Need a great gift? Try a museum

Here we go again. It's about this time every year that the pressure starts to build. You know what I'm talking about.

The pressure to Give Good Gift.

It's the same old story. You pledge to shop early, to avoid the last-minute holiday panic. And then, just days before Christmas, you find yourself fighting the frenzied hordes to wind up spending more than you budgeted on gifts that are, at best, uncreative.

Hello, scarf, tie, bathrobe, sweater, perfume, DVDs and the lame-o classic, the gift card.

Not any more. Museum stores across the country have done your shopping for you. Their websites break it down by gender, age, price, artist. And they've come up with offerings you won't find in an exhausting, dreary day (or two or three) at the mall.

To prove the point that these online museum shops are worth a look, I went shopping for imaginative presents and turned up some remarkably frugal finds. (Click here to see my gift choices.)

Here's your strategy: Make a list of whom you must buy for this year -- and don't forget stocking stuffers, hostess gifts and those infernal "secret Santa" office parties and in-law get-togethers.

Then, type "museum store" and any city in the country into your browser. You'll find museums you've never heard of and discover gift gems you've never contemplated for everyone on your list.

Now you can pity all those last-minute mopes circling a packed parking lot and fretting in the endless cash register line, enduring piped-in Christmas carols. Feel free to wear a smug smile.

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