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Guide to gift giving this holiday season

Caroline Crocco

By Circle Contributor
On December 6, 2012

By the time the tests are over, the papers are written, and the coffee container is empty, most students will be on their way home, and some will realize they completely forgot to shop for gifts because they were so caught up in finals madness! Take a look at this gift-giving guide for ideas and tips to get all of your shopping done this season.

1. Know who you're shopping for. Make sure to write out a list well in advance of everyone for whom you need to buy a gift to avoid the awkward moment when somebody gives you a gift, but you have nothing in exchange for them. Take hints from your friends and family about things they might like. Even if they're not as forthcoming about their perfect ideas, try to be alert for signs of potential gifts like, "I have no more money left on iTunes," or, "It's so cold, my coat is too small!"

2. Brainstorming and bargain hunting. Create a list of things you should be on the lookout for as you shop. However, don't limit yourself to a single idea! Sometimes the best gifts are a random find at the mall or from a major sale that you didn't know about. Take a look at coupons that come in the mail or online merchandising websites. Worst case scenario, you might get 25 percent off on your big purchases!

3. Communicate. If you're having trouble coming up with gift ideas, ask your friends! Chances are, they're probably doing holiday shopping of their own. Get a group of friends together to hit the mall, they can help you pick things out and give you advice!

4. Surf the Web.  Interactive websites such as Yahoo Answers typically have good ideas for generic gifts you can get for loved ones. Sometimes simplicity is not a bad thing.

5. Personalize. Buying gifts for close friends, a significant other or parents can be tricky. Take advantage of the gift giving season to show them what they mean to you. Think of giving gifts that really mean something to that person or something that shows them that you truly know them well.

6.  Suggestions.

Men/Fathers: In this category, the opportunities are endless. You can go with generic gifts such as gift cards to Home Depot, Best Buy or a family restaurant. This way, they'll have the opportunity to spend at their own digression and pick out what they need. A more personal gift can be a trip for two, such as going to a local golfing range. Other possibilities include books, DVDs, speakers, fishing materials or tools. If you're interested in expanding your price range, keep wristwatches, cameras and tablets on your radar!

Women/Mothers: Shopping for women can be easy when you think of all the options! Gift cards, look for Macy's, William Sonoma or a salon are great options. If you're hoping to incorporate a bonding experience into your gift, take her to the salon with you, go out to breakfast or plan a trip. Head to the jewelry store, and you're guaranteed to find something in your price range. A popular pick is a personalized necklace or bracelet with representative charms. If you end up deciding against jewelry, take a look at shoes, purses and sweaters. Sometimes you can score great deals for a cheap price. Keep your eyes out for candles, incense, perfume, blankets, picture frames and CDs. Try to package a few together to create a nice, homey gift basket.

Siblings/Friends: Depending on the age of the sibling or friend, some of the ideas from above can be recycled. For friends, an activity the two of you could do together can be fun. However, if you're shopping for a sibling of a younger age, look at gift cards to their favorite stores like Forever 21, H&M, Game Stop, Lids, Toys R Us, Target and iTunes. Taking them to a local baseball game or theater can be a great gift idea. If you're really stumped, Mom and Dad might be able to help on this one!

Boyfriend/Girlfriend: When shopping for a significant other, make the effort to show them how much you care. For girls, jewelry or perfume is great, and for boys, look for cologne or a jacket. To make the gift more personal, take advantage of your talents. Paint them a picture, sing them a song or write them a short novel. These gifts truly display your effort! Try to take them on a trip, perhaps to a basketball game, a Broadway show or on an exciting city trip full of their favorite activities. Top it off with a dozen roses and a homemade card and you're good to go! 

Good luck with your shopping, and be sure to leave adequate time to be a smart shopper this season! Happy holidays!

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