Gift cards: Obvious? Yes. But you don’t really have time for creativity. Readily available at gas stations and drug stores and supermarkets, they’re the last-minute multitasker’s dream. Most major chains now feature a rack of gift cards good for a variety of restaurants, online retailers and clothing stores, along with the all-purpose, good-anywhere-credit-cards-are-accepted options. And if you can get to grandmother’s house without passing a CVS, 7-11 or Safeway, you have achieved the impossible. Still, be careful, advises The Post’s Michelle Singletary: Make sure the card you purchase hasn’t been tampered with, and check the receipt to confirm that the cashier activated the card.
Downloadable gifts: The beauty of digital gifts that the recipients can download to their own gadgets? No shipping required. iTunes, for example, allows you to buy music, videos and apps for others. Just select “Gift this” when you’re ready to check out and the recipient gets an e-mail from which he can download the purchase. Want to make it more personal? Give a modern mix tape by creating a playlist from your own iTunes music, clicking the arrow next to the playlist name and selecting “Give playlist.” The recipient gets an e-mail
For the readers on your list, books are just a click and an e-mail away: Amazon.com’s Kindle books and Barnes and Noble’s NOOK books can be purchased as digital gifts. And if it turns out they’ve already read that one? Your giftee can exchange it for site gift credit.
If you’re worried that opening an e-mail isn’t much fun as ripping the paper off of a present, Giftwhip.com lets you “wrap” any digital-gift e-mail in festive paper, with a countdown clock that determines when the present is revealed. And if you prefer something more tangible, most sites will let you print a copy of the e-mail notification.
Online subscriptions: Perfect for homebodies and internet addicts. A subscription to streaming video services like Netflix or Hulu Plus will keep a couch potato happy, and a GameFly subscription should satisfy any serious video gamer.
Charitable donations: Appreciated by do-gooders everywhere, and tax-deductible. Not sure which organization they care about most? At Charitygiftcertificates.org, you pony up the funds and the giftee chooses which charity gets them. Prefer something specific? OxFam America Unwrapped lets you buy gifts such as mosquito nets ($25), a goat ($50), a water pump ($135) and, um, manure ($12). Someone in need gets the goods, and your recipient gets a card and possibly some residual good karma.
Need to whip something up at home?
Twenty-five different cookie recipes for sweet treats worth giving. Because everyone loves cookies. (Except perhaps the gluten-intolerant — but we have them covered, too).