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Barbara Whelehan writes Boomer Bucks for

Last-minute boomer gift ideas

Every year at Christmastime my husband, Kevin, and I make our ritual sojourn to the mall to get clothes -- for ourselves. We select the articles of clothing we like and try them on for size.

I remember at a younger age, when I tried on a new outfit, the big question was, "Does this outfit make me look slim?" Now, the question has become, "Does this outfit adequately conceal my flaws?"

Liz Claiborne is my favorite designer. She downsizes her clothing line's size tags: One could really be a size 10 but find the perfect fit in a size 8. What a genius.

But anyway, we cull the wheat from the chaff and, at the cash register, ask for boxes for each item. The plan is to wrap them up and put them under the tree and feign surprise and delight on Christmas morning.

It's a pragmatic approach to spending money and getting the things we know we need and like, and won't have to exchange in the post-holiday rush to return merchandise. We need to replenish our wardrobes every now and then -- why not do it at Christmastime? And we usually throw in a little unexpected gift in the mix that elicits some genuine surprise.

But buying for others represents more of a challenge. Our young-adult children, though polite about it, generally don't like our fashion sense and end up returning their gifts. This year we went to the stores they like (Hollister Co., Pacific Sunwear and American Eagle Outfitters instead of Bealls or Dillard's) and purchased some items that stand a good chance of acceptance.

Gifts for relatives
Adult siblings are difficult to buy for because you generally have no idea what they would like. For several years, Harry and David was our standard solution for Kevin's side of the family. It was quick and simple: Make a phone call, buy everyone a $50 gift basket and charge it. But what did they get for 50 bucks, plus shipping and handling? Five pears, a couple of apples, some nuts, shortbread cookies, cheese, baklava and chocolate truffles. Well, that's actually a pretty good value when you consider that those pears are each worth at least $5; they taste like nectar of the gods.

This year we broke from this cycle of predictability and bought my fellow-boomer brothers- and sisters-in-law aromatherapy oil diffusers and such essential oils as lavender, eucalyptus, lemon grass and pine.

Next: "Yes! We're idiots! ..."
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