It’s that time again. The countdown to you-know-what and the rush to find the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. Most of that holiday bustle that we all speak of is the “oh crap, I forgot Aunt Judy’s new husband.” Back out into the bustle we go to find THE perfect thing. Oh, and it needs to be perfect and not terribly expensive, given the other 412 gifts on the list. Why do we do it? At some level, I think we remember the true meaning of gift giving. Which, by the way, is not a list to be checked off, but another layer of the season’s celebrations. Some say that it hearkens back to the three wise men and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but it wasn’t until early Dutch settlers introduced St. Nicholas to America that we all went seriously crazy with gift giving. Hey, don’t get me wrong, gift giving is FUN! But let’s not stress about it this year. You with me? Here are some easy gift ideas that are fun, unusual and may even require the wonkiest of ideas – togetherness!

Simple is Best!

Make it an extra special gift by buying thank you notes and stamps from a local shop or paper goods store. The receiver will get something unique and helpful and you’ll support local retailers who really appreciate your business. Make it even more special by attaching a business card from the shop. Not only will this tell your loved one that you bought from a local business, but they might want to visit that shop as well.

Buy in Bulk!

A great way to get through your list is to buy for the family rather than the individual. Trying to find something amazing for everyone in your sister’s family is crazy-making. Promote some togetherness by buying a family season pass to Riverfront Park or a yearly subscription to The Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC) or Mobius Science Center. Does your recipient live outside of the area and need to drive to enjoy your gift? Make it extra special by tossing in a $20 gas card!

Let Kindness be your Guide!

Last Christmas, my uncle donated $50 in my name to a local men’s shelter. No, I didn’t have anything to unwrap, use, eat or wear. But you know what? It was still awesome! He did this for everyone on his list. He got to feel good and I got to feel good and someone at the shelter got something they could really use like food, clothes and everyday supplies.

Go with Gift Cards!

Have a long list of friends that you’d love to go all out for but it’s just too much? Go the gift card route. I know, gift cards are unimaginative, but they don’t need to be. Invite everyone in your closest group to have a gift card exchange at a local winery or restaurant. Heck, you could even wait until after the holidays. The only rules to this game are the ones you make! The idea is that everyone brings a $20 gift card to great businesses and everyone leaves with one. You could pull from a hat or a thieve’s exchange (everyone can steal a gift card from someone else until the cards are gone) or just use your imagination. One super fun way is to pull a gift card from the hat. The group must decide who it “fits” best. This leads to great conversation and lots of laughs.

Small can be Big!

“It’s the thought that counts” is not just an overused phrase. It’s true! Any small gift, wrapped artfully, is special. A small box of caramels (Masselow’s makes fabulous ones, sold right in their restaurant), that you know your friend will love, is just as great as something more elaborate. Your friend will think of you when they open the box.

P.S. You should call ahead for big orders of these ridiculously good, to-die-for, sea salt caramels. A meaningful charm attached to a Spokane postcard is lovely, small and inexpensive! A favorite bottle of wine is always welcome, and, if you buy it at a Washington winery, buy another one for yourself. Bring the receipt from your purchase and buy an entrée that day at a participating restaurant and you’ll save the corkage fee. It’s like two gifts in one! Plus, you deserve to dine out and have some wine, because you just got through your holiday shopping list without breaking a sweat!

May your holiday be joyous, full of celebration, love and most of all, peace!