(Family Features) Few things elicit panic like getting caught shopping for gifts at the last minute with the holidays just around the corner. If you’ve waited until the last few weeks before Christmas to get started, you’re not alone.
With shopping left to do and such a short amount of time to do it, snagging exactly what everyone on your list (assuming you’ve already started your list, at least) wants at a price that won’t break the bank will require some serious creativity and resourcefulness. Before you resort to panic mode, take advantage of these tips to help you wrap up your holiday shopping.
Create or Refine Your List
Put a list together of whom you still have to buy for, what you plan to get for them, how much you plan to spend on each person and any gifts already purchased, so as not to overbuy. By setting a budget when creating your list, you can monitor overall spending, especially as deals may be harder to find the closer you get to Christmas. Go to stores with your list in hand and budget in mind, and stick to it. Wandering through stores or the mall without a plan can lead to impulse purchases and cost you precious time.
Set a Time Limit
Once you’ve made your list and set a time to go shopping – perhaps right as stores are opening or closer to closing time to avoid other last-minute shoppers during peak hours – set a time limit to make each purchase. Shopping with time limits decreases the chances of making impulse purchases or going over budget. When shopping online, limit yourself to 20 minutes or less to research, identify the best deal and make the purchase.
Shopping online is fast, easy and allows you to comparison shop all at once. Make sure to research gifts before you purchase, as online retailers outside of your favorites may be offering special incentives, coupon codes or free shipping. If you can’t find free shipping, some stores offer free in-store pickup or free shipping for spending over a certain amount. Ordering online also allows you to avoid the stress of crowds, impulse buy items near the register and other shopping pitfalls, such as dining out, that can muddle your shopping budget. You can also often ship the gift directly to your intended recipient.
Opt for Gift Cards
If you can’t find the right size or color in the gift you’re looking for, it won’t ship in time for the holidays or you’ve completely run out of time, consider giving gift cards instead. While it can seem impersonal, giving a gift card to a favorite retailer, restaurant or to partake in an activity is often better than the alternative. Retail sites and wholesalers even offer discounted gift cards you can pay less than face value for. To dress it up a little, add a personal touch, like accompanying a coffee shop gift card with a new mug, or give the illusion of a larger gift by wrapping it in a larger box.
With these tips, you can mark everyone off your list with time to spare, and nobody will even know you procrastinated. Find more holiday shopping tips at elivingtoday.com.
5 Tips for Easy Holiday Shipping
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and holiday gift-giving and receiving is at the top of everyone’s to-do list. There are several simple steps you can take to make those deliveries a little easier.
Here are five ways you can keep the holidays merry and bright, and experience the excitement of making (and receiving) special deliveries this holiday season.
- Pack like a pro (or rely on one). Be sure your packages arrive intact by using the proper materials. Use sturdy, corrugated boxes as well as foam packaging peanuts and bubble cushioning to protect your gifts. Allow at least 2 inches on all sides of the items being packed, including the top and bottom. If you’re uncertain or need assistance, The UPS Store Certified Packing Experts are trained in packaging techniques to conquer any gift – whether it’s oddly shaped, freshly baked, wrapped or unwrapped.
- Secure delivery locations. If you’re expecting deliveries of online purchases or gifts, you may hesitate to leave the house and enjoy holiday outings and family activities. Some companies allow you to redirect packages to a neighbor or a nearby business so you can rest assured your packages are in good hands.
- Ask for a guarantee. After spending precious time selecting each gift, you need assurance and peace of mind that your efforts won’t be for naught. For example, The UPS Store offers the Pack and Ship Guarantee, a service that covers lost or damaged items. Some providers even offer coverage for the cost of packing materials, service and shipping.
- Use tracking tools. The holiday season is no time to wonder when or if your package will arrive. Using a trackable delivery service helps ensure you can monitor your package’s progress and receive an alert when it is successfully delivered.
- Ensure gifts arrive before Santa. Timing is key when it comes to holiday shipping. Mark the calendar with these shipping deadlines so all gifts arrive just in time.
For domestic delivery for Christmas by Friday, Dec. 23, ship:
• UPS Next Day Air by Thursday, Dec. 22
• UPS 2nd Day Air by Wednesday, Dec. 21
• UPS 3 Day Select by Monday, Dec. 19
Photos courtesy of Getty Images