Last minute holiday shopping tips

With just 11 days left before Christmas, 66 percent of consumers have yet to finish their holiday shopping, according to a new survey from American Express.

In fact, the latest American Express Spending and Saving Tracker shows that one in five consumers (21 percent) will still be shopping for gifts the week leading into Christmas, and 4 percent expect to shop on Christmas Eve. However, according to the survey, these consumers aren't necessarily procrastinating: Some are time-strapped (18 percent), while many are practicing savvy shopping tactics.

  • 31 percent are holding out for the best deals.
  • Almost one in five consumers (19 percent) is still saving money for holiday gifts before he or she can purchase them.
  • 11 percent will wait to use their last paycheck.
  • 0 percent of shoppers indicated they are waiting for post-holiday sales to buy holiday gifts this year.
  • 5 percent of the general population, and 12 percent of young professionals, are holding out for an end-of-year bonus.

One up side to procrastination is many retailers offer more promotions and special offers than they did in past weeks. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), American consumers will spend an estimated $437.6 billion on holiday gifts this season, so the extra discounts may be well worth the wait. Finding the perfect gift at the last minute may be difficult, but there are some ways to help ease the tension with the following last minute shopping tips.

  • Use credit wisely. If you must use credit, only use those cards or accounts with the lowest interest rates and most advantageous repayment plans.
  • Plan for pay-off. Most shoppers pay off their holiday credit card bills in March, but those who make only the minimum monthly payment could be financing their holiday purchases over the next decade. Not even your fruitcake will survive that long.
  • Know when to stop. Only shop when you need to and stop shopping when your list is complete. This will help you avoid impulse purchases.
  • Cross yourself off the list. Many consumers buy holiday gifts for themselves. Give yourself the gift of financial security instead.
  • Get creative. Great gifts don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. Make homemade jam, pick flowers from your garden or assemble a photo album. Give certificates good for five hours of yardwork, ten back rubs, or a weekend of baby-sitting.
  • Send gifts by the most inexpensive method. Compare mailing options and rates and be sure to allow enough time so that you can avoid overnight or express shipping.

Finally, if you experience difficulties sticking to your holiday spending plan, don't give up. Small setbacks do not mean you have to scuttle the entire plan. Instead, adjust your spending accordingly. Then, focus on your goals for next year and start the year off on the right foot financially.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.