If you haven't finished — or started — your holiday shopping, don't panic. We've got some ideas that go easy on the stress and the wallet.
Panicked shopping can lead to overspending. Don't spend so much that you spiral into debt or further into debt. If your family and friends care about you, they don't want you to suffer financially because you felt you needed to buy them a gift.
Think of what the holiday means, and why you're giving the gift. It's not about how much you spend. Often, people remember gifts that require some effort and thought. Some last-minute ideas to get you started:
Look through your old photos
Enlarge one and frame it, or frame a couple together. Find a small album that you can personalize, perhaps with a theme such as "Our vacations together."
Make life easier for someone
If you know a military spouse whose husband or wife is deployed, make a "coupon book" good for weekend afternoons of baby-sitting, snow shoveling, lawn mowing or a few homemade dinners.
Make your signature treat
Jam, cake, salad dressing or candy. We know one mom who gave canned beef. Dress it up with a bow.
Write a letter
Describe what you like about the person and list some things he or she has done that you appreciate. Focus on that person. Putting pen to paper is increasingly rare, so a friend or loved one might enjoy reading and rereading it. Consider decorating the stationery.
Get military-specific deals online
Your favorite coffee junkie in Afghanistan can pick up a prepaid Green Beans Coffee gift card at the location on his base.
When you buy online from Green Beans Coffee, an additional 10 percent value will be added.
For a music junkie, http://www.apple.com/itunes/gifts">set up an iTunes gift online. You can email the gift certificate or deliver it in person. Also, check out the selection and prices at http://www.exchangeonlinemall.com">MiliTunes on the Exchange Online Mall. Tracks start at 60 cents.
Send chocolates or flowers using your military discount through other retailers on the Exchange Online Mall. FTD offers a 25 percent military discount. And 5th Avenue Chocolatiere offers a 10 percent discount through the mall.
Sign your bookworm up for some reading at Books-A-Million. E-gift certificates can be emailed to your recipient, and can be redeemed online or by phone for a variety of gifts. If the recipient is an authorized shopper, he will qualify for discounts at Books-A-Million http://www.exchangeonlinemall.com">through the Exchange Online Mall.