The season of giving is upon us, and while it was originally conceived and fully intended to be a joyous occasion for the simple act of giving back and complimenting the harsh world around us, there are two solid reasons even the mere thought of gift-giving can illicit either the slightest pang of angst, or provoke a full-on panic attack:

  * Lack of funds. 

  * What to get the impossible-to-please-because-I-have-everything-person. 

Trust me, I've faced these two predicaments head-on, more times than any hard working creative human should ever have to expect. I've survived these times during the most pathetic and desperate moments of my life when I couldn't squeeze a dollar out of a twelve-hour working day, nor when my creative juices were at their ripest. Not only did I survive (more than once), but I actually garnered a few sincere, heartfelt "thank you's" in return, for these impossible gifts I somehow conceived. So, for any of our fellow readers out there that would rather disappear entirely during the holiday season solely for the act of gifting and the pain caused for lack of funds, or having to please the impossible--allow me to be of some assistance. 

Kiddos: Forget toys and games. Aside from those blankets they've been dragging around since birth, kids lose interest in things overnight. Their little minds are working and turning at rates far more rapidly than our older, teeming brains and they are always on the edge of their seats for the next thrill. This is why technology and electronic games have taken precedence with kids today. A toy might consume their time for a few hours, maybe a week before it breaks, moves permanently to the toy bin, or gets left behind on a playground or train. Next time you set out to pick up a gift for a child, especially a number of children you must shop for, consider grabbing a few dollar or five-dollar scratch-offs. There isn't a child out there that doesn't want to break out in dance at the chance of taking a shiny penny to a shiny new scratch-off. Even the $1 cards have the possibility of winning upwards of $2500 - $5k.  A two - ten yr old kid could do some serious damage with that amount of money, or put it towards a college fund. Have dozens of little nieces, nephews, cousins, friend's kids, etc. like me, that you must send something to this time of year? Scratch-offs are a fun and easy gift idea to appease a large number of finicky kiddos, when your budget just can't fathom multiple sizable items over $5-10 dollars a pop. 

Guy/Gal that has everything: Got someone on your list, someone special that literally has more than anyone could ever dream, but you can't let the holidays pass without giving them something, and you have no earthly idea what that something could be nor any idea how you could possibly even afford it? Yeah, me too. Here's what you do: You figure out something simple that they use and love in their everyday lives and then you figure out a new way to provide them one of these things. For instance, perhaps this lady in your life always has her nails freshly manicured; give her either a luxury bottle of polish in her favorite shade, or a gift certificate to a salon she frequents. Either/or will only run you about $20-30 max, and it's something that she will actually use, and something she believes she needs. For the men, grab a gift card for a massage if they've been super stressed, or one for a classic single-blade shave. If this person loves books and reading, search for a new hardcover in the genre they follow most, one that is striking enough to be left on a coffee table or front and center on a shelf. Most importantly, write a lovely, heartfelt inscription prior to gifting it. Written words are honestly more special to someone that means so much to you. May seem hokey, but a truly lovely handwritten note is so romantic and old fashioned. It's a lost art, really. More times than not, a loved one would rather receive the note from you than the gift itself. But do consider the next time you are faced with the challenge of picking the perfect gift for that person that already has everything, that it's best not to overthink it. Give some thought only to those things that they cherish regularly, from great-smelling candles to food and wine and so forth, and settle on something you know they'll appreciate and use, and they'll be equally surprised and impressed that you even picked up on this appreciation in the first place. Just don't forget the handwritten note! Put the majority of your thoughts into that one aspect and call it a day. 

When you can't afford to even think about shopping: For starters, stop beating yourself up about your current financial situation. It's a most depressing setback for sure, but things will work themselves out and this season is not exclusively about the gifts. Those that know and love you will completely understand, and already shouldn't expect anything major. So, pour yourself a glass of whatever's lying around the house, and think about how you can get crafty and creative. Even those of you that strongly believe that you don't have a single creative hair on your body--trust me, even you can deliver with aplomb. Back when I was a NYC newbie, a student living (ahem, barely surviving) on a laughable salary, holding on to every single cent I was fortunate enough to get my grubby fingers on--delivered a handwritten poem to my mother every year for Christmas and birthdays. A pen and paper were all that I could afford at that time, and I wanted to give her the moon. Those poems however, playfully expressing my sincere love and unwavering appreciation for her constant support brought tears to her eyes every time. It was then that I realized it was never about excess. At the end of the day everyone just wants to feel loved and appreciated. Especially as we grow older. The gifts that require time and thoughtfulness, the ones that we actually have to piece together with our own two hands, those are the ones our loved ones will cherish. Because those are things that money cannot buy, you see. So, if you've baked a decent cookie or cake in your life, enjoyed finger paints at some point or pair words nicely on paper, you're already a step ahead of yourself. Think about the person receiving the gift, consider those things that make them smile in terms of the heart, and find a way to facilitate that by hand. If you're dealing with a real prima donna here, where only the finest and most elaborately priced will suffice, well, you can always throw some acrylics onto a piece of canvas and tell them it's the next up-and-coming artist on the scene named, 'Git à Lyf'

We hope these ideas lessen some of the holiday blows. Just remember, anything from the heart is the most expensive gift of all. And don't forget the handwritten card!