Tips for Finding Affordable Last-Minute Gifts

Young woman in her bedroom, wrapping Christmas gifts.
NoSystem images / Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s almost inevitable at the holidays: Just when you think you’ve got all of your shopping under wraps, bam, you remember that one person, or several, you just forgot to shop for. What’s a last-minute shopper to do, especially if you’re trying not to spend a lot of money? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some strategies for last-minute shopping that are convenient and don’t have to cost a fortune.

Holiday Spending: Get Top Holiday Shopping and Savings Tips
Also See: 3 Easy Tips To Turn Your Credit Woes Into Wows


One way to use Instacart for last-minute shopping is to have a gift sent directly to the recipient, according to Real Simple. This saves you time, money, wrapping and shipping.

Another way to save money with Instacart or other delivery services is to go in on a “group order” with other members of your household. If you’re using a service to buy only one item, check with others in your house to see what they need, and then you can share on the delivery and shipping fees as well.

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If you’re shopping online, be sure to check out the app Honey, which finds the best coupons on the internet for your shopping needs. Of course, be careful with online shopping — make sure companies can promise delivery by the date you need the gifts.

Take Our Poll: How Has Inflation Impacted Your Holiday Shopping Plans?

Your Local Drugstore

Though you may be used to thinking of your local drugstore as only a place for medications and toilet paper, you’d be amazed how much else it often sells. According to Cheapism, you can purchase chocolates, beer and wine, stuffed animals, lottery tickets, art supplies, cosmetics, candles, slippers and much more — all of which can make quick and easy (and affordable) last-minute gifts.

Local Small Businesses

If you’re lucky to live in an area with a plethora of small businesses, remember that they often have wonderful last-minute gift ideas. Then, not only are you more likely to find something unique, you’re supporting a small business at a crucial time of the year. In fact, for some small businesses, the money they take in at the holidays sustains them for a significant part of the year.

The Grocery Store

Just like the drugstore, your local grocery store most likely sells a lot more than just food and home goods. But even if it doesn’t, you can pull together an awesome last-minute gift in the form of food items — e.g., a bottle of wine, chocolates or cookies, jellies and jams, baked goods, coffee, etc. If you’ve got a loyalty or rewards card for your favorite store, you’ll probably earn points or be able to take advantage of sales and discounts as well.

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Gift Cards

The great thing about gift cards is their versatility. Not only can you buy them for almost any store or business in existence, you can find them at more and more places — the grocery store, the drugstore, Home Depot, etc. And you can keep within your budget by spending a set amount. They also allow recipients to buy things they’ll love because they picked the items.

Amazon Prime

Shopping online gets hairier and hairier the closer you get to the holidays. With supply chain shortages this year, most experts have been recommending earlier shopping windows. However, one exception may be Amazon Prime. If you’ve got this membership, there are many items you can still get in just a few days’ time. For new Prime members, you can try it free for 30 days. And if you’ve already paid for a membership, you’re most likely getting free shipping, too.

Do It Yourself

Can you bake, sew, paint, knit, stencil or perform other crafty tasks? Then you might not have to spend very much money at all on last-minute gifts, instead, make something from what you have at home. Whether upcycling old towels or leg warmers into aprons or mug warmers, baking tasty treats or painting an old frame to look new and shiny, your imagination is the limit for what can be made with love.

Make Your Money Work for You

A last-minute gift doesn’t have to be a chore, or expensive if you set your sights locally or use a delivery service that simplifies the process.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

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