Every year, I convince myself that this is the year I won’t be scrambling to find great last-minute holiday gifts; that this is the year I “shop all year” for great stuff for my friends and family and stash it away.
How is it Christmas week already? Oof.
Fret not, fellow procrastinators! You don’t necessarily have to shell out for express-expedited-Santa’s-reindeer-special-overnight-shipping. I mean you can, but instead we’ve got some brilliant last-minute holiday gift ideas and tips so you can get those presents under the tree or by the menorah in record time.
(And don’t forget, lucky Hanukkah revelers, if you’re giving gifts over eight days you’ve got a little extra time, not to mention the opportunity to find some post-Christmas sales deals!
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Last-minute holiday gift idea 1:
Books. Always books.
Many of us are lucky to have some amazing independent bookstores in our town, with magical children’s sections and staff making recommendations we trust as much as those from dear friends. So if you’ve waited until the very last minute (and, if you’re reading this, then yes, you have), it’s always the perfect excuse to support a local shop and pick up a few gifts for the readers on your list.
Plus, many have free gift-wrapping, which is well worth the trip in my opinion.
We’ve got plenty of excellent suggestions this year, including the best new Christmas books for kids, the most empowering graphic novels for girls, and coolest kids’ books about the arts to inspire your budding painter or poet. I’ve been especially excited to see the growing (and much needed) collection of greater diversity in children’s books, and for that you can check out the 2016 Coretta Scott King award winners.
Or, if you don’t want to brave the stores, check out services like the Gift Lit book-a-month subscription. We’re also big new fans of this year’s Just Like Me subscription service (shown above), which picks a selection of fantastic books featuring characters of color and sends them your child’s way each month. Or for your older, avid reading tween and teen readers, the Uppercase YA book subscription may be just what you need.
Oh, and a subscription can be a magazine too, for an affordable option. Highlights for Kids remains a favorite with all of our younger ones. Or consider the brand new Kazoo Magazine, which features empowering, smart content for tween girls.
If your kids prefer to read on an ereader, there’s always Kindle or Nook books which can be gifted by email and ready for instant download. (Or print out the book cover images and pop them into a card to make it a little more gifty.
For kids reading tablets and phones, we’re fans of the Epic app, which offers unlimited kids’ ebooks on a monthly — or yearly, if you’re feeling generous — subscription basis. To make it gifty, slip this notice of an ebook subscription into one special hardcover book you can inscribe.
Last-minute holiday gift idea 2:
Food gifts you make or buy
Gourmet food gifts
We always love getting edible gifts of all kinds for the holidays (hello, chocolate), and Stacie’s roundup of amazing ideas for gourmet food gifts in this year’s Cool Mom Eats Holiday Gift Guide includes plenty of terrific last-minute options that go way small tokens or stocking stuffers.
I adore her last minute holiday gift ideas like a monthly ice cream subscription service (yes, please) or a gift certificate to a company featuring cool, foraged foods, which is perfect for the adventurous eater in your life.
If you’re willing to brave the mall or shopping center this week, your local kitchen supply store should have lots of cool food-themed stocking stuffers and foodie hostess gifts, like a set of pretty serving bowls, professional-quality utensils, or cool tea towels. Which, by the way, also double as smart gift wrap for a bottle of wine or some handmade cookies or lemon bars.
Make your own cookies and treats
If you’re looking for gifts that kids can make for grandparents or teachers — perhaps with your help, of course — try these suggestions for easy homemade food gifts or bake up a batch of one of our 11 favorite Christmas cookie recipes. Then use one of our 10 pretty cookie-packaging techniques to ensure a flawless presentation.
Featured above: Free printable cookie gift envelopes from Going Home to Roost. So adorable!
Food subscription boxes
If you just want to order a last-minute Christmas gift from your laptop without paying whopping shipping charges, we have you covered there too! Try one of these 7 fantastic food subscription boxes for impressive last-minute gifts, which will give the recipient a notification right away, and then something to look forward to in the coming weeks. We’ve even got a few more subscription boxes in a recent roundup of holiday food gifts that give back for a big-hearted foodie, because as Julia Child said, people who love food are the best people.
Wine is always a good last-minute gift idea for someone who’s hosting a holiday party or who’s just notoriously difficult to buy for — especially with local wine stores generally open later with holiday hours right now. To make it more festive, check out our 7 creative ways to wrap wine for gifting, that will provide inspiration. We’re talking bags, labels, or an elf-like garb disguise (you have to see this one) on the bottle so it feels extra special.
One of our favorites: The furoshiki style of wrapping which is just lovely. If you want your wine to look like the one above, check out the furoshiki wrap tutorial at Cotton & Flax shown here.
Last-minute holiday gift idea 3:
Cool tech, made more personal
These days, who isn’t the owner of a tablet, phone or gaming system? Amazing tech deals abound right now!
Check our recent posts for a list of 29 seriously cool tech stocking stuffer ideas. Look for a swanky new iPhone case (maybe to go with a new iPhone?) Or a fun, unexpected accessory like this cool bluetooth headphone beanie we recently found on Cool Mom Tech.
For chic friends and family, we’ve got an entire guide to stylish tech accessories for your fashionista friends including the portable iPhone charger, above, from Sonix.
If it’s too late to order (you can still get free prime two-day shipping today at Amazon) you’ll find tons of options at stores near you like Target and Best Buy where you can even order in advance for in-store pickup to hold the item.
Yes, this means you will have to brave the stores; but you know, there are only a few days left.
Plus, right now, many retailers are rewarding last-minute shoppers with a host of incredible tech discounts available during the final holiday countdown, including smoking deals we’ve found on coveted items like the Apple Watch, Bose headphones, XBox ONE gaming system, and a Nespresso espresso/coffee maker.
Make it more special
When it comes to gifting tech, it can be the personal touches that make it extra memorable. Add a case and a swanky charger to the box with that new phone. Include a Spotify subscription and a few cool playlists (or podcast recommendations, ahem) with a pair of headphones.
And never, ever forget to include Apple Care with a new Apple product! Or try a warranty like Squaretrade instead of what the retailers offer. Totally worth it.
Even though you might be getting your loved one a gift they’ve specifically asked for — and might be expecting — we love the idea of going above and beyond to bring a little surprise into the experience.
Last-minute holiday gift idea 4:
Memberships and other experience gifts
An annual family membership to a local museum, zoo, amusement park, science center, or even indoor play space is one gift we’d love to receive, especially since you’re giving the gift of time together. Many of these venues host several different exhibits during the year, so it really is a gift that keeps on giving.
You might need to do a little research to find out what the kids enjoy, what’s within a reasonable driving distance (or easily accessible by train), and perhaps, what families with kids of similar ages are currently enjoying.
Instead of just handing an envelope with a family membership card inside, you can pick up a little gift for each person that represents the experience itself. Like a small stuffed animal for kids getting an annual zoo pass, or a magnifying glass or cool STEM gift for a science museum or planetarium membership.
For another last-minute holiday gift idea, we are always in love with experience gifts for kids who are up for an adventure. Like a gymnastics class for the kid who wants to run away to join Cirque du Soleil; drum lessons for your aspiring Ringo Starr; a day playing laser tag, mini golf, or an experience at one of the hot new Escape Rooms or Puzzle Rooms with friends or family. Shown above: A kid-friendly puzzle room at Escape Games Live. Whoa.
Or hey, if you’re really up for a splurge (we’re looking at you, grandparents), consider a family vacation to somewhere kid-friendly, like the Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.
Just wrap up a little container of green slime and let the kids think that’s the “big gift.” Then spring the real news on them — they’ll flip!
Last-minute holiday gift idea 5:
Gift subscription boxes
We’ve got subscription boxes galore this year, and you can start browsing through 17 of our favorite subscriptions for kids of all ages to get an idea of just how many different kinds are out there.
And if you’re not shopping for kids, the Stork Bag subscription service is just for those women about to have one.
Granted, you won’t necessarily be able to get a box into your recipient’s hands in time for Christmas or Hanukkah, but this is where the fun part comes in.
You can place a card about a new coffee subscription inside a funny coffee mug for caffeine junkies, or a message about a new geeky subscription gift wrapped up in a Minecraft shirt. Just tap into your creative side! This way, they’ve got something to open right away, then something else they can enjoy for the next few months, if not all year long.
Last-minute gift idea 6:
DIY gifts or crafts from the kids
DIY Stitched Paper Ornaments at Bloesem Blog
We always love sharing our favorite handmade and DIY gifts that kids can make each year, for absolutely anyone on the list — teachers, caregivers, grandparents, cousins, you name it. Plus, it’s a great way to keep the kids busy during the last few days before Christmas or Hanukkah.
We’ve shared tons (seriously) of awesome DIY tutorials over the years, so find inspiration in our roundups of easy handmade ornaments for kids and easy DIY cards for moms that can be adapted for other beloved family members and special DIY gifts just for dads — all of which older kids can make on their own, or younger kids can pull off with a little bit of help from you.
Last-minute holiday gift idea 7:
Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You digital download from Visual Pixie
Hooray for Etsy artists who are kind enough to share their amazing talents more affordably, in the form of printable downloads!
We’ve found everything from sweet printable sayings for teachers to book-inspired art for kids to inspirational quote art, and cool prints to celebrate moms — and best of all, they just require your own printer, some ink, and good paper. We’ve even found a few free printable options!
If you don’t have the supplies on hand, any local copy shop or Kinkos can help you out; check for holiday hours.
As for gifting, you can print your artwork small to use as memorable holiday cards; or find a gorgeous frame online or at a local shop. Considering you’ve only got a couple of days, you might also consider checking out the frame options at places like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, IKEA, Target, a local department store, an off-price shop like Nordstrom Rack, or even your neighborhood hardware store or pharmacy.
Last-minute gift idea 8:
Photos + Videos
Considering how infrequently most of us print photos these days (are you an unabashed photo and video texter like I am?), a really sweet gift is simply printing out a few of your favorite photos and popping them into a card or frame.
You can also turn those photos and short video clips into a gift using free and easy services like Animoto or one of these 6 fantastic video editing apps that are perfect for last-minute holiday gifts that are still incredibly thoughtful and personal. Maybe even make a year in review from all your favorite smartphone pics?
This is a particularly wonderful last-minute holiday gift idea for someone who lives long distance. Send via email, or you can share it right on their Facebook page for a lovely surprise they can wake up to.
Last-minute gift idea 8:
Beauty products + Pampering
Passport to Pretty set at Anthropologie. Nice!
Beauty gifts to buy
You’ll find no shortage of really cool beauty gifts all packaged and ready to go — and likely on sale right now! — at shops like Sephora if there’s one in your community.
Also check chains like Anthropologie and Target which offer beauty gifts that range from affordable to outrageous –keeping in mind that even a fantastic hand lotion or a new shaving product for a special guy in your life can be a much loved last-minute holiday gift.
Your local high end chemist or drugstore is a great resource too; our editor Liz is a big fan of the City Chemist locations around NYC, which always have lots of amazing beauty products from favorite brands like Tata Harper, Smashbox and Dr Hauschka, which often go on sale this close to the holidays.
One more smart idea: Any local hair salon, spa, or even a gym that offers spa services is likely to have some really good beauty gifts.
Beauty gifts to DIY
No, I don’t mean making your own lipsticks though if you’re up for it, go for it! Instead, put together your own little personalized gift baskets or bags. It doesn’t take a lot of time and it can be fun making them personal.
For a favorite mom: a DIY Tired Eyes Set including an eye mask, cream, and some aromatherapy oils. (Just be sure she doesn’t take it the wrong way!)
For your sweetheart: A DIY Extra Kisses Gift Set with a special lip balm, lip exfoliator, and a fabulous lip color.
For a beauty-loving tween or teen: Put together an assortment of non-toxic nail polishes; or make them feel grownup with a DIY You’re Getting Older Skincare Routine Gift Set including the products she’ll start using.
For someone needing a little extra love right now: We’ve got tons of self-care gift ideas that range from aromatherapy diffusers to calming candles and mediation books you can package in with some pampering beauty products.
For someone who’s more practical than pampering: Check out Liz’s 2016 list of fantastic beauty stocking stuffers which offers tons of with last-minute beauty gift ideas that are actually incredibly useful and practical, like the f’lint lint rollers, above.
And hey, there’s always gift
Last-minute gift idea 9:
A DIY custom gift basket
DIY coffee lovers kit via Ruffled Blog including free printables
One of Kristen’s favorite last-minute gift ideas is personalized gift baskets based on a theme. Over the years, she’s put together tons for special people in her life. (And trust me, they’re good!)
You’ll want to create something based on what the person enjoys — so, no sushi-making kit for your friend with the seafood allergy — or in some cases, create an idea based on what you might want to enjoy doing together. Like a chocolate and wine pairing taster perhaps? Then, just pull together items that go along with that theme.
For a favorite binge-watching companion, you could give someone a Hulu subscription, cozy socks in cool patterns (like these Star Wars socks!), and popcorn and movie candy boxes, all tucked into a nice bin or basket or even a popcorn box.
A Get Pampered box might include everything they need to enjoy a pedicure like a gift card to a local spa, a pair of flip flops, and some nail polishes; or one of the beauty gift ideas seen above.
Last-minute holiday gift idea 10:
Gift cards. Not a cop-out!
Christmas Gift Card Holder for a Foodie from Printable Crush
While they can be impersonal, most people really do love giving and getting gift cards, and we’ve got lots of creative ways to package them that they don’t feel at all like a last-minute holiday gift.
We’ve even put together super cool list of DIY and printable gift card holder ideas like the one above. You’ll find ideas that cover everyone on your list including teachers or coaches or tutors. (Hint: you can also use them for gift receipts.)
While it’s great to give a gift card to a person’s favorite department store, restaurant chain, or iTunes or Google Play, think about smaller local businesses that often offer their own gift cards. Maybe it’s a local coffee joint, a favorite neighborhood salon, an independent toy store (yay, we love them!), or even a favorite clothing boutique or jewelry shop.
Another option is a set of gift cards to combined, equal a special night out. Include one for a favorite downtown restaurant, one for movie tickets, and one to a car sharing services like Lyft to get them there and back, so they can enjoy that second (or third!) glass of wine.
Here’s a great tip: What’s great about gift cards is that you often don’t have to go to the actual store to grab them. Stores like CVS, Target, Duane Reade, even your local grocery store — in other words, places you might be hitting this week anyway — all carry lots and lots of gift cards. So while you’re there picking up those extra-large containers of Advil (ha) or more Christmas cookies and chocolates (what?), you can stock up on gift cards without having to make an extra trip.
And hey, there’s always the computer. That works too.
Last-minute gift idea 11:
A thoughtful charitable donation
For the folks who already have a lot of things, or just have huge hearts, give a charitable donation in their name to one of their own favorite causes.
This is the one gift that may be last-minute, but never ever given without a ton of thought or love.
If you’re stuck for ideas, we’ve featured our own staff’s favorite charities, and we’re personally partial to charities that support mothers and families, like Postpartum Progress and the Good Plus Foundation. Charitable organizations that provide gainful employment are also high on our list of favorite causes.
We’ve got an entire list of 35 fabulous gifts that give back to 35 fabulous causes that can really use the support this year, and you can just send a donation to any of those causes directly
If the current refugee crisis is weighing as heavily on your heart (and Facebook newsfeed) as it is ours, consider donating to one of these humanitarian groups helping in Syria, all approved by Charity Navigator. It’s a timely gift that’s sure to be appreciated by so many of our friends and family this year who are feeling grateful for everything we already do have.
And we’ve got more charitable gift ideas coming so keep an eye on our site!
This works for kids too, by the way. Liz described on a recent episode of Spawned how her kids pick out a new animal to “adopt” each year through the WWF, which not only gets them a free stuffed animal, but also helps them learn more about that animal and why its existence is threatened. There are dozens of options there, including the popular tiger shown here, or narwhals (!!) shown at top, which we featured as a creative idea in our Kawaii gift idea roundup.
Another favorite idea: donate to Donors Choose in a child’s honor and specifically look for a kind of project that supports the projects your own kids love in school, whether it’s science-based, the arts, or coding. They’ll be thrilled when they get a real thank you note later from the classroom teacher and the kids!
Besides the gift itself, we love that you’re also giving an invaluable lesson in giving back. And maybe, a special child in your life will be inclined to pay it forward themselves when the next gift-giving opportunity arises.