In a classic "Family Ties" episode, Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton hit the convenience store for his Christmas shopping. Wondering what we would do in such a last-minute scenario, we went to the local branch of a drugstore chain and neighboring supermarket for ideas. Sure, these gifts might not be your choice if time was on your side, but in a pinch will do the trick. And if some turn out poorly, at least you've given family and friends another gift -- fuel for future teasing. Happy holidays!
When you really don't know what to select, buy a selection of lottery tickets, especially the scratch-off kind. A gift that at first might seem thoughtless becomes the best gift ever when money is won.
This time of year, special cosmetic bags also get their moment in the spotlight. The usual selections are kicked up a notch with options in rich velvets and all kinds of sparkle. This thrifty choice is ideal for those who like to touch up on the go, as well.
Those obsessed with their coiffures can never have too many specialty products. Pick up a travel blow dryer, a hair straightener, or other fun gadget.
Grab the latest issue of your recipient's favorite entertainment, news, sports, or fashion magazine, pull out the insert, and order a gift subscription. This way, you have something to hand out and a gift that reminds them of you every month.
Stores have "all-in-one" makeup kits of everything from glitzy eye shadow collections to the full-on makings of a completely new face, from shadow to blush, lipstick to mascara. Teens will go wild.
For him, for her, for everyone. Slippers are another practical choice that can be chosen by theme (such as with favorite characters) for a touch of whimsy.
Holiday parties scream out for fancy nails, and those who prefer to do their own manicures will enjoy a kit of a few nail polishes chosen in the recipient's favorite hue.
Those who tend to lose gloves or misplace hats can never have too many, so consider a hat, gloves, or scarf to show your warm feelings.
Who hasn't smiled at a stuffed Santa Claus or a plush version of their favorite animal or cartoon character? This one's an all-ages favorite, though kids will likely be most appreciative.
For movie night in a bag, grab a holiday classic or family favorite on DVD and some microwave popcorn for a family night in.
Travel versions of popular board games will be much appreciated on the trip home from the holiday festivities, but can also be played throughout the year.
Candles never fail -- just be sure to keep the recipient's sensibilities in mind. Don't give a heady floral-scented candle to a no-nonsense type.
Evenings spent playing cards have fallen out of favor. Encourage the return of the tradition with a pack of cards from a likely amazing range of themed designs.
Hand over an ice scraper and expect a groan. Hand over an ice scraper with an IOU to get up early and scrape the car during the first storm of the season and you'll be a star. (Just keep that promise.)
It's not a sign of getting older … well, maybe it is. But a magnifying glass comes in handy more often than you might imagine.
Everyone may grumble, "Oh, you shouldn't have," but you can bet a generously sized box of chocolates won't go to waste.
Pick up the biggest cake at the store -- whether it be a brunch-worthy coffee cake, a traditional fruitcake, or something utterly decadent -- and saved someone the trouble of having to make dessert.
Despite the popularity of all things digital, an old-fashioned family photo or vacation snap displayed proudly in the living room is still welcome, and requires a pretty frame or photo album.
This is literally a backup gift. Handy in a crunch, sometimes in clever designs, and always too easy to lose or leave behind somewhere, flash drives make a good gift for anyone with a computer.
Make recalculating the budget after a generous holiday season, or any serious bout of math, less painful with a real calculator. Not everything should be done with a phone app.
The occasional commemorative magazine has become a constant, booming business. We spotted keepsake editions devoted to John Wayne, Barbra Streisand, and the local MLB team. These tend to top $10, making them a welcome gift for fans who would never consider spending that.
We probably all have an umbrella -- but quick, where is it? Is it convenient for the next sudden downpour? Or was it left behind in a cafe? An extra umbrella for the car, desk, or tote bag can prevent a drippy day.
For those who wear a different fragrance every day, holiday gift samplers make a fun choice and could lead to the discovery of a new favorite.
The novelty of coloring books for adults may have worn off, but people are still de-stressing with them, often with themed editions. Pick up a book and colored pencils to spread a little serenity.
A journal can be someone's diet companion, day planner, or where they let their dreams loose. Now that's a gift with versatility.
Calendars have become something you have more than one of, with kids' activities on the kitchen edition, meetings on the one in the home office, and so on. An extra calendar will get a workout.
Stock up on art supplies for kids and let their creativity run wild -- or decide on a craft kit that yields a specific project.
The prevalence of the Keurig and other coffee-making machines has turned the coffee-pod aisle into a store within a store. Most of us tend to buy in bulk for whatever's on sale, so treat someone to a pricier fancy brand or exotic flavor.
Have you seen the sausage-and-cheese gift sets? The holidays and these packages arrive together.
There are a surprising number of inexpensive inspirational books that can offer a little lift to someone with a spiritual outlook. Steer clear of anything overly religious if you're not sure where the recipient stands.
Give the gift of a new smile with an at-home teeth-whitening kit. It's a touchy gift unless you're certain it's wanted -- but if a family member's been hinting at trying one, consider that a go-ahead.
We were amazed to find a rhinestone-studded hair clip at the grocery store -- a salon-quality accessory just waiting to add the finishing touch to a holiday hairstyle.