The Procrastinator’s Guide to Holiday Shopping

  • The Last Minute

    Christmas is four days away, and you haven’t started your holiday shopping yet? You’re not alone. A survey from the National Retail Federation found 12% of shoppers aren’t planning to finish their shopping until Christmas Eve. Fortunately for these procrastinators, retailers plan to offer discounts until the big day. We’ve gathered a number of last-minute sales offered by major retailers, along with last-minute gift-buying tips from the experts. Photo Credit: Eric Kilby
    Shopping Online Will Cost You…
  • Shopping Online Will Cost You…

    At this point in the season, most people have written off the possibility of ordering online for Christmas delivery, and for good reason: Most of the deadlines for free shipping have passed, and it’s too late to deliver by standard ground shipping if you want your packages by Christmas Eve. That means paying for expedited shipping, and that’s going to bump up your purchase price considerably. Take Amazon.com, for instance: for next-day delivery of toys, it’ll charge you $16.99 for the shipment, plus an extra $1.99 per pound. If you want to buy online and get the box by Christmas Eve, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg. Photo Credit: sindy
    …Except Where It Doesn’t
  • …Except Where It Doesn’t

    Don’t completely rule out online shopping, though. A few select online merchants are offering last-minute expedited shipping for less than you’d expect, and in some cases for nothing at all. Brad Wilson of BradsDeals.com points to jewelry merchant Blue Nile, which is offering free overnight delivery as long as you place your order by the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 23. (Check the website for the full schedule of cutoff times.) Before you go running off to the mall, check your favorite sites and see if they offer expedited shipping at a discount. Still, these merchants are the exception rather than the rule. So if you do wind up at the mall, here are a few of the brick-and-mortar stores offering sales for procrastinators. Photo Credit: matsuyuki
    Wal-Mart
  • Wal-Mart

    Don’t go to Wal-Mart or any other store looking for big sales on toys – all the parents who left their toy shopping to the last minute are out in force, and that means little incentive for toy stores to discount. “Toy prices are really jacked up this week,” says Dan De Grandpre of DealNews.com. “There are deals, but much fewer than two weeks ago.” Still, Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) is offering at least one big deal that many last-minute shoppers will find attractive. From now until Christmas (or while supplies last), the retailer is pairing the two most recent iPhone models – the 4G and last year’s 3GS – with a $50 Wal-Mart gift card. The phones will cost you $197 and $97, respectively, and you have to sign a new two-year contract to get that price, but once you’ve made your purchase you can use your gift card to finish your holiday shopping or stick it in someone’s stocking. Photo Credit: Zol87
    Best Buy
  • Best Buy

    After dismal November sales figures sent its stock plummeting last week, don’t be surprised if Best Buy (Stock Quote: BBY) pulls out all the stops to try and finish the season strong. The electronics retailer is continuing to offer a bevy of smartphones for free throughout the month of December (though as we pointed out earlier this month, many of these were already free online). And there are still a few last-minute deals to be found in its weekly ad like an 8” HP digital photo frame for $74.99 – a $35 discount. Best Buy stores close at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo
    Target
  • Target

    There are a few gems to be found in Target’s last weekly ad of the holiday season. Like many other retailers, Target is offering a gift card as a perk – in this case, a $40 Target gift card with the purchase of an iPod Touch, which can be gifted or used to buy more merchandise. Target (Stock Quote: TGT) also seems to be one of the few retailers still discounting toys – there’s a buy one, get one 50% off sale on all Imaginext space, pirate, and Super Friends toys. Photo Credit: Marcus Q
    Kmart
  • Kmart

    Kmart’s (Stock Quote: SHLD) latest weekly ad features all sorts of deals and markdowns for the last-minute shopper. From the electronics department comes this Sylvania 32” Class LCD HDTV for $289, a $90 discount. The retailer is also offering deep discounts on jewelry (for Mom) and slippers (for Dad), and is promising discounts on select toys (for kids). Photo Credit: Rob Stinnett
    A Few Quick Ideas
  • A Few Quick Ideas

    If you’re still stumped on what to get your family, here are a few potential gifts to consider as you head to the mall, gathered from our favorite shopping experts. Good luck! Photo Credit: Jens-Christian Fischer
    Gift Cards
  • Gift Cards

    Yes, it’s the thought that counts, and gift cards don’t take much thought. But you can grab a gift card at the register and be out of there in five minutes, which is a lot easier than running from store to store trying to find the last copy of that video game your son wanted.  Plus, many stores will give you a bonus card or other reward when you buy one. Besides, let’s be honest: Maybe you don’t know your son/daughter/spouse/brother as much as you wish you did, so unless you’ve interecepted a letter to Santa, or a dog-eared copy of the Zales catalog, chances are you’ll wind up getting the wrong thing. Spare them the indignity of waiting in the returns line and just get the card. But be forewarned: A stocking full of gift cards might get a chilly reception from a child who would prefer cold, hard cash. “People don’t like getting [gift cards], but they love giving them,” says Dan de Grandpre. “It’s like fruitcake.” Photo Credit: Danielle Scott
    Data Storage
  • Data Storage

    Penny Ray of the personal finance site Ballers on Budgets suggests one easy gift for last-minute shoppers: Data storage. “You can’t go wrong with electronics for men, but I wouldn’t spend hundreds,” he says. “A lot of men would be happy with external hard drive space, and a one-terabyte external drive costs less than $100.” One option for the downloader in your life is this 1 TB Western Digital Drive, on sale for $78.99 at Best Buy (an $11 discount). For smaller, more mobile storage, flash drives make a great stocking stuffer, and don’t cost much. Photo Credit: radioshack.com
    Toiletries
  • Toiletries

    Most people don’t think to do their Christmas shopping at the pharmacy, but a lot of personal items can make great gifts. Razor cartridges can get expensive, so anyone with a Mach 3, Schick Quattro or another pricey razor will appreciate some refill blades in their stockings. For women, bath salts or bubble bath will typically be appreciated. And Penny Ray points to another unlikely Christmas gift: “One of my good friends got an electric toothbrush for me,” he recalls. “It was definitely not a gift idea I would have thought of, but it’s one of the better gifts I’ve received over the years.” Photo Credit: Pete
    Magazine Subscriptions
  • Magazine Subscriptions

    A subscription to a magazine is literally the gift the keeps on giving (well, at least for a year or so). It’s also dirt cheap these days – a year’s subscription to some of the most popular magazines can now be found online for less than $10, and in some cases for as little as $3. Plus, as we pointed out last month, many of these subscriptions come with free gifts that you can keep for yourself. The one downside is that the first issue of a new magazine subscription often takes several weeks to arrive, but an explanatory note or card tucked into the latest issue is a good way to say “yes, you’re getting something better than just this magazine.” Photo Credit: espn.com
    Cookie Dough
  • Cookie Dough

    Food and sweets are popular gifts at Christmas, but the result is that you can find yourself with a pile of baked goods that you practically feel obliged to eat. Erin Huffstetler, a Savings.com DealPro who blogs about frugal living for About.com, recommends whipping up a batch of cookie dough that the recipient can stick in the freezer to bake at a later date. That will save them a trip to the supermarket when they decide to break their New Year’s Resolution in late January. “Any gift you can give that will save somebody time is great,” she says. Photo Credit: Nick Ares
    'Tis the Season
  • 'Tis the Season

    Looking for more holiday shopping tips? Check out MainStreet’s holiday hot topic for news, tips and all the latest deals. Photo Credit: Squirrel Cottage
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