The Dos and Don’ts of Last-Minute Holiday Shopping

Close up of a young woman buying presents online.
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If you’re among those who are doing their holiday shopping at the last minute, don’t panic. Several of the same strategies utilized by early bird shoppers can be used by those who holiday shop at the last minute. 

Just follow these dos and don’ts for successful last-minute holiday shopping. 

Do: Create a Physical List

Rather than rely on yourself to remember everything you still need to purchase and everyone on your wish list, take a physical list when it’s time to shop. 

Write down on paper or jot in a notes app the names of everyone you still need to shop for and what each person needs. As you find and purchase items, cross each person and purchase off your list. This will ensure nobody falls between the cracks and helps you better stick to your budget.

Do: Understand Price Return Policies

No matter which retailer you’re shopping at, it’s important to understand what their return policies look like. 

Remember these policies are rarely the same at every store. Return policies may require additional documentation, like receipts, and may have policies that vary depending on the way you purchased an item, such as in-store or online.

Don’t: Overspend

If you’re doing your holiday shopping at the last minute, you may feel stressed about getting everything left on your wish list. Is a must-have item on your list out of stock? You might feel as though you need to buy something expensive to make up for it. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Stick to your budget to avoid falling into an overspending trap. If you need to, consider taking a quick break from shopping to determine whether you need to make this purchase or not.

Do: Buy Gift Cards

One of the most popular gifts of the holiday season is gift cards with roughly 54% of Americans requesting a few. 

There are several advantages to purchasing gift cards for everyone on your wish list. Certain gift cards, like those prepaid to be accepted at major grocery stores and gas stations, can help fight inflation and lower overall bill expenses. 

Others can be used at the discretion of the recipient. Let’s use the example of someone on your wish list who wants a specific Lego set but it sold out. Giving them a gift card to the retailer where it’s sold gives the recipient the chance to buy the gift later once it is back in stock again.

Don’t: Splurge Buy Items in the Checkout Line

The checkout line is full of items that may be appealing to pick up before you head out but think twice about this decision. Do you really need these items? Are any of these items requested gifts for those on your wish list? If the answer to these questions is no, stay steadfast in avoiding impulsive checkout buys.

Do: Exercise Caution When Shopping Online

Shopping online is a great way to get your last-minute shopping done if you want to avoid the crowds at the stores and ensure you receive everything on your wish list before Christmas. 

Just be careful where you do your holiday shopping. Shop only on the official websites of trusted retailers. Avoid visiting or purchasing anything from third-party websites or social media platforms where there are unrealistic discounts on popular merchandise. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Do: Make Purchases Using a Rewards Credit Card

Do you have a rewards credit card? Put it to work on these holiday purchases and get rewarded for it. 

In addition to receiving rewards and/or cash back depending on the type of credit card you have, you’ll be better able to track your overall spending and prevent fraud. Remember to pay off your balance in full each month after you’re done shopping to keep your credit in good shape.

Do: Follow Retailers on Social Media

Holiday shoppers who have already signed up for e-newsletters and loyalty programs offered by their retailer need to hit follow on the retailer’s social media accounts. The big benefit is finding even more deals and savings on social — which can be put toward some of your last minute holiday shopping buys.

Don’t: Forget About After-Christmas Sales

One of the biggest reasons why shoppers should avoid stressing out over holiday shopping is considering what happens the day after Christmas. 

In the days and months to come after the holidays, you’ll be able to find a wide selection of holiday items like decorations and themed apparel on sale at steep discounts. Set aside a bit of your budget for this purpose and stock up on the essentials so you’re ready next year and can decrease your overall holiday spending.

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