Last-Minute Online Shopping Tips for the Holidays

Woman in glasses

Giving gifts can be fun—but coming up with thoughtful present ideas, dealing with the holiday crowds, and putting the added strain on your budget can take some joy out of the holidays.

If you're running out of time to buy gifts for your friends and family, you can use these tricks to reduce your stress, find gifts fast, and save money while you cross shopping off of your holiday to-do list. Keeping coronavirus safety and possible restrictions in mind—and simplifying shopping during a hectic year—you can employ these online shopping tips from the comfort of home.

Finding Last-Minute Gifts

  • Look for expedited shipping. If time is getting short, you'll want to keep shipping timelines in mind. Certain vendors may offer expedited delivery, whether free or for a cost. Take a look at shipping options and move certain vendors to the top of your shopping list.
  • Consider curbside pickup. Shipping could take a lot longer as a result of the pandemic. Picking up your gifts could be quicker and cheaper than expedited shipping, and still offers you the convenience of shopping from home. Buying presents through local vendors can allow you to support businesses in your area, and you may even be able to find more unique gifts.
  • Keep an eye out for deals. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday can all be great opportunities to find good deals. Try blocking off a few hours on your calendar corresponding with big sale dates. If you've already missed Black Friday, you can still look for reduced pricing throughout the holiday season. In the meantime, make sure your shopping list is ready so you'll be prepared to get it done fast.
  • Opt for gift cards. Coming up with thoughtful gift ideas and browsing for inspiration can be the most time-consuming part of holiday shopping. Gift cards are quick and they're great for kids or someone you don't know well. You can buy and send e-gift cards instantly or make it more sentimental by adding a small touch like a scented candle or fuzzy slippers.
  • Make a donation. Last-minute gifts can often feel impersonal. If your friend or family member cares about a certain cause, you can show your support by making a donation to their favorite charity in their name. It's a thoughtful gesture that takes little time.
  • Order a subscription. Avoid shipping delays by purchasing an online subscription for your loved one. Whether it's a magazine or a wine of the month club, you can quickly set up an annual subscription online and then let your friend or family member enjoy the gift all year.

Shop Smart

When you're shopping in a rush, you might be tempted to save time by skipping basic safety measures. Here are some important ways to keep your purchases and your sensitive information safe during the holidays:

  • Bring packages inside. Check your porch for packages and avoid theft by bringing boxes in right away. Go a step further by providing instructions with your purchase or posting helpful signs for delivery workers, letting them know where to safely leave your package. You can also sign up for tracking alerts so you know what date and time to expect your delivery. Informed Delivery, a service provided by the U.S. Postal Service, can help you with that.
  • Practice online security. Avoid clicking on suspicious-looking emails that promise big discounts, or shopping through unsecure websites. Protect your identity online by using a unique password for each website. If you have a credit card with extra safety features or protections, consider using that card for all of your purchases.
  • Review your credit card and bank statements. Be on the lookout for fraudulent account activity, like a purchase you didn't make. If you find something unusual on your statement, make sure to let your bank or credit card company know about it right away.
  • Monitor your credit report. If someone has gotten ahold of your personal information, you'll want to know right away. Monitoring your Experian credit file is free and it will help you catch applications for new credit and accounts that have been fraudulently opened in your name.

Keep Your Budget in Mind

Between decorations, flights, food and gifts, many people break the bank with holiday spending. When you're making your holiday purchases last minute, you might be tempted to throw all budget constraints out the window—especially if you're using plastic.

While using a credit card might help you get through the holidays, remember that you'll still have to deal with the damage. Increasing your credit card balances can hurt your credit scores. Plus, you'll be charged interest on anything you don't pay off within 30 days.

If you can't pay off credit card purchases right away, or buy gifts with cash, consider budget-friendly alternatives for the holiday. Your friends and family might be just as happy to receive a thoughtful hand-made gift, a printed photograph, an offer to babysit, or even a greeting card as they would be to receive an expensive gift that puts a strain on your budget.