Happy holidays! I’m pleased to announce that I got almost all my gift buying done before Christmas Eve this year, but I’d be lying if I told you I was that on top of things every year.
The truth is that waking up on Christmas Eve and thinking “why did I put things off so long? I’m going to do my shopping earlier next year” borders on an annual tradition for me. And I’m guessing a lot of people who have ADHD or for whatever reason simply haven’t done a great job planning ahead will be finding themselves in a similar place right about now.
Fortunately, I’ve developed last-minute Christmas shopping into something of an art form, so I’m going to share a few of my techniques. I’m not proud to have last-minute gift shopping as one of my skills, but someone’s got to do it.
Before we go on, though, I need to get the following out of the way…
Disclaimer: The information herein is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. I am not responsible for any ill-received presents, damaged relationships, quarreling families or resentful coworkers that may result from any gift-related decisions the reader may make after consulting the Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Survival Guide, nor do I endorse the decision to put off gift shopping until the last minute – regardless of whether I sympathize with it.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are my last-minute gift buying tips:
1. Give experiences
Shipping time is the bane of last-minute gift shoppers everywhere. The convenience of online shopping would be a godsend for time-pressed holiday shoppers if it weren’t for actually having to ship the darn things.
However, the nice thing about giving an experience rather than an object is experiences aren’t delivered via UPS. Gift certificates to restaurants, tickets for cultural events and any other kinds of activities the recipient of the gift can take part in are great options.
There’s a lot of room for personalization here, plus these can often be purchased online – what’s not to love?
2. Gift certificates are OK
Gift certificates are the gifts I least like to give and most like to receive. On one hand, they feel like a cop out because they’re so generic. On the other hand, who wouldn’t like just choosing the stuff they want?
So go for it. Giving a gift certificate is better than giving someone a bad present.
3. Add that personal touch
The danger of last-minute gift shopping is that you might end up with a gift that makes it look like you don’t really care. So make it clear that you do care by adding that personal touch.
Good at arts and crafts? Make their card yourself. Write a heartfelt note in the card.
Know the person you’re shopping for likes a certain kind of food? Do some baking. One of the best gifts I ever got was a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
And put as much thought as possible into getting a gift somehow specific to the person you’re shopping for.
4. If you can’t add that personal touch, compensate with money
Yes, there, I said it. Sometimes it’s just not possible to pull off that personal touch. My rule of thumb in these cases is to spend a little extra to show I care because the worst gifts are the ones that are impersonal and cheap.
Not saying you need to buy Ferraris and villas on the Amalfi coast for all your acquaintances. But say you’re planning on buying your friend a $25 book, then can’t find a book you think they’ll like – maybe go for a $40 gift certificate to the bookstore instead.
Your feelings of failure as a gift giver will recede into the distance if you just throw enough money at them.
5. Do your gift shopping like it’s the twenty-first century
The internet offers a lot of interesting options for last-minute gift shoppers. These include:
- eBooks and aubiobooks: All the advantages of getting someone a book without the disadvantages of having to wait for the thing to ship or having to find it in a bookstore. Again, make it personal by getting something you think the recipient will like (“This book made me think of you because…”) or, if that’s not possible, getting something you like that they might also appreciate (“This is one of my favorite books. I thought you might like it…”)
- Subscription services: You can subscribe to anything these days. Food and clothes are some popular options – try Googling “clothing subscripting services,” “food subscription services,” “WHATEVER subscription services” for some ideas. (Note: good gifts for anyone, great gifts for people who live in towns with fewer stores/restaurants or in remote locations, or for people who for whatever reason can’t get out much.)
So for all you last-minute holiday shoppers, don’t despair! I won’t go so far as to say “it’s the thought that counts” (because who actually wants a thought for Christmas?) – but I will say that it’s what you get that matters, not when you get it!
And just remember: it goes without saying that this is of course the last time ever you’ll put your Christmas shopping off until Christmas Eve.
Image credit: FreeImages.com/Barry Meyer