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Fiscal Cliff's Notes 

For this season's shopping, do like they do on Capitol Hill

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We all know that there are some tough choices to be made. Where can we cut spending? How can we increase revenue? What sort of reconciliation can be made to avoid the dreaded fiscal cliff?

More importantly, how are we going to be able to afford Call of Duty: Black Ops II when it's the only thing that little Tyler's been asking for all year?

We know the decisions are hard around this time, and just as Obama and Boehner duke it out behind closed doors, so too the little angels and devils on our shoulders duke it out for holiday spending. But not to fear—we've got your back in our annual gift guide, this year tiered according to the level of responsibility to which one wishes to adhere.

Feeling spendthrift and cautious for the future? Go with our under-$20 gift suggestions. Thinking like your financial planning's gone well enough to fall in the middle? We've got your $20–$100 options right here. Care to say the hell with it, break the bank and be in debt? Luxuriate in the over-$100 category.

We know it's tough out there in D.C. with all that talk about marginal tax rates and Medicare spending, but, hey, we've got some decisions to make too. Here, then, is our quick 'n' easy fiscal-cliff gift guide.

Balance the Budget Now: Gifts under $20

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I know, I know—buying a diaper as a present is neither glamorous nor fun. It's hard to bypass the fig-sized shoes and even harder to gift-wrap a thing that has the sole purpose of catching watery poo. But take it from the parent of a four-month old: cloth diapers are expensive, and you really never can have too many. Of course, you should only gift reusable nappies if the mom or dad you know plans to use them instead of disposables. (Don't—don't—be the person gift-guilting already-stressed new parents into diapering their child the way you think they should diaper them.) But if they ask for and actually want the colorful cloth bum-sacks, even single diapers make great gifts. Bum Genius are one-size-fits-all covers and inserts, and usually sell for between $18 and $24 each. Diaper pants are both cute and handy and can be found in bundles at Oliver's Markets for under $20. And a diaper service that actually picks up and washes your smelly rags, like Northern California–based Tidee Didee, is an excellent communal gift at between $16 and $30 a week.—R.D.

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Some people get through the holiday season by eating their way into oblivion. Others turn to that age-old remedy for social anxiety: a stiff shot of booze from a secret flask. For your friends and family that go for the latter, a gift allowing them to covertly drink booze with greater ease is just the ticket for the holidays and, even better, will provide a fantastic way to drown sorrow if we end up crashing down the dark side of the fiscal cliff in 2013. Binocktails, a company that specializes in this type of trickery, makes a five-ounce camera flask that looks almost like the real thing ($14.99). Not one for taking fake photos? How about a three-ounce cell phone flask ($12.99), the design of which is very 2005, but hey, it'll still do the job! For those who like to sit in the peanut gallery at basketball games or the opera, there's the binocular flask ($11.95), sold over at Xtreme Barware. Another way to drink in public without drawing attention is the use of Beer Can Covers ($9.99). Pick up one for your favorite skateboarders, so they can drink PBR at the park to their heart's content, all the while holding a can disguised to look like an Orange Crush or a Coca-Cola. Of course, as the website warns, "With a close enough look, you can clearly see it is not a real soda." But who's gonna get that close? The smarty-pants in your life might prefer the hollow book safe and flask ($55) from Secret Safe books so they can get buzzed at the local public library. The one made by Secret Safe looks like a copy of The Godfather by Mario Puzo, but you can also get a Holy Bible version, if so inclined. Hey, water into wine, right?—L.C.

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Gifting words broadcast over the airwaves or streamed over the internet may seem borderline metaphysical (and intentionally cheap), but for the radio enthusiast in your life, why not? Here's an idea: get some smart-looking thumb drives, like the Star Wars series from Mimoco ($19.99), and download podcasts from your gift recipient's favorite shows. This American Life archives are downloadable for 99 cents a pop, and the beautiful left-brain-leaning Radiolab is available on iTunes for free, as is Democracy Now and Planet Money. You can pair WFMU favorites like The Best Show on WFMU with Slate's lady-centric DoubleX. For the even nerdier radio and book lover, you can get a variety of deals on Other People with Brad Listi, in which the author of Attention. Deficit. Disorder and founder The Nervous Breakdown talks about the writing life with everyone from T. C. Boyle to Alexis Smith. (These "deals," by the way, range from under $10 to free, so they're not really deals as much as they are way-too-fucking-cheap-for-something-so-awesome-like-everything-literary-on-the-internet-which-is-why-so-few-writers-actually-get-paid. But I digress.) Think of this inexpensive but nifty present not as the auditory equivalent of gift-wrapped socks, but as a geekier and far more delightful version of the mixtape, without the obligatory power-ballad. Or put that in there, whatever.—R.D.

  • For this season's shopping, do like they do on Capitol Hill

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