Procrastinators, it's time to put down the remote, get off the sofa and make a decision. Savvy shoppers have already snagged a lot of this season's best deals, and if they're smart, they turned to the Internet. And it's not too late for you to do the same.
If you're careful to check expected arrival dates posted on websites, are willing to pay more for fast delivery, and can be creative for truly last-minute shopping (say, Christmas morning), your gifts should still arrive in time to be packed on Santa's sleigh.
Before it's too late, follow the tips below:
1. Be doubly sure to check holiday shipping schedules and make sure the product is available for immediate shipment. Online retailers usually post expected arrival dates and offer upgraded shipping options for an additional fee. Still, those are estimates, and there's no guarantee that Mother Nature won't dump 16" of snow somewhere along the delivery route. The sooner you order, the better.
2. A good alternative is in-store pickup. Rather than wait for delivery, you can quickly browse a favorite shop online, pick the gift you want, and have it ready and waiting for you at the local customer service counter. That neatly eliminates delivery time, but if you have to wrap the gift and re-send it elsewhere, it may still arrive too late.
Faster yet is to order a gift online and have it picked up at the customer service desk of the store near the recipient. Maybe, if you ask nice, your Mom will pick up the gift, wrap it for you, and get it to Grandma in time. Just remember that whoever picks up the gift needs to bring some form of ID and a copy of the email order confirmation.
3. You can order now, deliver later. Fortunately, there are many gifts that can be ordered online and scheduled to arrive later. A magazine subscription is a good idea - buy the current issue at the local newsstand, wrap it, and enclose a note about the gift subscription. Other ideas include scheduling a massage, a vacation weekend for two or an experience such as a hot air balloon ride, tickets to a concert, or a week's rental of a snazzy convertible.
4. It's possible to use online tools to create a gift. For example, burn a customized music CD or download tunes and videos straight to your kids' MP3 players while they're sleeping. Try Rhapsody.com or AllOfMp3.com. (Not free, but legal. And still a good deal.) Or download software or an e-book (just make sure it's compatible with the loved one's computer.)
5. Last but not least, you could download (or send) an email gift certificate. Probably the most convenient option is to visit one of the many web vendors who offer gift certificates that can be emailed. You can email the certificate to yourself, print it out, and wrap it - it's a lot more fun to unwrap an actual, physical gift. Or simply email it directly to the recipient. Usually, the email contains a special claim code with instructions how to log into the website and use it to shop up to your predetermined limit.
Note that very few vendors allow you to redeem email gift certificates in brick-and-mortar stores, so first make sure the recipient is comfortable with buying online.
Order e-gift certificates directly from a favorite merchant, or try GiftCertificates.com to order certificates from a huge selection of retailers.
You can do it - but hurry!
About the Author
Author Diana Ratliff reveals more than 86 ways to save time, money and hassle when shopping online in her latest book, "The Insider's Guide to Shopping Online", available at. Free how-to online shopping course for limited time.