Last Minute Gifts: 2016’s Best Gifts That Only Look Expensive

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Procrastinators unite…tomorrow. You know the drill. It’s December 22nd and you only have a pair of candy caned striped to show for your troubles and attempt to regift to your spouse of 25 years. As you scramble around the house for any other last minute Christmas gifts you can find, your eyes settle on the remaining bottles of wine in your rack. In your despair you pour yourself a big glass of barolo. “Dammit! That could have been a gift.” Why does everything have to be so last minute? Well we can commiserate. And for good reasons beyond the fact that we are absolutely terrible at pre-planning. For the past 11 months and some days you have been faithfully saving your pennies and investing in your financial future. And that’s great! Debt is definitely not the reason for the season and neither is gift-giving for the sake of tradition. But even this Scrooge in the making loves seeing the look on loved ones faces when they receive a timeless and thoughtful trinket picked specifically for them. And while the free hug or chore coupons may work for the under-10 set, us grown-ups don’t get off that easily. So for those of us that have waited until the very last moment to make holiday dreams come true, here’s a guide for you:


If you have Prime membership, Amazon will be your friend over these next few days. This site is the king and queen of last minute Christmas gifts. I ordered my last co-worker gift, The Drunken Botanist ($12), this afternoon and it will be delivered to my office on Thursday. That’s a day and a half turnaround! I am so excited about this book, I may end up keeping it myself and gifting the socks. As an amateur horticulturist and professional drinker, a book that melds gardening with the cocktails that result from the bounty.

I also picked up the LeapFrog Epic a few weeks ago for the Bambina. I wanted to pick a substantial child’s gift that was both 100% educational and 100% fun. The Android-based tablet has a 70% 4-5 star rating and the reviews from the tech folks are awesome and informative to read. The one annoying thing is that Amazon appears to be applying dynamic pricing to some of its items. I bought my Leapfrog for $74.99 and now it’s pricing out at about $99, which puts me on the edge of calling the tablet “affordable”. Supply and demand I suppose, but still annoying. Still there are tons of other great items ready for quick ship, including their Daily Deals. You probably have another two days to get your items by Christmas, but I would get to ordering asap (or finding a friend with Prime). Additional savings tip: If you use a Discover credit card, through December 31, you will get 5% cash back on your Amazon purchases up to $1500! Boom!

Gifts for the Spa Savvy

Thank goodness the Hanukkah doesn’t start until Saturday this year. That means you can pick up last minute gifts at brick and mortars all week! I was in my local Marshalls this past weekend and blown away at how much high end health and beauty they had for scores less than department store competition. Of course, I love the TJX company stores for their regular supply of my normal beauty products, but we are talking about perfume and bath holiday sets from Vera Wang, Burberry, and the Body Shop. I picked up a 3 piece Vera set for $49. It smells soooo amazing. Stocking stuffers and full size gifts could be had for as low as $3. Yes please! And these last minute gifts can be gotten until December 24 so the worst of us can breathe easy. Ulta, another favorite, is offering an additional 20% off in-store purchases as well, but many of the high end brands are excluded.

Gift Cards

The ultimate cop-out for some, but others cold hard cash (equivalents) are the gold standard. There are tons of gift card deals to be had leading up to the holidays. Ruby Tuesday is offering $15 in bonus cards with the purchase of $50 in gift cards.  Best Buy is selling $100 iTunes GCs for $85. While you’re at Best Buy, you could also pick up a couple of months of quality TV programming gifts in the form of a Hulu GC ($7.99/mo) for your “so-over-cable” friends. Amazon has Netflix GCs available for e-delivery. And yes, you can always send these types of things electronically, but get the damn store and buy the physical card for extra impact. When you can.


Tired of giving the same sad candle or bottle of wine (though we love wine) as a hostess gift? For the same or less cash, you can bring your culinary gifts to the world. Or just follow a Pinterest recipe. I recently made this healthy(ish) Greek yogurt peanut butter chocolate pie. It literally took me 5 minutes to prepare, including fattening -er jazzing it up with an additional 1/4 cup of white sugar, some vanilla, and chopped Reese’s cups. My guests raved about it so much I’m giving it away this season. All in total? Less than $4 per pie. Most supermarkets are open at least until the 24th so you have no excuse for not bringing something delicious for Hanukkah.


Despite what I just said, some of you should not be allowed into a kitchen without medical supervision. If you fall into this category, there is no shame in heading to the package store for the perfect battle. My Whole Foods has a wine shop attached and offers 20% cases (even mixed). When I am shopping for myself, I make sure I pick up a few extra interesting (read cheap and undervalued New World varietals or Crémants) that would look beautiful when presented in an even cheaper gift bag (see below). I recently received the Kracken Spiced Rum ($19) in a White Elephant exchange. Let me tell you, everyone was all over this gift. The bottle and label look so interesting and intimate a much more expensive product.

In sum, there are many options for picking up last minute Christmas gifts (or Kwanza or anything) before the clock strikes midnight. So we leave you with a few additional parting words of wisdom:

  1. Use Ebates, Mr. Rebates, or other shopping portals to literally get the most bang for your buck.
  2. If you are able, buy your gifts a few days after the holidays. Amazon pricing may come down, and store deals will surely be back on holiday themed merchandise. (As an aside, I don’t buy a single piece of wrapping paper or ribbon before December 26. Last year, I bought tons of gift bags at .30 a piece. And no, the decimal point isn’t in the wrong place.)
  3. Visit SlickDeals for the very best deals and specific information on the score. This forum site is chock full of helpful notes on getting your holiday presents at the best prices and on time.
  4. Give with joyful heart and don’t feel badly if you do end up gifting socks and a half eaten tin of cookies.

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