TIME Apple watch

Apple Watch Arrived At Best Buy Today

A Best Buy store in Las Vagas.
Britta Pedersen—picture-alliance/dpa/AP A Best Buy store in Las Vagas.

The price and models available, however, are slightly different at Best Buy than at Apple stores.

Best Buy began selling the Apple Watch on Friday, becoming the first national retailer besides Apple to carry the wearable tech gadget.

Customers can order the product from Best Buy’s online store or purchase one from more than 100 Best Buy locations around the country. A spokesperson for Best Buy says the Apple Watches are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, so there is no need to reserve them in advance or schedule a time to pick one up.

Both the regular Apple Watch and Sport versions are available in two sizes, for a total of 16 different models including various band styles and colors. Best Buy, however, is charging $0.99 more than Apple’s price for each watch.

The high-end gold Apple Watch models, which start at $10,000, are not yet available at the big-box technology retailer, though people can buy them directly from Apple. (It’s still unclear how well the pricey wristband devices are selling.)

By holiday shopping season, Best Buy plans to carry the watches in a total of 300 brick-and-mortar stores. The retailer has been looking for ways to boost its sales, particularly during the competitive end-of-year gift buying period, since it launched on a restructuring plan in late 2012 following disappointing results.

So far, Apple products have been especially instrumental Best Buy’s improving performance: When Best Buy in May reported higher-than-expected sales growth in its most recent quarter, handily beating Wall Street’s estimates, CEO Hubert Joly credited “iconic mobile phones”—namely the iPhone 6—for juicing the results. The company is likely hoping the Apple Watch will bump up earnings further.

MONEY deals

Why You Should Be Shopping for Christmas Decorations Right Now

Customers browse Christmas decorations while shopping at a Home Depot Inc. store in Torrance, California, U.S.
Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images Customers browse Christmas decorations while shopping at a Home Depot Inc. store in Torrance, California, U.S.

Walk into pretty much any store that stocks holiday decorations this weekend and you're bound to bump into tremendous deals--easily discounts of 75% off or more.

Every price-conscious shopping strategist is well aware of how quickly and dramatically seasonal items go on sale as soon as the peak-buying period around a holiday is over. It’s tradition for holiday decorations to go on clearance sale immediately after Christmas, and sometimes even days or weeks before December 25.

But now that we’re a week removed from Christmas, shoppers can expect prices on holiday merchandise to plunge even lower. What this means is that this weekend is an absolutely optimal time to buy, provided you’re the type who 1) doesn’t mind sifting through haphazardly picked-over merchandise for treasures; and 2) will actually remember and keep track of this stuff when the time comes to use it 10 or 11 months down the road.

Here’s one indication of how prices have fallen even during the week after Christmas. The deal-tracking experts at dealnews highlighted a few of the best post-Christmas Christmas decorations sales at the end of last week. At the time, a 3.5-foot-high LED Yoda dressed up as Santa and holding an oversized candy cane, for example, was selling for $14.99, half off the original price of $30. By now, however, that same Yoda is marked down to just $7.50, or 75% off the retail price.

Unfortunately, you can’t order Yoda online, not even if the force particularly strong with you is. Instead, you’ll have to call up your local Home Depot and see if it’s in stock, or just head down and browse.

Likewise, shoppers can generally expect to find the lowest prices on decorations in the physical locations of other stores, including Sears, Big Lots, Crate & Barrel, and more, rather than online. At this point, it’s problematic for retailers to sell some of their discounted Christmas items online because inventories are so low.

As for what’s left behind in individual stores right now, it’s something of a crapshoot. Major retailers are desperately trying to unload these items to make way for the next season’s merchandise—the stuff they have a prayer of selling at full price—so it’s hard to tell in advance what you’ll find in the clearance aisles of each store location.

Depending on the item and the retailer, it is sometimes possible to buy ahead online and pick up at your local store. That’s the most efficient strategy for shoppers. Those who simply venture into a store to browse can also be assured that whatever leftovers they find will be dirt cheap. Here are a few options:

Big Lots: The discount retailer’s Christmas Clearance sale knocks 50% off all seasonal items, including lights, ornaments, trees, wrapping paper, and Christmas pet gifts. (“Selection varies by store,” Big Lots warns.)

Crate & Barrel: A winter clearance sale knocks off up to 60% on seasonal merchandise, and there are even deeper discounts on items specifically geared for Christmas, including this Glitter Twig Garland now priced at $8.98 (originally $29.95); many items are available for online purchase but the retailer warns “quantities are limited.”

Home Depot: 75% or more off a wide range of ornaments and artificial wreaths and Christmas trees, and much of it can be purchased online and then picked up at a store.

Sears: Up to 70% off artificial trees, holiday collectibles, lights, and indoor and outdoor decorations—much is available for purchase online with free shipping, though there may be even lower prices at physical Sears locations.

Target: 50% or more off holiday costumes, ornaments, decorations, and such

Walmart: A huge mixed bag of Christmas clearance deals, such as a Santa tree topper for $6.97 (originally $16.98)

Yankee Candle: 50% or 75% off seasonal items, with the biggest discounts generally available for Christmas-y goods like Balsam & Cedar ornaments

MONEY Holidays

Hate Your Gifts? Tips for Returns, Exchanges, and Regifting

Michael Blann—Getty Images

December 25 is the traditional day for epic gift exchanges. Inevitably, it's also the start of an equally epic season for figuring out what to do with unwanted presents.

If you’re looking over one or more of your holiday gifts right now with puzzlement or disgust, and with a yearning to make it disappear in exchange for something—anything—else, you’re not alone. (Side note: If the above describes you, check yourself, you ungrateful SOB.) As my colleague Jacob Davidson pointed out, the most compelling reason to give gift cards for the holidays is that as many as three-quarters of Americans won’t like the gifts they receive. The cold-hearted but compelling 2009 book Scroogenomics made the argument that gift-giving wastes billions annually because it’s so rare for the recipient to deem the present worth the money that the giver paid for it. The result is that value is destroyed in the traditional exchange of surprise presents.

While returning a gift can be dicey because people’s feelings can be hurt, the purpose of a gift is to make the recipient happy. And the best givers will want that to be the result, regardless of whether the giftee keeps the original purchase or not. What’s more, it’s in the best interest of retailers to have good return policies because shoppers are more likely to make purchases at stores where it’s not a pain in the neck to do returns and exchanges.

Assuming that your mind is made up that you’d rather not simply live with the gift out of obligation or a fear of causing offense, your basic options are to return, exchange, or regift. Here’s some guidance on all fronts.

First off, if you know you don’t want the gift you’ve received—perhaps you already have one, or it’s not remotely in your taste—don’t open it. You have the best chance getting a refund or the full value in store credit for packages that are unopened and in brand-new condition. Next, check if the gift was accompanied by a gift or regular receipt. If yes, the person who bought the gift saved you some potentially big hassles, because without a receipt you may have no right whatsoever to a return or exchange. (Note to self: Always include gift receipts with presents.)

If there is no receipt, you could ask the giver—nicely, cautiously, graciously—where the gift was purchased and if he or she still had a copy of the receipt. This could be quite tricky, and if you’re going there it would be wise to mention how deeply you appreciate the thought behind the gift, but that there was a reason you wanted something slightly different; it could be as simple as needing a different size. Then again, there are reasons to steer way clear of this route. Not only could the giver wind up being offended, the situation could make an extremely awkward turn if, say, the giver didn’t want to reveal that the present was purchased at 85% off.

Assuming there is a receipt, look up the store’s return and exchange policy online, and then be sure to bring the item back to the store before the period expires. As the comprehensive holiday return report from the site Consumer World notes, around the holidays many major retailers institute policies that sensibly make it easy for recipients to bring items back after Christmas. Walmart, for instance, normally has return policies of 14, 15, or 30 days, depending on the item, but for purchases made between November 1 and December 24, the return period countdown doesn’t commence until December 26. In other words, if the item was normally subject to a 30-day return limit, the recipient would have to return it within 30 days of December 26, even if it was purchased in early November. What with the crush of crowds hitting the malls in the days right after Christmas, you might consider waiting for a bit before handling the return.

If you don’t have the receipt but you know where the item was purchased, go ahead and bring it back to the store. It’s likely the item was purchased with a credit card or was otherwise tracked by the retailer, so there will be a record of it on file, and you should be offered store credit or the right to exchange. (An outright cash refund is extremely unlikely, and pretty much impossible unless the original transaction was in cash, but it can’t hurt to ask.)

When bringing the item back, bring ID. According to the National Retail Federation, somewhere between 3.4% and 6.5% of returns are fraudulent, and one way retailers try to curtail abuse (and arguably, cut down on returns in general) is by requiring ID during returns and exchanges. Victoria’s Secret wound up on Consumer Reports “Naughty” list this year for its rigid requirement that customers present a government-issued ID for all returns and exchanges. Beyond having ID at the ready, be polite and patient. Store managers are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt on a return if they perceive you as a potentially good customer down the road.

If you think that regifting is a no-no, you’re in the minority. An American Express survey revealed that 42% of Americans repurposed presents they received by passing them along as gifts to someone else, while 76% of respondents deem regifting as “acceptable.”

But as with hand-picked and purchased gifts themselves, there are thoughtful and thoughtless ways to go about regifting. For example, it’s bad form to regift an item within a circle of friends who socialize regularly because it’s easy to see how word could spread and everyone could find out where the gift originated. It’s also the opposite of generous to pass along a gift to someone else when you found it hideous. Check out our five-step guide to regifting to repurpose presents in a way that won’t offend anyone, and that (hopefully) won’t get you branded as a crass, thoughtless regifter—which is even worse than being a thoughtless giver.

MONEY Shopping

Walmart Will Trade You for Other Merchants’ Gift Cards

Don't like the gift card you got for Christmas? Walmart feels your pain.

Don’t worry if you don’t like some of the gift cards you receive this Christmas. The AP reports that Walmart will trade store credit for gift cards from more than 200 different retailers, restaurants, and airlines.

Beginning on Christmas day, shoppers can trade in any eligible gift card for a Walmart gift card of similar value. How much you get depends on what kind of card you’re trading in. An Amazon card will fetch 95% of its value, a Gap card will be worth 85%, and some cards will be matched with just 70% of their original value. The exchange program is being done in partnership with CardCash, the largest platform for buying and selling gift cards. Walmart says this exchange is a test but could be made permanent if there is heavy demand.

To exchange their gift cards, shoppers don’t even need to leave the house. Walmart’s card exchange website, Walmart.CardCash.com, lets users input their gift card’s information, and a Walmart gift card will be emailed to them once the original card’s balance is verified.

The motivation for Walmart’s gift exchange is probably to increase store traffic, but there are many reasons retailers love getting their gift cards into the hands of shoppers. As MONEY’s Kara Brandeisky points out, shoppers are likely to overspend when given what seems like fake money. In addition, researchers have found that consumers buy items they don’t need when they use a stored-value certificate; the CEB TowerGroup consultancy has found that 65% of gift card users spend 38% more than the face value of the card.

The CEB also reported that customers tend to forget about their gift cards and don’t spend the full balance, resulting in more than $1 billion in unused store credit this year alone. But that appears to be less true in the case of Walmart: A company spokesperson told the AP that 95% of Walmart holiday gift cards are usually redeemed by February.

Who do you side with in the Great Gift Card Debate?
Why gift cards are the only present that makes sense
Why gift cards are a crime against Christmas

TIME psychology

5 Easy, Scientifically Proven Tips to Make Your Holiday Shopping Easier

Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Want to pick a creative gift that the receiver will be surprised by? Don’t do it. Studies show people are much more satisfied by presents they said they wanted.

2) Accept that context can warp your thinking. The music in a store, a “SALE” sign, and how many items are on a shelf can all affect what and how much you buy.

3) To control your spending, hide the credit card and make sure your wallet contains only big denomination bills. People are less tempted to break big bills than to spend small ones.

4) How can you resist a seductive sales pitch? Think about money.

5) Want to increase the chance people will like the gifts you bought? Wrap them.

If you’re curious about why we buy then I suggest you read the aptly titled: Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join over 145,000 readers and get a free weekly update via email here.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Nobody Hates the Holidays as Much as These Guys

Denny's waitress Tahmina Najemyar delivers free Grand Slam breakfasts to customers on February 3, 2009 in Emeryville, California.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Denny's waitress Tahmina Najemyar delivers free Grand Slam breakfasts to customers on February 3, 2009 in Emeryville, California.

It's an uphill battle for this industry around the holidays

The winter holidays are the biggest time of the year for retailers, but while Americans are hitting the malls and shopping with abandon, there’s one place where they’re not spending money: restaurants.

According to new data from customer relationship management company Thanx, Inc., revenue at fast food and fast casual restaurants as well as fine-dining eateries plummets by anywhere from 22% to 45% between Thanksgiving and the New Year. In December, restaurants experienced, on average, a 27% revenue decline compared to that year’s monthly average.

“It’s easy to assume that everyone wins during the holidays – but these can be lean times for most restaurants,” Zach Goldstein, Thanx’s CEO and founder, said in a statement.

Other companies that analyze the industry also see a similar pattern.

“We tend to see traffic go down a little bit after Thanksgiving,” says Warren Solochek, vice president of business development for foodservice research at market research firm the NPD Group. “There is this traditional slowdown… There’s definitely seasonality to the restaurant industry.”

He says his company doesn’t observe as much of a drop as Thanx’s findings show, but restaurant sales do take a post-Thanksgiving dip. “People drop a lot of money on gifts right around Thanksgiving, then they go, ‘OK, I have to be a little more conservative,'” he says.

Solochek adds that another big factor impacting restaurants’ bottom lines during the holidays is the weather. Snowstorms prompt people to stay indoors and shop online from home instead of going shopping and then stopping somewhere for a bite to eat.

The impact is different for different kinds of restaurants, he says. “You see it much more from full-service restaurants than you do from quick-service restaurants.”

Solochek says restaurants try a variety of promotions and marketing tricks to stay on diners’ radar during this hectic time of year, and they advertise these promotions more heavily. “During that five week time period, it really becomes more of a share of wallet kind of thing,” he says. Americans’ discretionary income is stretched thin these days by rising prices and stagnant wages, so restaurants have to battle it out for their slice of a shrinking pie.

MONEY holiday shopping

3 Last-Minute Gifts You Definitely Shouldn’t Buy—And What to Get Instead

Paul Linse—Corbis

Behind on your holiday shopping? Here's how not to screw up

It’s that time of year, everyone. There are three shopping days left before Christmas, and as of a few days ago, 73% of you hadn’t bought all of your gifts yet. Retailers are so used to procrastinators now that some are specifically preparing for an influx of last-minute buyers.

I’d ask why we all can’t just learn to plan ahead, but there’s no time for that kind of self-reflection. There’s no time for anything but shopping. But before you rush down to your favorite store or schedule a lot of overnight shipping on Amazon, remember this: The key to a good last-minute gift is the recipient can’t know you bought it in the last five minutes. With that in mind, here are three presents that are absolutely guaranteed to blow your cover, and what you should get instead.

Soap and Lotions

“Everyone loves soap! I’ll just hit up the Bath & Body Works, grab a few gift boxes, and still have time to pick up drinks for the Christmas party!”

These are the words of holiday shopping failure.

It’s true that everyone needs soap. That’s why it’s a bad gift. Soap is probably the most generic present on the planet. By purchasing soap for your loved ones, friends, or even acquaintances, you are saying that you know that person showers now and then—or that they don’t shower enough. Neither is good.

What to get instead: Booze. It’s the one completely generic, readily available gift (even in airports) that no one will be disappointed to receive.

Starbucks Gift Card

I’m on the record as a big supporter of gift cards. Lot’s of people want them and they guarantee your recipient will get something they like. That’s more than you can say about almost any other present.

But Starbucks gift cards are an exception. They’re kind of like soap in the sense that, because everyone drinks coffee, this gift shows you don’t know much about the person you’re giving it to. And, in a way, it’s worse than soap because there is no product more readily available than something from Starbucks, making it clear you probably picked it up on Christmas morning.

But the problems are deeper than that. The great thing about gift cards is they allow you to splurge on something without feeling bad. Who cares if you don’t really need a Kindle? You’re playing with house money! What is anyone going to splurge on at Starbucks? A bigger latte? Wow, what a magical Christmas.

What to get instead: Amazon gift card. Whenever I recommend gift cards, people always ask, “Well why don’t you just get them actual money then?!” Because giving someone a wad of cash makes Christmas feel like a drug deal. An Amazon gift card is pretty much the same as cash, but more gifty.

Sports Apparel

There are two rules that govern the gift giving of clothing: Don’t get someone something they already have, and don’t get them something they might be embarrassed to wear. Getting your friend or loved one sports clothing violates both of these rules.

If someone is a big [insert sports team] fan, they undoubtedly have an [insert sports team] hat, shirt, or jersey. Maybe they don’t have all three, but you won’t know which part of their [insert sports team] wardrobe is lacking until you see the disappointed look on your friend’s face as they unwrap their third Twins cap.

Some attempt to avoid this outcome by buying non-standard sports gear: Some [insert sports team] sweatpants, or a super-cool [insert sports team] beanie! But unless they’re some kind of [insert sports team] fanatic, they probably don’t actually want a bunch of random items baring their team insignia and your gift will end up in the back of the closet.

What to get instead: Tickets to a game. That’s a can’t-miss present for any sports fan, and it shows you really value your relationship because you’re willing to spend a few hours together at the arena. Plus, experiences make people happier than things.

MONEY Odd Spending

5 Weird Holiday Gifts You’d Never Guess Would Be Ultra Hot Sellers

You're not going to find Elsa, Elmo, or any toys whatsoever on this oddball list of bizarrely hot holiday buys.

We’ve come to expect that certain kinds of gifts will be hot sellers during the holiday season. Remember Zhu Zhu Pets? Or Tickle Me Elmo or Bratz? Or any number of other gifts that somehow or another dominated the December discussions in schoolyards all over America and caused parents to go out of their minds—and sometimes drop thousands of dollars—to get that year’s sold-out, must-have toy?

This year, “Frozen” items and certain Lego sets are among the gifts that are sold out or hard to find because supply has been unable to keep up with demand. Yet by and large, because today our interests are so varied, kids increasingly want tech more than traditional toys, retailers are better at anticipating sales, and online marketplaces make it possible to find even sold out items in seconds, it’s much rarer for there to be a single must-have toy in any holiday season.

That doesn’t mean that the holidays are bereft of sales surprises. In fact, a handful of oddball items have seemingly come out of nowhere to surge ahead of the pack as bizarrely hot-selling holiday purchases. Perhaps most surprising of all, none of them are toys, nor—one would hope—are they intended as gifts for children.

Here are five of the season’s strangest hot sellers, several of which it’s nearly impossible to buy now, assuming you might actually want to buy them.

  • Beard Baubles

    AP Images

    Good luck getting your hands on this totally absurd gift for the bearded hipster in your life. Beard Baubles, which are tiny ornaments meant to adorn one’s facial hair as if the beard were a Christmas tree, have been sold out for weeks. The idea was reportedly cooked up by an ad agency in London, with the profits going to charity. If you’re truly desperate for a set of beard ornaments, some are being sold on eBay in the UK. Alternately, as one observer suggested, you could just go to a crafts store and make your own.

  • L.L. Bean Duck Boots

    Courtesy of LL Bean

    Though far more practical than beard ornaments, the idea that many styles of classic L.L. Bean boots are out of stock, sold out, or otherwise hard to buy is still a head-scratcher, especially considering the winter is only getting started and a retailer such as L.L. Bean banks on big sales every holiday season. What happened? Apparently, L.L. Bean boots became extremely popular with teens and millennials recently, and because the boots are hand-crafted and stitched, the manufacturer hasn’t been able to churn out new pairs fast enough to keep up with the surge in demand. The hot boots phenomenon is reminiscent of last season, when $89 Giant hoodies were deemed the “it” piece of apparel and were backordered for months.

  • iPod Classic


    The iconic iPod Classic was discontinued last fall, which wasn’t all that surprising because, what with so many other options for storing and listening to music, fewer people were buying the descendant of the original iPod. Apple also said that it was becoming increasing more difficult and expensive to find parts needed to make the iPod Classic. Now that the gadget isn’t sold in stores, however, the killed-off iPod Classic is being appreciated anew by consumers eager to get their hands on one. On eBay, auctions for new iPod Classics are starting in the high $300s, and some sellers are asking “Buy It Now” prices of upwards of $499. The Guardian reported that some sellers in the UK have been listing iPod Classics for up to £670 (roughly $1,050). The last time the gadget was sold in Apple Stores, mind you, the retail price was $249.

  • Ugly Christmas Suit

    Courtesy of Shinesty

    The traditional ugly Christmas sweater would make the perfect complement to a beard decorated in ornaments, but this year, hipsters were given another ironic fashion option in the form of three different Ugly Christmas Sweater Suits from a company called Shinesty, based in Boulder, Colo. The suits, which came with a jacket, tie, and pants, each featuring bold colors and loud matching prints (Christmas trees, snowflakes, snowman), all sold out on Cyber Monday, though they’re available for 2015 preorder right now.

  • Poop

    Courtesy of Cards Against Humanity

    As you may have heard, Cards Against Humanity, the “party game for horrible people,” somehow convinced 30,000 customers to pay $6 apiece for a box of bull feces. How did the company pull this off? Simple. On Black Friday, it posted on its website that it was plainly selling “Bull****” and thousands of people jumped on the offer. The gag gift—which buyers may or may not have actually known was a gag—isn’t anywhere near being one of the season’s hottest sellers. But considering the steaming pile of “merchandise” in question, any sales whatsoever would seem like a shock. Perhaps less surprising: Bull poop boxes are being posted on eBay, and they’ve been selling for three or four times the original ridiculous retail price.

TIME Humor

Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season on a Shoestring Budget

Karen E. Bender is the author of Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms.

Some socially acceptable dos and don'ts for a season of giving

It’s the holiday season. The economy has rebounded! Gas is ridiculously cheap! Everyone in the nation is supposed to be doing better. Well, we’re not. Somehow, this new, hopeful economy has bypassed us. We can’t figure out why.

Actually we’re fine. We’re okay, kind of. Which means that we are on the perilous life raft of the American economy; we are okay if nothing at all goes wrong. And while I love the holiday season, it is, sometimes, an economic minefield. But while the Federal Reserve dallies with interest rates, my economic salve for the money stress of the holiday season is one thing: pumpkin bread. (See “Do #6″ below.) Here are some ways to get through the holidays on a shoestring:


  1. Don’t go into any store that features shopping bags that can stand on their own accord, in the middle of a table. This sort of shopping bag denotes prices that will start chipping into your children’s college education fund. Avoid it. Remind yourself to put money into your children’s education fund. And oh yes, your retirement–next year, when things are better. I hear the economy’s improving.
  2. Don’t bid on anything at the religious institution’s Silent Auction. Walk by coveted items, smile at them, nod thoughtfully, but walk on. Or do bid but only when people are watching, and make it so small you can be outbid in an instant.
  3. Don’t monitor your online savings account in real time. It is tempting, but don’t do it.
  4. Don’t buy holiday cards to send out to people (the costs of stamps, my god!) Instead, post nice photo of family with loving caption on Facebook and see “likes” build.
  5. Don’t assume that a restaurant is good if it uses the words “Seatings are at” in its description. The word “banquet” will also do unmentionable things to your bill. You don’t have to pretend to be Henry the VIII, and you actually may not want to be.
  6. Don’t feel that your (or dear relative’s or friend’s) cat or dog will be insulted if you don’t buy him or her the crazily priced cat toy or sweater. Trust me: the pet will not know. This tip also applies to babies.
  7. Don’t assume that you have to wear a new fancy dress or shirt or anything to a New Year’s Eve party. No one is going to notice. Wear last year’s. Everyone’s going to be focused on the champagne and the mini-quiches. Helpful note: properly wrapped, mini-quiches can fit neatly into a purse. They heat up nicely later. By the way, I hear the economy is improving.
  8. Don’t feel that when relative sends gift card for X amount, you are required to send X amount back. Gift cards should not be an economic hostage situation. Send what you can and/or send pumpkin bread. (See #6 below)
  9. Don’t forget to buy books as gifts, as they will nourish the soul, far beyond the cover price.
  10. Don’t forget to give something (money or time) to causes, because you should.


  1. Tell your children that their Secret Santa gifts for their friends in class will be a re-gifting extravaganza.
  2. Tell your mother that any clothes she wants to purchase you as a gift has to be suitable for a job interview.
  3. Tell the children that the word “upgrade” has been banned in the household and nearby vicinity for the time being.
  4. Buy present at thrift store and sneakily give it to friend in fancy shopping bag received from other friend who foolishly went into store that used such shopping bags.
  5. Make pumpkin bread as the default gift for everyone. It is cheap, it is beloved, it is carbs. And you can make a batch sufficient for many gift recipients in an hour. Don’t worry about fancy cellophane wrapping, though bows are fine. You can use gluten-free flour if needed, too.
  6. Do remember that the dollar store is only a dollar store if you buy only one thing.
  7. Do remember that if it’s to grandmother’s house we go, that’s a good thing and grandmother can pay.
  8. Try to laugh, because not everyone can. And, by the way, it is free. And above all, know that after January 1, everything goes on sale. And did you hear? The economy is improving.

Karen E. Bender is the author of Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, and others. Her debut collection of short fiction, Refund: Stories, will be published by Counterpoint Press in January 2015.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY holiday shopping

11 Clever Stocking Stuffers They’ll Never Know Cost Almost Nothing

If you’ve ever struggled to get a good gift at the last minute and, like most Americans, ended up spending way too much as a consequence, do not fear. Here’s a list of $25-and-under presents that will impress with their (read: your) savvy—without putting a big dent in your wallet.

  • Citrus spritzer ($5)

    Citrus Spritzer
    Citrus Spritzer

    Whether the goal is keeping guacamole from browning, adding an even mist of lime juice to some (chili!) popcorn, or simply wowing guests, the Quirky Citrus Spritzer is pretty much the coolest gadget you can get someone for $5. Expert tip? Increase juice flow by rolling the fruit in question on a table for a minute before inserting the device—and spritzing to your heart’s content.

  • “Drinks are on me” coasters ($6)

    Set Of Four 'Drinks Are On Me' Coasters
    Karin Åkesson Set Of Four 'Drinks Are On Me' Coasters

    Get these charming furniture-protecting coasters from illustrator Karin Akesson for the pun enthusiasts in your life (or that friend who always picks the most literal responses in Cards Against Humanity). Or anyone, really: Who doesn’t love a good double entendre?

  • Clothespin clip-on reading light ($7)

    Clothespin Reading Light
    MoMA Clothespin Reading Light

    Like any unsung hero, this ordinary-looking clothespin doesn’t seem like much at first glance. But pin it to the corner of a book and it transforms into the (drumroll…) Clothespin Clip Light—casting extra light across text while holding pages in place. It’s a sweet stocking stuffer for bookworms and lovers of modern/contemporary art alike… and worst-case scenario, it can be used to hang laundry.

  • Tetris Jenga ($12)

    Jenga Tetris Game
    Hasbro Jenga Tetris Game

    If you thought Truth or Dare Jenga was bold, give Tetris Jenga a spin. This new take on the game has six different shapes that look like the ones you used to flip around on your Ti-84 instead of paying attention in math class. It’s a lot harder to pull a piece out, but destroying the tower is the whole point anyway, right?

  • Tablet “hands” prop ($16)

    TwoHands E-reader prop
    Felix TwoHands E-reader prop

    In the catalog of first-world problems, having to hold your iPad while you use it might be at the top of the list. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t an issue people want solved, and luckily for us, TwoHands E-reader prop is here to help. TwoHands not only props up your tablet so you can read or watch movies hands-free, but its cute little hands will make you smile.

  • Folding cutting board ($16)

    Folding Cutting Board

    Unless you’ve got knife skills like a ninja (or Jamie Oliver), it’s hard to keep all those darn veggie bits on the chopping board and off of the floor. MoMA’s Folding Cutting Board solves that problem with bendable sides that transform into a little chute to help keep chopped food in check and transfer pieces from one place to another neatly. It’s the perfect gift for friends or family members with culinary inclinations but a low tolerance for clean-up.

  • Personalized “magic” mug ($17)

    Walgreen's Magic Mug
    Walgreen's Walgreen's Magic Mug

    This Collage Magic Mug from Walgreens lets you add text and up to 15 custom photos to a mug—with a fun extra twist: Those images appear only when the cup is filled with a hot beverage. Whether you lean more sentimental or silly, a personalized gift like this is likely to mean more than the typical holiday present. One playful idea? Photoshop images of you and other friends so it appears you’re “trapped” in the mug.

  • Smartphone gloves ($20)

    Agloves smartphone gloves
    Joe Coca

    Unless you live in a naturally perfect climate, you might be familiar with the winter misery of trying to type on your smartphone with the useless icicles you once called fingers, as freezing sleet and wind whips around you. Enter Agloves smartphone gloves. Yes, there are even cheaper versions out there, but deep discounts come at the expense of quality and touch-screen responsiveness. These sleek puppies give you the equivalent of BMW performance at Hyundai prices.

  • Foodie Survival Kit ($20)

    Restoration Hardware Foodie Survival Kit
    Restoration Hardware Restoration Hardware Foodie Survival Kit

    For foodies and flavor junkies who can’t tolerate a bland meal, this emergency Mobile Foodie Survival kit is a game-changer, especially while on the road (or camping). With 13 organic spices, your gift recipient can heat up a too-tame Tikka Masala or add herbal fragrance to a mopey pasta Alfredo. Plus, buying the kit supports a good cause: It’s assembled by disabled adults through non-profit Brooklyn Community Services.

  • 10-in-1 bartender tool ($22)

    Restoration Hardware Bar10DER
    Restoration Hardware

    We’re not going to say they’re the best part of December, but holiday cocktails are a delight, and anyone who disagrees is wrong. Hopefully those on your gift list understand the truth, because you won’t find a better gift than this Bar10der tool from Restoration Hardware. Whether one needs to muddle some rosemary, zest an orange, or strain ice, the 10 devices that pop out of this tool have got the cocktail game covered.

  • Dining Table Tennis ($24)

    Dining Table Tennis
    Restoration Hardware Dining Table Tennis

    Here’s a scenario: It’s day two of your family’s holiday celebration. Cookies have been eaten, presents opened, and Netflix queues depleted. Everyone’s trapped together and there’s nothing left to distract from food comas (and bickering relatives). Enter Dining Table Tennis, a kit with all you need to turn your dining room table into a ping pong battlefield. It burns more calories than Scrabble and gives your loved ones something fun to do—even after all the wine is gone.

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