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December 18, 2023

The Dos and Don’ts of Last-Minute Christmas Shopping

Taking the Stress out of Last-Minute Gifts


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Hands holding paper bags doing Christmas shopping. Shopping center at Christmas time.

iStockPhoto / Halfpoint

As the winter holidays rush in like the wind, last-minute Christmas shopping is inevitable for many of us. As the stores overflow with shoppers and the virtual shopping carts fill, the pressure to purchase perfect presents grows each passing day. For the procrastinators out there (we see you!), this is your guide to navigate the wilds of the eleventh-hour holiday shopping with some simple do's and don'ts and last-minute gift ideas.

Do: Make a List and Check It Twice 

As old St. Nick recommends, before you head out for Christmas shopping, jot down every individual you need to buy for, including their preferences, interests, and gift ideas if you have any. This method eliminates guesswork and impulsive purchases and ensures that you haven’t forgotten anyone while shopping for last-minute gifts. 

Don't: Ignore the Budget

Shopping for last-minute Christmas gifts often triggers panic purchases. Under time pressure, we can disregard the cost leading to serious financial regrets later. Establish a firm budget and stick to it. 

Do: Turn to Online Shopping

This should be your first port of call, given its efficiency, speed and ease of purchasing. No shipping on your part, no presents to wrap, just a push of the button and you’re done. A multitude of websites from SANTA.COM to Amazon offer excellent deals during the holiday season. With just a few clicks, your gift can be on its way to you or directly to the recipient. Some online retailers offer expedited shipping services that are perfect for late shoppers.

Don't: Forget to Check Delivery Times

While online shopping offers an excellent convenience, the major downside to this last-minute holiday shopping solution can be shipping delays. Before committing to an online holiday gift purchase, make sure the estimated delivery date hits before Christmas.

Do: Embrace the Gift Cards 

Gift cards often get a bad rap for being impersonal, but when time is scarce, they can be one of the best Christmas gifts, especially when shopping for last-minute gifts. It’s the ideal last-minute gift for almost everyone on your list. Select from countless retail outlets, restaurants, experiences or online retailers - there's something for everyone. And it fits nicely into a holiday card.

Don't: Shy Away From DIY Gifts

Handmade gifts can often mean much more to the recipient than store-bought gifts. It's a sentimental way of showing someone that you’ve taken the time and effort to create something unique for them, even if it is a last-minute gift. A fresh batch of homemade cookies, or a handmade painting are wonderful gifts that your loved ones would appreciate.

Do: Take Advantage of Extended Shopping Hours 

Many Christmas stores extend their shopping hours during the holiday season. Take advantage of these early opening and late closing times. Often, the stores are less crowded during these off-peak times, and make shopping for last-minute Christmas gifts less stressful. 

Don't: Overlook Local Businesses

Check out local businesses for unique, high-quality holiday gifts. Supporting local businesses is more crucial than ever given the struggles they've faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Do: Keep Your Cool 

Last-minute Christmas shopping can be stressful, but try to maintain a positive and patient attitude. Treat sales assistants with respect - they're probably facing the same holiday pressure as you. A smile will get you a long way, and can be the best gift to give the strangers around you.

Don't: Buy For The Sake of Buying 

We’re all guilty of this. If you’re down to the wire and still unsure about what to buy, don’t make hasty, unplanned purchases that could result in a pile of last-minute gifts that mean little and end up in people’s regifting cupboards. Instead, consider donating to a charity in the recipient's name and give them a meaningful gift that helps others. 

It is possible to score meaningful last-minute gifts for your loved ones while staying within your budget and timeframe. Remember, it's the thought that counts. 

Now get on out there and finish your shopping. The clock is ticking!


Santa.com wants to help you find everything you need to make the holidays special! If you purchase or click on something we link to, Santa.com may be entitled to a commission. "We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites."

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