Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers

Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers
Bringing Smiles and Helping Ease Holiday Budgets

(ARA)- No one seems exactly certain when the tradition of hanging stockings at the holidays actually began. But by 1822, Clement Clark Moore's famous poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (better known as "The Night Before Christmas") had been published. Today there are few children who don't recognize the words, "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there."
Despite its popularity, the Christmas stocking is often overlooked during the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping--until just a few days before Christmas. By the time most shoppers realize, in a panic, that they have yet to purchase their stocking stuffers, the family holiday budget has already been spent and stretched. "USA Today" reported, in fact, that people in most major metropolitan areas spend, on average, between $2,000 and $4,000 on Christmas, including all the "unexpected" expenses, such as gifts for teachers and co-workers, new decorations, and even holiday party favors.
Since stocking stuffers are usually purchased last, they typically require more careful budgeting than the more lavish gifts purchased in advance and placed under the tree. Fortunately, there are many gift ideas that are sure to please without draining an already strained budget. Some of the more popular stuffers to consider include:
* Edibles. All kids love sweets. So why not include some in interesting shapes, flavors or dispensers?
*Clothes/accessories. Colorful and fun, still useful, items such as gloves, slippers, scarves, socks and belts make great stocking stuffers.
* School supplies. With the new semester starting, Christmas is a great time to restock on practical, yet interesting, supplies for school, such as gel pens in cool neon colors, markers and even homework helpers. The Mark-My-Time Digital Bookmark makes a great stocking stuffer. Not only does it monitor required reading time conveniently and accurately, but teachers and parents recommend it as a tool that actually motivates kids to read more. Bright colors and electronic functions help make reading fun. With a simple touch of a button, kids can set a countdown timer with alarm or cumulative timer to track reading over a period of hours or even days.
* Mini games or card games. Sized just right, these gifts are great for amusing the kids during long visits with the relatives.
* Arts and crafts supplies. With all the days off during winter break, kids are likely to get bored. So keep them busy coloring and creating.
* Hobby products. Gifts can also enhance a child's existing interest in something such as sports or even music. The new Mark-My-Time For Music Digital Metronome, for example, combines the benefits of a bookmark, metronome and timer into one easy-to-use, portable product. Practice sessions have never been so easy or fun!
* Gift cards or certificates. Kids today like the freedom to choose their own gifts. A gift card to the movies, favorite retail store, or favorite restaurant allows kids to feel all grown-up.
* Traditional toys. Regardless of their age, few kids can resist the fun of some of some of the old standbys, like Silly Putty, Jacks or a Slinky.
Whatever the item, keep in mind that presentation is key. If possible, try to wrap the stocking stuffers to add to the excitement. Pack the stocking full, and don't forget to let one or two items stick out from the top to tempt little eyes.