10 Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Hacks That'll Save You Time, Money, and Sanity

Leeann DugganSenior Editor

Extreme procrastinators, this one’s for you. We’ve already given you tons of last-minute gift ideas, but if you still don’t have the first clue of what to give, take a deep breath, a shot of highly spiked egg nog, and keep reading. Ahead, 10 smart strategies for finding gifts they’ll love, and making sure they get there on time. Your sanity saved, straight ahead.

Don’t panic, check our last-minute holiday shopping hacks that’ll save you time and money. (Photo: Courtesy of J.Crew)
Don’t panic, check our last-minute holiday shopping hacks that’ll save you time and money. (Photo: Courtesy of J.Crew)

1. Have a Plan of Attack 

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Santa makes a list and so should you, because nothing is more despair-inducing than hitting the mall the week before Christmas with no plan. Jot down everyone you’re buying for, gift ideas, and — most important — your budget for each. For the tech-inclined, the mobile app Santa’s Bag is a genius way to keep track of your gift-list progress and how much you’ve spent on everyone, so you don’t ring in 2017 with soul-crushing credit card debt.

2. Enlist the Experts

No idea what to give? Gather some intel from online gift guides first — Amazon’s are great for tech gifts and toys, J.Crew’s Present-Topia is like reading your most stylish friends’ minds, Tictail has the design snob and indie label-lover covered — and check Yahoo Style’s gift guides for more inspiration, of course.

Store staff can steer you to the right gift, too. The local bookstore employee you fear is secretly judging your true-crime addiction? Have her guide you to the next Sweetbitter for your literary fiction-loving aunt. Hit up an indie music store for recommendations for your teenage cousin who’s a newly minted music snob — trust us, record store employees live for the day when they’re asked to share their expertise.

 

Check your favorite store’s website — if it looks like this, then shop away. (Photo: Courtesy of Abercrombie and Fitch)
Check your favorite store’s website — if it looks like this, then shop away. (Photo: Courtesy of Abercrombie and Fitch)

3. Repeat After Me: It’s Never Too Late to Get a Deal

Missed the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales? Here’s a little secret – lots of mall stores save their best sales for the week before Christmas. Proof, you demand?

Right now, you can get a mind-blowing 51% off your purchase at Gap.com with the code “HAPPY.” Abercrombie & Fitch is offering 50 percent off everything. At Ann Taylor, get 50 percent off sweaters and 40 percent off everything else. J.Crew is giving you 40 percent off everything. Macy’s is offering 40 percent to 70 percent off designer clothing and fine jewelry. For designer gifts, Barneys is offering bargains up to 70 percent off. There’s lots more out there — check your favorite store’s website and get psyched.

4. Ship It There in Time

Not so into paying more for last-minute shipping than you spent on the gift? Shop smart and you won’t have to. Stores like Urban OutfittersNordstromTarget, and Overstock.com are offering free expedited holiday shipping guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve — hooray!

5. Get It There Today or Tomorrow (Sometimes for Free)

For extreme procrastinators, there’s the old standby: Order their gift on Amazon.com and sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime to get free two-day shipping — in some major cities, they can even deliver the same day. Don’t plan to keep your membership? Just set yourself a calendar reminder to cancel your trial in 29 days — before they charge your credit card.

Other cities offer same-day courier services for a fee, like NYC’s Zipments or Mouth — Google “same day delivery” plus your city name to find more.

6. Cut Out the Middleman (aka, You)

At this point, every day counts — so always have your gifts shipped directly to your recipients’ door. For a few extra dollars, select the store’s gift-wrap option, and voilà – it arrives to your giftee ready to be stuck under the tree, with no effort on your part.

Wish you were a big shot with a personal assistant to handle your holiday shopping? Download the Operator app to put a personal shopper at your fingertips. (Photo: Courtesy of Operator)
Wish you were a big shot with a personal assistant to handle your holiday shopping? Download the Operator app to put a personal shopper at your fingertips. (Photo: Courtesy of Operator)

7. Skip the Store Altogether

Really pressed for time? Try this boss move — have a personal assistant find your gifts for you. The mobile shopping app Operator has been called the “Uber of Fashion” — just text your personal shopper a specific item or person (“I need a gift for my Brooklyn bro cousin who loves artisanal cocktails”), and they’ll text back a list of options you can instantly purchase with your synched credit card.

8. Outsource the Shipping

Already have a gift, but can’t make it to the post office? There’s a high-tech solution for that too, of course. Use the Shyp website or app to schedule a person to pick up your gift at your home or office, pack it, and mail it anywhere. They’ll even gift wrap it for you if you need them to! It costs more, but if you’ve ever been to a post office the week before Christmas, you know this is the only thing standing between you and actual insanity.

9. Shop With Returns in Mind

Let’s be honest — sometimes, a last-minute gift is more like an IOU. You give something you’re almost sure they’ll exchange for something they want more, and everyone’s totally fine with that. So make it easy on them — always get the gift receipt, keep tags on clothing items (you can usually just snip off the price portion at the very bottom), and shop stores with stellar return policies.

Nordstrom is considered the gold standard in hassle-free returns: Most items do not require a receipt, and any associate can process a return — no standing in a miles-long line at a special window full of rejected gifts. Bloomingdale’s, Anthropologie, Zappos, REI, L.L.Bean, and Macy’s have all earned a reputation for offering no-hassle returns at (almost) any time too.

10. When in Doubt, Gift Cards – Duh

Ah, gift cards, the bastion of many a last-minute shopper. These days, you can buy gift cards online, at the mall, the grocery store, or at big-box stores like Target. But before you do, check a gift-card resale site for deals. Sites like Cardpool, Giftcard Zen, or Cardcash are where people go to sell their unused gift cards at discounts of up to 35 percent.

Just search for the store you want — and make sure you select e-gift cards, which can be given instantaneously, since there’s probably not much time to ship. These sites are also great to remember on Dec. 26 should your Christmas stocking come stuffed with a Dave and Buster’s gift card, and you’re really more of a Chipotle girl. Happy shopping!

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Pro-tip: Use credit cards for faster refunds

Anticipate Last-Minute Gifting Needs

 

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