DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm feeling pretty sick to my stomach about my Christmas-present situation this year and don't know what to do. There are 10 people on my list and I have a little more than $50 to spend. Is it better to not give a gift that's clearly cheap or promise one for later when I get paid again? How can I get everybody a gift on $50 anyway? -- One Broke Girl, Manitoba
Dear Broke Girl: It's always better to give a little gift than saying you're holding out until you can buy a big gift. The moment where you're saying, "Sorry, no gift for you," is embarrassing and worth avoiding. Why bother at all if the gift is cheap? Because a little gift of love is so much better than a lame promise. A lot of people don't remember the big gifts they get, but they always remember the small, personal ones.
Every year I get letters much like yours. Good news! There are many ways to accomplish this task. For $50, you can make a lot of cookies or muffins from cake mixes bought cheaply at discount stores. Tissue paper to wrap the bag or box is colourful, inexpensive, and it rustles. One big rogue ball of curly ribbon at a second-hand store will probably be new and can cost as little as 25 cents.
You could also give a dollar-store nail polish and little gift-service certificate you make to actually give the manicure to the person yourself. Then you must initiate setting the date. Dollar stores are good shopping spots and Goodwill stores slash prices to up to 75 per cent off on Christmas-themed items in the few days before Christmas. A package of Christmas cards is good for poem writing for either sex.
Photos are hard to get these days because everybody's pictures are stuck online, but a picture of you when you were a little kid to give to a family member in a frame from a dollar store would be sweet. You can even print out a photo online if it's clear. The important thing is the note that goes with any small gift -- a sweet message of love. If you can't write a little poem, list the things you admire about the person, even the quirky stuff. That alone can stand as a gift that will be kept forever if it's in a picture frame.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I really love Christmas, but my family is lukewarm about it. I have planned a secret party for my friends on Boxing Day, which I don't want to invite my family to, and haven't. I feel guilty for not inviting them, but Christmas is always such a quiet, uninspired eat-and-run affair with my "close" family. Do I owe them an invitation? What if they find out about it? -- Guilty as Sin, Brandon
Dear Guilty: Follow your instinct. You clearly need a party for you, and having the ho-hum family come over again because they feel they have to will defeat the purpose. If you get asked about it -- or if you want to casually mention it -- you can say you're having a little party for a few close friends on Boxing Day because you can't see them at Christmas like you do family. That lets them know they've already been processed and you're inviting friends alone. By the way, the expression "a few people" can encompass two to 20 people in party parlance. As for the family doldrums at the family Christmas, bring decks of cards, or get everybody to bring board games, and have some fun for a change.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I like to dress like Santa and surprise my wife about midnight. We don't have kids, yet. Last year she dressed like Mrs. Santa in a see-through outfit she ordered online. I also bought her one of those expensive vibrators for two people at once. I am very excited to try that. But, do you think that's too tacky to give as a Christmas present? When should I give it to her? -- Awkward Mr. Santa, Winnipeg
Dear Awkward: That fancy vibrator would be a good couples gift for New Year's Eve, but it's a little much for a Christmas gift. Keep those Christmas presents romantic as in jewelry or lingerie (not the kind that's three purple pompoms) and bring on the raunchier stuff for some New Year's zing. It goes better with fireworks.
Please send your questions or comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or mail letters to Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6