WINNEMUCCA - Buying Christmas gifts for those special people in your life never gets any easier.

It brings on a peculiar holiday angst. What conveys what you feel for a spouse, a brother or sister or your parents in a special way? What is a heartfelt gift that has special, lasting meaning?

No, a blender or set of Craftsman tools doesn't cut it.

"Wow, that's so (not) thoughtful of you."

What should I get my dad, who's retired and living near Orlando, Florida, the epicenter of dufferland with about 17 golf courses within a half-hour drive. The thing is, he doesn't golf. I'm stumped.

If I ask my mom what she wants, she'll come back with the predictable line of "oh, I don't need anything." That's not much help.

If you have children, by now they've certainly helped you dial in on what's hot this year in the vast world of toys. If not, every major big box store has a list of bestsellers on the Internet. They've even divided them up by how much you're willing to spend. That makes shopping a little easier.

I like to keep up on holiday shopping trends so I poked around to find some data to share.

Gallup polling done earlier this month stated the average American plans to spend about $740 on gifts this year, which is well short of spending by consumers prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

"The 2013 holiday shopping season will likely be a ho-hum one for retailers," according to Gallup, whose modeling suggests holiday sales will increase between 2.3 percent and 2.7 percent over 2012.

So, there's still some financial unease with consumers, who make up something like 65 percent of the economy and, we've been told, must keep spending to keep it afloat.

These days, nobody is flush with cash or willing to take on deep debt for Christmas gifts. Things are still a little shaky on the finances for the middle class. The country is trillions in debt, Detroit goes bankrupt and earned pensions are on the table, wages have been stagnant for years, retirement for the Boomers has been pushed back a few years.

The last great Age of Prosperity in this country occurred when Bill Clinton was in the White House a couple of decades ago. Remember those heady financial times? Not only did the federal government run a surplus, there was a real sense of optimism that things were solid and looking up. I received a lot of good, expensive gifts back then.

I read where there's still a few gift shopping procrastinators out there, which warms my heart.

The National Retail Federation reports that the average holiday shopper had completed about half of their gift list by last week. But a whopping 32 million people said they hadn't even started. Another 20 million people said they were done with their holiday shopping.

My advice to the procrastinators is watch the calendar, take your time, nothing to sweat yet, but don't get in desperate straits. 7-11 convenience stores have a limited supply of gift ideas at midnight on Christmas Eve.

The inspiration will come. Hopefully, the light bulb clicks on soon, because there's one weekend left before Christmas. I'll get some gifts in the mail via overnight delivery to mom and dad. They'll say it's the greatest and all will be well.

Steve Lyon is editor of the Humboldt Sun. Contact him at