Ideas for giving (and saving) this season

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

We all want to fill our shopping bags with gifts galore. With all of the holiday sales going on this season, plenty of deals areto be had. It's a buyer's market for sure. But finding a sale is not the issue. Deciding what to get everyone on your list is.

Not to worry! I have been out and about finding deals and hot gift items for each person on your list - from baby's first Christmas to bigger kids and adults.

For the young child on your list, you can make quite a presentation without spending a lot of money. Babies like toys with interesting sights and sounds - anything to capture their interest. They like soft, cuddly toys, too.

For pre-school kids, the Laugh & Learn Learning Farm from Fisher-Price, Color Me A Song from Crayola Beginnings, Little Mommy Baby Ah-Choo from Fisher-Price, and Text and Learn from Leap Frog are popular toys to put under the tree. Tonka Chuck My Talking Truck from Playskool, the 3-in-1 Smart Trike from Little Tikes, and Disney Pixar Toy Story Interactive Buddies Talking Action Figures are great gifts. The best thing about action figures is that many of them cost under $10.

Other popular toys this season are The Just One Kiss Princess Tiana Doll from Mattel, the Dragon World Fortress from Fisher-Price, the Deluxe Studio from Spin Master and Scatterpillar Scramble from Hasbro Games. You don't want to leave Webkinz off the list. Kids can adopt these cuddly little stuffed pets by entering a code on the Webkinz website. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Construction Devastator from Hasbro, Zhu Zhu Pets and Hamster from Cepia are sure to make kids smile on Christmas morning.

Watch for the weekly and special weekend sales at stores such as Toys R Us, Meijer, Walmart, and Target. The Friday and Saturday door buster sales are better than ever.

With pre-teens and teens you can't go wrong with clothes and shoes. That is, if they've picked them out. Otherwise you may find yourself in the long return lines the day after Christmas. That's happened to me one too many times.

If you are considering buying them just one big-ticket item, some suggestions are the PSP Game Pack or the PSP 3000, the Nintendo DS Lite Console portable handheld game, PSP Go Game System, Hannah Montana Lilac Video PSP, cell phone, digital camera, DS I from Nintendo, the iPod Touch or iPod Nano. The best prices I have found for the iPod Touch are at Sam's Club and Costco. The Bakugan Battle Brawlers from Activision and the Reader Pocket Edition from Sony are good picks, too. These are highly sought after items, so act fast if you have one on your list.

With all of the new models of cell phones just being released, you can buy last year's models for a great deal if you are signing up your teen with a new contract. A must-have feature is a text key pad and unlimited text messaging.

If you're looking for gaming consoles, you can get a Sony PS3 120GB for $299.99. This is a wonderful deal. I purchased one three years ago for $599.99. It was only 60GB, too! That's the price you pay when you must have a new gaming system the first year it's released. The X-box 360 is always a favorite for gamers. It's priced from $199.99 to $299.99, depending which model you go for. If just good old fashioned fun is what you are looking for, the Nintendo Wii is as popular as ever for $199.99. It has just recently dropped in price by $50. This gift is appropriate for young and old. Some of the hot games are: Wii Sports Resort, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, DJ Hero Bundle with turntable, Beatles Rock Band, Guitar Hero 5 and Wii Fit.

A way to save money on video games is to buy last year's releases or even used games. Several stores do trade-ins on games and consoles, such as Game Stop, Trade & Play, Music & Video Exchange and many more. This is a good way to pick up a gently used or refurbished system, or games at a lower cost.

For the special man on your list you can't miss with electronics. Vizio TVs have been a top seller the last few years. They are economical and good quality. GPS systems, lap top computers, and Flip video recorders are other top sellers. Prices on GPS systems have come down a bit this year. If you're looking for a Blackberry and don't need all the bells and whistles, you can pick up last year's model for a song.

Other "guy" gift ideas are tickets to sporting events, Sirius or XM car radios, or a subscription to a favorite magazine. Last year I gave my husband the Sirius radio and it was a big hit. Sports jerseys and team wear are always good. Shop and for good deals.

You can find deals on gifts for ladies of any age. Jewelry is at the top of the list for many women. and ShopNBC .com have a wonderful selection at unbelievable prices.

When you are shopping at a jewelry store in the mall, don't be afraid to ask for a percentage off. Many times stores are able to come down on the price if you request it. All they can do is say no. They want your business and more times than not, are willing to work with you. If not, move on to the next store.

Apparel, such as coats, jackets, gloves, and a new outfit, or a handbag, a plush robe, pajamas, make-up, scented body wash and lotion are nice gifts. With all of the weekly door buster sales, there is no reason to pay retail for anything. Keep your shopping passes close at hand with your circulars and you will know where the best deals are at all times.

To save money, visit online sites to make your fragrance purchases. Some reputable ones that I have ordered from are and If you do choose to order online, only order a scent that you know for sure the recipient likes. Once the box is opened it cannot be returned. If it is not opened, you can return it. Hold on to the box and shipping order information.

The newest kitchen gadgets, dishes and small appliances also are fun gifts to give. I just got the HealthMaster machine which is available at It's 20 kitchen appliances wrapped up in one package. It's an oversized blender that does everything from chopping to making fresh juice, makes and freezes ice cream, and creates sorbets ready to serve in minutes. It has a heat and simmering function to make fondues and soups, and much more. My son and I are having a lot of fun with it.

Token gifts to friends, teachers and co-workers don't have to cost a lot. If you have the time, a home-baked gift is always appropriate. You don't have to go all out. Mini banana bread loaves, cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, gifts in a jar that you make at home, or ornaments are all well received. Many times the gifts that people remember are the homemade ones.

Gifts from a jar are a very nice gift to give. To start, just buy Mason jars from the grocery store and some holiday fabric to tie around the jar's lid to look festive. You can get recipes online by doing a Google search on "gifts from a jar." Some websites that I like are, and

Still clueless? For that hard-to-buy-for person on your list, you can't go wrong with gift cards.

They're great for kids all the way up to grandparents who have nothing on their lists. In my opinion, this is a fail-safe route to go. My son loves it when Santa fills his stocking with gift cards from Chipotle, Subway, Arby's, Wendy's, Burger King, iTunes and Amazon. Gift cards to Bath & Body Works, Sephora, book stores, Starbucks, restaurants, and department stores are now available at grocery stores, which allows you to do your shopping at one place.

If you do not see the card you want, just stop in to various places while you are out and pick them up. We started this a few years ago out of desperation. If you are unsure what type of card to give, you can always give a Visa gift card.

The downside of giving a Visa, Mastercard or American Express gift card is that you must pay an activation fee upon purchase. I love to receive gift cards. They are always at the very top of my wish list.

When choosing gifts, try to give loved ones something they want but wouldn't normally buy for themselves. After all, that's what the spirit of giving is all about. If possible, always have the cashier print a gift receipt with each purchase. This will enable the person to return the gift for something else if they choose.

For now, happy shopping!

Laurie Dixon is central Ohio's original BAG Lady! Read her blog EVERY DAY on Get savings tips on everything from food to fun. Learn to shop smart and save money!

More ideas

A gift of fragrance is a nice personal gift for all ages

If you are picking out a new fragrance, it's important to know what type of scent the person you are buying for likes. There are different categories:


  • Fresh: citrus, green leaves, marine notes
  • Floral: jasmine, rose, white flowers
  • Oriental: spices, vanilla, patchouli
  • Woody: citrus, warm woods, moss


  • Fresh: citrus, green leaves, marine notes
  • Aromatic: citrus, lavendar, geranium
  • Woody: vetiver, agarwood, cedar
  • Oriental: spices, vanilla, patchouli

Knowing this information will give you a starting point. Ask the sales associate to show you scents in the specific categories. This is the best time of year to purchase a fragrance from a department store. They offer gift sets with an extra bonus gift. Often, you can get lotion or body gel and the bottle of perfume or cologne for the same price you would for just the single bottle. This is the only time I will pay full price for a fragrance. I love the free gifts! Last year Macy's reduced the price of some of their gift sets before Christmas. There is a good chance that may happen again this year.