Don’t Panic!

Our Budget Gift Guide Solves All Your Gift-Giving Needs


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The sky, like the stock market, is clearly falling. As the elves at the Independent finalized their recommendations for a recession-proof gift guide, we watched media giant Tribune Co. enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, congressional Democrats propose a $15 billion emergency loan to Detroit automakers, the Labor Department announce unemployment benefits at the highest level since December 1982 and market research firm ShopperTrak predict a 10 percent decline in retail sales this holiday season, a record low. And that’s just since last Friday. Yikes.

But you know what? Screw it. Times may be tight, wallets thin and retirement plans vanishing, yet the holidays are still a time of giving. We just have to be smarter about our choices, more diligent in sleuthing out deals and extra vigilant in supporting our local businesses. It’s a little harder this year, sure, but we’ve managed to discover 22 viable gift options—all but one supporting a Missoula-owned store—that will make your special someone bust out a smile without busting your budget. So roll up your sleeves, put down your IRA statement and embrace a little holiday ingenuity. Every penny you spend locally will help to keep that sky from falling, even during inversion season. 

Local Lit Gift Pack – $50.35

We’re still not sure what it takes to be considered a true local. We’ve heard everything from sporting the essential Missoula three-pack—aka driving a Subaru, carrying a baby in a Sprout Pouch and adopting a loveable mutt—to surviving 30 winters. Whatever the criteria, one thing’s certain: A true local should have a pretty strong grasp of local literary traditions.

There are a couple ways to do this—the gargantuan collection of short stories, The Last Best Place, which retails for $31.50 in paperback, being the obvious first choice. We’re more inclined to recommend this well-rounded combination of classics: Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky ($7, used), David James Duncan’s The River Why ($13.45), A.B. Guthrie Jr.’s The Big Sky ($12.60), Millred Walker’s Winter Wheat ($12.55, used) and, of course, Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It ($10.80). There’s enough sense of place in these five works to make newcomers and the otherwise uninitiated fall in love with what we call home.

Find these titles at: The Book Exchange, 2335 Brooks Street

Walton’s Irish Tin Whistle – $16

Bad woodwind music is still the leading reason Irish pubs go out of business. It’s simply ghastly hearing a musician fumble notes in tight cyclical patterns. Yet, when those lyrical Gaelic ditties sound true, boy, it’s like the singin’ o’ the angels t’emselves.

Picking up a rosewood flute will cost you several hundred bucks and require actual musical acumen. With practice, a tin whistle—also known as a pennywhistle—can similarly radiate a thundering good sound, but with an easier learning curve. Best of all, the entry-level models still hold relatively true to their name.

Find it at: Celtic Connection, 114 E. Main Street

Blackfoot Bear Bell – $8

Ensure wildland safety for man or mutt by becoming the ire of all woodland creatures. This would make a particularly good stocking stuffer for that strange breed of hiker that listens to their iPod on the trail. Help avert a perhaps-fitting demise by giving them something that will alert all nearby bears there’s a deaf yahoo coming their way. An oblivious or mischievous dog would make another good recipient of this obnoxious little trinket. Red squirrels and magpies might wish Fido’s imminent death, but it won’t come at the paws of a bear.

Find it at: Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front Street

 Pint of Jameson – $14.60

A friend used to take part in an annual holiday ritual where he would lock himself away in a room with a 12-pack of Lowenbrau and watch It’s A Wonderful Life—and cry. Odd way of marking the season, but to each his own, you know? We also know a rowdy local crew that marks the holidays with a series of drinking games based on National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation. (It involves the nickname “Sparky” and something with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ gaudy yuppie attire.) Anyway, the point being that whether it’s alone or with friends, spirits tend to be an integral part of getting into the holiday spirit.

Perhaps it’s a tradition thing, but Jameson is our drink of choice. This Irish whiskey, which was first produced in 1780, warms the insides on cold December nights and is still affordable in these lean times. Plus, what better way to fight off a Christmas morning hangover than to crack open this choice stocking stuffer?

Find it at: Grizzly Liquor, 110 W. Spruce Street

Excess Baggage, starring Alicia Silverstone (VHS)  – $1

Admittedly not Benicio del Toro’s best picture, nor ’90s starlet Alicia Silverstone’s, for that matter. In fact, the protagonist of many Aerosmith music videos actually won a “Worst Actress” Raspberry Award for her performance in this 1997 film. Of course, bad things can be good as long as they’re nostalgic—like Wham!.

Ever since DVD players started selling for the price of a deli sandwich, resellers can’t give VHS cassettes away. So if you know someone who insists on keeping the old deck around, a small wad of cash could exponentially expand his or her video library.

Bicycle Benefits Sticker – $5

For all the times they’ve nearly been sideswiped, gotten splashed or been bluntly told to “Get off the road!” the two-wheelers on your list deserve a little something special. In light of their efforts to reduce our species’ carbon tire print, this gift-that-keeps-on-giving is just the ticket.

Armed with this little icon on their helmet, cyclists receive special discounts from the 23 current member locations. A sampling: 20 percent off at Bernice’s Bakery and Joseph’s Coat, a free weekly chocolate or peace sticker at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, free espresso drink upshot at Butterfly Herbs. And as the program continues to grow—the vision is for Bicycle Benefits to stretch from coast to coast—your gift will endear you ever deeper into the heart, and wallet, of said recipient.

Find it at: All Bicycle Benefits member locations (visit for the complete list)

Marines Booty Panties – $7

In the past decade or so, some genius figured he could print sophomoric slogans across the backside of girls’ underwear to give guys an excuse. Now, it appears, the U.S. Marine Corps has followed suit. This undergarment, adorned in Marine red and gold, reads “Marines Booty,” a somewhat ambiguous declaration. It may mean that the wearer has a booty available to Marines, or describe the attached booty. It doesn’t really matter. The most important part is that it says “Semper Fi” across the waist band. And, really, what guy doesn’t want to see “Always Faithful” plastered across his significant other’s ass?

 Find it at: The Army Navy Economy Store, 322 N. Higgins Avenue

A Nearly New Throne – $20

For many a Missoulian, home improvement is more of a third job than a hobby. Celebrate that hard-working spirit of drywall hanging by outfitting somebody’s castle with a new—well, gently loved—throne for the littlest room in the compound.
Our homegrown building supply re-use center, Home Resource, has your needs covered with a full line of commodes ripe for the picking. Need something in salmon? Looking for a model free of those pesky skid marks? Stroll Home Resource’s enormous outdoor plumbing section, where row upon row of modern water closets await. And your honey bucket of love spreads even further when you consider this: Each privy purchased for the holidays is one less Home Resource has to move when they relocate to Russell Street in January.

Find it at: Home Resource, 825 W. Kent Avenue

50 Shares of Lee Enterprises, Inc. Stock  – $25 (give or take)

Unless you’ve been on a six-month meditation retreat, you’ve probably noticed the recent downturn in stock of all stripes, which is why now’s the time to plunge headfirst into the market. Or to do so for someone else.
In a budget-friendly move, Missoulian owner Lee Enterprises, Inc. is offering a newly affordable line of stock. What would have cost you about $762.50 last holiday season is now available for the bargain basement price of roughly $25. Give the thrilling gift of market speculation as you help buoy a long-lived local institution’s executive retirement packages. And as nothing keeps our wit and investigative muscles honed to a keen edge like good ol’ fashioned competition, we here at the Indy have every confidence that the value of your gift will go nowhere but up.*

* Obviously, we’re not offering trading advice, just entertainment. Do your own research, if you please.  

Find it: Wherever stocks are sold, but help a local broker by avoiding the Internet.

Griz Barbeque Paw Branding Iron –  $29.95

Ah, decorative meat. Anyone can grill up a burger or steak while tailgating, but only true Griz fans brand their choicest cuts with an official University of Montana Grizzly paw print. This stainless steel iron—with decorative handle—is also recommended for branding tortillas, buns and Montana State fans. Some may be appalled at the reach of UM’s marketing machine—just check out the wireless musical doormat that sings the school’s fight song ($36.95)—but we’re relieved about finding something affordable and different for the Griz fan that has everything.

 Find it at: The UM Bookstore, 5 Campus Drive

Coin Banks – $9.99

It’s more fun to spend than save, but tough economic times can lead to creative goals.

The selection of coin banks at Rockin Rudy’s aren’t just for any generic future, they’re for a specified, individualized goal, making one of them the perfect gift for a non-conformist Missoulian. Let’s say, for instance, you want to save up “to clone your cat.” What about saving for “a trip to Fire Island,” or collecting for “some good weed”? Each tin vessel is detailed with campy ’50s drawings and specifies exact goals that fit your personality. How about “I’m saving for therapy,” “I’m saving for Jesus” or the even more specific: “I’m saving for Valium” followed with “so I can sleep forever”? Unlike easy access coin jars or coffee cans, you have to put some effort into getting the coins out of these, which makes it all the less tempting to pursue premature raids.

Find it at: Rockin Rudy’s, 237 Blaine Street

Nintendo GameCube – $40

What is it with kids today? They’re consumed with electronic gadgets and shunning the outdoors in alarming numbers. Frustrated gift-givers can do one of two things: fight the tide and offer up something like a pair of hiking boots that will be ignored and eventually refashioned into a water pipe, or just wave the white flag and embrace the digital generation.

For the latter, here’s an economical entryway into the world of video games: Nintendo’s GameCube, the precursor to the wildly popular—and expensive—Wii. When it was released in 2001 opposite Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox, reviewers hailed the GameCube as simply more fun to play. It’s a little outdated now if you’re into graphical display and online features, but no less entertaining for novice gamers. Toss in a few games like “Madden 2004” ($5) or “The Hobbit” ($7) and there’s no telling how much time the little munchkins can kill in front of the television screen.

Find it at: Alderwood Estate & Loan, 111 W. Alder Street

 Old World Chocolate Collection – $20

The word “truffle” oozes high-class luxury, and when you add “artisan” it gets even more highbrow. But for a gift, artisan chocolates don’t have to cost you your month’s rent.

The Old World collection of truffles at Posh Chocolat offers a particularly interesting combination. For the price of a nice steak, you get 10 handmade chocolates, each a wildly different flavor: coconut curry, garam masala, rose water, cardamom, matcha green tea, hemp seed and caramelized banana, white truffle oil and Tahitian vanilla, 10-year-old balsamic and strawberry, fennel pollen, and rosemary honey. Weird? Well, pretty toothsome, actually.

You could always try something tamer like the Chef’s Choice collection, which includes mojito and lavender flavors for the same price. But even if the receiver of this gift is a bit squeamish about garam masala as a dessert, we recommend the Old World option because, despite the affordable price, you’ll look like an extravagant, worldly gift giver. And sometimes image is all that matters.

Find it at: Posh Chocolat, 119 S. Higgins Avenue

A Christmas Story Light Strand – $11.99

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the film that had Ralphie Parker asking his mom for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200 shot range model air rifle—all before she says: “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.”

There are lots of great scenes to this holiday classic, but what we got out of it—besides the lesson that you should never, ever stick your tongue to icy metal—is that it would be totally rad to own that ridiculous lamp that Ralphie’s dad wins for knowing the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse. It’s classic kitsch—the lamp looks like a hooker’s leg, which is why Mrs. Parker “accidentally” breaks it—and a perfect reference to an iconic movie that still plays non-stop during the holiday season.

While the lamp runs a hefty sum ($199), you can find a bargain in the string of Christmas lights featuring tiny leg lamp lights. It’s less of a décor commitment, and you’ll still probably be the only house on your block with one. Just like Mrs. Parker.

Find it at: Rockin Rudy’s, 237 Blaine Street

 Vinyl Record Earrings – $20

So your music-loving girlfriend owns every Belle and Sebastian album under the sun. Now what? Jewelry may seem a corny default gift, but these earrings, available in a variety of colors, will cater to both her interest and her sense of style without breaking the bank. Best of all, they’re recycled. With everyone at the New Year’s party admiring your thoughtfulness, you can be sure your gal’s swooning over you and not some indie pop frontman.

Find it at: The Green Light, 128 W. Alder Street

 The Back Scratcher – $1.59

Everyone has a politician in his or her life. Maybe it’s your mom and her subtle manipulation: “You better get the car fixed before your father gets home.” Or maybe it’s your brother and his asinine bargaining: “Yeah, but I took out the trash. It’s your turn to paint the house.” Or maybe your last name is Rehberg. Either way, this back scratcher is the Nicorette of politics, a way to wean those ardent politicians in your life from their two-faced ways. Even Barack Obama has been around long enough to know that the basis of politics is favors: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Now, on Christmas morning, this is your way to say—without saying, of course—scratch your own damn back.

Find it at: Import Market, 201 W. Broadway Street

 Rolled Newspaper Coasters – $19

Good news. Now rolled-up newspaper is good for more than smacking the friend that beat you at “Madden 2008.” This set of four coasters, complete with holder, will keep those holiday beer cans from sweating rings on the family coffee table. Made in the Philippines from recycled newspaper, they scream environmentally conscious without looking tacky. A perfect gesture for the artsy, world-peace type.

Find it at: The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, 519 S. Higgins Avenue

Cowboy Hat Cookie Cutter –  $4.25

Everyone knows kids don’t buy into that thought-that-counts spin. So why not cater to what kids do buy into: playing with their food. From helping mom bake to leaving a plate of snacks for Santa, this cookie cutter is bound to come in handy keeping your little one’s gun hand occupied.

The item includes holiday cookie and frosting recipes, all for less than a Starbucks espresso. Complement it with a cowboy boot or a buffalo cutter to roam the prairie. All of it might just win you a few extra quiet moments on Christmas morning.

Find it at: Moose Creek Mercantile, 314 N. Higgins Avenue

Ross Flywater Reel - $47.50

Come January, it might be a bit too chilly for a trip up the Blackfoot or Rock Creek. Waders can only do so much. But there’s never a bad time to start thinking about the spring hatch, and that pricey fly reel you’ve been salivating over for months is now 50 percent off. Just finding one under the tree might be enough to get the mopey off-season fisherman through winter. Drop the wife a hint or write a letter to Santa. With select flies 75 percent off, your Secret Santa might even throw in a bonus baker’s dozen.

Find it at: Grizzly Hackle, 215 W. Front Street

Green Hanger Cash – $1-30

Are you tired of your roommate stinking up the joint with his or her ever-growing pile of filthy clothes? Are you on the verge of screaming, “Hey hippie, what do think about maybe washing a shirt or two once in a coon’s age!?” We hear ya—and smell them, too.

But why not send that special (sloppy) someone a subtler message by heading to Green Hanger and depositing some coin on a Green Hanger Washer/Dryer “Easycard.” Depending on what you think that person is really worth, or your own personal frustration, cards can hold between $1 and $30. And if your motley roommate happens to also be lazy, recommend the Green Hanger’s one-day drop-off pick-up service, which will require nearly no effort at all. Either way, you and that particular slob will be well on your way to getting along once more—if only for a week.

Find it at: Either Green Hanger location, 146 Woodford Street or 960 E. Broadway Street

Moose-cense Incense System – $10.50

Add a more natural aroma to the typical holiday bouquet by giving the gift of Moose-cense, a time-honored, local and organic resource known to most of us as moose turds. A package of Moose-cense comes in a hand-painted box, complete with incense burner and a half dozen nugs. According to proprietor Jerry Black, firing up the feces allows a natural perfume of willow, sweetgrass or dogwood to waft about the room.

Torching the turds is a natural way for those of us not noting the season via inflatable Frosty Snowmen or illuminated plastic baby Jesii to honor these darkest days. Although 10 bones for a gift is a fine deal, may we also encourage you tofind this gift yourself.

Find it at:, or anywhere the great ungulate is found.

Remote Controlled H3 Hummer – $49

You probably heard that the big three auto CEOs carpooled to Washington, D.C., recently looking for alms. They figured $15 billion or so of your money oughta do it. Now, if we’re lucky, Congress will throw the automakers a bone so they can go back to Detroit, fire up the assembly line and crank out those V8 roadsters we love so much. (Hybrids, after all, are for sissies.)

But here’s a grassroots method by which you, personally, can show your support for the beleaguered Big Three: Go to Wal-Mart, find the remote-controlled Hummer, shell out the $49 (that’s a bargain; think how expensive it would have been if it was made in America) and, this Christmas, turn your kid into the gas-guzzling, money-burning consumer those poor schmucks from Detroit need him to be.

Hey, if you’re ignoring the whole “Shop Local” thing this season, you may as well go all the way.

Find it at: Where else? Wal-Mart, 4000 Highway 93 South and 3555 Mullan Road. 


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