Cheap and Easy Last Minute Gift Ideas

christmas presents against a wooden background

With Christmas right around the corner, the mad dash to the mall is on. For many of us, it's crunch time to check off the final items on our gift list, get them wrapped, and placed under the tree or delivered in time for December 25. On top of that, there's a good chance we may have already blown through our carefully crafted holiday budget ages ago and are scrambling to find the cash for these final few gifts.

Hey, the holidays are often a shopping frenzy, so the predicament is totally understandable (though no less stressful).

Finding the perfect gift at the last minute may be difficult - especially when funds are limited - but there are some ways to ease the tension.

Give Gift Cards

Gift cards are great gift options for all occasions. You can either choose a gift card from the recipient’s favorite store or a generic gift card such as VISA or American Express. Many online retailers allow you to create your own card design.

Some folks don't like to give gift cards because they can be a little impersonal. But keep in mind that gift cards give recipients the option and freedom to buy something they’ll love. As long as they can use the card somewhere they're already likely to visit, it's still a nice gesture. Just be sure to check the store’s policy. 

Create Personalized Gift Certificates

A great gift isn’t always something tangible. Sometimes giving someone your time is the best present of all. Get creative this holiday season and create personalized gift certificates.

Think about the recipient and what they need, like, and don't like. As long as the gift certificate is tailored to the personality of the recipient, it can be a great present. You may think a gift certificate offering to clean your friend's bathtub isn't all that exciting, but if they hate cleaning and that tub desperately needs a scrub, it may be the best gift they get all year. 

It goes without saying, but make sure you actually follow-through when they try to cash in that gift certificate. 

Offer Homemade Treats

Don't take your skills in the kitchen for granted! If you love baking, turn that skill into gifts for friends, family, and loved ones. A heartwarming treat from the oven is a great gift for pretty much anyone on your list (picky eaters potentially excluded).

Bake up some homemade sweet bread, gingerbread cookies, or mini raspberry cupcakes. Dive deep into the dustiest pages of your grandmother's old Betty Crocker cookbook for some holiday rarities, then deliver your fresh treats in festive containers. It's the one gift that won't survive until the New Year. 


Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to find great gift ideas. Sometimes it’s as nearby as your own closet. Skip the crowded malls and high prices and consider regifting this year.

The beautiful thing about regifting (besides the money you save) is that gives old gifts a new chance to find love. Because sometimes a well-intentioned gift misses the mark, but that doesn't mean no one would enjoy that sweater, or that salt and pepper shaker set, or that mini ironing board. As long as you follow the rules for regifting, there's no reason a thoughtful regift can't be a successful present.

Give to Charity

The holiday season is a time to spend with family and friends and nothing shows affection more than gifting something meaningful and from the heart. Great gifts don’t have to come packaged in decorative holiday wrapping. Consider making a charitable donation in the recipient’s name. Choose an organization that has the most meaning for the recipient.

Article updated December 2019

Tagged in Christmas, Smart shopping, Reducing expenses, Holidays

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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