For your best friend or sibling
- Make a date for something important. Give a one-month gift membership at the small local gym, or calendar that postponed colonoscopy. Then take the day off and make a party of going together.
- A first edition of a favorite classic book, if you can afford it, or, for less, a copy signed by the author (yes, we will) of a new one.
- Fingerless gloves. It may seem like a contradiction of terms, but if your BFF or favorite brother has a smartphone attached to him like a third hand, being able to operate it and stay warm (although not while driving!) is a singular gift.
- Wrap their Christmas presents for them. Clean their house. Help them tag the garage sale. Taking away a dreaded task can earn you a lifetime of good will.
For your spouse or love
- The best piece of carry-on luggage you can afford. Don't panic. It may not be wickedly expensive. For example, Baggalini's rolling tote (designed by an airline flight attendant) easily accommodates a weekend's worth of clothing, a laptop, a toiletries case and a tuna-salad wrap and still rolls right down that aisle. Like the indispensable Baggalini purses, this also comes in about 10 groovy colors, and depending on which one you choose, costs from $100 to $200. Travelpro's Walkabout Lite-3 comes only in black but, on a scale of five stars, deserves 10. Every time that overhead bin clicks closed, your love will think of you. If you shop around online, you can get it for as little as $75.
- A manicure and pedicure: For either gender. I've seen fishermen in Gloucester getting their tootsies tenderized. Once you've been there, you can't believe you didn't go before: $50.
- Cooking lessons: Succulent sushi? Enticing enchiladas? Classes in virtually every kind of cookery are happening nearby. Send your sweetie and reap the benefits. Or take a cake-decorating class together and stun your family with your confections. At schools and restaurants, four to six sessions for $30 to $400 or more.
- Just the two of you. Probably with your own computer, and certainly with Shutterfly, you can make a book, for as little as $13, of the great times of your life. Find a song and inscribe every photo page with a line: "I'll be seeing you/in all the old, familiar places."
- Wrap their presents. Or clean their house. A friendship coupon for one dreaded and odious task will earn you a lifetime of good will.