Money Talks, So Should You

15 tips for getting those holiday gifts now

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, MainStreet contributor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you’ve waited until the last minute to finish your holiday shopping, you’re not alone. A recent survey by Land’s End found that 30% of buyers this season have yet to make a single purchase; another 79% said they still have shopping to complete and 51% of those people have at least five gifts still yet to buy. A survey press release was posted Thursday.

The malls will be packed this weekend and until Dec. 24, and the post office, UPS and FedEx will be pushed to the breaking point delivering, but there are still great deals to be had. Here are some ways to save on those last-minute holiday gifts:

1. Free shipping days: If you’re ordering online and need to have that special item shipped, look for deals this Monday, the annual marketing event known as Free Shipping Day, says MaryAnn Bekkedahl, president and co-founder of theSwizzle.com. Becki Dilworth, director of online marketing at ShopAtHome.com, says to also look for free shipping days on major retail sites. Sears, Apple, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are just some of the sites that offer free shipping deals until Christmas, she says.

2. Look for the promo boxes: Bekkedahl says many sites offer their own in-house promo codes, so when you’re shopping, you should pay attention and make sure you’re not missing any deals. “The presence of a box means that promo codes exist and it’s worth a Google to see if there are any applicable ones you can use. It’s not uncommon to find free shipping or a discount code,” Bekkedahl says.

3. Gifts with no shipping charges: The Jelly of the Month Club membership may not have been what Clark Griswold was expecting from his employer, but monthly gift subscriptions can be a great gift pairing. “Consider giving Wine Club memberships, Omaha Steaks monthly gift packages and e-gift cards to your loved ones this year,” Dilworth says. “You avoid a trip to the store and an extra shipping charge to your credit card.”

4. Stack those deals: Many stores allow you to combine store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons, just like at the grocery store. At the very least, it is worth a try, Dilworth says.

5. Daily deals: You see them on television, in your local newspaper and even online, so why not take advantage of these daily deal sites to buy gifts, which can net you a 50% savings, says Adrian Nazari, founder and president of CreditSesame.com.

6. Price compare: Being rushed through the holiday season doesn’t mean you shouldn’t price compare while shopping and think you find a good deal. “Consumers should always check with a price comparison tool like PriceBlink
or Google Shopping to make sure they're getting the best deal available,” says Karl Quist, president of PriceBlink.com.

7. Turn off the electronics: Many couples and families will buy new electronics such as televisions, Blu-ray or DVD players and computers as a gift the entire household can enjoy. If your kids are old enough to wait, the best deals for electronics are typically after the holidays, Quist says. Waiting can result in a fun day out in January when nothing else is happening.

8. Two-for deals: Look for deals where spending a certain amount or buying a certain product will net you a free gift card, says Brent Shelton, 
public reliations director for Ebates.com and FatWallet.com. “Do a quick search for ‘gift card’ in a store's search bar or online at a site like FatWallet.com, where you can compare all the various bonus discounts at one convenient place,” Shelton says.

9. Try an app: There seems to be an app for everything these days, and apps for saving money are aplenty. Steve Sexton of the Sexton Advisory Group in San Diego says Amazon Price Check and Google Shopper are two good smartphone apps for finding savings. The apps allow consumers to scan bar codes in local stores and compare prices directly with Amazon or other online sites, Sexton says.

10. Wait as long as you can: If your nerves allow you to wait, earlier may not be better. “Wait until the absolute last minute when the bulk of the mass market purchases have been made and swoop in on the retailer deals as they slash prices to maximize their holiday season revenue,” says Will Roberts, CMO of Mindwork Labs in Great Britain.

11. Make a donation: If your gift recipient has pet causes, these make a great gift and can usually be found for $25 or less. For example, you can plant a tree, sponsor a wolf, dolphin, seal, polar bear through the Arbor Day and wildlife organizations, sponsor a pet through your local humane society or shelter, feed a child or help provide safe, clean drinking water in a third world country. “You can either have them send a certificate to the recipient or design a custom one and print it at home,” says Chris Reining, founder of MrEverydayDollar.com.

12. Regifting is OK, if: You follow the rules of re-gifting etiquette. Make sure the original gifter doesn't find out and that the person you're providing the gift to will truly enjoy and appreciate it, Nazari says.

13. Wrap it yourself: Just because it’s getting late in the season and you’re rushed for time is no reason to give into the temptation to use a professional gift wrapping service. “For the price you are likely to pay for the professional wrapping
of one gift, you can typically buy an entire roll of wrapping paper and take care of wrapping multiple gifts on your own,” says Leslie H. Tayne, an attorney and debt specialist in New York.

14. Shop Craigslist: Follow all of the rules to avoid scammers on sites such as Craigslist, but this time of the season is a good time to get deals on things people have bought that weren’t quite right but cannot be returned to the store. Punit Shah, director of marketing for MyTrioRings.com, says you can find deep discounts on new merchandise that has never been opened.

15. Reward yourself: It’s best to use cash. If you cannot, it’s best to use a credit card only if you can pay the balance when the statement comes, especially if you’re taking advantage of rewards on your credit cards, says Beverly Harzog, an Atlanta credit expert.