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5 Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Ideas to Save Your Budget

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Christmas is less than a week away. If you’re one of those people who has yet to finish buying gifts (like me), you’re probably trying to find ways to give great presents without spending too much money.

Desperation can be costly, in the form of rushed shipping, price hikes and the cost of traveling to and from stores. Despite these downsides to last-minute shopping, nearly a third of consumers had yet to buy a single gift as of early December, according to a Consumer Reports poll, and a RetailMeNot survey says 90% of consumers still had gifts to purchase as of last week.

So how do shoppers make up for lost time without paying extra? Here are a few ideas:

1. Sample Boxes

I see ads for subscription sample boxes almost every day in my Facebook feed — they’re everywhere. Do a Web search for “monthly subscription boxes,” and you’ll see what I mean.

Jon Lal, the founder of BeFrugal.com, recommended such products for last-minute gifts because they start at as little as $10 a month. They don’t require wrapping, and they ship directly to the gift recipient. There are all sorts of products you can get by sample box, like goodies for pets, healthy snacks, beauty products and craft supplies, so this is a versatile gift option.

2. Gift Cards

People have mixed feelings about gift cards. Some think they’re impersonal or a sign of lazy gift giving, but they also allow the recipient to treat themselves to something they want but otherwise may not be able to buy.

Gift cards can also help ease the burden of everyday expenses, like grocery shopping and buying gas, and everyone loves to save a little money on those things. Lal also pointed out that you can buy discounted gift cards through GiftCards.com — there’s also an option for selling your unwanted cards, in case you have some lying around.

3. A Framed Picture

Lal suggested picture frames to cash-strapped procrastinators because they cost only a few dollars at discount stores.

But this gift requires a special audience, and who that is hinges on an important decision: Will you put a picture in the frame or leave it empty? For instance: Would I buy a co-worker a frame and put a picture of me in it? No. Could I give the same frame sans photo as a potential addition to his or her desk decor? Certainly.

4. Digital Gifts

The easiest gifts are those with instant delivery. Buy iTunes credit for music lovers, news subscriptions and e-books for the reader on your list or race entries for runners.

Daily deals sites are a great way to buy something at a discount now to redeem later. That way, you’re giving someone the gift of doing things they love or trying something new without having to go out and buy a physical item.

5. DVDs

This one is really simple, though it helps to have a bit of patience and luck: Go to a store with a rack or bin full of $5 DVDs, like Target or Walmart. Start digging. Put every gem you find in a shopping cart and decide who would enjoy them most. Wrap and give.

Of course, you could just run around a mall in the hopes of finding perfect gifts for reasonable prices, or you can hunt down items online and have them shipped ASAP. That’s a perfectly fine approach to holiday shopping, and people do it all the time. Just remember that there are things out there like free shipping, and it’s not the end of the world if a package doesn’t arrive by Christmas. In that case, write a nice card and include a picture of the wonderful gift the person can expect in a few days.

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