Monday, December 8, 2008

How to Buy Christmas Presents

There are three categories of presents that I generally seek out for my family and friends: practical, memorable, and consumable. I generally prefer to both give and receive presents in this same decreasing order, although as I get older, the consumable group is surpassing the memorable group. The younger the recipient, the more you should follow the original order, and the older the recipient, the more you may wish to choose the reverse order. In other words, any kid wants a toy that they can play with, our younger parents might wish to have some sort of memorable token of our love and compassion for them, and older parents or grandparents just don't want any more stuff that they have to find someplace to put. They would usually prefer to have something they can just eat and get it over with, particularly some treat they treasure from the old days that has now become too expensive an indulgence.

The first place to look for any gift these days should be and is Amazon. In these days of not only gasoline too expensive to physically go shopping in the first place, but a fuel surcharge on the shipping of products, Amazon's $25+ free shipping deal is a Godsend! You think you cannot buy a walker or other aid to the impaired and built by a supplier of consumer medical equipment at Amazon? Think again. You think you cannot buy an unusual model of WeedEater that is out of stock at Home Depot? I did, and the price at Amazon was the best I found anywhere. Want to buy the ubiquitous fruitcake? Try Amazon. How about a tiny, multi-LED, super-bright flashlight? Amazon has the best deals I have found. Most new hardcover releases at B&N are priced at standard retail, but not those at Amazon. Want to know if that rare surf music album from The Sixties is available? No one can answer that question for you better than Amazon.

Getting back to the three categories of gifts, here are some of my favorite online retailers. If Amazon doesn't have the piece of electronics you want, try J&R. If you want to cook something that is fun to eat or just stock up on fruits and nuts, try Bulk Foods. Things Remembered is probably the best store for general stuff that takes up very little space in the memorable category. Here is a review site for the Christmas ubiquity, fruitcake, including links to the bakeries where you can order them. Omaha Steaks can feed anybody who is not a vegetarian, and Kansas City Steaks offers similar values. I know all of you have heard of Cabela's for sportsmen, but how about the smaller, yet sometimes interesting, Sportsmen's Guide? Animal Den is an unusual little store that sells all sorts of paraphernalia for fans of all sorts of animals, and most of it takes up minimal space.

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