instead of something you think they should have.  And this blog is for you, the assistant.

The busiest time of the year for an assistant is the holidays. Not only are you responsible for your own regular duties, but you must now add handling holiday cards and often hundreds of gift buying duties. (To date, the smallest amount of gift giving I have been responsible for are 80 gifts and December is always a blur). For years I’d end up spending way too much money doing last minute shopping for MY family. Aside from toys, it became very hard to find inexpensive gifts on such short notice. Here are some ideas.

Have you visited your local Goodwill store lately? Yes, you heard me right.

Here’s what to look for—

1) Ugly pictures! Yes, but take out that cheap piece of “art” and replace it with a photo you’ve taken of someone in your family. Depending on the size you can get the frame for $2.00 and the photo for $.25. Or you can spring for the canvas print option, where your photos are printed on ready to hang canvas. These start at $13.00 for the 5×7 size. Walgreen’s, CVS, Kinko’s offers this quick print option and same day printing. Or online check out,, or

2) Mugs and commuter coffee cups—Pair a clean, unscratched mug with a $10 Starbucks gift card. Mugs cost about $.25 to 2.00 and some are often new. If you want to splurge you can buy someone a stainless travel mug with their photo on it for $12.99 at CVS, Walmart or Costco. Better yet, a photo of you and your bestie. Just supply the photo of you and your friend’s mug.

3) Set of dishes—A teen just getting started would appreciate these but don’t get them grandma’s china. It is also perfectly acceptable to mix and match. Even more appreciated if it comes with a grocery gift card.

4) I have found one or two collectable books in the book section, but this takes a bit of time and patience. But you can find some a book for everyone’s taste.

Lobster Gram, Cheese Club, 1-800-Flowers, Beer-of-the Month, Wine-of-the-Month—it’s an online smorgasbord!

If it’s really crunch time, get online and buy a gift and take advantage of their “print it now” option to print a gift certificate that tells them their gift will be arriving soon. Try to present it as a gift that you print on nice paper, put it in a pretty envelope, and tie a bow on it! Done.,,

Gift Cards—

Once it was thought to be impersonal to give a gift card, but they are so customized now you can get a specific card to anyone’s favorite store. Make it even more thoughtful with an accessory. Maybe pair ear buds ($10 Best Buy or Walgreen’s) with an itunes gift card $10. Pair a usable tool or paintbrush with a Home Depot gift card if someone is fixing up his or her home. Dinner and a movie (give Subway and AMC) gift cards. Of course, the price is up to you with gift cards, but remember to put thought with it and it will be appreciated. And you don’t have to go to a million individual stores. You can get most cards at any gift card carousel at any major grocery store (at least in Los Angeles you can).

Magazine Subscriptions—

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! Sign someone up for a gift subscription, print out the certificate notification, and attach the current issue of the magazine. Easy breezy and fully customizable to someone’s personal interest because there are magazines for planning your wedding to bass fishing. Remember, what do they like? Cooking? Traveling? Self-Help? Hint–look for coupons online before purchasing. You almost never have to pay the price on the card that falls out of the magazine.


Have you been there lately? The best gift I ever gave to my family was a calendar with all of our birthdays noted. On the top of that family member’s month was photos of them that I had or they had posted on Facebook. On the front was a collage of photos of all of our family members. I knocked out 25 gifts in one fail swoop and they are still asking for another calendar. Who knew? It took time, but it was much easier than tromping around the mall. And I could upload it all to Kinko’s website and picked it up 2 days later. Check out your local Kinko’s where you can get many quick and personalized gifts. Bring your iphoto library and order away!

A Donation Has Been Made In Your Name To—

There is always an organization that can use money to provide desperate help to others. The Red Cross is an international organization that shows up to every disaster and helps those in need. But there our countless others that may hold a soft spot in the heart of your gift recipient. Maybe they’ve had a family member die from a disease and you can donate to the organization that is working to find a cure. You can pay and print out your donation card to present to your recipient. The amount you donate is unknown to the recipient. And you get a tax write off. This is especially good for the person who has everything and many people benefit from one gift.

The bottom line is that the holidays really are NOT just about giving. I find that when I am together with people I care about, or reconnecting with them just because it’s the holidays, it confirms the sense of love and caring we all have for each other even if we don’t talk regularly. It reminds us all how connected we are—old and new relationships. And find gratitude in everything, even that difficult family member. Be grateful that you’ll only have to see them during the holidays!

Have fun, hug your family and really see and appreciate them. I appreciate you, everyone who has kept up with my blog. Happy 2014—here I come!

Sign off


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