If you haven't started holiday shopping yet, here's the good news: You can still find deals. Retailers lower prices on excess inventory in the last days leading up to Christmas. The bad news? It's hard to shop smart on a time crunch. Fortunately, you can hack it. Here's a crib sheet for last-minute holiday shoppers.
- Get thee to the store, because rush shipping is likely to cost you. Handsomely.
- Consider Amazon Prime, which comes with unlimited, free two-day shipping. It's $99 a year ($8.25 a month) and easily worth the price if you order stuff from the retail giant all the time.
- Shop off-peak hours to avoid crowds ... and, more importantly, avoid buying "whatever" just to get out of the store. Bonus: Most major chains open uber-early or close extra-late the week before Christmas.
- Head for the clearance rack. Given how much merchandise stores keep on hand this time of year, final-sale pickings are often decidedly less slim.
- Take time to look for coupons. Yes, you're in a rush, but, that doesn't mean junking savvy holiday-shopping strategies. Especially because, thanks to the internet, finding a discount code takes about 30 seconds.
- Beware buying yourself stuff. All deals are dangerous if they motivate you to overspend, but get particularly smart about big-ticket items, like electronics or jewelry, which tend to tout the deepest discounts close to Christmas Eve.
- Opt for store pickup. That way, you can comparison-shop from your couch, but still get gifts wrapped and ready for Christmas.
- Take advantage of free gift wrapping. Yup, this is still a thing, so don't feel shy about asking what the store provides at checkout. Many major chains at least provide free boxes and tissue paper ... which can save you a trip to the convenience store.
- Dress up an e-gift card. Yeah, we know, nothing says "last minute" like $50 sent straight to someone's inbox. But some sleek packaging and a clever gift tag makes a printout more personal.
- Repeat the pretty packaging trick on other out-of-the-inbox presents, like concert tickets, subscription box services or charitable donations in someone's name.
- E-gift. Stores like Macy's and Nordstrom let you pick out something online and send it digitally. Recipients get an email with a picture of the item and the option to pick the size and color or exchange it.
- Regift. Not willy-nilly. Or to people in the circle the present came from. But, if you're under a time crunch and the item is something the recipient will love, there's no reason to let it go unused in your basement.
- Check your balances to spot fraud and get ahead of overspending.
Discover you went overboard on gifts this year? We've got some steps you can take if your holiday debt climbs too high.
Image: KMM Productions