By Meredith L. Phillips aka Ms. Cheapskate
Stocking Stuffers and More
Pop Pop from Mugen - This unique idea comes from the obsession/fascination with bubble wrap and is geared toward those addicted to popping the enticing packing aid. The Pop Pop is a keychain-sized toy with "bubbles" that make various noises, depending on the number and speed of the "popping." Japanese children are already on board with the phenomenon and enjoy racing to see who sets off the random bark, moo, or other hilarious noises first. We find it annoying, and yet we cannot put it down. Put one in a stocking and drive someone "Pop Pop." Ages 4+ $6
Virgin Mobile/Kyocera - Virgin Mobile's pay-as-you-go and by-the-month plans are a wonderful gift for anyone on your list. There are no contracts and no activation fees. For those wanting unlimited minutes, text, and browsing, a month-to-month plan is only $79.99, which beats Sprint's Simply Everything Plan by $20. Our favorite "Top-Up" card, available wherever prepaid phones are sold, comes with 365 days of service and up to 450 minutes of talk time for $90. The account balance of $90 can be actually used as you wish for talk, text, or web access with any Virgin Mobile phone, including Kyocera's sleek TNT for $20 or the fully loaded Wild Card for $80.
We love the soft touch exterior, flat keypad, and full-color screen of the 2.8oz TNT flip phone. The 4.1oz Wild Card is a 1.3 MP camera phone and unfolds for a full QWERTY keyboard and large second screen - so easy for messaging and web browsing, you almost forget you are using a phone and not a laptop! Wild Card is also Bluetooth compatible and offers streaming music. Both models can access the web and VXL, which has exclusive Virgin Mobile content and, like all VM phones, service is supported by the Sprint PCS Network. For value, size, and weight, we would choose the TNT, but for serious texters and web surfers, we recommend the awesome Wild Card. For Virgin Mobile Monthly or Top-Up service pricing, visit VirginMobile.com. Kyocera TNT $20, Kyocera Wild Card $80.
Chocolate Potpourri - As a fan of classic supermarket brands to indulgent gourmet specialty chocolates, I have a special place in my heart for chocolate. I have found that many chocolatiers try to dress up an old favorite with some newfangled recipe and deliver less than stellar results while charging more per piece than I pay for cable.
Chocolate Potpourri has proven to be one of the few gourmet confectioners who live up to my expectations. Arriving in a beautiful yet understated box and delivering upon the promises of their perfect exteriors, these truffles are true delights. Creme Brulee, Caramel Sea Salt, Panacotta, and Praline, not to mention the numerous licquer-infused flavors, are robed in velvety smooth shells and decorated with care for the ultimate presentation.
The Spice Truffle Collection includes such flavors as Honey & Ginger, Sweet Indian Curry & Coconut, and Ancho Chile & Cinnamon. Ms. Cheapskate's favorite? Mocha, my sweet. Available from ChocolateTruffles.com and can be delivered 2-day or overnight. 16 truffles $20, 50 for $57, divine pleasure - PRICELESS.
Yankee Candle - As always, Yankee has festive holiday scents that will invoke memories of Christmas Past - we call it Scentimental! A gift basket full of Yankee's best will really impress that special person on your list. From "Car Jar" hanging air fresheners to room sprays and votives, there's a scent and size to fit everyone. Our favorite holiday scents include Silver Bells, Cinnamon Stick, Vanilla Mint, and Eggnog. The new votive holders featuring pine cone or poinsettia patterns make great hostess gifts or dress up a room for holiday parties, as the candlelight flickers through the crackled glass. Available in fine stores such as Hallmark, Bed, Bath & Beyond and at YankeeCandle.com. From Car Jars to large jars $5 - $25, Gift Baskets start at $23.
This year, Emily the Strange offers great gift ideas, from her hardcover 4-book collection featuring "Emily's Good Nightmares" to an array of her trademark black and red clothing and accessories. Available from Hot Topic Boutiques and EmilyStrange.com. Book set $43.
Wrap It Up
Scotch Gift Wrap Cutter and Pop-Up Tape Dispenser - Need a quick finish for your last-minute purchases? Scotch takes the awkwardness out of beautifying your packages with two lifesavers. The Pop-Up Tape Dispenser slides over fingers for one-handed dispensing of tape strips, perfect for wrapping the whole family's presents in one sitting.
The adjustable dispenser may be worn above the knuckles or on the wrist. Included are 75 pre-cut strips and refills are available. The Gift Wrap Cutter from Scotch has an ergonomic handle and no exposed blade, which provide safe, easy cutting for even the youngest wrappers. A guide on top keep cuts straight, and the stainless steel blade even glides through premium weight gift wrap like a hot knife through butter. The underside features a ribbon curler, which seems a little unnecessary until you realize how much safer fingers are on this perfectly molded plastic surface versus the usual attempts over scissor blades.
This little wonder leaves me perfectly curled ribbons with no shredded messes or trips to the local ER - a miracle! No self-respecting cheapskate should be without this tool, as it has proven itself to be quite the coupon clipper, as well. Available at mass retailers, Tape Dispenser $2, Gift Wrap Cutter $3.
Hallmark Self-Adhesive Gift Wrap and Peek-Buster Gift Bags - Are you in a real hurry to wrap things up? Try Hallmark's self-adhesive wrapping papers in rolls of 30" x 10'.
There's no need for tape, as the paper really does stick to itself and the gift without leaving behind adhesive or damaging the gift when removed.
For those who need a little extra security until the big moment, try the Peek-Buster bags which feature an alarm and Santa's voice alerting you to a "PIP - a Peep In Progress." Available where Hallmark products are sold. Gift Wrap $5, Bags $5 to $7.
Bayley's Boxes CD and Gift Card Holders - Some say gift cards are impersonal and thoughtless. I say to them, "Have you ever tried to wrap one?"
This takes a great deal of creativity, time, and energy to keep the recipient from sighing before even seeing what is in the envelope. The same goes for wrapping a photo or mix CD, maybe a gift you have taken hours to personalize for that special someone and want to present with the same flair and imagination you have put into its creation.
Bayley's Boxes, Inc., have given us remedies for both dilemmas. CD and gift card briefcases, 3D "Flower Pouches" for CD's, and gift card "Purses" are just a few solutions to wrapping up that special gift in a unique way that leaves the old money holder greeting card in the dust. All shapes and sizes are available in their many patterns, designs, and holiday print, so every occasion is covered, even packaging for your garage bands' latest demo.
Order at BayleysBoxes.com. Priced for quantities from one to more than 101, holders are available anywhere from $.40 to $1.50 each.
Want to spend your hard-earned dollar a little closer to home?
I reviewed some locally owned shops and websites. Below are a few of my favorites.
Stanberry/King City Shops
Cottage Creations - 309 N. Alanthus, Stanberry, MO 64489, 660-783-2054. Janet Sager & Debra Buckalew. Extended holiday hours: M-F 10-6, Sat 10-4:30.
Isabella's Journey purses, OKA b-loved comfortable shoes, home decor, unique kitchen gadgets, Root candles, Wind & Willow gourmet foods (dips/mixes made in Mt. Vernon, MO), personalized gift baskets for any occasion, Leanin' Tree cards, Mary Engelbreit, cookbooks, Trollbeads charms, cutting boards, tapestries, windchimes, Willow Tree & Eden's Angels, Allure jewelry, baby gifts, holiday CD's and ornaments, lamps, collector plates, blown glass hummingbird feeders.
Lou's Antiques - 118 First St, Stanberry, MO 64489, 660-783-2220. Lou Noble & Pam Jensen, 15yrs. Hours: Tue-Sat 10-4:30.
Gently used and new furniture. Woodwick jar candles, Watkins items (spices, extracts, pumpkin butter), Avon, new holiday decor, wreathes, topiaries, Raggetty Ann & Andy collectibles, graniteware, HOT cappuccino.
Prairie Flowers & Baskets - 3904 State Route P, King City, MO 64463, 660-535-6309. Steve & Tommi Herbster. Call to order or for appointment.
Holiday decor, cemetery mounds, poinsettias, fresh greenery arrangements, gift cards.
Owned by a stay-at-home dad and an active Air Force pilot, these web businesses are based in Witchita, KS.
Mr. Momz General Store - 2929 Mitchell Drive Wichita, KS 67210, 1-877-SO YUMMY, www.mrmomzgeneralstore.com, open 24/7. Wax tarts and burners are their specialties. Primitive home decor and framed art are also available.
River Street Gourmet - www.riverstreetgourmet.com, 435-535-0244. Premium cocoa and other gourmet mixes make great stocking stuffers. Gift certificates are available.