?What does it take to qualify as a last-minute gift? With a few quick searches, you’ll find suggestions ranging from knitted scarves to diamond stud earrings. Unless you have an abundance of cash or lightning-fast knitting fingers, such suggestions don’t offer much help.
If you’re looking for legit last-minute holiday gift ideas — not just product placement — try a few of these options. Not only do they make for affordable presents, but you can procrastinate to your heart’s content and still come out on top this holiday season.
1. Baked Goods
There’s nothing more universal than the appeal of sweet treats during the holidays. They’re easy and inexpensive to make, plus you can pick up holiday containers at the dollar store for affordable presentation. Seasonal recipes abound, so hit up AllRecipes.com for ideas or take the classic approach with frosted sugar cookies.
2. Gift Cards
What was once considered an impersonal gift is now the most requested item on holiday wish lists for six consecutive years, according to the National Retail Federation. Even better, the proliferation of online gift cards makes it easy to email your gift or share it via social media. Sites like GiftCardGranny.com offer discount digital gift cards to popular retailers and restaurants, enabling you to save on this holiday favorite.
3. Discounted Decor
With only a few days left until Christmas, retailers are eager to rid their shelves of holiday decor. Now’s the time to find festive home goods for less, including decorative trees, wreaths, servingware and more. Select these gifts thoughtfully as most seasonal items are non-returnable.
Booze represents a gift that’s nearly always accepted with open arms. However, handing over a bow attached to a bottle of vodka leaves something to be desired. Go beyond the college ideals of anything with alcohol being acceptable, and add a touch of class with champagne. As it turns out, December happens to be one of the best months to purchase the bubbly drink so you can likely find a good deal.
5. Monthly Clubs
Once limited to wine connoisseurs, monthly clubs are rapidly expanding to other popular products. Is there a beer lover in your family? Get him or her a 2-month club membership to The Beer of the Month Club for less than $100. Is your best friend addicted to beauty products? Birchbox offers customizable monthly samples of the best beauty products on the market, starting at $30 for a 3-month membership.
6. Warehouse Club Membership
Monthly clubs provide fun gifts throughout the year, but another option is to gift someone a membership to stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club. A gift membership at Costco is only $55, and provides year-round access to extra deals and discounts. Plus, if the gift is well received, all you have to do is renew it next year and your shopping is covered.
7. Online Orders
As a last-minute shopper you don’t always have the luxury to use online options. This year, LastSleighDays.com is trying to help with this problem. The site features Christmas shipping deadlines from all of the most popular stores, as well as promo codes free shipping and extra discounts.
Whether you’re talking about moms or girlfriends, “you never buy me flowers” is a common complaint. Show them you took the not-so-subtle suggestion and pick up a fresh bouquet. Most major grocery stores have a full floral department where you can buy arrangements through Christmas Eve.
9. Daily Deals
Groupon and LivingSocial deals aren’t just for impulsive self-gifting. In fact, they make for amazing gifts when considered thoughtfully. With packages ranging from golf lessons to weekend getaways to mani-pedi sessions, you can easily find a deal suited for someone on your list. Make the presentation special by purchasing a small item related to the experience, like a travel-size bottle of lotion or package of golf balls.
10. Magazine Subscriptions
A magazine subscription is the perfect solution to the last-minute gift-buying challenge. In addition to being quick and relatively inexpensive, the recipient will remember your thoughtfulness every time a new issue arrives. With topics ranging from pet ownership to expert cooking advice, you can find a magazine dedicated to a topic of interest for anyone on your list.
Let’s be honest: Despite the good intentions and worthwhile contributions a charitable gift makes, a piece of paper with a donation amount doesn’t stir much excitement. If you’re going to take this route, consider giving to a charity that provides something more tangible. Organizations such as ChildFund International allow you to contribute toward items that have real-world applications including banana plants for a family in Uganda, or blankets for children is Mozambique.
12. Games & Apps
Are you tech savvy? Do you know all the best apps and games to get for the iPad? While it’s second-nature to you, Grandma might need a little assistance. Instead of giving an iTunes gift card and letting her figure it out, take the extra time to load up her new tablet or smartphone with apps she’ll actually use. Just beware, you’re likely signing up to be on-call tech support for the remainder of the year.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.