COMMENT:

'Twas the night before Christmas and you still haven't bought everything.

December for me is full of birthdays, festive parties, deadlines and a five-day football tournament in Wellington.

Apart from stockpiled gifts from throughout the year I still have presents to buy. If that's you, no need to panic. The malls are quiet late in the evening about now and with a bit of clever planning you can side-step that citadel of shopping.

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Whatever you choose to do, stop before you shop and make a list. It could be as simple as the number of presents per person against the amount you intend to spend. Planning reduces spending and stress.

The best store is your own home

Before you hit the high street, hunt high and low for things you've bought and never used. I like lots of presents under the tree and often wrap up stuff I'd be giving the kids anyway.

This year that includes an Ancestry DNA kit to find out what ethnicity my children's great grandfather, a church steps foundling, was. No one tell them please.

Get creative

I received a "nacho kit" Secret Santa gift this year. The kit in a shoe box obviously put together in the gifter's home included two tins of organic black beans, posh-looking nacho chips and homemade chipotle sauce. A simple, but much-admired gift by the other party goers. A quick Google search for inspired Secret Santa gifts turned up all manner of creative ideas that could be made at home. That included gifts in jars, such as: pedicure in a jar lotion and potions, cookie or cake mix, baking and bath bombs.

If in doubt choose consumable

If you don't know the person well or they're the person who has everything, buy something consumable. Coffee, chocolate, fudge. My Christmas list always includes a 1kg box of New Zealand cherries. Seed bombs from Palmers Garden Centre that you throw in the garden and sprout flowers or herbs are a first-rate idea for a green-thumbed friend. I also saw a "grow salsa" kit for sale online that could be made at home. It consisted of an egg box with seeds and potting mix for tomatoes, herbs and spring onions where the eggs would have sat.

Go local

It takes a lot less time to shop at your corner stores and you boost the local economy while you're at it. Most cafes will sell boxed items that could double as Christmas gifts. Pharmacies have plenty of present options. Don't overlook the $2 shop or op shop - if they are still open - for stocking fillers. Every year I receive a well-chosen second-hand book from a friend. It's a gift I look forward to.

Stop and take stock

Part way through your shopping excursion stop on a seat somewhere. Get out your list. Tick off what you have purchased already. Make a plan for where you still need to go and stick to it. If you haven't found that something special, search the internet for more ideas before you leave that seat.

Buy vouchers, give cash

Better than shopping for a friend or relative is shopping with them after Christmas with the cash or vouchers you have given them. Vouchers can be bought online and printed at home. Or write an IOU. GrabOne vouchers are great as gifts because the recipient can use them to make your money go further. Experiences make great Christmas gifts.

Wrap it well

Beautiful wrapping adds so much to the experience of giving and receiving. That doesn't have to mean going out and buying your wrapping from kikki.K, although it would be nice. Brown paper, cut up cardboard, string and a Vivid marker go a long way. A glue gun and pōhutukawa flowers can't be beaten.