It's December 22 and you've just barely made it through half of your holiday shopping list. The panic may have set in that you just don't have enough time to get everything done.
This is a common scenario around the holidays. Shoppers have the best intentions to get their gifts early, but whether because of work obligations or social events, the task seems to get pushed further and further into December. Soon many are staring down the calendar experiencing sweaty palms. Many others may be putting off holiday shopping simply because of the current state of the economy and affordability.
According to a Steelhouse Marketing Consultants poll of 1,000 consumers, 62 percent predict they will spend less money on the 2011 holiday season. Plus, 56 percent of families predict they will comparison shop more than they have in the past. These factors may contribute to just how long shoppers put off actually getting into stores or going online to shop.
For the scores of shoppers who consciously or subconsciously wait until the last possible minute to shop, there are ways to survive and surprise friends and family with great gifts.
* Gift cards: They may not have sentimental meaning behind them, but gift cards are fast and easy. Chances are you can run into a store and be out with a handful of gift cards in less than 15 minutes, depending on lines at the checkout counter. Also, many supermarkets, bookstores and other retailers offer gift card kiosks enabling you to shop for different gift cards all in one place.
* Food and beverages: While everyone is heading to the mall in droves, you can be stepping inside of a gourmet food or spirits store. Splurge on fine cheeses or that trendy bottle of liquor that a gift recipient has mentioned but not yet purchased for him- or herself.
* Magazine subscription: A magazine subscription is an easy fix as a last-minute gift. Purchase one copy of the magazine at the newsstand and wrap it up nicely. Put a note that a year's worth of this periodical is on the way. No one will suspect that the gift was a last-minute thought.
* E-certificates: Retailers like music or book sellers will e-mail a gift certificate code to the person of your choice on a selected date. For those who are never without an e-reader or mp3 player, digital gifts could fit the bill.
* Gas card: It may sound funny and tacky, but a gas card from a brand-name station is a universally acceptable gift for anyone who drives regularly. With fluctuating gas prices, filling up the tank can be an expensive venture. Having a pre-paid gift card can help.
Online retailers are also there to help last-minute shoppers. Many online retailers guarantee in-time-for-Christmas shipping even on gifts ordered as late as December 23. However, overnight shipping charges will cost more. But it's all worth it to get the item in time.
Waiting until the last minute for shopping can induce some anxiety. But knowing about easy gifts for procrastinators can take the stress out of this type of shopping.