Spending

Your Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Survival Guide

John Schmidt

‘Twas just days before Christmas, and all through America, more than half of shoppers still had holiday presents to buy.

If you’re among the more than 125 million procrastinators who haven’t wrapped up holiday shopping by Super Saturday on December 22, we’ve got good news: There’s still time to get it all done—if you work strategically. Here’s your last-minute holiday shopping guide, broken down into four easy steps.

1. Don’t ship it.

Unless you’re cool with boxing up an IOU, stay away from presents that require shipping this late in the season. Billions of pieces of mail get sent the week before Christmas—so, even though UPS and USPS maintain an on-time delivery rate of more than 90 percent throughout the holiday season, that remaining 10 percent of delays equals millions of late packages.

One exception: Last week, Amazon announced it’ll offer free, two-hour delivery up until  midnight on Christmas Eve in 30 U.S. markets with access to Prime Now. Generally, though, your safest bet is to hit up brick-and-mortar locations, many of which offer special extended holiday hours for Johnny-come-latelys.

2. Order online for in-store pickup.

It’s the best of both worlds: At many stores, like Apple, Kohl’s and Old Navy, you can buy online, then swing by the store to pick up your purchases. Some places, like Walmart and Target (which will stay open until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve), will even let you retrieve your stuff just hours before closing on December 24.

Just remember: Unlike with regular online shopping at home, wearing pants is required.

3. Look for last-minute deals.

If you’ve put off more than just buying gifts—as in, you don’t even have a tree to put the presents you don’t have yet under—you may be in luck. Christmas decorations typically go on sale right before and after the 25th.

As for gifts, choice toys, like LOL Surprise dolls and Hatchimals, and trendy gadgets are probably off the table at this point. But, according to Quartz, there may still be a few last-minute discounts to snag. For less popular toys, kitchen appliances and winter apparel, Christmas is considered the end of the season—so look for deals on surplus stock.

4. Go for the gift card.

When in doubt—or when faced with limited time or store inventory—opt for a gift card. Once thought of as impersonal or thoughtless, gift cards have been the most requested gift for 12 years running, according to the National Retail Federation.

With e-gift cards in particular, you have the flexibility to make, quite literally, a last-second buy—just before you exchange gifts.

Related: 8 Ways to Avoid Paying Full Price for Any Holiday Gifts

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