Don't be caught unprepared when a neighbor or other friend appears on your doorstep today with a bit of Christmas cheer and possibly a nice gift for you.
"I'm so glad you stopped by," is the appropriate response, "because I have a gift for you."
The lesson here is that you should have an emergency gift or two resting under your tree alongside the other presents.
Obviously such presents have to come under the category of generic but so what? Candy always works for me. Other ideas are candles, gift cards to local coffee houses, jams and jellies, specialty napkins, cookies, homemade or otherwise, wine or a plant.
Don't worry that the gift you receive is more personal than the gift you give: True friends don't track such things and can understand that you might have run out of time, money and/or ideas.
Be sure to choose something that you would be happy to unwrap and use yourself. It may end up that you're more organized than you thought and you remembered everyone.
Then there's the other type of emergency gift -- the one you knew all year you would be giving but, gee, the time passes quickly and here it is almost Christmas.
It might be hard to choose the perfect electronic gift for that special someone but what about a messenger bag to schlep it around in? These range from masculine to feminine, from staid to super cool.
To make a gift special, target a person's interest. If she's worried about climate change, give a book on the subject and a warm scarf. Or a not-so-warm scarf (read "inexpensive") that makes a statement as an accessory.
In the same vein, gift baskets are easy to assemble and personal as you buy (even at the grocery store) things you know your loved one will enjoy. For someone close, spend a little more on the central gift then add less expensive items to the basket that show you went to some trouble to please the recipient.
A gift to a charity in a person's name is a heartfelt gesture that honors both the giver and the recipient. Oxfam offers opportunities from $15 for art supplies for kids to $25 for mosquito nets to $50 for a goat.
Closer to home, remember the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund, where there is no cost for administration and donations are matched by the Tri-Valley Community Foundation.
Cash or a gift card may seem impersonal but they are usually appreciated. Unless it's really last minute -- like Christmas Eve evening -- you still have time to go downtown to find a beautiful or creative receptacle in which to present the gift.
No gift conversation is complete without mentioning re-gifting, which is passing along to someone else an unwanted or unneeded gift you've received. It might just be a matter of taste and you know it would make the perfect gift for someone else.
As practical as re-gifting might be, there is some etiquette, which has evolved as re-gifting has increased in popularity. Perhaps it's always been around, but since Jerry Seinfeld coined the term a decade ago, it's really caught on.
* The gift should be new and in its original wrapping
* Never re-gift homemade items.
* Be sure you know where it came from so you don't give it back to the original giver.
* If the gift is expensive you may want to let the recipient know it's a re-gift so the person doesn't feel obligated to give you an equally expensive gift.
* Don't package the item so it appears to be from a different retailer. Think of the embarrassment if the recipient tries to return it to the wrong store.
* The most important thing is to make sure the gift is something the new recipient will actually enjoy. You are not giving it away for that person to have something to re-gift.
If you want to make sure that your gifts are never re-gifted to someone else, remember to shop smart but not give on price alone. Get creative and give something heartfelt. And remember, the time to shop is now.