Tomorrow is Christmas and the acute anxiety you're feeling is not the anticipation of eight tiny reindeer lugging a fat man towards your house. No, it's the nausea brought about by not getting all your holiday shopping done. Even though the Internet is sitting right there on your computer, every day, every night, somehow you never had enough time to log on and find even the smallest trinket to get your girl/guy/other. We understand. It happens to all of us from time to time.
Of course, this year you might have a legitimate excuse. Maybe you thought the Mayans were right, so you figured that there was no reason to go shopping, since you — and all those expensive gifts — were going to be blown up along with the Earth on December 21. Even if you were seriously worried about that, the people who are looking forward to gifts from you will never understand. You're in the same bind as a "real" lazy person. (As opposed to a fake lazy person who is hiding behind ancient prophecy.)
But what can you do? There are only a handful of hours to go before your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/kid/dog wakes up to see that you've let them down. Do you pull the covers up over your head and pretend to be asleep until New Year's Day? That's one option, of course, but chances are you'll have to get up at some point, get caught, and have to fess up to your lack of shopping.
A better option, however, is to scroll through our handy guide of last-last-minute gift ideas until you find one that works for you. Who knows, you might be able to get out of your current predicament (mostly) unharmed by family and friends.
Gift CardsYou can find an assortment of gift cards at any chain pharmacy or big box store these days. But maybe you don't live near a CVS, Duane Reade, Walgreens, Brooks, Walmart, Kinney, Target, Best Buy, Rexall, Vons, Ralphs, Eckerd, Doc's, Shaw's, Kerr, Laird's, Rite Aid, Safeway, Osco, Sav-On, Kmart, or Phar-Mor?
Well, you're in luck. Some online retailers sell printable gift certificates. Most notably: iTunes and Amazon. iTunes is great if the person you forgot to shop for has an iPod, iPhone, or iPad. (If they don't, you realize you just blew it on getting the best gift ever, right?) Amazon gift cards are great for everyone — who can't find something to buy on Amazon? Just print one out and shove it in the recipient's stocking. Though, we'll warn you, if this is all you have, you better make sure it's a "wow-worthy" amount. You can also email a gift certificate, but that's kind of weird on Christmas morning. ("Say, honey, don't you feel like logging on to your little-used Hotmail account right now?")
The Lottery TicketYes, we ALL hate getting Lotto tickets for Christmas. "Thanks," we think. "This dollar you spent really shows how much you care!" Deep down, we're all hoping for a winner, if only to make the person who gave it to us feel bad. Then we'll roll our eyes, scratch it off, lose, and throw them out. But, if it's zero-hour, you can't afford to worry about the eye-rolling of whomever you'll be giving these hateful presents to! Better still, these little $1 life-savers are available at almost every gas station, corner store, deli, bodega, and supermarket in the country. Sure, they might not be good gifts, but they're available gifts.
Now, to pull off giving them, you have to remember one thing: Constantly remind the giftee that each ticket is a potential million-dollar gift. That's what makes all the difference. With enough repetition of that theme, you might just be able to convince the recipient of it, too. And always, always make the comment "If you win, you have to split it with me!" Because, when they lose, it's a "funny" "joke," but if they win, it's a binding contract!
FlowersThey may not be as widely-available as lottery tickets, but many places have them in stock RIGHT NOW: Convenience stores, grocery stores, your neighbors lawn (be sure to shake off the snow and wash off the dirt), and graveyards. If this is for your out-of-town aunt, get same-day delivery from 1-800-Flowers or FTD (though availability is limited by ZIP). Flowers are a great way to say, "Here! Take these! They'll die in a few days, but you'll have to look after them and water them until then."
Actually, come to think of it, you'd better save buying flowers for after Christmas when you can use them as an apology for totally screwing up the holiday.
Re-GiftingThis one requires you to at least have some wrapping paper (or the comics section from the Sunday paper). Just find something around your house that looks relatively new and cover it in paper. This one will only fail if: A) the person you're re-gifting to was the original gifter; B) you're so far gone that you don't even have wrapping paper around the house and you only read The New York Times (No comics section?! Not even on Sunday?!); or C) you're too selfish to part with anything you own.
If you don't have wrapping paper, you could always just slap a bow onto the item. Of course, if you're not the type to have wrapping paper, what are the chances you have a bow?
The "I SWEAR I ordered it" PloyDo a Google image search for some high-res pics of great gifts that you would have gotten your giftee had you not been such a slacker, and print them out. On Christmas morning, give the recipient the photo and say, "I swear I ordered it online, but (insert name of online merchant here) didn't ship it in time!" It helps to pretend to get really angry and say things like, "I'm writing the Better Business Bureau!" Or, better, "I'm calling my senator right now!" (But, don't really call your senator, of course, because she's at home enjoying watching her children open the presents she remembered to buy them before Christmas Eve!) This little play-acting should buy you a few more days past Christmas in which to actually purchase the items. (Yes, you'll actually have to buy them, so choose the pictures you print out wisely. Don't print out, like, a gold-plated panda bear or something.)
The Coupon Book
You did it when you were five, now it's time to dust off this old chestnut to save your sorry skin. Grab some colored paper and some crayons and go to town. Might we suggest coupons for "One Hug" or "One Back Rub" or "One Night Where I Don't Come Home Smelling of Cheap Booze?" A warning: Pay attention to how you distribute these. A "good for one free back rub" coupon given to your girlfriend's sister might be a little awkward.
The DonationFind a charity and donate money in the giftee's name. Print out a card that says as much and wrap it. Whether you actually donate or just print out a fake card is completely up to you, though everyone is familiar with "The Human Fund," so you're probably going to have to really pony up some bucks for a good cause. But why not choose a real charity? Turn your slacker-ness into much-needed money to help out impoverished peoples, victims of disasters, the elderly, or cute animals. Plus, you can donate almost any amount and melt the heart of the receiving individual. After all, only the coldest, most consumerist recipients will dare say that a donation in their name is a terrible gift. (And if they do, then you get to play the holier-than-thou card on them!) Yes, Christmas is a time for one-upmanship!
Book a VacationThis is, by far, the most expensive option — unless you really did print out a gold-plated panda (see above) — for a last-minute gift. But hey, you're the slacker who waited this long, and now it's time to "pay the piper." Whip out the credit card, steel your nerves, and log onto someplace like Travelocity, Expedia, or Southwest and book a trip for you and your loved one to some place awesome. (Best bets: Paris or any tropical island. Worst bets: War-torn regions, Chernobyl, Staten Island.)
The beauty of this gift is that you don't need anything to arrive in the mail! All you have to do is wrap up your giftee's swimsuit or a piece of luggage and put it under the tree. Upon opening something they already own, the confused (and slightly angry) look on their face will quickly be replaced by shrieks of joy once you explain "the sitch" (please don't call it "the sitch," though). Of course, once reality sinks in, mild disappointment will return when you tell your beloved that you booked the trip for six months in the future because that's when you could get a good deal on the tickets and the lowest prices on hotel rooms. Actually ... it would be best to leave out the "bargain" part of the explanation.
Of course, to save even more money, you could always just say you bought tickets and hope that your significant other will forget all about the trip in six months ... or break up with them right before the trip was supposed to happen.
The Anti-Consumerism PloyDon't do anything. Nothing. Don't scramble around. Don't fret. Just DO NOTHING. Then, on Christmas morning, say, "Oh? We're giving gifts? I don't really support turning this, the most sacred of holidays, into some kind of rampant consumerist spending-spree. Whatever happened to the true meaning of Christmas?!"
Upside: Not a dollar spent on your part. Downside: Since your friends and family know that you're not the kind of person to ever imagine a world without presents, they will either request their gifts back or slap you. Maybe both. The worst case scenario is that none of your friends and family ever speak to you again. But, every cloud has a silver lining; that means you'll never again have to worry about buying gifts for anyone. Because you'll have no friends. Best of luck to you, if you go with this method!
Whatever you do, just keep in mind: Now is not the time for pride — or price — to get in the way. Just be creative. Besides, if you've procrastinated this long this year, we'll go ahead and assume that you've dropped the ball in previous years, too. So, any of the above suggestions will be seen by the recipients as a step-up from your past failures.
And, sure, the people who receive any of these gifts will be, ultimately, disappointed on Christmas Day. But try to remind them that "it's the thought that counts." With enough confidence, you might just come out of this holiday season smelling a little more like roses than you would have if you presented nothing at all on the big morning.
Well, we're off to buy some colored paper and some crayons. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays of all shapes and sizes!
Now a holiday tradition (like Rudolph!), this feature originally appeared in 2006, but was revised and updated for 2012.
Front page photo credit: CNBC
Photo credits top to bottom: Inc., Business Insider,
Don't Forget..., Mama Mia, Altruette, Chalk White Arrow,
Active Rain, Credit Card Education, and I Will Teach You To Be Rich