Free and unbelievably cheap holiday gifts
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    Yikes, this looks too expensive already. Photo by jessicafm, on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

    Among the members of my family, I am the perennial deadbeat Christmas gift-giver. As I am currently at the point where doing laundry is too much of an investment, I hardly have the funds to purchase pricey gifts, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard. The current economy would force even St. Nick to cut back on his expenses.

    But this year, I shall be a deadbeat no more. My mom will no longer have need to purchase gifts for me to give away like she has in the past. Nope, this year I have devised a shopping list of free and ridiculously inexpensive gifts, which I will now share with you. With every last one of them cheap enough to satisfy even the skinflint-iest of Dickensian curmudgeons, if these presents fail to warm your loved ones’ hearts, they will at least amuse or annoy the crap out of them — and what better way to spread the holiday spirit?

    For the young-at-heart

    Fast-food toys: Before I present the lucky recipient with this gift, I imagine I’ll turn the lights down low and play a Vince Guaraldi record on the turntable to set the scene. Then, they’ll carefully open the wrapping paper to find: a Snoopy backpack clip! That’s right, Peanuts holiday toys are now available in each Wendy’s kid’s meal. You know how happy meals work, you buy a ridiculously cheap and delicious meal and receive a free toy. By purchasing this particular meal, you will be able to give the Charlie Brown in your life a wistful reminder of those winsomely melancholy Peanuts holiday specials — hey, it’s better than a rock! If you’re too lazy to make the effort to go all the way to Wendy’s, fear not, my friend, for there are free toy opportunities right in our own backyard. Currently at Burger King, there are Simpsons toys in each Big Kids meal, which should appeal to pretty much anyone you’d be giving a gift, because the Simpsons are totally boss. Plus, I’m almost certain that you get Christmas bonus points for giving a Santa’s Little Helper figurine as a gift. Also convenient, of course, Taco Bell is offering little stuffed creatures of some kind which they call “Mushniks” with each kid’s meal. One of their strengths is that they kind of look like the Monstars from Space Jam. Before they stole the basketball players’ essences and got all big and beefy.

    For those who do not fear a hearty helping of sketch atop their holiday gifts

    Craigslist: The free section of craigslist is chockfull of dubious gift possibilities. These range from fairly innocuous goodies like an adorable chipmunk figurine to much more insidious sounding offers — free piercing anyone? The listings contain many entertaining, and some genuinely intriguing, highlights at any given time. There are many standing offers for earthy basics such as free dirt, along with several listings for free wood — your nature-loving friends will be so excited when they open up those gifts! Other gift ideas include a holiday basket including free frozen turkey tails (poster’s endorsement: “Someone gave them to me and I just cant think of eating them.”), two large pumpkins, and a nine-foot artificial Christmas tree — true, you’ll have a heck of a time getting it into the basket, but just think how meta it will look under the tree! In all seriousness though, there are some fairly awesome craigslist freebies, including: a Hershey’s S’Mores Maker (essentially just a fondue kit, but still neat), an antique piano (“This should probably be used as furniture and not an instrument,” and think how awesome it will look in your friend’s dorm room!), a Turquoise Severumfish (it’s “reclusive” so it shouldn’t be hard to keep it hidden from your CA), and my personal favorite, a free pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game — there is surely some drunken fun to be had with that one!

    For wayward souls:

    The Book of Mormon: Do you fear that your friends will be condemned to eternal damnation? Or do you just want to bug them by sending random strangers to ring their doorbell incessantly? Either way, you would do well to sign them up for a free Book of Mormon , or really any of the free media available at the Latter Day Saints website. I can guarantee you that within a week, a pair of Mormons will come knocking at your friend’s door bearing the gift of religious literature. And they will not give up ’til your friends answer. Not even if it takes months of phone calls. Bonus feature of this gift: for those of your friends who are seething about Prop 8, a one-on-one encounter with a Mormon will give them the chance to settle a score.

    For the bookworm

    Super cheap novels: There is an astounding number of used books available on Amazon for a dollar or less (though they generally do screw you over with four dollars of shipping). Finding a used copy of a book that has meant something to you or one that you know would interest the recipient is a truly thoughtful gift idea. Even if you’re only paying five dollars for it. Examples of awesome titles available at shockingly low prices include: David Sedaris’s Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim at ninety-six cents, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle at seventy-two cents, and Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics at just sixty-five cents. Oh and you can get The DaVinci Code for one cent, but even that would be far too high a price to pay for that rubbish. As gifts, used books have added sentimental perks, like the scent of nostalgia they release the first time you open them and the opportunity they provide for you to inscribe the inside cover with love.

    For those you love most

    The happiest place on earth: Every once in a while, an opportunity arises that it so wondrous as to be entirely unfathomable. This is one of those opportunities: in the year 2009, on your birthday, Disneyland will offer you free admission to any theme park at their resort. Sign up friends, don’t tell them about the deal, and give them each one ticket to Disneyland redeemable only on the anniversary of their birth. They will probably love you forever, because a ticket to Disneyland is a ticket to paradise, and paradise is paradise even if you have to go there alone.

    Now go forth and procure freebies and cheapies for your dear ones, because money isn’t what the holidays are all about — presents are what the holidays are all about, and no one need know their price.

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