Clever Ways to Give an IOU When Your Gift Isn't Ready on Time

Supply chain woes may put Santa in a tough spot this year. And if you're one of the unlucky people who weren't able to score a holiday gift due to empty shelves, there's an easy solution—wrap up an IOU for your gift.

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Admittedly, it's not ideal—opening a picture of a Playstation or a cozy sweater isn't going to be as exciting as opening the gift itself. But there are ways to build a little anticipation (and add a little fun to the proceedings).

The top tip: Don't make your IOU gift a bummer. No need to go into your shipping woes and how hard it was to track down the gift in the first place. Focus on the positive—that this amazing gift they're going to love will be on its way as soon as possible.

Send a mystery email

If you're shipping the gift directly to a loved one and the shipment won't be there in time, you can send a little email note explaining that it's running a bit late—and perhaps giving a clue or two about what's inside without giving away the gift to create a little mystery and boosting the anticipation.

Write a good IOU

If you decide to make the IOU the big gift reveal at an in-person event, you can make it as impressive as possible. Get creative with your IOU, using sites like Canva to create a fun IOU with an image of the product and a note saying how excited you are to share the gift with them.

Humor is also a good idea—making a joke about how the gift is socially distanced at the moment, or that it's taking the scenic route into town might be great. You can always check out belated birthday cards for some fun ideas.

And for kids who believe in Santa, you could have a note from the man himself saying that the gift requires a little extra magic to produce, and will arrive as soon as it can. (Best not to put a specific date on it, if there is still the potential that shipping could be delayed even further.)

Wrap the IOU with the perfect accompaniment

Brainstorm for complementary gifts that go perfectly with your IOU—a game to use with the gaming system, a pound of coffee for the deluxe coffee maker, or a cute headband to wear with the sweater will be a nice anticipatory addition.

If your IOU gift doesn't have an appropriate ancillary gift, a small foodie treat like cookies, candy, tea, or their favorite snack foods will always be welcome.

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Wrap it in something special

Rather than just slipping it into an envelope or wrapping a box, opt to present the IOU in something they can reuse—a cute vase or mug, a tiny keepsake box, or wrapped in a pretty kitchen towel or scarf.

Have a little fun with it

You don't have to stick with a straight wrapping job. Consider wrapping it in a big box stuffed with paper confetti or a teeny-tiny box that would never fit the actual gift.

But probably don't go too overboard—setting up an elaborate scavenger hunt with an IOU at the end may lead to a feeling of disappointment.