Stuffing stockings originally, and affordably, is as easy as ABC. By dropping into stores close to work or home and in nearby shopping centers, you can round up stockingsful of inventive fillers. Here, from A to Z, are hints for everything from the frivolous to the functional. Clues to where these discoveries can be found follow each item in parentheses. The key is below.
A spring artists love to experiment. Pick up Pentel pastel dye sticks (about 98 cents), good for self-expression on tee-shirts; or Pentel watercolors in tubes (about $1.98). 1
Brighten up their papers with rainbows of plastic paper clips that are said to save postage and nails (about $4.75 for 500). 2
Consider plumping a stocking with exotic fruit -- a pomegranate or kiwi fruit (under $1). 3
Draftsmen know that the secret of making a French curve is using a French curve ruler(about $1.50 to $3). This gadget will keep the stocking recipient guessing for hours. 1
End an identity crisis. Two or tree days notice will get you a rubber name stamp (in the yellow pages under "R"). A one-line stamp can cost under $4; three lines, under $6.
File away their thoughts in living color on multi-colored index cards (70 cents for 100 3x5s). 2
Give someone an incentive to organize his affairs -- a tower of interlocking clear plastic storage containers (about 99 cents), for screws, pins or odds and ends. 4
Hope that they don't (or do) take little pouches of shampoo as a hint. For under a dollar you get enough imported herbal, lemon or olive oil shampoo for two lathers. 5
Itinerant friends will appreciate a small bar of Magno glycerine soap in its own traveling case. The bar is black, but lathers white (under $1). 5
Junior stamp collectors can begin their hobby with a starter stamp kit ($2) or two, and go on from there. 6
Keys will fit just as well, and securely, on metal rings made from binders. (Remember how stubborn they are to open?) Rings with 3/4-inch to 3-inch diameters cost about 14 to 68 cents. 2
Let them rate their own performance with stick-on foil stars, 35 cents a box in a variety of school-time colors. 2
Making a name for themselves is simple with adhesive letters. Small letters cost about 10 cents each. 4
No on elikes to stumble in the dark. Light the way with an animal nightlight for the kids or one that resembles a jewel or miniature lantern for grown ups (from under $2). 4
On frosty winter mornings they'll thank you for an ice scraper (under $1). 4
Pamper someone with a cube that crumbles to soften and scent the bath water (about 40 cents). 5
Questions about the origins of U.S. stamps, their latest values and how to begin collecting are all answered in Stamps and Stories ($3.50). 6
Remember the forgetful. Diaries and date books, in miniature palm-size and pocket-size versions, fit them, and their stockings, perfectly (under $5). 2
Scan the notions rack at the fabric store for packets of sequins, beads, fake rhinestones and stars (under 50 cents) to sew onto jeans or glue onto paper.
Tacks are anything but dull if they're the kind with colorful round heads or are attached to flashy flags (under $2). 2
U.S. commemorative stamps make a good starting point for stamp collectors. Sets are available for every year since 1975 ($3.50 to $5.25 per set). 6
Vary the game routine with playing cards, from miniature to jumbo sizes (from under $1). 7
Whimsical duck, pig and bear nail brushes for the young-at-heart float on the water ($2.75 each). 5
X-rated films notwithstanding, going to the movies is no cheap thrill anymore. Check out the Biograph, Circle, K-B, Key (College Park) and Roth theaters' money-saving coupon books ($15 and under).
Yes, Virginia, you can still fill a stocking with a pair of psychedelic shoelaces for under $1, or a shoe horn for under 50 cents. 7
Zealous stocking stuffers who follow these hints won't need to resort to this one: generously toss in rolls of coins from the bank (your definition of generous will determine whether that's Lincoln heads or Susan B. Anthonys). This also has the effect of weighing down the stocking, giving the impression that it is chock full of goodies. Shame on you. Key: (1) art supply store; (2) office supply store; (3) grocery store; () hardware store; (5) soap shops like Crabtree & Evelyn and C'est L'Alchimique (formerly Caswell-Massey); (6) post office; (7) drug store.