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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v9n50 (12/16/2010) » Last Minute Gift Guide

Cheap, Fast, and Finished

One-stop holiday shopping for the budget-minded

You’ve been there, and I have too: It’s four in the afternoon and Christmas Eve. You’ve got about eight people for whom to buy gifts. Which is to say, you haven’t started holiday shopping at all.

Until now. And you’re drawing a blank. And, the economy being what it is, you’re—well, let’s not say broke. But you face a procrastinator’s dilemma: You can throw money at the problem and make it go away for now, and suffer the consequences later. Walk into some the some high-priced gift store, clothing shop, or jewelers—or, god forbid, head to a mall—and shell out for whatever you trip over.

Or you can get smart and creative. The world is full of discount stores, one-stop-shopping heavens for the thrifty. Here are just a handful of places and gift ideas our intrepid correspondents dug up:

Salvation Army Thift Store and “As Is” Store

1080 Military Road, Buffalo

The “As Is” Salvation Army on Military Road is jam-packed with all kinds of treasures. Most of the items for sale are from other thrift stores that couldn’t move the merchandise, and now they are at deep discounted prices. There are rows and rows of boxes filled with dishes, kitchenware, toys, and miscellany. Furniture, lamps, electronics, and books line the walls. If you’re patient and willing to get your hands dirty, you can come out of there with some great gifts this holiday season—at a steal.

Folk Art

Who: Bohemian art lover.
Why: At some point, somebody considered them beautiful.

If you’re looking to give the gift of art, look no further. The building is filled with folk art, watercolors, paint-by-numbers, and macrame galore. Into owls and needlecraft? In the main building I found an oversized version of both. A snowy owl that’s perched against a brown burlap background is just waiting to be hung up in a loving home.

Price: $10 for the owl.

Liquor Decanters

Who: Mad Men/mid-century fan.
Why: You’re too old to beer bong

Pick your poison: scotch, gin, or bourbon. These three mid-century glass liquor decanters bring the perfect retro touch to any home bar. Three separate cut-glass bottles each with “scotch,” “gin,” and “bourbon” in gold letter detail with classy gold tops.

Price: $3 for all three.

Vinyl Records

Who: Budding vinyl collector.
Why: The hunt for vinyl is half the fun.

Thrift stores are filled with amazing vinyl treasures if you’re willing to dig. If you’re looking for some snazzy sounds, you can probably find a best-of record filled with the likes of Benny Goodman, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald all on one album. Looking for something kitschy to bring to you next holiday party? Look no further than “Disco Noel”—classic Christmas songs set to a disco beat. Know someone that doesn’t have Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors? Well, that’s crazy, because every thrift store on earth has it.

Price: $.50 -- $2.

Creepy Doll Collection

Who: Children/parents.
Why: Children are far too coddled.

Instead of giving out Barbie or her trashier frenemy Bratz this holiday, give the kid a creepy vintage doll instead. With a regular old doll, arents won’t have to worry about Barbie’s weird proportions or Bratz’s lip collagen addiction affecting their children’s self-image. However, they might have to worry about their kid becoming the creepy child with the creepy doll.

Price: $4/priceless.

Instant Camera Collection

Who: The shutterbug.
Why: Digital lacks soul.

Know someone who loves photography? Is he also a history enthusiast? Dig through the bins and you just might find a 1920s Kodak Brownie, or a 1960s Land Camera by Polaroid, or even a 1950s Kodak Instamatic. Find all three and you have an instant collection that would make a great gift and display piece.

Price: $5 for all three.

amanda ferreira

Hu’s Discount Store

498 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo

The Christmas season is that special time of year when you have an opportunity to go into that strange discount store down the street and rifle through piles of knockoffs and last decade’s hot gifts. Hu’s Discount on the Elmwood strip is full of cheap, funny, and useful gifts for those people at the bottom of your shopping list.

Knockoff Cologne

Who: Stinky co-workers
Why: No way you’re going to spend $85 on Paris Hilton for Men when you can get the Crystal Collection version for 1/28th of the price.

It might not have essence of lavender or real sea lion oil in it, but spray enough “Shawn Jon” for men on someone and B.O. will be gone.

Price: $3.29.

Elmo Napsack

Who: For the now grownup child who begged for the elusive Tickle Me Elmo, back in the day.
Why: All tramplings aside, Elmo was really cool in 1996.

No need to worry about a sudden bum rush for Seasame Street brand toys or pushy grandmas at Hu’s. Shop comfortably.

Price: $5.

Replacement Phone Chargers

Who: The forgetful one in your life.
Why: My roommate loses a new phone charger every week.

With a variety of chargers that fit different brands, you could buy 10 of these bad boys and give that forgetful friend a year’s worth of battery power.

Price: $2.99 each.

Panty Roses

Who: The one you love to love.
Why: A bouquet of panty roses will cost you a lot less than a bouquet of actual roses.

This is the type of Christmas present that’s a gift for the giver as well as the receiver. Panty Roses are much more useful than those stinky flowers that wilt in two weeks, and what says “I love you” more than red panties on a stem?

Price: 99 cents each.

cory perla

Family Dollar

400 Virginia Street, Buffalo

So you’re on your way to the holiday party when all of the sudden, it dawns on you—OH SHIT. You forgot you volunteered to participate in that office-wide Secret Santa exchange. Lest you show up empty-handed and far from the comfortable confines of a more reputable retail outlet, you pull into the local dollar store—where things are deceptively more costly than a single dollar—in search of a stop-gap solution. Let’s face it, your gift is still going to suck, but with a little creativity you can at least get out of that party with the mere reputation of being a cheapskate and not a total deadbeat.

No-Name Cartoon DVDs

Who: The child who is not yet old enough to understand name-brand quality.
Why: A three year-old won’t know the difference between Capitan Nemo and Steve Zissou.

Editor’s pick: Captain Nemo Volume 3. He doesn’t live in a pineapple under the sea, nor does he have a hook for a hand, but this cheap imposter could act as a nice distraction for the little ones while you clean up the endless piles of wrapping paper.

Price: $1.29.

Africa’s Best™ Relaxer System

Who: Unhappily nappy.
Why: Because you can’t put a price on beauty—oh, wait, you can. It’s $4.25.

Why pay upwards of a hundred dollars for that fancy salon gift certificate when the dollar store already has an extensive collection of black hair care products? Now granted, we know nothing about black hair, but based solely on a combination of the product name, box design, and attractiveness of cover model, it’s clear that Africa’s Best provides the nap relief that you demand. And for those who don’t enjoy the searing pain of a chemical burn on one’s scalp, you’ll be glad to hear that this product is lye free!

Price: $4.25.

Creative Flask Kit

Who: The modern drunkard.
Why: Open container laws are far too-prohibitive.

This device was clearly designed with the MacGyver drunk in mind. Its light-weight, collapsible bladder system allows for it to be concealed anywhere on your person and limit risk of detection. It just makes that family gathering, status meeting, or custody hearing a little more tolerable. And it even includes several decorative stickers to make the fact that you’re drinking at 9am on a Tuesday seem less depressing. As the package suggests, it’s a great tool to “split a liter of soda with the whole gang!”

Price: $10.

Virgen De Guadelupe Candles

Who: The faithful.
Why: While your gift recipient won’t soon forgive you, God always will.

Celebrate the honored “Patroness of the Americas” with this beautiful decorative candle, just one in a series of religious icons that have been deified in wax. Flanked by the glorious image of the Mexican flag and a branch of roses, this is the kind of classy item that is just begging for that hallowed spot on your mantlepeice. Also available are designs honoring the bleeding sacred heart of Jesus and a generic guardian angel.

Price: $1.75.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Board Game

Who: Your office receptionist.
Why: Because there’s nothing odd about sexualizing an underage teen vampire.

If you’re anything like us, then you just can’t get enough Twilight in your life. We’re pretty certain that slightly heavyset, unmarried cat owner that works the reception desk at your office probably can’t either. Why not show her that you care and appreciate all the pleasant “good mornings” she’s granted you despite your oft surly and unpleasant demeanor with this awesome video trivia game (third in a series of three!). Based around the latest release, the quasi-necrophiliac-bestiality teen sex romp Eclipse, it’s the perfect escape for a Friday night alone. Inside. Yet again.

Price: $10.

Apology Kit

Who: Unappreciated partner.
Why: You’ve already messed up, might as well take an outside shot at getting laid.

So you’ve forgotten to buy a gift for your significant other. Ouch. Rough spot. Smooth it over with the dollar store’s finest assemblage of paraphenalia for a romantic evening together. Start the night off with some fine chocolate miniatures and sparkling grape juice. It ain’t wine—whose powers you’ll seriously need at this point—but it’s the best the dollar store can offer. If things go well, which they won’t, you might get to use those novelty toy handcuffs and engage in the kind of activity that would necessitate a tube of Family Dollar brand® personal lubricant. Yup, we’re talking about sex.

Price: $9.25 (chocolate $2, sparkling grape juice $2.50, toy handcuffs $3, lube $1.75).

zachary burns

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Discount Store

1298 Main Street, Buffalo

As far as thrift stores go, St. Vincent’s Discount on the corner of Main and Bryant is as thrifty as they come, and you can feel good purchasing items from this charitable store. Minutes from downtown Buffalo (and conveniently located just a few blocks from the Artvoice office), this discount thrift store will meet all your last-minute gift giving and Christmas decorating needs.

Aluminum Christmas Tree

Who: The college student.
Why: It can be hard to fit a full-grown Douglas fir into a 15-by-15-foot dorm room.

To some the aluminum tree is the sign of a hastily thrown together Christmas. To others it is a campy piece of American culture. Strip off the silver tinsel needles and you’ve got a perfectly good Festivus Pole.

Price: $50.

John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High on vinyl

Who: Uncle Buck.
Why: Released in 1972, Rocky Mountain High went double platinum.

The cover art says it all: John Denver peacefully walking through a snowy mountain pass in a plaid overcoat. It’s not Christmas music per se, but it is bound to warm you up in a cold Buffalo blizzard. More treasures like this await in St. Vincent’s bargain record bin.

Price: $3.

Dated Christmas Books

Who: The whole family.
Why: In my family we have a tradition. On Christmas Eve we all gather round to hear my father’s hilarious rendition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” In his version Santa is always “the Fat Man,” and he doesn’t turn “with a jerk,” he turns “like a jerk.”

Start a new tradition this year. An out-of-date, whacky Christmas tale can turn a dull Christmas into one to remember.

Price: 10 cents each.

cory perla

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