Last Minute Gift Ideas For Holiday Procrastinators

by Emiley Thacker on 2008-11-1833

Do you cram your holiday shopping on Christmas Eve? If you’re a holiday procrastinator, maybe these simple, convenient, last minute gift ideas and shopping tips will take some of the pressure away.

I, Procrastinator

“Procrastinator” should have been my middle name. I’ve always thought that anything worth doing is worth doing well — tomorrow. Or maybe the day after. I blame my dad, to be honest. As soon as I was old enough to use the pointy scissors, it became an annual tradition for my dad to drag me out after dinner on Christmas Eve to do his Christmas shopping for my mother. This usually took a few hours and involved a fair amount of money, as there was no real plan. Then after she went to bed for the night, Dad would boost all of the packages through my bedroom window, and I’d spend a couple of hours wrapping everything and getting it all under the tree. He paid me $0.25 per package, which I then spent on New Kids on the Block trading cards 😉 .

Similarly, now that I’m all grown up, I find myself putting off holiday shopping and spending too much at the last minute because I’m desperate for a gift. I recognize that this is not a good habit and vow each year to mend my ways, but I’ve found that the rate of recidivism when it comes to procrastination is quite high. Oh sure, I do the easy stuff early in the season: the spousal unit always needs new socks and underwear, Mom looks forward to the annual box of See’s candy, etc., etc. The tougher things, thoughtful gifts, are the ones I put off buying.

I’ve come to realize that procrastinating is silly — good gifts don’t need to take a whole lot of effort (or money). For instance, my friend loves snowman ornaments. She also likes to be pampered but doesn’t like to spend money on herself. But instead of searching for and spending too much on the perfect snowman decor, I head over to the salon we both use and pick up a gift certificate for a mid-winter pedicure. She loves getting her scaly winter feet prettied up, even if they spend all of their time in winter boots or fuzzy slippers. See? Easy, no more expensive than the ornament, and interpreted by the recipient as thoughtful. Trifecta!

last minute gift ideas, holiday shopping

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Those Who’ve Run Out Of Ideas

Not sure what to get? Here are a few more shopping tips as well as holiday gift ideas that may be convenient, simple enough and good for last minute scrambles, but I believe they’ll make even the biggest procrastinators look pretty good 😉 (yes, this list is “gift card heavy”):

  • Look for coupon codes and discounts from popular online stores. For instance, pick up an Overstock coupon code or a list of Best Buy coupons before visiting or
  • Keep a few basics on hand. There happens to be a fairly large Amish population in my area, and they make and sell beautiful hand woven baskets of all shapes and sizes. I’ve always got a few of these baskets stashed in a closet, and can quickly pick up nuts, cheeses, jams (sometimes also Amish made), candies, wine, etc. Load the goodies into a basket, wrap the basket in cellophane, tie a pretty seasonal ribbon around the top and, ta-da! Insta-gift.
  • AAA Membership: Got a friend that drives a clunker? How about a loved one that just has a long daily commute? An annual membership to AAA might save them some enormous headaches, not to mention a lot of money, in the event of a breakdown.
  • Wine Club: Does your mom enjoy a glass of wine with dinner? Sign her up for a wine club. offers clubs starting at 3-months and $89. Just select reds or whites and you’re on your way. Or perhaps this will do: a wine basket from what else but, with 5% off your order above any additional discounts you get from items on sale!
  • Gift Cards/Certificates: I’m a little tired of hearing people say that you’re “cheating” when you pick up gift cards for those on your list. I disagree with the notion that these aren’t thoughtful gifts — some of the best things I’ve received were made possible through such cards! Actually, I’m always thrilled when someone who knows I’m a reader gives me a Barnes & Noble gift card. And, like the friend I mentioned above, these cards are a good way to treat someone to something that they like but might not otherwise buy for themselves.

    On the plus side, they are easy and convenient gift choices; the downside, however, is that your gift recipient will know how much you’ve spent on them. Or worse, the cards or certificates may go unused, if forgotten. But if you do decide to go this route, then just make sure that what you purchase doesn’t have an expiration date or fees for non-use.

    Some great places that offer general gift cards or certificates?

    • Try, which provide e-gift cards that are redeemable online.
    • You can also pick up cards from the big e-tailers such as and

    I’ve listed more sources for these items below.

  • News and Magazine Subscriptions: Every year, my dad renews my husband’s “Sports Illustrated” subscription, and my husband renews my dad’s Wall Street Journal subscription. Everyone drinks some eggnog and goes home happy.
  • Entertainment Subscriptions and Gift Cards: One of the easier gifts to give out are those relating to some form of entertainment or another. I’m sure you know more than a few couch potatoes, game enthusiasts and music aficionados who’ll appreciate a subscription, gift card or access to Blockbuster, Gamefly or eMusic respectively! And if you’ve got a frugal aunt (like, who doesn’t? 😉 ), maybe the 2009 Entertainment Book will thrill them with its countless discounts for almost everything under the sun.
  • Fancy Food for Cheaper? Well, we all have to eat right? You don’t have to be a gourmand to enjoy the gift of a pleasant meal from your choice restaurant. And one of the most affordable gift ideas I’ve come across, which I’m thinking of picking up for several people on my list is a gift certificate to In the past, I’ve been presented with a Home Bistro gift certificate, but I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t too impressed by the meals I’ve received from them. But who knows? That was a few years ago, so maybe things have gotten better since then.
  • Gift Cards for the Work at Home Type: Those who want to beef up their home offices or who enjoy gadgets and electronics may love a gift card from Sony’s e-store.
  • Beauty and Wellness: A gift that pampers and beautifies will be very apropos for any lady who’d love to look and feel better. Maybe a nice scent or some bath, body and face products from FragranceX or will tickle her fancy! And since fragrances and beauty products are personal, a gift card is a practical choice.

Once again this year, I vow not to procrastinate when it comes to holiday shopping. But even if I do, I hope not to rack my brain over what presents to give, given how much easier today’s retailers and e-tailers are making it for us to get our shopping done.

At any rate, I’ve started my list already using some of the ideas above, and plan to finish my shopping by December 1. If all goes well, I’ll be able to spend the days leading up to the holidays enjoying my friends and family (and all the holiday food and drinks!), and not panicking about what I’m going to get for whom.

SVB’s POV: Thanks to Emiley Thacker for sharing her thoughts with us in this article. As far as I know, there are no Amish communities around where I live 🙂 .

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

BlogLender November 18, 2008 at 10:23 pm

Fantastic piece. Brought back allot of memories of Xmas with my family. Almost got me in the spirit early……but alas….I too will be waiting for the very last minute when the men are all running through the mall on Xmas eve day.

Monevator November 19, 2008 at 2:40 am

I’d like to add magazine subscriptions to the list. If you know someone with a hobby, they’ll almost always enjoy a magazine, even if they wouldn’t ‘waste’ money on it themselves. And the gift keeps on giving! 🙂

DES November 19, 2008 at 5:33 am

Funny you mention gift cards because so many stores are going out of business this year that you may end up with useless gift cards. I have an $80 gift card from a local restaurant that went out of business and now is useless.

TOM WILCOX November 19, 2008 at 8:44 am

Great post!

Yes, I’m definitely trying to wrap up my christmas shopping early this year too. Last year, I ended up spending more than I wanted because I waited till the week before christmas to get my shopping done and I ended up buying the first things I saw. Then again, I wonder if we’ll get more bargains this year because of the weaker economy? The retailers may end up offering bigger discounts to try to attract more customers especially the closer we get to christmas. If so, would procrastinating give us bigger bargains?

Silicon Valley Blogger November 19, 2008 at 9:41 am


Well that’s a great point! So I’d suggest that if you receive a gift card or certificate, try to use it right away, especially if it’s from a small outfit. Now if you’re getting a gift card from a big retailer like Macy’s,, Amazon, Nordstrom’s etc, then you probably shouldn’t worry too much.

Yes, I had listed magazine subscriptions in the post 🙂 . I’ve had this gifted to me many times before, but I think that someone with lots of magazine subscriptions may be less of a candidate for new ones 😉 .

Good questions — I think that kind of practice of discounting closer to the holidays does happen especially when the retail numbers aren’t looking so good. Merchants will be watching how things unfold when Black Friday hits and will extrapolate and forecast how the rest of the season will do based on those initial returns.

Hmmm…. the retail season can also be a pretty good indicator of how deep and long this recession is going to get.

Miss M November 19, 2008 at 9:44 am

I like the basket idea, my mom used to always have a collection of baskets and would whip up gift baskets in no time. Plus, you can use them around the house till you gift them. I also like the magazine subscription, it’s something I enjoy but won’t get for myself.

Like SVB, no amish here, though maybe there’s some hippie enclave making baskets out in the woods!

Susan November 19, 2008 at 11:57 am

I’m buying a lot of gift cards this year – mostly for big, stable (at the moment) companies. I did do some shopping around for the folks that wanted gift cards for a mall or for gas. The mall card has an $6.95 activiation fee (crazy!) and I don’t know what gas stations the other giftee goes to. So I went to Chase. I got them each a gift card there for only a $3.50 activation fee and they can use it anyplace they want. Similarly, I think they sell the MC, Visa & Amex gift cards at CVS (I think those range from a $3.95 – $5.95 activation fee). I hate paying the fees, but I figure there’s more of a chance that these cards will actually get used. And less chance of bankruptcy leaving the gifee holding a worthless card.

I know I LOVE getting a gift card. I’m looking forward to gift cards this year – I think I may go all kinds of crazy and treat myself to a really nice sweater!

Happy Holidays! 🙂

Jim November 19, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Personally I like getting gift cards. I think a gift card to my favorite restaurant is a much better gift than some item I don’t want or need.


Silicon Valley Blogger November 19, 2008 at 4:04 pm

The only time I think a gift card wouldn’t work is with your own core family. Although I’ve picked up many items for my husband that he never ended up using, he still would prefer that rather than getting a gift card, I’m sure! Well, that’s also because we share a joint account and getting a gift card for him would be just like buying himself something from his own savings.

In general — gift cards are the bomb!!! 🙂 Yeah, I like them a lot too.

Austin Real Estate Broker November 19, 2008 at 6:01 pm

@DES/SVB – Gift cards are good, but I got an forwarded email with a bunch of stores listed as still selling gift cards even though bankruptcy is close or underway. I SNOPESed it and while some were true, others were seriously out of date.

The link to see the true account from this week is here on Snopes

Happy shopping!


Alayna November 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Personally I love getting gift cards! It gives me a chance to pick out something I will really like. I think gift baskets are great also. Especially ones that are loaded with goodies I really do not need 🙂

sanjana kapoor November 20, 2008 at 10:38 pm

These were some good tips for gifting which continues to be quiet a challenge. In and effort to maintain the sensibility of corporate gifting and hopefully please all the receivers we decided on a music gadget. You guessed right, the ipod. We have just ordered in bulk from and got some discounts too. We hope to be getting the company logo embossed on the iPods before giving them out.

aunt mommy November 24, 2008 at 12:49 pm

A greener alternative to AAA is Better World Club. 🙂

If recipes are big, you can also whip a few of those together in a CD or printed format – a few cards of meal or snack ideas or a small book.

Even encourage everyone in your circle to send some in to be bound as a resource for all. 🙂

Undiscovered Alps November 26, 2008 at 9:04 am

there are some great deals this year and i especially can’t wait for black friday this year from Apple. Its important with the economy the way it is to pick the best deals.

Wendy December 6, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Great article! We just posted some last minute kosher gift ideas on our site, to cover all of the Jewish friends in your life. Check them out at

Randy December 10, 2008 at 11:18 am

An awesome last minute gift is the Picture Mug, which allows you to insert photos or artwork and change it as often as you’d like:

Silicon Valley Blogger December 10, 2008 at 11:45 am


I don’t usually allow plugs in this site. But your product seems mildly interesting. Please someone, tell me what the catch is.

M. Bautista December 18, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Great post on gift ideas. I did my shopping just 2 days ago and I might say that it’s fun. I have purchased many Christmas cards..

puci December 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Here’s a special last minute Christmas gift for the pet lover in your life: Pet Portraits in Oils by puci.

Print a gift certificate from your own computer. Payment not necessary until the painting is finished and approved.

Michelle Erickson March 5, 2009 at 5:23 pm

“Who’ve Run Out Of Ideas”
This is the fun. If you have already decided what to buy then I think there is no fun.
But if you spend hour or may be hours to decide what the gift should be ! then you will get a great fun.
But if you can’t decide till the last minute then you should read this blog……..

RH October 18, 2009 at 5:43 am

A great gift idea for your father or for someone’s special wedding day is cufflinks. They are compact, cheap and stylish.

Gregory S. Irvine August 14, 2010 at 8:57 am

Oops, did I just miss Christmas?

Last Minute Spider October 29, 2011 at 8:50 am

A great last minute gift idea is a living green plant! I have several and I plan having more… just in case I run out of ideas, I will always be able to pick one and give it away!

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