Ten Things that Make Easy Last-Minute Gifts
Books: For the reader on your list, pick up some of your favorite titles from your local used book store, or find some new reads at your public library's book sale room. Stack, wrap or tie with a ribbon, or place in a reusable tote.
Cookie Exchange: This requires some cooperation from your recipient. Agree to exchange as gifts a batch of your favorite cookies. Once you've made them, pack them in a pretty tin or container (the Dollar Store has great holiday tins), add a bow or tie with a ribbon. Be sure to share your recipe on a note card. This idea is also great as a theme for a Christmas party with friends; everyone brings a batch (my friend Jill holds her cookie exchange every year at Starbucks) and you draw names from a hat for the exchange.
Devoted Day: This is a gift of your time -- make up a coupon for you to spend any day with your recipient doing [fill in the blank]. If you need ideas, you can offer to house clean, babysit, go shopping, hiking, visit a local attraction or just hang out and watch TV. Lovers, you can get even more creative and offer a night. :) Place your coupon in a nice card or clip it to a 2017 calendar.
Dollar Challenge: This is great to do with kids -- you agree to buy each other a gift that costs only $1.00, and go shopping together (and you'll need to shop either at a dollar or thrift store, but that's also fun.) One year my daughter found a little pocket manicure set for me that I still have in my purse.
Flowers: This makes a nice gift when you're visiting someone. Find a pretty bouquet of flowers at your local market (mine have them for under $10.00) and put them in a plain glass vase from Dollar Store. If you want a more ornate vase, check your local Goodwill store. Tie a red, green or white ribbon around the vase, or add some pine needle sprigs or a wrapped candy cane to the arrangement to make it extra festive.
Framed Shot: If you've taken a nice photo of your recipient or someone dear to them during the year, print it out in a 5X7 or 8X10 size and place it in a purchased frame. The Dollar Store has basic frames, but if you want something more elaborate try Hobby Lobby or Target.
Instant Music Collection: Bundle together some CDs you record or purchase that you think your recipient will enjoy. One fun variation is to make some mixes for them to play in the car. My mom did this for me one year with Christmas music.
Snack Bowl: Find a pretty serving bowl at Goodwill or the Dollar Store. Add some bags of microwave popcorn, fresh fruit, hot cocoa mix envelopes, small bags of chips or pretzels, cereal snack mix, etc., wrap with cellophane and crown with a bow. You can tailor this to your recipient, too; I do an exotic tea-and-cookies snack bowl for one of my friends every year (World Market is a great place to find unusual teas and snacks, too.) If you want to make a special but easy snack for the bowl, you can find my no-brainer fudge recipe here.
Stuffed Stocking: For that impossible-to-buy-for person on your list, make or buy a stocking and fill it with something they love. The obvious choice is snacks, but you can also stuff it with small toiletries, crumpled dollar bills (college students love that one), two or three scarves, writer stuff, hand lotion and lip balms, kitchen tools or towels, the ingredients for a recipe, etc. This is also a fun gift to make with small toys or treats for the family pet.
Yarn Basket: For the knitter or crocheter in your life, fill a tote or pretty basket with a project pattern and enough yarn skeins to make it. Be sure you know your recipient's skill level and color preferences before you buy the supplies. You can do a fabric and sewing pattern variation of this for your favorite seamstress.