Procrastinator's Guide to Last-Minute Gift Shopping on the Cheap

With just over a week before Christmas, you may be starting to sweat about how to pick up those last few gifts and prep your home for holiday guests. Indeed, procrastinating is one of the biggest spending pitfalls during what's supposed to be a jolly season!

When time becomes crucial, budgets and price tags are often ignored in favor of the easiest and fastest gift options available. To keep your cool and get gifts in time without dishing out more cash than you planned, follow these time-sensitive tactics for shopping late in the holiday season.

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Track price adjustments.

You may not have time to compare prices or shop around for the best bargains, but there's an effortless way to get a discounted price even after you buy something. Since most retailers offer price adjustments on goods that go on sale shortly after you purchase them, it's important to track prices. Sites like will do the work for you and send you an alert via email or text message when items becomes cheaper. Another focused specifically on Amazon is  Stores like Walmart will give you the difference in a gift card which you can apply toward other gifts or holiday entertaining needs.

Get expedited delivery for free.

Last-minute shoppers often find themselves with no other option than to expedite gifts to recipients which can double the cost instantly. Luckily, there are some options to get those packages delivered for cheap or even for free. Shop on Free Shipping Day this Wednesday, Dec. 18, for free shipping with no minimum order requirement and delivery by Christmas Eve from over 750 stores. If Wednesday passes you by, sign up for a free trial of ShopRunner or Sears and Kmart’s Shop Your Way Max program for free two-day shipping.  Also consider a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime which provides free two-day shipping (with no minimum order amount) plus other benefits like unlimited streaming of thousands of TV shows and movies through Prime Instant Video.   

Choose site-to-store pickup.

These days, many brick and mortars provide the option to order online and pick up in store. More often than not, this option is completely free and order deadlines are extended closer to Christmas Eve. That means you can still take advantage of an online discount without worry of paying for shipping. In some cases, you can even have a friend pick up the item for you. For example, Sears and Kmart are offering a new in-store delivery option called "Free Anyone, Anywhere," that allows friends and family to pick up items at any physical store location across the country so you don't have to lug gifts on the plane and pay baggage fees.  

Email your gift.

As the most requested gift for seven years running, gift cards are a great last-minute alternative for the hard-to-shop-for. In addition to picking them up at the supermarket, you can also send digital gift cards via email to ensure arrival by Christmas. Look for digital options from your gift recipient’s favorite retailer or restaurant, or visit to find e-gift cards for less than face value.

Call a Local Florist.

When it comes to sending flowers home for the holidays, skip the popular mail-order companies and go straight to the main source: the local florist. You can get more bang for your buck by calling a florist directly who can guide you toward seasonal flowers and an arrangement that fits your budget. Third-party floral sites use these local shops anyway but take a cut of the price, meaning local florists have less money to work with and you won’t get what you expect.

Shop Your Closet.

Unused gifts from last year or items you purchased on final clearance that you really don't need may be cluttering your closets and could be perfect items to gift. Before you head to the store, save time and money by rummaging through your old goods. I recently uncovered a beautifully-scented hand lotion, earrings and a blouse that I plan on gifting to three different ladies in my family, saving me over $50!

Print It.

Pictures make great presents in a pinch, especially with instant printing services at stores like CVS. You can find cheap but attractive frames for $5 or less at discount retailers like Ross or Home Goods to dress up the image. For those who ordered something that won't be delivered until after the holiday, don't stress; print a picture of the item you ordered online and stick it in a greeting card. It's a much better alternative to paying for rush shipping!

Skip the bakery.

A cookie platter or box of pastries make great gifts for party hosts, neighbors and coworkers. If you were planning to hit up the bakery section of your local grocery store, consider this: baked goods represent one of the biggest prepared food mark-ups, ranging from 100 to 300 percent in price hikes. All you need is an hour to whip up your favorite holiday sweets and it's a good time to recruit your kids to help decorate. For packaging, pick up cellophane bags from Michaels or holiday tins from the dollar store.

Create your own gift basket.

A little creativity can go a long way and doesn't have to cost a lot either. Instead of ordering those pricey gift baskets online, head over to your local discount retailer or big box store to collect a few inexpensive items. The key to making a desirable gift basket is sticking with a theme that's personalized to the recipient. For example, I put together a "date night" gift basket for my mother and father-in law with two movie tickets, a gift card to a nearby restaurant and a few favorite treats from a local candy store all wrapped up in a popcorn tub!

Pick up discounted decor.

Ornaments, Santa Clause statues and mercury votives make lovely presents and the later in the season you shop, the cheaper these items will be. I've already noticed that retailers have begun slashing prices on seasonal decor. You can find holiday merchandise marked down by 70 percent at Joanne's Fabric and similar deals at local drug stores and grocery chains.


Blog authored by Andrea Woroch - Andrea is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who regularly contributes to leading national and regional news stories. You can learn more about Andrea and get more money saving tips at