I hate shopping. I would rather have root canal surgery while listening to German opera than schlep through the mall looking for the perfect gift.
Because I hate shopping, I typically shop exclusively online, and leave everything to the last minute. If you're like me – and if you're reading a story with the words “last minute gifts” in the title you probably are -- then right about now you're scrambling around the web searching for quick gifts, too.
In that case, you'll be happy to learn December 18 is “Free Shipping Day” for hundreds of online merchants.
In other words, you haven't blown it yet. But you better get moving.
Think of the following as an electronic mail order catalog with the items circled, organized by age. You can thank me later.
If you've got little ones, you probably have their Christmas covered. But you might get a last-minute invite to someone else's happy home and be forced to cough up something for their rugrats. Here are a few ideas.
Picture books are a great gift for early learners, but interactive picture books are even better. One More Story brings classics like The Snowy Day and Stellaluna to the Web, phone, or tablet. Read aloud by professional narrators and set to music, these books teach toddlers vocabulary words as they move through each story. Use the HOLIDAY promo code before January 5 and you can buy a gift subscription for a small discount.
If the kids are still in the crib, you can up their fashion quotient for not a lot of cash. Uncommon Goods sells Babiator sunglasses ($20) and the Mustachifier, a $10 pacifier that comes with its own plastic facial hair. Because shouldn't all babies look a little like Ron Burgundy?
Tweens & Teens
A survey by Reviewed By Teenagers reveals if you seek the affection of your adolescent, put an iPhone 5S or a Sony PlayStation 4 under the tree. If you want to be cast even deeper into the pit of uncool, meanwhile, buy them underwear, cologne, or soap. But you knew that already.
Not inclined to drop $400 or more on consumer electronics? Then gift cards are your safest bet. If you know the make and model of their favorite gizmos, it's easy – Apple's iTunes Store, Google Play, Amazon, and the Microsoft Store all offer gift card options. Otherwise sites like Cardpool and CardCash let you purchase gift cards from major retailers at a discount. (I won't tell them if you don't.)
Sports and concert tickets are also a good call – so long as you don't drop $500 on Justin Bieber tix for someone who's not a True Belieber. Get a gift certificate to StubHub or TicketsToGo instead, so they can pick who they want to see.
Your young adults can never be too prepared for the zombie apocalypse. ThinkGeek's Zombie Survival Kit Lunchbox could make the difference between scratching out a marginal existence or succumbing to the inevitable. Stock it with Twinkies and Tactical Canned Bacon and your kids could hold out for weeks. Order by 12/20 (ground) or noon 12/23 (next day air) to make sure it arrives before Santa and/or the undead.
For adults, subscription boxes truly are the gift that keeps giving. Does she crave jewelry? Try Rocksbox, which lets her try out three different pieces of jewelry every 30 days then buy her favorites at a discount. Is he lacking in the personal grooming department? Order him a ManPack, which will airdrop a new shipment of boxers, t-shirts, razors, soap, and more every three months. Or, better yet, drink up one of the many Beer of the Month clubs. (If you're reading this, honey, that's a hint.)
If you've got a wine lover in your life but don't know what to get them, buy a gift certificate to Winestyr. This site recommends bottles from small craft wineries based on the grape, the occasion, who you're buying it for, and how much you want to spend. Shipping costs never exceed $10, no matter how many bottles you buy. After the glow has faded, they can log into Winestyr and rate what they just drank to receive new recommendations.
You can also skip material gifts entirely and give your loved one an experience instead. Available in more than 50 cities across the US, Xperience Days can help unleash your significant other's inner Walter Mitty. For prices ranging from $50 to $5,000 he or she can pilot a World War II-era fighter plane, compose a power ballad with the help of a professional songwriter, learn the art of glass blowing, barrel down the Daytona straightaway at 165 mph, and much more. Paper and electronic gift certificates start at $25.
Grandparents are suckers for photos of the grandkids. If you've left it too late to order a handsome canvas print of the little nubbins from Polaroid or Snapfish, you can use an app like Tapsbook or LifePics to print directly from your camera and social media accounts, then pick them up the same day at Walgreens or CVS.
For the person who really has everything, consider a donation to a worthy cause in their name. JustGive lets you make a gift donation to any of 1.8 million charities worldwide. If you don't feel comfortable choosing a charity for someone else, buy them a TisBest card. They can spend it on up to three of the 300+ charitable organizations that accept them, from the African Wildlife Foundation to the YWCA; the nonprofit TisBest collects a $2 processing fee on each gift.
With all gifts, what you give isn't as important as the simple act of giving. It really is the thought that counts – even if you only started thinking about it five minutes ago.