Make a List and Check it Twice
One of the biggest traps of last-minute shopping is going over budget. Before you brave any store, make a list of how much you'd like to spend on each person you are buying for, and stick to it. Resist the urge to keep shopping for the perfect gift, and leave the store as soon as you've crossed everyone off your list.
Set a Time Limit
Retailers have a few tricks up their sleeves to get you to linger in their stores, such as playing catchy holiday music and scenting the air with pleasant holiday smells, making it more likely you'll buy something on impulse.
To avoid this trap, make plans immediately following your shopping trip to limit the amount of time you spend in the mall. The less time you spend shopping means less temptation to overspend or impulse buy.
Most online retailers guarantee delivery up to a few days before Christmas, so skip the mall and shop online for your gifts instead. You can avoid the hustle and bustle of the holiday crowds, and you can either ship your gifts right to the recipient, or have them sent to you.
To make the most of your online shopping experience, check out these 10 tips for online holiday shoppers.
Give Gift Cards
Virtually every retailer offers gift cards now, so forget the idea that plastic is an impersonal gift. After all, who wouldn't want to go on a shopping spree at one of their favorite stores?
To dress it up a little, add a personal touch, such as a mug with a gift card to a favorite coffee shop, or a gift card to a book store tucked into a classic novel.
Food Never Fails
The way to anyone's heart is through their stomach, right? If you're a whiz of a baker, whip up a batch of your special cookies
to give as gifts. If you want to give something tangible, wrap them up on a pretty cookie platter or in a festive holiday tin.
If cookies aren't your thing, or if you're looking for more great food ideas, check out these 10 delicious food gifts.
Do you have a special talent, such as painting, pottery-making, or photography? Or maybe you're an expert on car repair, childcare services, or dog-walking? Create a coupon offering your service to be used in the weeks to come. It will take some of the pressure off having to have a gift in time for the holidays, and the recipient will love the thoughtfulness of your gesture.
Skip the Clothes
Clothes can be tough to get right even when you aren't shopping in a last-minute frenzy. Do yourself a favor and skip the clothing department altogether. If someone on your list is a fashionista, stick with a gift certificate to her favorite store.
To make her gift really special, offer to take her shopping for an item of her choice and then treat her to lunch or dinner at a favorite restaurant.
Shop on Christmas Eve
We know — waiting until the day before Christmas to shop sounds like a terrible idea. But think of it this way — most people are finished by Christmas Eve, meaning the malls will be less crowded, allowing you to shop without having to fight hoards of other panicky procrastinators.
Know When to Stop
Once you've bought for everyone on your list, stop shopping. It sounds simple enough, but often times, the urge to find the perfect gift compels anxious shoppers to keep going. Just because your gift is last-minute does not mean it's inadequate!
If it's come down to the wire and you're really in a bind, considering regifting as a last resort. Just make sure your gift doesn't fall into the hands of someone who might find out your secret — or worse — into the hands of the person who originally gave it to you!