Anybody who knows me knows that I talk a big talk about buying Christmas presents before December so that, in our home, Advent can be Advent and not "Christmas shopping season." For the most part, I succeed! But we have a big family. There's always that point where the summer spending cash runs out, and here it is almost mid-December, and I've got at least three gift recipients left on the shopping list and a couple White Elephant exchange gifts to figure out!

Luckily, everywhere I turn, a friend is talking about some awesome Christmas purchase she made from a local business or a small online boutique! I've gotten tons of great ideas this year, like:

downtown Lake Charles cafe that features local talent!
1) A gift certificate... to a local eatery! When I procrastinate on shopping, I'm always tempted to pick up a couple gift cards to chain restaurants or box stores while I'm in the grocery check-out line. That's fine--there are plenty of wonderful families who own local franchise establishments in every town in America! But it can be super-fun to bless a local friend with a dining experience that is completely unique to our shared hometown. I like to pick a 'hole-in-the-wall,' but some place with lots of traffic in a funky location that doubles as a perch for people-watching, for the right recipient, can also make for the perfect treat.

2) Something handmade, green, cute to look at, and totally usefulLast Christmas I purchased rolls of 'unpaper towels' for some of my sisters-in-law from this shop. The WAHM behind the shop custom-made them to my specifications, using absorbent, textured fabrics that I selected from her listed options, and let me choose from her dozens-upon-dozens of (actually stylish!) in-stock prints. I was able to order a half-dozen for each sister-in-law, snapped around a PVC pipe to fit perfectly onto a paper-towel holder. Best of all? They were a total last-minute purchase, and she made and shipped them with more than enough time to spare. And were they ever a hit: the rest of the family was asking why we didn't give them to everyone!

Photo courtesy Wiki Commons.
3) Just the right kind of pick-me-up. My husband recently switched us to decaf. We love coffee, but it gives him the jitters, and I'm expecting twins and want to do everything we can to avoid low-birth weight babies. Decaf it is. But that doesn't mean I can't go sniff out the good stuff, right? There are a couple cafes around these parts with delicious-smelling coffees, some Fair Trade Certified, some locally blended, and a bag or two, beautifully packaged, would make the perfect contribution to, say, a work-related gift exchange. (Don't tell Allison and Todd, but that's most likely what I'm bringing!)

4) Support your local arts and music scenes. That band you saw last month when you were finally able to get out on the town? They really were that good! Look 'em up on Facebook, find out how to purchase copies of their latest release, and ask if you can have them autographed. Voila! Give them to the out-of-towner musicphiles on your gift list. That hometown relief artist who's gaining some notoriety in your crowd? Small prints from her latest collection will brighten the lives and homes of your non-local friends and family, and you'll be giving the gift of expanded exposure to the artist. 

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.
5) Think outside the toybox. Quality toys don't have to come from a big box store! If you're into the 'classic toys' gig, or you just want to avoid gifting the latest in bright-lights-and-buzzy-sounds, pack up your Santa sack and head to a local toy store. I've often found one-of-a-kind or hand-crafted wooden toys, toys made with paints and dyes with impressive certifications backing up their claims of safety and quality, and toys that help munchkins make music or art, play imaginatively, build models, even do science experiments. A local toy purveyor is probably a toy expert, too. The teenager in the toy aisle at Target may be a pretty sweet kid, but he may not be able to help me determine whether my four-year old is ready for a rokkaku or delta kite or if he just needs to stick with a diamond.

6) Call up your Mary Kay Lady. Or your Avon consultant, your Premier Jewelry lady, your Stella & Dot stylist or Silpada jeweler, your Scentsy dealer, your Thirty-One consultant... You get the picture. Chances are, there's a "Get it in time for Christmas!" shipping deal going on right now, and she may even have some in-stock items for you to choose from and bring home with you today. As a direct sales company ourselves, we're pretty enthusiastic about the "personal consultant" model of doing business because it allows for unbeatable customer service for the client AND for moms to boost their household income or even work from home with their babies. Chances are, you've got a local friend who has her own direct sales business, and she probably has lots of gift ideas! (I had to send my Thirty-One consultant a frantic e-mail tonight asking if I can see her inventory on payday. Sshhhh!)

Not that you need the incentive, because, well... you're awesome, and you probably thought of all of this before I did, but just to say, "Thanks for shopping local!" the eLeMeNO-Pee retail location, located at 2102 W. Prien Lake Rd. in Lake Charles, will be offering 10% off ALL regular-priced in-stock items TODAY ONLY! We're open from 10-2, and we are so much more than cloth diapers. Come in and see what I mean!