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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Alternative Places to Shop for Gifts

LAS CRUCES -- Think post offices are only for mailing letters and packages? Think again. The perfect gift for that special person may be just a stamp away.

People looking for alternative places to shop for gifts this holiday season may want to add the post office to their list, said Susan Wright, consumer education specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. The post office has items for stamp collectors, as well as books of stamps and envelopes for those who like to write letters.

"You might have a friend who sends videos or audio cassettes," Wright said. "You can buy them a supply of padded envelopes to use in the months ahead."

A hardware store may seem like a dream shop for men, but practical gifts for women also can be found there, she said. "You can buy things for the everyday handy man, but you also could buy a hammer and a new selection of nails and screws for the homemaker who sometimes has small jobs to do."

Buy tarp and rope for a camper or select different types of tape -- duct, electrical, Teflon and masking -- and put them all in a small box or basket as a gift, Wright said.

"After visiting the hardware store, you may need to go pay your phone bill," she said. "While you're there, choose a phone card as for someone who travels a lot or is away from family and makes frequent long distance calls."

Other phone gifts include providing a specific service like caller I-D or call waiting for a limited time. Recipients will have an opportunity to find out if they like these features, Wright said.

For people who give money, the bank is the perfect place to shop, she said. "The nice thing about going to the bank is that you can get brand new bills and coins that make impressive gifts. Young children are always fascinated with silver dollars. Buy bonds or set up saving accounts, especially for children who need to learn the importance of saving money."

At grocery stores, select salad dressings, syrups, popcorn varieties, or other specialty or favorite foods. Then put them in a fancy basket or serving dish, she said. Nuts, dried fruits, crackers and cheeses usually can be put together for less money than the special gift packages found at stores in the mall.

"Cleaning supplies don't sound very glamorous, but this will free up other monies for families," Wright said. "Get a nice basket or a wash pail and fill it with cleaning supplies."

Shoppers can do the same thing for car-related gifts, she said. Fill a bucket with such items as cans of oil, filters, transmission fluid, wax and a chamois.

"If a person's not handy with their car, you could give them a personalized gift certificate for one oil change and a car wash," Wright said.

For the gardener, new garden tools, gloves, a foam pad to cushion the knees and a variety of flower or vegetable seeds can be bought at a nursery. A selection of bulbs, potting soil and a pretty pot can make a special gift.

Whether you shop at the mall, post office or grocery store, have some idea of the likes and dislikes of your friends and relatives, Wright said. That way you can choose gifts that will really be appreciated.