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Gift Giving Tips from a Black Belt Shopper

Black Belt Shopper (featured column)
by Larry Wiener

As my family’s designated gift buyer and a black belt shopper, here are some gift buying suggestions that have worked for me.

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Personal Interest Gifts on Auction

Online auctions can help you find gifts that really key into your recipient’s interests. Most of us know about e-bay where you can buy everything including the kitchen sink (usually about 90 or so kitchen sinks are listed). I learned from reading epinions that you can also go to a site called auctionwatch.com and find an index of items available at other auctions.

Using those indices to find gifts that center around your recipient’s interests can yield some unique and affordable gifts. Here are a few examples from my experience.

My dad and also a family friend really enjoy two particular artists. While I can’t afford to buy them original works by those artists, typing the artist’s name into the search engines helped me find great gifts.

When I typed in “Chagall” on ebay, I found switchplate covers, videos, books, and other items about Chagall.

When I typed in “Kinkade”, I found screen savers, books, and other items.

A toddler I buy for just got his first Thomas the Tank train. I typed in “Thomas Train” in ebay’s search engine and found books, videos, and jigsaw puzzles.

A friend of mine was wanting to buy Hummel figurines for a gift. She found some bargains at ebay.

Out of Print Books or Out of Production Movies

If your recipient has a particular reading or viewing interest, you can often find hard-to-find books or movies either at the auctions or at an online consignment store like Half.com, a clearinghouse that allows individuals to sell items and has an incredible selection of books and movies at fixed prices. They also have books and movies that are in print, often like new at great prices.

Bargains for Small Children at Closeout Stores

Most small children are not so jaded that they will be offended if their gift does not have a Bloomingdale’s box. I find great gifts for toddlers at reasonable prices at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. Some of these gifts are remarkably current. Stores like Big Lots and Pic N’ Save also have bargains for children.

Also, when someone I know who already has children is having a baby, I often buy the older sibling(s) a book titled, “My New Baby and Me” published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can get this for about $12.99 from the museum’s website or sometimes you can get bargains on auction.

Shop for Gifts All Year Long

We are coming into the Christmas season now and that is the focus of much of our gift buying. Most of us, however, have other occasions for gift buying throughout the year.

When I am out, I always look for possible gift items, especially at the sale table at bookstores.

One time a few years ago I saw some really classy cookbooks on sale for $10 each. I know a lot of people who like to cook, so I bought about ten of them. Some of them I used the next Christmas, but some of them I kept for gift-giving occasions. When we had a sudden bridal shower at work, I whipped one out, wrapped it, and gave it to the bride. Everyone who saw it kept telling me when their birthday was.

A Few Miscellaneous Tips

Page-a-Day calendars make great stocking stuffers and small gifts for people at work. There are so many that you can find one that fits almost anyone’s interest. I buy them at Marshall’s to save a few dollars. I have already bought about eight for this year.

The various art museums put out beautiful ties. You can get them either at their gift shops or you can do as I do and go to ebay and type in “museum tie”. You can get beauties for very reasonable prices.

With the economy soft and few people shopping, the more expensive stores are hurting this year. They may offer great sales. Check your local newspaper for notifications.

If you go to a store that has its own credit card and make a relatively large purchase, it may be worthwhile applying for that store’s credit card because often they take a percentage off your bill when you use the card.

All of us have been in the situation when we realize that we have to buy a gift for Aunt Franny and have it ready by next week. We have no idea of what to get her and really don’t want to hear a sincere, “you shouldn’t have”, when we give her the scarf she really doesn’t like, but is too polite to tell you.

I hope these ideas will stir your juices and will make gift giving a much more enjoyable, meaningful, and affordable experience.

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Copyright 2001 by Larry Wiener. All rights reserved.
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