If you've been trying to avoid the commercialism of the mall, but still find yourself with an unfinished gift list that you need to fill, I have a few last-minute ideas for you. Whether you're a procrastinator extraordinaire, have people on your list who seem to already have everything, or have just been unusually busy, I hope you can cross someone off your list after reading this post. The main criterion for my selections, on top of being non-consumer, are that you don't have to leave the house.
1. SnagFilms.com. I just learned about this great website that lets you send a friend a "virtual movie theater" with a playlist of up to 10 full-length documentary films. They currently have 1000 free documentaries on the site, ranging from politics to the environment to music. Just a few titles from their library: Super Size Me, What Would Jesus Buy?, and The End of America.
This gift is eco-friendly and free. It would be a great option for a movie buff who loves documentaries but might not know about this service. And someone who doesn't think you're cheap because you're not spending money. Because what you're giving, including your time, doesn't have a price tag.
2. Make a donation in their name. I've already talked about Global Giving, one of my favorites. Your loved one can choose where they want to put their money, and for as little as $10, they can buy malaria nets for a family in Mali, buy books for schoolgirls in Afghanistan, or contribute to a host of worthwhile projects. Other great organizations are Children.org, which allows them to sponsor a child or donate to an individual project, or Heifer International, where they can give the gift of livestock to a family in an effort to lift them out of poverty while providing a source of nourishment. If you want something physical to present as a gift, most of these places let you download a certificate/card for the recipient.
3. Food. Finally, many people enjoy the gift of food during the holidays, I know I do. If you're afraid they might have already OD'd on baked goods, try something like mixed nuts or homemade trail mix. My favorite combines almonds, walnuts, pecans, salt, cumin, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate chips. You just heat the nuts in a pan on medium until slightly browned, remove from the heat and lightly coat with cooking spray, and toss with salt and a little cumin. Then let it cool completely before adding the remaining ingredients. It's delicious, and listed as a great snack for women over 40 because the nuts contain omega-3s which lower bad cholesterol and raise the good kind, plus lower the risk of heart attack if you eat them several times a week. If you have a tree, fresh lemons are always appreciated, or fresh herbs from the garden if you live in a temperate climate.
Most importantly, remember that the season isn't about competitive shopping and figuring out the best STUFF to buy. It isn't about STUFF at all. One year I simply wrote cards telling my family members what they meant to me and I think they appreciated the time and thought behind it. But no matter what you do, try to enjoy yourself because life is too short to dwell on unimportant details.
Happy Holidays. If you have any last-minute gift ideas you'd like to share, please tell us about them in the Comments section.