Retailers have made it easier than ever for busy consumers to shop early this holiday season. Some of us, however, still prefer the last-minute approach to our holiday shopping. Who needs organization and advanced planning when you can experience the panic-filled adrenaline rush that comes with the realization that Christmas is only (insert number here} days away?

Last-minute Christmas shopping might get a bad rap, but it doesn't have to. Use the following savvy strategies and you will still be able to put some fabulous gifts under the tree — and nobody ever needs to know how close they came to not being there!

1. Know Your Deadlines

Shopping at the last minute can have drawbacks, particularly if you like to order gifts online and need to factor in shipping time. Be aware of Christmas Ordering Deadlines at sites like Amazon, where Standard Shipping ends December 19, but Last-Minute Christmas Delivery is available (at an added cost) until December 23.

The U.S. Postal Service also has very specific Holiday Shipping Deadlines, if you plan to ship any of the gifts you purchase.

2. Go Virtual

Technology has made last-minute holiday shopping easier than ever. For example, Click It To Gift It has been established as an extensive eGiftCard resource for last-minute shoppers. The virtual gift cards can be purchased anytime — even on Christmas morning — and can be delivered immediately, making them an excellent choice for the truly last-minute among us.

Another (slightly tacky) virtual alternative to shopping in the stores is a website known as Selling The Lie. For the low price of $5, you'll get a fake order form, backorder notification, and order cancellation. The idea is that this little delusion buys you time to get a real gift, but if this is the best you can do, then maybe you shouldn't even try.

3. Plan Ahead

Even if you've missed the online ordering deadlines, you can still peruse store websites before heading out to shop. You may not be able to choose the exact items you plan to purchase, but you will be less likely to end up wandering aimlessly around the mall.

It can also be helpful to read articles that offer suggestions for specific audiences. If you're buying for a writer, you might get ideas from Christina Katz's Ultimate Holiday Gifts For Writers. Need ideas for tech gifts? Don't miss the Cool Mom Tech 2011 Holiday Gift Guide.

4. Ask for Advice

Time is at a premium for last-minute shoppers, so it never hurts to ask for advice. Talk to parents, friends, or significant others if you need help choosing gifts. And, in this age of social media stalking, you can usually get a good idea of someone's likes and interests just by "friending" them on Facebook.

5. Shop on Christmas Eve

Stores are usually packed in the days leading up to the holidays. Parking lots are full, and shoppers are hurried and crabby. If you can help it, stay out of the stores on these days and shop on Christmas Eve instead. Most malls and stores are open in the morning on December 24, and you're likely to have a far more pleasant and relaxed experience.

6. DON'T Shop at Victoria's Secret

A word of advice for all the men out there — resist the urge to do your last-minute shopping at Victoria's Secret. If you want to buy a gift for yourself, fine, but let's call a spade a spade and skip the illusion that you're shopping for your wife/girlfriend/significant other.

When you need a last-minute gift for the woman in your life, it's not a bad idea to think about the things that she likes and wants. If she's a mom, I'll make it easy for you — here's an article about 10 Gifts Moms REALLY Want for the Holidays.

7. Follow the KISS Rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

When you're shopping at the last minute, the pressure can get to you. Don't let it. You don't have to find the perfect gift, or buy something silly just for the sake of giving a present. A few ideas for keeping it simple:

  • Consider only going to one store where you can do "one-stop shopping" for everyone on your list. A bookstore like Barnes and Noble has a nice variety of potential gifts, as does a store like Target.
  • Give creatively. What are your special skills? Could you give the gift of your time and talent? You can even design and print your own gift certificates at sites like Giftango.
  • Have you already done lots of holiday baking? Just wrap some of the cookies or fudge in a nice holiday container and you have an easy gift that is sure to be enjoyed.
  • Don't overthink it. A gift card, a box of chocolates, or a few lottery tickets are all simple and readily available last-minute gifts that are usually appreciated by all.

Are you a last-minute shopper? Or do you buy Christmas presents in July?


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