The Last-Minute Procrastinator’s Gift Guide: 24 Hours and Counting

You’ve missed your chance to get something thoughtful — now you just have to get something

You’re out of options. Forget online shopping, because tomorrow is Christmas Day, and until Amazon gets one-hour-shipping — earn your fucking money, Bezos! — you’re stuck doing things the old-fashioned way. Yesterday was your last chance to get something really thoughtful and personal, but on Christmas Eve, it’s just about getting something — anything — that qualifies as a gift. But before you get in your car and speed to the mall, you seriously need to have a plan. 

Make Your List

We said this in our 48-hour gift guide and our guide on what to spend on everyone on your Christmas list, but we’ll say it again here:

Make a list. 

Make a list. 

Make a list, motherfucker. 

Seriously, make a list. 

On your list, make sure you have all the names you’re going to buy for and at least a pretty good idea of what you’re getting. Gift expert Aileen Avery, author of Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving, explains that you don’t need to know the exact item, but you should have an idea. Say you’re getting something for your Frozen II-obsessed niece, you need not know exactly which overpriced singing Elsa doll you’re getting, you just need to know that you’ll be getting an overpriced singing Elsa doll.

Set Your Destination

If you went shopping yesterday, you may have been able to get your shop on in some cool local spots, but today is all about efficiency and getting the most bang for your buck. Plus, local shops may be closed on Christmas Eve. “They want to be home with their families, so they often aren’t open or they close early,” Avery explains. So really, your only option on Christmas Eve is to hit up the mall or the big retail stores like Target and Walmart — stores that have no qualms with working their minimum-wage employees to the bone on Christmas Eve. Sure, this sucks for them and it sucks for the social fabric of our nation, but it’s good for you, and in these last 24 hours, that’s all that really matters.

While shopping at the mall on Christmas Eve may sound like hell on Earth, it may not be quite the nightmare you imagine. A friend of mine named Alli says that she always does her last-minute, desperate Christmas shopping at a nearby outlet mall on Christmas Eve, and “it isn’t that bad.” Michelle, a former employee of Yankee Candle, explains that while Christmas Eve at the mall is busy, it’s much worse on the weekend before. She also comments that the shoppers are “95 percent male,” which isn’t terribly surprising. 

So, though you may not want to go to the mall, that’s just about the best option, especially since you probably have plans on Christmas Eve. So make your list, figure out where you can get the most amount of those items and hurry, because sometimes even the big department stores close early Christmas Eve — some Walmarts close at 6 p.m., for example.

Gift Cards, the Procrastinator’s Present

Fortunately, Walmart, Target and the like have giant sections simply dedicated to gift cards, so that’s likely going to be your first stop. Gift cards are a lousy gift, but you’re a lousy planner, so this is pretty appropriate

Just a gift card isn’t going to be enough, though: You’ve got to include the gift card with a nice, handwritten note in their Christmas card and ideally, another few items to dress up your lackluster gift. Maybe it’s a cute bear or a cool gadget, but it needs to be something so that you’re not just handing them an envelope.

Avery says that cash is also a go-to last-minute gift, but try to dress it up as well by including a nice card. Avery even suggests trying a bit of money origami if you’re feeling creative. 

Remember the Wrapping

If you’re opting for a real gift, good for you! Just make sure you stick to your list and that you allow for time to wrap the presents later. “I like things that are in nice square boxes,” Avery says, “especially when you’re doing things last minute.” And, if there’s some sort of gift-wrapping option available to you in the store do it (even if it makes you a monster)!

Stay Focused

This is by far the most important thing to remember. If you don’t want to find yourself at Walgreens scrambling for gifts on Christmas morning, you’ve got to be as efficient as possible. “Use that last-minute shopping stress to focus you and motivate you,” Avery says. You’re a lone man on a mission, and that means sticking to your list, eating before you leave — or maybe fast food on the way — and letting nothing distract you. 

“Don’t get distracted by the sales or the salespeople,” Avery urges. “That’s their job, to sell you stuff, but your job is to get what you need and get home, because you want to enjoy your Christmas Eve — you don’t want to spend it in some mall scrambling to buy presents until the stores close.”