Lifestyle

Call me a Grinch, but the holidays are never more daunting than when you’re sitting down to make your shopping list for friends and family. After so many years, you’ve probably cycled through the same items many times over (I know I have!). So here are some ideas and commentary from the folks at Cardpool.com who suggest they’re for “lazy gift-givers.” I sure hope my family isn’t reading this, but I probably fall into that category. Hope you find this as helpful as I did, and if you’ve got additional please add to the list in the comments below. Happy holidays!

1. Cardpool.com

Gift cards. That are up to 30% discounted. What’s not to love? That means you can buy the people on your “nice” list cards for some of the top retailers, restaurants, movie theaters and even airlines without breaking the bank.

2. Whatever of the Month Clubs

For everyone on your list, there’s a gift of the month club – bacon of the month, beer of the month, jam of the month (for the Christmas Vacation fans out there) – get your creative juices flowing. Murray’s in New York even has a meat of the month club delivered nationwide – a gift that keeps giving year round.

3. Netflix / Hulu

Who doesn’t love movies? Purchase a gift certificate for Hulu Premium so your gift recipient can stream the newest shows without all the ads.

4. Shutterfly.com

You can use your own photos to print out aprons, coasters, mugs, key chains, etc. This is one of those gifts that will make you look like you really gave it the personal touch. Just upload a photo on a site and let it do all the hard work.

5. Spafinder.com

Spafinder takes the spa gift certificate to the next level. Let your recipient pick out the spa and the treatment without putting your bank account in the red.

Those of you who are experiencing funemployment and traveling on the cheap may be interested in a deal that HostelBookers is promoting this season. It’s offering big discounts on already crazy cheap hostels in warm-weather locations like Miami, Lima, and Cancun. Discounts start at 20% and…

One of the upsides of the recession is that it cut back on the amount of unnecessary spending in America. We were shelling out too much for clothes, appliances, video games, cosmetics, car accessories—you name it. And then we were spending on stuff to store all the stuff we’d bought but didn’t have a place for.

But all that stuff, ironically, has been a boon in the recession, argues Virginia Postrel in an interesting Wall Street Journal story this weekend. When we had to cut back on spending, we could turn to our personal storehouses of tee shirts and tube socks…

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the huge money-saving deal at Restaurant.com. It’s ending today–so get 80 percent off dining gift certificates ASAP, with the discount code PLATE.

Going to the movies was once a simple, inexpensive pleasure. Now a flick for two runs $25 in New York—and that’s before the popcorn. So we jumped on this deal when we spotted it yesterday: $4 for a ticket to any AMC, Loews, Cineplex Odeon, Magic Johnson, or Star theater. The catches are, you have to pay up front, you can only get one (I’m making my fiance buy his own)…

I just bought $200 worth of meals at great New York restaurants for $16.50. Seriously.

The website Restaurant.com offers discounted gift certificates at establishments around the country–usually $10 for a $25 credit. Now, it is offering an additional 80% off with the code “FUN.” That means meals for just a few bucks…

If obsessing about unemployment figures, market drops, and inflation rates hasn’t helped improve your financial situation over the past year, it might be time to try something else. Like, say, ignoring the recession entirely and pretending it doesn’t exist.

It’s not hard to do. With the swipe of a credit card and the purchase of a $2,500 Swarovski-embellished handbag, you can be right back where you were before the recession began—deep in debt and surrounded by shiny luxury goods.

After the jump, a round-up of our favorite ridiculous items and goods that might help take your mind off of the country’s financial crisis, at least until your next credit card statement arrives in the mail….

It’s winter. Maybe you’re unemployed. Man, those walls are feeling close together, aren’t they? It is possible to bring some freshness to your surroundings without buying anything new. Try our tips, and troll the web for more–we especially like Apartment Therapy and the blog at Design Public. (Though we’re a little biased on that second one.)

De-clutter

There are people who can make clutter look beautiful. You are probably not one of them. Put away all those tchotchkes–or even better, sell them or give them away. (Check out the tips for getting rid of castoff clothes for help.)

Move stuff around

It is sort of amazing what a difference you can make by rearranging seating or shoving a table over. About.com has ten tips for arranging furniture. Our advice: try out configurations that aren’t obvious…

Oysters may be an aphrodisiac and truffles might seem romantic, but there’s nothing sexier than offering to cook your date a simple meal at home.

Especially on Valentine’s Day, when the hottest restaurants in town are all packed to the brim and serving predictable prix fixe menus, a candlelit dinner at your own table can be just what Cupid ordered.

Whether you’re looking to save money or show off your skills in the kitchen, we have put together a super-simple, recession-friendly Valentine’s menu that anyone can cook at home…

Say what you will about commercialism and Valentine’s Day—it’s hard to reject a day that celebrates love in all its squishy glory.

Stop using money as an excuse to check out–who says you have to buy roses at inflated prices, or shell out for an overcrowded restaurant? In fact, sharing V-Day in a way that involves less spending (much, much less…) can be even more special. Start with our nine tips for gifts, meals and activities that will
make your Feb. 14 about connection, consideration and romance, not cash and cliches.

Say it with pictures

Or as PhotoJoJo puts it: “If you love someone, shoot them.” Go out and take portraits of each other, even if it’s with a crappy camera…