Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Young Professionals, College Students, Moms and Dads

Gift-giving is surely on everyone’s mind as we head into the final weeks before Christmas. Giving gifts is a wonderful holiday tradition—one in which I participate fully because it brings me so much joy.

Three generations family opening Christmas Gifts and New Puppy!

Recently, I opened my email box to find a really nice message from a reader looking for help with gift suggestions for her husband’s administrative staff—a group of sharp, young professionals both male and female. He wants to acknowledge each with an appropriate gift—something that won’t be so dorky it shows up in next spring’s garage sale or worse, the trash. And he also wants to stay away from any gift that could be seen as too personal. His budget it about $30 per gift.

I accepted the challenge and went right to work, contacting several of the sharpest, smartest young professionals I know, asking for their opinions, suggestions and help. Together we came up with suggestions of gifts that each of them would thoroughly enjoy receiving from a supervisor, boss—or anyone, for that matter.

While I was in gift-guide mode, it dawned on me that over the past weeks, we’ve hit on gifts for kids, teens and even gifts baskets. But what about moms and dads? Read on and you’ll see we’ve got that covered there, too, just in case you’re behind the eight ball and need quick, reliable suggestions. It’s not too late, but you have no time to waste.

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The Case for Quartz Countertops

In a recent post, I suggested to a reader that quartz countertops would be a good choice in her quest to find the most durable and easy-care option, because quartz doesn’t stain, doesn’t require any kind of sealant and cleans up like a dream. And, I said, quartz is cheaper than granite.

Beautiful white kitchen with gray quartz countertops

In no time, I received this email response:

I was in the kitchen and bath remodel business for over 30 years. I worked with laminate, granite, and quartz. The quartz countertops do not perform better than granite.

I had complaints all the time for staining. Also you cannot set anything hot on quartz because it leaves a ring.

One more correction you need to make is that quartz is definitely NOT cheaper than granite!! I know from experience. Mary Lou

It took only a few hours in research mode for me to realize that Mary Lou is right; I was perhaps too general in my response. Here’s what I’ve learned.

There’s quartz and then there’s quartzite. They’re often confused, but not the same. It’s important to know the difference.

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Ask Me Anything: Bath Mat Repair, Wood Cleaner, Keurig Safety

Got a slippery throw rug? A bathmat that’s lost its backing after just one too many trips to the clothes dryer? Today’s first reader can certainly identify.

I’ve got good news for both of you—something you may have already that’s sitting on a shelf in the garage.

Mary M. asks: Is there any way to rescue throw rugs that have lost their rubber backing? They are no longer safe on the floor when they slip around, but the tops are in perfect shape. I hate to throw them out. There must be some kind of adhesive backing available to buy or make.

There is. In fact, you have a couple of options:

To Repair: To give a bath mat or other type of area rug some traction to give it a new lease on life, flip it over, and apply lines of acrylic-latex caulk every 6 inches or so. Once dry, you can safely use that rug again; the rubbery strips of caulk will hold it in place.

Repair area rug rubber backing with vinyl-latex caulk

To Restore: Another option is an excellent product, Fiber-Lok Non-Skid Rug Backing. You may be able to find this locally at select Staples, Joann and Walmart stores, and also online at Amazon. It comes in size options of pint, quart, and gallon. From my research, Amazon offers the best price with the added benefit of Prime shipping on the pint- and quart-size options.

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Gift Solutions in a Basket

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Gift baskets are a terrific gift solution for an individual on your gift list, or for an entire family. The first step is to pick an appropriate theme tailored to the recipient(s). While packing the contents of your gift basket into a real basket is traditional, consider any appropriate container like an attractive bucket, bowl or box.

You can spend as little or as much as you like filling the basket. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Beautiful Christmas gift basket filled with edibles

Movie Night Basket. Fill a large bowl or basket with family appropriate DVDs, iTunes Gift Card, microwave popcorn, theater-sized boxes of candy and bottles of soda.

Party of Two Basket. Boxes of dry pasta, a jar of spaghetti sauce, (homemade would be nice), Parmesan cheese, breadsticks, candlesticks and CD of classical Italian music.

 

Christmas in a Box. Especially thoughtful for someone living alone, send along a tabletop tree, a string of garland, a tree topper, lights and a box of ornaments. Include a CD of Christmas carols to be played while decorating the tree.

Bookworm Basket. Fill a basket with a few books, a coffee mug, packets of hot chocolate, instant coffee or tea, a tin of cookies and a pillow.

Letter Writer’s Basket. Assorted greeting cards, postcards, stationery, postage stamps, pens, pencils, return address labels.

Gift Wrap Basket. Curling ribbon, wrapping paper, gift enclosure cards, an assortment of gift bags, transparent tape, scissors, gift bags, tissue.

Coffee-Lover Basket. Coffee (beans or ground), coffee mugs (love these initial mugs), to-go coffee cups with lids, sugar creamer stir sticks, homemade sweet treat (like Biscoff Cookies).

Snow Day Survival Kit. Hot chocolate mix, mini-marshmallows, Sugar Cookie Mix, cookie cutter(s) plus, board game, puzzle and or deck of cards, kids’ book like the classic, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Ice Cream Party Basket. Fill a basket with ice cream supplies including sprinkles, waffle cones, a new ice cream scoop; toppings like hot fudge and salted caramel sauce, a can of whipped cream, a jar of maraschino cherries, a big bottle of root beer, plastic spoons and straws.

Related: Gift Baskets for the Tremendous Cooks on Your Gift List

Golfer Basket. Fill a basket with golf tees, golf balls, a small towel, subscription to Golf Magazine with a copy of the current issue, a new visor or hat or gift card for favorite Pro Shop.

Gardener Basket. A selection of hand gardening tools, seed packets, great pair of gloves, wide brim sun hat.


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Super Cool Gadgets and Electronic Gear

Reminder: Amazon does not allow links in email, which means Amazon links will take you directly to the corresponding blog post from this email, where you can access those links directly.

I love gadgets—anything that is clever, innovative, useful and reasonably priced. Gadgets make great gifts, especially when totally unexpected. I just love it when one of my kids or my husband opens a gift with a spontaneous, “Wow that is so cool!”

For your entertainment pleasure and perhaps a gift solution or two, I’ve put together this short list of gadgets, gizmos and electronic devices that are all the buzz this holiday season because they’re so cool!

Pizza-oven-Bakerstone

KIDS

ELECTRONIC PET DOG. His name is Harry. He’s an adorable Dalmatian puppy that walks and barks; responds to touch, loves to chase, sing and dance. Harry the Electronic Pet Dog wants to play with your little ones! So cute and one of this season’s hot electronic toys for kids age 2 to 7. About $25.

SMARTWATCH. Complete with built-in tiny camera to take photos and videos! Touchscreen, motion sensor, clock, voice recorder with voice-changing effects, cute games, songs and lots more. Kids ages 5 to 9 say VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch is the coolest thing ever! Several options and colors. From $45 to $60 depending on style and color.

TEENS

SUNRISE ALARM CLOCK. My son says this is the best gift I’ve ever given him, it’s that awesome. Instead of blasting an annoying wake up buzzer, this alarm clock wakes up naturally with a gradual increase in brighness from 1 to 100% over an amount of time, which you choose. Just like the sun coming up, the light gradually brightens until it’s time to get up. Perfect, especially during the short dark days of winter. Tons more features you should read about. HomeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock, less than $25.

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Ask Me Anything: Lease or Buy, Laundry Detergent Confusion

Pop quiz: What do car leases and laundry detergent have in common? Both can be confusing! Just ask today’s readers whose respective questions  washed up in my inbox ….

Husband and wife have mixed emotions over driving and old car

Dear Mary: My wife and I are having a disagreement. I want to lease a new car now because ours is old and paying for repairs is like flushing money down the drain. She wants to keep it until we can afford to buy better car. I hate car trouble and think peace of mind is something to be considered. I’m sure we can afford the payment but she’s not. What should we do? James

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The Fine Print: Deal With It!

Just recently American’s consumer debt—that’s everything except mortgages—hit $3.789 trillion.

So what’s a trillion? It’s a million million; a thousand billion or 1,000,000,000,000. A billion is a thousand million. Or 1,000,000,000.

young woman with a shocked expression examining a document with a magnifying glass

A billion seconds ago it was 1986 and Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev opened talks at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. A billion minutes ago it was the year 117 A.D. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

But a billion dollars ago in consumer debt was something like just two weeks ago!

Learning how to manage your debt starts with understanding what’s in the fine print.

The principle of fine print. Never trust the flashy print, the cool logos or the enticing promises. There’s always a catch in the fine print. Remember this: What the big print giveth, the fine print taketh away!

Changing the rules. When you signed by your signature you gave the company the right to change the terms at any time. They can raise rates, shorten grace periods and basically change the rules and terms to their advantage whenever they feel like it. But they must tell you in writing.

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When All Else Fails, Carpet Surgery

Carpet stains are near the top of my personal list of pet peeves. I’m not talking about an accidental spill that when addressed quickly can be successfully removed. In fact, I get a lot of satisfaction from tackling a spill or stubborn spot on carpet, forcing it to disappear never to be seen again.

What I’m talking about is an ugly stain that no matter what, absolutely will not budge.

Carpet surgery

Stephanie writes, “Is there anyway I can remove a rust stain from my carpet? We just moved into this house and the carpet is gorgeous—except for this fairly small spot that is so noticeable. It looks to me like rust. I’ve tried spot removers, but they haven’t worked.”

It all depends on how long that rust stain has been there and other methods you have attempted to remove it. The problem is the harsher the treatment the more likely you’ll be to also remove color from the carpet, leaving you with an even more noticeable problem.

So let’s assume this rust stain is set for eternity and nothing is going to remove it. Here’s a last resort I’ve used with satisfactory results: carpet surgery.

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