Reader Jack W. writes in about a dilemma of his that I’m sure will strike many holiday shoppers this year.
I don’t love my friends and family enough to start my Christmas shopping before Dec. 21st. On top of that, I’m really lazy so I don’t like to be out of the house more than 2 hours a month. Can you give me some tips on how I can get my last-minute gift shopping done with a minimum of hassle and dollar outlay? Thanks a lot!
Thanks for writing, Jack, and I hope you don’t mind me slightly rewording your e-mail to make you look like a mean old grinch.
The problem of last-minute Christmas shopping has plagued the human race for tens of thousands of years. Ever since Noah forgot to pick up a gift for his wife before hopping on the ark (he had to settle for giving her unicorn steaks from one of the two on board which explains why they’re not around anymore), people have been scrambling at the eleventh hour to check off those last few folks on their holiday shopping lists. In recent years, it seems this minor pinch has escalated into an epidemic, and now crowding shopping malls on December 24th is fast becoming standard holiday procedure.
But with a little advanced planning (and I do mean a little; if you were capable of a lot of planning, you’d have your Christmas shopping done on November 1st), you can save yourself a lot of suffering and line-standing-inning. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the easiest and best places you can score last-minute holiday gifts that won’t bust your budget or make it look like you totally forgot the other person until 8pm on Christmas Eve.
- The internets. Depending how last-minute we’re talking, you may be able to finish off your shopping list with a few quick trips to online retailers like Amazon.com or Bonsai Kittens. You may have to bite the bullet and pay for overnight shipping, and be careful about checking for retailers’ shipping deadlines.
- Gift specialty stores. You know those stores that pop up right after Halloween to cash in on Christmas gift sales? You can actually pick up some decent last-minute gifts at those things as they tend to keep their shelves stocked well leading up to the holiday. Personally, I like those sausage logs from Hickory Farms; give me one of those and I’ll be happy for hours.
- Museum gift shops. Sure, you could give them the gift of an actual trip to the museum, but that would require committing to a time investment in the future. You don’t love these people that much, so get the next best thing by spending $27 on a t-shirt that says “I went to the National Art Gallery instead of the shopping mall, so all you get is this lousy t-shirt.”
- Antique malls. When all the new and exciting gifts have been wiped out on store shelves, it’s time to turn to old and crappy. Antique gifts are especially appropriate for older folks who may mistake them for newer items. Some great antique gift ideas include record players, dishware, classic magazines and comic books, and butter churns.
- Sporting goods stores. Sure, you could get your soccer balls and jock straps a bit cheaper at Wal-Mart, but then you’d have to wait in those horrific lines and deal with cashiers who didn’t get past the third grade. Invest a bit of money in your sanity and stick to the smaller sports equipment retailers to satisfy the all-stars in your family. You know, the ones you almost forgot.
- Liquor stores. It’s certainly at the top of my Christmas wish list. Wait, it’s at the bottom. Edit! EDIT!!!
- Drug stores. It’s 11pm on December 24th and not much is still open. Fortunately it’s your local CVS or Rite Aid to the rescue with great gift ideas like store-brand cosmetics and six aisles worth of adult diapers.
- 24-hour supermarkets. If you’re lucky, there may still be a few gift cards hanging on a checkout display. If you’re not… just grab anything edible, drop it in a shopping basket, wrap the whole thing in cling wrap, and call it a holiday gift basket.
- Chinese takeout joints. Nothing says “I love you, but I suck” this holiday season like a large order of General Tso’s Chicken. Don’t forget the seasonal fortune cookies with witty prognostications like “Your grandma will get run over by a reindeer” and “You will receive a lame Christmas present.”
- Your basement. When all else fails, you can always take to the cellar and hunt down any never-used Christmas presents and do a bit of regifting. Just make sure you pull off the Ames department store tags since they’ve been closed since 2002.
You can also make your own gift for the almost-forgotten people in your lives. Here are some awesome last-minute Christmas gifts anyone can make:
- A trip to the ATM machine for cash
- A new iPod (requires one old iPod and an excuse about where the box went)
- Fruit cake, except substituting money and cash for the fruit and cake
Now all those people you barely love will never know just how little you care about them. Merry Christmas, everyone!