A Last-Minute Gift that's Useful, Fun, Cheap, & Not Destined for Landfill

I hate having to buy small gifts, and yet, you can’t escape them. Whether it’s stretching to find 8 days of something the kids can open without breaking the bank for Hannukah or filling Christmas stockings when we celebrate with their grandparents, I end up having to buy lots of little gifts, and I don’t feel good about it. You end up spending a lot for items that, other than the candy or orange, essentially create landfill. And, often, they’re not super cheap given what you’re purchasing.

This year by around day 3 of Hannukah, I already was running short on gifts when inspiration (or desperation? or both?) struck. More often than I’d like to admit, my son ignores my several shouts of “Did you brush your teeth yet?” and, when quizzed on the subway reveals he has yet to brush his teeth. I’d also been getting frequent calls about forgotten lunch money.

I headed to the drugstore and my bathroom cabinet to create “backpack everyday emergency kits.” I grabbed some airline or make-up freebie bags, and for less than $20 per kid (excluding the cash), I had a useful gift that they were actually glad to receive. Here’s a list you can crib from if you happen to find yourself short on gifts and in a drugstore on Christmas Eve. You know who you are.

-Travel toothbrush and toothpaste-Because more times than I care to admit, they go to school not having brushed their teeth.

-Pocket tissue-So your kids don’t steal your own.

-Old headphones for car trips when they forget theirs.

-An emergency cell phone charger-For around $5, you can get these little packs. Portable chargers are great ideas, too, although you have to make sure they are charged from time to time if they’re going to be useful.

-TicTacs or other mints-Really, this just makes it a gift that seems a little more fun and a little less “This is going to be useful.”

 -$10-In New York we were always told to have some money on us so we’d have something to give to a mugger if we were stopped. Now it’s more like snack or lunch money. 

-Hand Sanitizer

-Extra hair elastics/mini brush or comb

-Lip balm-No matter how many they lip balms or chapsticks they have, they never have it when they need it. 

-Subway card with a trip or two on it.

-Tweezers/nail clippers/nail file.

-Pencil or Pen-It's kind of shocking to me how often my kids have neither of these handy.

There are tons of other things you can do to make it personal for your child. (A starbucks card? Gloves? A water bottle? A snack bar or two? A bag of dried fruit? ) Now if only we could cram in that karate uniform, spelling homework or school lunch inside!

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