Strategies for last-minute shoppers

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Holiday shoppers tend to fall into three distinct camps. There are those people who have completed all of their shopping and wrapping even before November ends. Others shop in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Finally, many people wait until the last minute, and such shoppers are the ones seen rushing from store to store on December 24.

Waiting until the last possible second to purchase a gift may not prove much of a problem when shopping for birthday gifts. But come the holiday season, such procrastination may find shoppers perusing limited inventories and dealing with other frantic proscrastinators.

But even those shoppers who still plan to put off their holiday shopping can make the most of such stalling this holiday season.

· Consider eGift cards. Many retailers offer digital gift cards that can be emailed in a matter of minutes. Purchase the card from the online retailer and email the redemption code to the gift recipient. Time the email to arrive on Christmas morning or include all of the necessary information in a holiday card.

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· Ship to store. Some shoppers like the convenience of ship-to-store services. This enables a person to purchase a gift online but avoid shipping charges by having the item made available at a store location. In-stock items are typically ready the day of purchase, and this helps you avoid crowds and impulse buys, as online purchases are typically available at special pick-up locations in the store that allow online shoppers to skip long lines at the registers.

· Avoid gimmick gifts. Skip the “as seen on TV” aisle at the store or trendy infomercial gifts. Such gifts may suggest to their recipients that you waited until the last minute to buy the gifts and then really didn’t have any good ideas.

· Expect extra charges and factor such charges into your budget. Procrastinating may work for your schedule, but expect to pay more if you shop online and require shipping. You will probably need to expedite shipping if you expect to have gifts delivered on time. Verify the delivery date before making any purchases. Paying more for shipping may outweigh the hassle of driving to store after store searching for gifts. Online retailers like Amazon may even offer selective delivery on Christmas Eve.

· Check store hours. Some stores offer extended shopping hours to meet the needs of last-minute shoppers. You may be able to visit early morning or late at night to skip the crowds. Certain department stores time sales with these extended hours, such as “early bird” or “night owl” specials, so you may even be rewarded for procrastinating.

· Shop smaller retailers. One way to avoid the hassles that often come with holiday shopping is to patronize smaller, independent shops. Chances are the crowds will be smaller at these shops and you may have access to a more unique selection of gifts than you would find at the nearby mall.

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