6 Gift Ideas for Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers

Waited until now to start your holiday shopping? Here are a few quick – and cheap – ideas.

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With less than two weeks until Christmas, there is little time left to find thoughtful gifts for the friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors on your list.

If you've waited until now to start your shopping, don't despair, and resist the mass media messages from retailers that entice you to abandon your budget as you shop for last-minute gifts. This holiday season, the American Research Group estimates that consumers will spend about $800 on presents. There's no need to increase that figure by choosing quick overpriced gifts.

Instead, when selecting last-minute gifts for that hard-to-shop-for person, try these ideas to get the right gift for each person without busting your budget.

For the coffee lover. Do you know or live with a coffee lover? If so, then choosing coffee as a gift can be a well-received answer. Don't just go to Starbucks and pick up a bag of coffee beans. Instead, put some thought into it. Get creative and make a basket of some of your recipient's favorite coffees. If he likes to try different coffees, then give him a few specialty varieties, and your gift will be a favorite of the year. Make it a little more fun by finding a coffee mug that reflects one of his interests or affinities.

Apps. If your recipient is one of the quarter of Americans who own a tablet then something that could be on your list is an app or two for her device. This can be good for children and adults alike. If you're looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for a child, you can purchase several educational apps or games. What if the recipient is an adult? Then you can purchase a game or buy a subscription to his or her favorite magazine or book. Not only can these make great last-minute gifts, they can be frugal finds as well.

Gift cards. Gifts cards are loved by many, especially when they're for stores where the recipient likes to shop. During Black Friday weekend in 2012, nearly one-third of shoppers bought gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation. Why do people like giving gift cards so much? Perhaps it's because they are so easy to buy. Pick one up while you are out doing your other shopping, or purchase one online from the comfort of your home.

If it's Christmas Eve and you're reading this in search of last-minute gift ideas, try your local grocery store, since many carry a modest collection of gift cards for national and local retailers.

Homemade coupons. Homemade coupons can be a great addition to your Christmas list, especially for that hard-to-shop-for person. They're perfect for couples, and you can tailor them to the likes and interests of the recipient. Some popular homemade coupon ideas are:

  • One night of free babysitting
  • Lunch at a new restaurant each month for three months
  • Dinner at a restaurant of the recipient's choice
  • Rechargeable batteries. We always need a practical gift or two on our Christmas list, and nothing says practical like a pack of rechargeable batteries. This can be a perfect gift for the lover of electronics, as batteries always seem to go dead. With this gift you give the person the option to re-use batteries, save some money and keep a few more batteries out of your local landfill. It's by no means an exciting gift, but batteries are useful and easy to find.

    A movie night. Movies are another option for your last-minute gift list, especially if you know the person enjoys films. You can go one of two ways: Buy her favorite movie and pair it with some yummy snacks she enjoys (bonus points if they're homemade). Or, for variety, buy him a subscription to Netflix so he can choose his own movies to watch.

    With Christmas almost here, checking this list twice may just help you find the answers to those last-minute gift quandaries!

    John Schmoll is the founder of personal finance website FrugalRules.com, an online community centered on increasing financial literacy, budgeting, investing and finding freedom through frugality.

    Corrected on 12/13/2013: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the National Retail Federation.