The stars have a lot to say about gift-giving, so finding the perfect present can be as easy as stealing the wallet of the person on your list to sneak a peek at their driver's license. Once you've determined their sign, it's a good time to get a move on your gift list—Mercury, the planet of communication, is moving forward again after nearly a month of retrograde.
ZODIAC BUDGET BUSTER
$ = Lovingly accepts the weird, cheap, quirky, or homemade
$$ = Understands if you're cash poor, but still expects quality
$$$ = Melt the credit card or you'll regret it
Aries March 20-April 19 $$$
When buying presents for an Aries, it always pays to think big. Most Ram guys and gals will want an excessive, environmentally unsound number of gifts—whether they voted for Nader or not. A surprise trip to Hawaii to catch some winter surf ($250-$300) is their idea of the perfect present, and it will be your pleasure when you watch them wipe out on those giant waves (they always try to catch big ones). Fortunately, Rams also adore trendy items, so the Glitzarama Tin, full of potions for "golden glama," (www.benefitcosmetics.com, $32) will give you instant bang for fewer bucks.
Taurus April 20-May 20 $$
Gracious Taurus is one of the zodiac's most sensual signs, and they love the kitchen—we're talking quality chrome here, not a few Fred Meyer gadgets. If you're loaded, you might consider the Swedish-made, superstrong AEG Bowl Mixer (Williams Sonoma, $649). Luckily for the budget Santa, this practical earth sign prizes thoughtfulness over price tags, so a basket of delectable gourmet items—like the fabulous Fig Balsamic Vinegar or to-die-for Fran's Dark Chocolate Sauce (Sur La Table, $14.95 and $5.95)—would also make a great gift. If all else fails, bring these enthusiastic eggnog swillers some Tums (99 cents).
Gemini May 21-June 20 $
Finally, a subversive sign that finds the extravagant materialism of the holidays depressing! Go for something that scratches their intellectual itch; this air sign will spurn status items like a PalmPilot or pearls. Brainy Geminis are ruled by Mercury, the planet associated with communication, so a book is the perfect gift—as long as it's quirky. Whether you end up with The Magnificent Book of Kites (Maxwell Eden, $14.95), full of fabulously difficult diagrams, or Trouble in Transylvania (Seal Press, $9.95), a mystery that features an intrepid lesbian sleuth, your favorite Twin will be touched that you took the time to avoid those tainted corporate catalogs.
Cancer June 21-July 22 $
With a reputation for being domestic, sensitive, and caring, you might think the Crab could be crossed off your list in a pinch—but think twice before you slap down 10 bucks for boring old bath salts. Cancerians are too moody to be so easily mollified. Ruled by the Moon, the planet of the unconscious, this sign adores the artistic fringe and appreciates risky gifts that would turn off more traditional types. New albums by less mainstream but fabulously talented artists, like Chimurenga Explosion by Thomas Mapfumo (Wall of Sound, $16.98), or classic jazz albums missing from their collection, like A Love Supreme by John Coltrane (Cellophane Square, $14.99), will keep them in good spirits.
Leo July 23-Aug. 22 $$$
Athletic Lions adore high-impact sports, partly so they can brag but even more because they relish the risk. Whether they rock-climb or race Alaskan sled dogs, top-notch gear—a pair of high-tech Himalayan Mitts (North Face, $130) or cozy fleece thermals (Patagonia, $110)—is a great gift. If these prices make you choke, get ready to swallow your pride: The only way to prevent the proud Lion from misinterpreting your neatly wrapped Pez dispenser as an insult is to explain that you're broke. If your busted bank account has a great, gossipy story behind it, so much the better—for Leos, the holidays are high season for drama.
Virgo Aug. 23-Sept. 22 $$
Finding the perfect gift for a picky Virgo is like finding satisfaction in this election season—impossible, in other words. Still, you might have good luck with a gorgeous orchid. With roots that thrive in nifty, neat woodchip piles instead of dirt, orchids are the Virgos of the plant world. Whether you choose the common Phalaenopsis or rare variety of Lady Slipper (City People's Garden Store, $39-$59), your hypochondriac Virgo will keep the radiant petals in rip-roaring health. If you need more convincing, note that this needy plant will redirect their perfectionist Virgo energy to where it belongs—away from you.
Libra Sept. 23-Oct. 22 $$
Don't wait around for indecisive Libra, the sign of the balance scales, to give you their holiday wish list. Fortunately, this sociable and graceful sign swoons over classy brand-name labels—which makes them easy to buy for, if you're willing to support the Man. A thick, soft chenille throw blanket (Pottery Barn, $99) or classic cashmere scarf (J. Crew, $68) are both surefire bets. But well-mannered Libras would be mortified if they thought you spent more than you could afford, so if you're topping out at $20, settle for something small but elegant.
Scorpio Oct. 23-Nov. 21 $
The Grinch was probably a Scorpio—this sign finds more to celebrate in Halloween, the holiday of mystery and masks, than the cheerful yuletide season. Ruled by Pluto, the planet of life-changing transformation, Scorpios have a mysterious, private side and an emotional depth that makes them the sexiest sign in zodiac. Unique jewelry, like a thin leather cord necklace with a delicate silver tab depicting their astrological arachnid sign, or a solid sterling ring that can be sized for guys (both at Bitters Co., $35 and $28), is the best way to impress this intense and secretive person.
Sagittarius Nov. 22-Dec. 21 $$$
Give them adventure and they'll love you forever. Ruled by Jupiter, the planet of growth and opportunity, Sagittarians are eager world and spiritual travelers. A trial membership at a yoga studio (Eight Limbs Yoga or Samadhi Yoga, $99) will let them do double-duty while exploring their strength and their soul. If chanting Om isn't their style, introductory courses on back-country skiing or sea kayaking (The Mountaineers, $95-$125) might be. Trademark enthusiastic Sagittarian thanks will make you feel great about your grand gift—even though your credit card has started to melt in your pocket.
Capricorn Dec. 22-Jan. 20 $$
Ruled by Saturn, the planet of delayed reward, Capricorns are hard workers who often request practical holiday gifts. Don't give in, especially on sports-related items—these workaholics too often make exercise their only reward. Capricorns rarely ask for what they need most—affection and indulgence—so give your favorite Goat the gift of relaxation. Swedish deep tissue massage (Shenmen Healing Center, $50-$75) or the more traditional spa manicure and pedicure (Gene Juarez, $55) are both perfect ways to make them feel pampered.
Aquarius Jan. 21-Feb.18 $
You're probably seeing more of your Aquarian friends now that the Nader rallies are over—this idealistic, freedom-loving sign loves to champion social progress. Since the Aquarian pad is often party central, the best gift bet is something quirky for their home. From an interesting old globe on a wooden pedestal (Area 51, $45) to the Enlightening Scrapbook Lamp (www.flaxart.com, $39), choose gifts that scream "unique." Avoid the corporate chains if you want your inventive Aquarian to jump for joy—and for them to respect you in the morning.
Pisces Feb. 19-March 19 $
Ruled by Neptune, the planet of illusion and fantasy, this sign is the realm of creative imagery—Dr. Seuss was a Pisces—so gifts that enable their artistic pursuits will always be welcome. Like their symbol, two reversed fish swimming in opposite directions, this mellow sign lives half in a dreamworld where materialism doesn't matter, so Pisces won't care about the price tag on your gift. A Prismacolor Pencil Set and Classic Sketchbook (Utrecht, $30) or handsome Kolo scrapbook (Aaron Brothers, $35) will keep them happy—and spending the holidays with a well-pleased Pisces is the best thing this side of mistletoe kisses.
Kate Chynoweth, an Aries, is a freelance writer and editor at Seattle Weekly.