It's the holidays again. Yeah, we know. And, yes, we're all in that last-minute shopping frenzy due to holiday procrastination. While the Internet can definitely ease the pain of massive checkout lines - and eliminate the possibility of being run down by a bunch of crazed parents fighting over this year's must-have toy - it can't really help solve the age-old conundrum of what the heck to get for everyone on your list. Here's a one-stop source for reprogramming your gift-giving skills.


The Definition

What exactly is a gift, anyway? We actually looked it up, because no doubt its definition gets lost in translation amid the insanity of the holiday season.

A gift or present is the transfer of money, goods, etc., without the direct compensation that is involved in trade, although possibly involving a social expectation of reciprocity, or a return in the form of prestige or power. In many human societies, the act of mutually exchanging gifts contributes to social cohesion. - Wikipedia.org



The Problem

Have you been naughty or nice? Surprisingly, according to a recent poll by Harris Interactive, a lot of folks have been quite naughty when it comes to receiving presents. Had you known this craziness was going on, perhaps you would have spent more time deciding which color iPod you wanted for yourself rather than worrying about what Uncle Mike might like.

54% of respondents have acted surprised when they received a gift even though they already knew what they were getting.

48% returned a gift that wasn't just right for or useful to them.

34% regifted something they got as a gift.



The Solution

We turned to Leigh Zarelli, vice president of merchandising for Gifts.com, to find out why choosing the perfect gift can be such a difficult task and what we're doing wrong. Here are a few common mistakes.

Procrastinating. "When you wait too long, you make it that much harder to pick out something they will really like - at a reasonable price!"

Playing it too safe. "Some people are so afraid of getting the wrong gift, they pick something too generic. A gift says a lot about you, so make sure it shows how thoughtful you can be."

Throwing money at the problem. "Sometimes people are at a loss for a good gift idea or just wait until the last minute and get stuck, so they overspend and overcompensate. A great gift doesn't have to cost a fortune."

Buying something too personal or practical. "Unless you have a great sense of someone's style or you can ask someone who does, stay away from home decor like artwork, and avoid clothing that is too fashion-forward. And unless someone has specifically asked for a new vacuum or Tupperware, don't give it! Gifts are supposed to be little indulgences - not something work-oriented."



The Execution

When all else fails, here are a few of the hottest items on store shelves this holiday season.

-Sony DCR-SR40 30GB Handycam Camcorder with built-in hard drive, $599

-Motorola Red Motorazr V3m cell phone, $305

-PlayStation 3, from $499

-Second-generation iPod Nano, from $149

-Leapster Learning Game System, $60

-10th Anniversary T.M.X. Tickle Me Elmo, $40