Okay guys – it’s December 23rd – it’s crunch time.   The entire month has flown by at Mach 2, and you’re looking at a somewhat scary list of people you have yet to shop for.   You’re not alone!  Read on for effortless, fabulous gift ideas that your family and friends will love, that you can put together inexpensively in minutes.

Gift Cards – one of my top picks.  Adults love them, kids love them, they’re highly appreciated and they’re used quickly.   For adults, best bets are gas stations that have not only fuel but excellent coffee – clearly Wawa & Sheetz get top marks.  Come January, just imagine the look on your broke buddy’s face when they had to run out the door without their caffeine fix and see they’re hitting “E” on the gas tank as well.  They’ll pull your gift card out of their pocket and sing your praises all the way to the coffee stirrers.

Magazine subscriptions – in today’s economy, people are cutting back on the fun little luxuries, including magazine subscriptions.  Think about your gift recipient’s favorite hobbies (Sports? Cooking? Hunting? Fashion? Decorating?) then get online to buy them a year’s subscription to a fantastic magazine – or two – that they can look forward to month after month.  Boom, gift giving is complete.

Homemade baked goods – these are still such a hit, and honestly not that hard to create – no mixers required!  Why?  Because in my book, if you take a tube of ready-made cookie dough off the supermarket shelf, and cut it open at home, slice them down into odd-shapes and let the kids add tons of sprinkles and/or icing, that counts as homemade.   It’s appreciated, it’s customized, it’s delicious to boot.  If you’ve got an afternoon to spare, carve an hour out to get these in the oven, let them cool, put them into some inexpensive tins and watch the lucky recipients dive in!

Lottery tickets – Honestly, I’ve never been into the lottery.  Odds are just slightly against my winning (don’t I wish), and I’d rather put my cash into a good cup of coffee.  That being said, there are so-ho-ho many people out there practicing their “Oh my GOD, I WON!” faces, and you and I know they’d love a ticket – or two – to put in their pocket.   Make their day, and make it clear that – if they win – you get a 10% commission.  Everyone’s a winner.

Dollar Store Gift Baskets – These gems have saved me too many times to count!   Easily made within 5 minutes for $5 or less at the Dollar Store.  They have it all gang – gift baskets, colorful shredded paper for fluff, coffee mugs, candy, cookies, chocolate, snacks – even small crafts and toys for kids’ baskets.  Et voila!  The possibility for hundreds of gift combos (all for $5 or less) await you!

This Christmas, I’m hearing from people right and left who find themselves even more cash-strapped (and time-strapped) than last year.  Trust me, whatever you give your buddies, they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness more than anything.  And if you’re subsidizing their caffeine intake as well, hey, what’s not to love?  Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show host, Columnist and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living.” She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs at 4 p.m. Tuesdays. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.

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