If you still have shopping to do, you might be freaking out right about now. In this final crunch time, you’ve got potential to win with a great last-minute gift or fail massively. Because I want to help you win, I’ve compiled a list of gifts you can get around town, as well as some present pitfalls you might want to skip.
The Beauty-Product Junkie
Skip: Any eyeshadow palette with 9 million different shades in it. It will get set aside and never used in favor of the new shimmer quad she had to have because the Chanel counter lady told her it complements her eyes perfectly. Also, unless you have had a specific request, avoid perfume — it’s too hard to find the right scent, and if she’s a product fiend (not that I would know anything about this), she probably already has at least four fragrances she’s trying to use up.
Get: A bronzing kit. She’s probably lamenting her pale, no-longer-tan skin that’ll be showing up in all the pictures this season. So give her the gift of bronzing. You can either pick up an already-made kit like this one at Sephora (I'm sure there are some at Nordstrom and Ulta, too), or put your own together. My picks are Tan Towels (available at Nordstrom; I wrote about them a while back), Nars Bronzing Powder in Laguna (available at Sephora), Nars Body Glow and Smashbox Baked Fusion Soft Lights in Baked Stardust (available at Sephora and Nordstrom). If you’re feeling extra crafty, stop by a toy store and grab a plastic bucket and shovel to present your gift in.
The Beer Lover
Skip: Picking out beers yourself, unless you know exactly what type of brew this person prefers and know a lot about beer yourself.
Get: A Mekong gift certificate. I normally hate gift cards because they are impersonal, but if this person is a beer lover, they likely know about and love Mekong. If they are a beer lover and don’t know about and love Mekong, they will thoroughly enjoy discovering it.
Skip: Cookbooks, again, unless you know there’s a certain one they want. In this age of online recipes, a cookbook often sits on the shelf unused, plus someone who likes cooking has probably already received millions of them as gifts.
Get: A membership to Love With Food. Each month, they'll get a selection of gourmet gifts to sample. You can buy a gift subscription online in three, six or one-year increments, and for every month you buy, a meal is donated to a child in need. Bonus!
Skip: Gifts from chain stores like Express, Gap, Banana Republic, etc. I’m not dissing these stores, but your average shopaholic has probably already bought the items she wants from these shops using a coupon, or she'll do so when they go on sale after Christmas. Get her something unique instead.
Get: Go to Quirk Gallery and find some distinctive, handmade jewelry — there’s a wide range of prices and options for almost every style preference.
Skip: Wine. Yes, it’s good in a bind, and I’m sure it will be appreciated, but your wine will just get thrown in with the tons of other bottles brought to the party, and you won’t be remembered as a stellar gift-giver.
Get: Lots of people think about gifts for the night of the party, but few think abou the next day. If you want to stick to the alcohol theme, how about your favorite Bloody Mary mix with a bottle of vodka, some fancy olives and a clever note about surviving the day after entertaining? Or champagne paired with sparkling orange juice or lemonade. If your hosts aren’t drinkers, grab a gourmet muffin mix, some Rostov’s or Blanchard’s coffee, or even a gift certificate for a dozenDixie Donuts.
The Health Nut:
Skip: Any type of food purchase — face it, you’re not going to pick the right sugar substitute, wheat type or protein variety that they prefer, so don’t try.
Get: Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker, available at the Apple store. For $60, this little gadget tracks steps, distance and calories burned, and syncs with an iPhone, Mac or iPad. If you want to go a little more high-end, the Nike+ FuelBand, also available at Apple, tracks activity, calories burned, steps and more, and costs $150 — my fitness-fanatic friends can’t get enough of it.
When in Doubt
My last-minute go-to for gifts when I'm clueless is usually The Shops at 5807 — you’re almost guaranteed to find something in one of the mini boutiques, plus the friendly ladies there will happily gift-wrap it for you. And if you really can’t find anything, feel free to ignore my comment above in "The Hostess," go next door to Barrel Thief and get them a bottle of booze — who doesn’t need a drink during this time of year?