All I don't want for Christmas

A holiday handbook for the season's worst gifts

As students swap their studies for Santa hats and shopping lists, the rush to finish holiday shopping ensues. Once finals are over, there won't be much time left to buy gifts for the endless list of family, friends and loved ones. But, don't let the lack of time cause a lackluster shopping performance on your end. Here's what not to buy when it comes to this year's holiday gifts: the 2010 MOVE anti-gift guide. The Tickle Me Elmos of the year, if you will. Stay away from these gifting pitfalls and you won't have to worry about picking up a gift receipt with all of your holiday purchases.

Good intentions gifts You'd think that these wouldn't be an issue, since everyone acknowledges how offensive they can be, but a mysterious onslaught of weight loss DVDs, gym memberships and other not-so-friendly hint gifts seem to pop up every year. Unless your target has specifically requested some sort of exercise-oriented gift or one of the many self-improvement books, DO NOT BUY. Nothing ruins the holiday spirit like a gift that comes with a subliminal "you've really let yourself go" message. Even the Grinch failed to spoil the holidays, so don't go there.

Seasonal Gifts We've all seen the reindeer boxers, Christmas T-shirts and Santa pajamas, but unwrapping any of these on Christmas leaves the recipient anywhere from five minutes to a few days worth of use until the following year, depending on how long he/she hangs around the house before heading off to a family Christmas dinner. Rudolph briefs and Santa pants are all nice and dandy come Christmastime, but they're better off given around Thanksgiving, to usher in the season, than on Christmas day. Save them until next year.

Novelty items Sure, $5 stocking stuffer gag gifts are a hit, but the joke's on you when the main ticket item is along the lines of a pillow pet (if you haven't seen one, head to your local Walgreens end cap to observe an item that barely delivers at either of these functions) a Shake Weight (also available at Walgreens) or a Snuggie (another Walgreens specialty, unless you're one of those people who can't cope with a regular blanket). These gifts make for a nice giggle or two,but will end up underneath wrapping paper for the majority of the day, and in the back of a closet or the garage a few weeks into the new year.

Repeats When you have a long list of people to buy for, it's easy to forget what you wrapped up last year. Dad doesn't want another Christmas tie, Mom has enough cutesy picture frames with inspirational quotes about family on them and you got your best friend a gift card to Best Buy for his birthday three months ago. The only thing more disappointing than a bad gift is the same gift, because bad gifts are at least a change of pace.

All warnings and difficult decisions aside, there's a pretty simple strategy to conquering your holiday shopping. Think about your target's hobbies, interests and needs. If you know them well enough, you shouldn't have too much trouble coming up with something they'd appreciate. Just stay away from the Shake Weights and Santa Snuggies and you’ll avoid the bad wrap as a gift giver this season.

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