A guide for Santa’s littlest helpers.

If you have been living under the rock for the past month, it is time to lift up your hermit head and take a look around. The adverts are up and Christmas has begun. Families throng the mall to play with foamed snow while taking pictures with the best Christmas centerpieces in the shopping malls. And Santa’s little helpers are out and about on a race against time to find the perfect gift for the perfect people without breaking their banks.

I have always enjoyed doing Christmas shopping for friends and family. The idea of seeing something you think they might like, and the feeling of when they tear open the presents and seeing their faces, just makes the shopping trips and the money you spent worthwhile.

Alas, I have not all the money in the world, thus I need to watch my spending. But it just makes the challenge all the more fun. Forsaking the famous brands and names around, and going down untrodden paths to search for that special something. It feels like you have emerged from a mine with the rarest gems whenever you hit the right spots.

Here is my little version of things I would consider good gift ideas, without looking too tacky, but still able to keep your budget. Say, RM20 max per person.

Mind you, gift ideas here are found in and around the vicinity of The Curve, Ikano and Ikea. I am a lazy girl, and that place happens to give me everything I need. Heh.

1. For elves who believe in DIYs.

If you enjoy handicrafts and things that come out from your own kitchen, take time out to put together something unique for your friends and family. From the specially designed greeting cards and cookies, to the personally selected songs on the mixed CDs, to the meticulously collected collages and scrapbooks. It is a sureshot to win over the receiver’s heart. I doubt anybody would trade a personalised coffee table book for a Louis Vuitton clutch.

Check out Papier at The Curve if you want to get the most comprehensive DIY kits. They have got anything and everything for any occasions, and also for gifts given on any day just for kicks. Every time I step into the store, I just want to buy something, even though I am no expert in putting together a scrapbook. There is also Da Vinci at Ikano, if you want some rock-painting or canvas-painting, and the likes.

If you want to put together a coffee table book, but still want to keep the quality intact, check out Prinzbook. Download the program, arrange the pictures according to the designs of your choice, and voila, your very own coffee table book. Who needs publishing companies when you can set up one in your own laptop?

2. For elves who believe in the littlest things.

Take time out to visit street markets, as well as those stalls peppered all along the corridors of the shopping malls. You’d never know what you might find that is cute yet affordable. Not to mention, you get to bargain for a cheaper price too. Like the compact mirror shaped of a biscuit, these cute button earrings, as well as those quirky car signs. All of these, I found while taking a stroll down the stalls set up for the weekend over at The Curve and Cineleisure.

Don’t forsake the gift corners in departmental stores as well. Like Parkson, Jusco, Metrojaya and the likes. Some items may be a little too expensive, but look thoroughly enough and you might find something suitable within your budget. You even get to collect those membership points too. Hitting two birds with one stone.

Don’t go ahead and assume that you would only step into a bookstore for books as gifts. Stop by the stationary corner and try your luck. Found in the MPH bookstore: a donkey with a keyboard duster ass, a stapler shaped as a cat, and a puff fish that blows up to be a rest pad for your wrist.

Also, check out the Borders bookstore for those hobby kits and calendars. Awesome way for your loved ones to pick up or rediscover a favourite past time, and remember your birthday by. You can also stop by Take Note at The Curve for some funky writing pads and stuff.

For more little trinkets, who could leave out Ikea on this? Visit their website for their advent promotions, going throughout December till Christmas Day. Just make sure you go on the right days, and pray real hard they don’t go out of stock. Swedish elves do a better job being Santa’s helpers, apparently.

3. For elves who believe nobody should be left behind.

It is quite impossible to get everyone in your workspace a gift of their own, yet a little rude to leave some behind, especially when you have more than 30 colleagues in your office.

In this case, you need to go for bulks. Cookies, greeting cards, candy canes… go for the 5/10/20 items in one price thing. You can easily find these in supermarkets like Cold Storage or Tesco, and even Famous Amos in Ikano. Make sure to look for good bargains and not get ripped off at the end of the day.

4. For elves who have absolutely no idea.

Ah, screw you. I bet it happened to you every year too. There will always be someone on your Christmas list whom you have no idea what to get at least once a year. After spending hours and days loitering about the mall looking for something for them, you would somehow eventually wander into The Body Shop and gaze at the prettily gift-wrapped toiletries. For a staunch present-giver who believes in personality in gifts, I would not advise such gift ideas, but who am I kidding. We all fall short anyway.

Take time out to check out Guardian and Watson as well. Not only are their ready-to-go gifts quite attractive to the eye, they are probably more affordable and in variety compared to the ones in The Body Shop and L’occitane. Can’t really say that for the quality, though, so be prepared.

Now, this is something I would definitely not opt for unless I really have no idea what to get someone who has everything in the world, and especially when that someone are my parents. Heh.

Gift certificates and gift cards would always be the safest way to go, though not usually the prettiest. But hey, if it is to shop at your favourite store, dine at your favourite restaurant, or do mani/pedi for free, it is still cool.

Christmas shopping is not that hard if you care enough to pay attention to the littlest details. Whatever shopping catalog you can grab hold of, or whichever store you have wandered into, take a look around and weigh things out in your head. Don’t force it if the price is not right, or if time is running out. Take a breather. Rinse and repeat. You will find something eventually. Don’t be too staunch about the budget either. A couple of cents difference isn’t going to empty out your savings anyway.

You have 16 days left till Christmas. Unless you have Santa’s private number at the North Pole, I’d suggest you go forth and shop for presents soon.

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