Breaking news: We’ve got two days until Christmas. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who hasn’t finished holiday shopping yet. Deep breath. Don’t panic. And don’t break your budget on $39 overnight shipping just because you get desperate. Instead, snag one of these easy, last-minute Christmas gift ideas, which can all be pulled together quickly. There’s something here for every price range too. And, just like that, your holidays are saved.
The great thing about last-minute gifts is that they can inspire you to think outside the box and shop for things you may not normally think of, which can end up making the best presents of all.
1. Subscription Boxes
I always looked forward to our fruit-of-the-month club as a kid (especially those delicious grapefruits at Christmas) but the subscription gift services out there–we’ve covered the very best ones–now allow you to send everything from gamer loot to craft kits to high-end men’s grooming products. (Shown here: A cool box from Bespoke Post.) There’s even ice cream subscriptions from e-creamery! And the best thing about these gifts, of course, is that they (wait for it) keep on giving.
2. Magazine or eBook Subscriptions
We continue to be impressed by the incredibly creative magazines we see for children, like Curious Jane for crafty tween and teen girls, the British mag Anorak or Australia’s BIG Kids Magazine, both of which can be shipped to the US. Our kids put down the video games and read these immediately when they arrive.
You can also find some really good deals on magazine subscriptions at Amazon for anyone on your list right now. One year of Esquire is crazy cheap at $5, or 12 issues of the New Yorker down from $95 to just $12. Whoa. Also, kids magazines like Cicada are up to 50% off.
If your recipient is more into reading digitally, check out the Epic app, with thousands of kids books your kids can access for free with an active membership. Oyster has a wide selection for the adult readers in your life, with contemporary authors like Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster Wallace, Michael Chabon, as well as classics like Edith Wharton and Pearl S. Buck. A subscription is perfect for that Kindle-toting friend or relative.
3. Food Gifts (Not the Ones You Have to Make)
In a pinch, you can always make a run to your local gourmet grocery store for some delicious last-minute food gifts. Of course, handmade chocolate from your favorite local sweet shop or bakery is always a hit, but you could also put together small gift baskets based on other favorite indulgences—designer coffee and creamer (have you tried cold brew?); imported Italian honey with tea and shortbread; fancy cookies in a beautiful box; a nice bottle of wine or champagne. Maybe you can even convince the recipient to open early and share.
Or, send one of our favorite subscription food boxes.. The recipient gets the notification right away, and still has something wonderful to look forward to in the coming weeks.
4. DIY Food Gifts (Yes, you have to make them.)
We have plenty of ideas all year long for food gifts you can make yourself. Get your kids in the kitchen and whip up a big batch of homemade Christmas cookies like one of these five easy recipes–perfect to take with you to parties and playdates as hostess gifts. You can even include a nice serving tray—there are some gorgeous ones at our Indie Shop–but if you’re shopping last minute, hit local shops and department stores or even thrift stores that have good vintage options. I also love mason jar food gifts, from the homemade whiskey toasted honey walnuts recipe in our Holiday Gift Guide to layered brownie mixes like the one above from Taste of Home. Yum!
The key to making this inexpensive gift look like you really took the time is the packaging—don’t skimp on the embellishments. I love the sprig of pine you can clip straight from your Christmas tree to place on the brownie mix, or use some of the many cool printable food labels to easily upgrade even a bottle of wine.
5. Books Books Books!
Even with the convenience of online shopping, I still like to support my local bookstore—not only for the convenience of walking out with a book in my hands now, but for the always excellent and well-curated book recommendations. You can check the bestseller lists and award lists if you want to go in with a specific book in mind—I always look for this year’s Pulitzer and the Orange Prize—to see what’s getting great reviews. We’ve even recently posted the top children’s books of 2014 according to everyone from NPR to the NY Times to Brainpickings, to the folks behind #WeNeedDiverseBooks.
Two of my own favorites this year are Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle for my kids, and Pulitzer finalist The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt for friends in my life. But you can’t go wrong with any book that suits the interests of the reader.
6. A Museum Membership
A museum membership is one of my favorite gifts to receive, for no other reason than it gets me out of the house with my preschoolers. For free. It’s a perfect last-minute gift for out-of-town friends, nieces and nephews, because there’s no shipping. Find out what the kids are most interested in—art, science, geology—then hit the search engines to find the “best attractions for kids” in their hometown. You might be surprised which spots parents in that city are frequenting; here in Nashville, one of the most coveted memberships with young kids is Cheekwood Botanical Gardens (above) because of their amazing exhibits and programs for kids, like this Big Bugs playground exhibit. And if there is a kid in NYC who doesn’t love the American Museum of Natural History then we haven’t met him yet.
7. A Mix Tape
Channel your high school self and download your favorite playlist to a USB drive for your partner or a BFF as a sentimental but totally fun way to say “I love you” this Christmas. We’re cracking up over the retro cassette tape holders you can find on Amazon, but of course you can make your own with any cool jump drive (and package it in an actual cassette case if you can track one down). If it’s for kids, introduce them to some new tunes by downloading some of our favorite kids music.
Want to blow their minds? Download the playlist to a new iPod which is widely available. Merry Christmas indeed.
8. A Special Ornament
Everyone is clearing out their Christmas decor at huge discounts right now, so it’s a great time to snag a fancier ornament at a fantastic price to give as a gift–or use them to embellish your gift wrap, make a gift card more special, or to save for next Christmas if you’re a planner. A great deal is to buy plain ornaments in an affordable combo pack, then spruce them up by making Rudolph with your kids’ fingerprints, as with this tutorial spotted at Little Bit Funky. We are kind of obsessed–these are so cute!
9. Beauty Products and Pampering
You can always grab one of the gift packs from a local Sephora, which are affordable and can make a big impact. And hey, any pampering body lotion or bath salts are great by us, or consider shaving products and hand salves for the men in your life.
For smaller gifts, pick up a multi-pack of your favorite nail polish or lip gloss brands–whether it’s Burt’s Bees or a designer brand–in trendy colors of the season. Wrap them individually to give as small gifts to room moms, piano teachers, lunch servers, or part-time babysitters. It’s a sweet “thought that counts” gift that people will remember, especially those who didn’t expect a gift from you in the first place.
10. DIY Gifts from the Kids
Handmade gifts from kids are the best for teachers, caregivers, grandparents, parents, cousins, and even friends. Plus they’re a great way to add a few extra packages under the tree for the adults who always seem to have way less than the kids. (Not just us, right?) We found a bunch of tutorials we loved this year, like the adorable Rudolph ornament above and the sweet DIY Sharpie Mugs from Handmade Charlotte–best if you use special oil-based Sharpies meant for porcelain mugs.
For the kids, fill stockings with pencils covered in Washi tape or a pretty set of handmade hair ties. Even though these gifts are small, they’re big on menaing. And bonus–they keep your kids busy while you’re wrapping presents.
11. A Charitable Donation
It’s so hard to shop for those people who have it all, so…don’t. Instead, give a Global Giving gift card, so they can assign your donation amount to the organizations they’re supporting at the moment. And for the kids in your life who don’t have everything but seem to want it, you don’t need to cancel Christmas. Instead, teach them about giving back through a charity donation in their name.
Each year we round up our staff’s favorite charities–and perennial hits include the Nature Conservancy which preserves essential acres of land; Heifer International which lets you “gift” a farm animal or other agricultural essential to a family in need; Make-A-Wish Foundation which does so much good for families, and the World Wildlife Fund. In fact, our editor Liz lets her kids pick out an animal to support each year in their names, and they happen to love the fact sheets, adoption certificates and of course, cute plush animals that come with it. Just think of the interests of your recipient, and you’ll realize there are hundreds of options that make a truly special gift.
12. Tech Accessories
You can find great stocking stuffers like BlueLounge cord clips at Target, or the super-long NIGHT cable from Native Union, for teens who are prone to draining their batteries. Then again, you could make someone swoon with the incredible, handmade tech organization gifts from This Is Ground (above) which has been offering tons of great last-minute shipping deals this year. This is their last day for overnight free shipping with the code overnight14. And Jawbone is offering free overnight shipping tonight if you order soon, with discounts on the Mini Jambox and the Jawbone UP24.
Of course you can also brave the crowds at your local Target, Radio Shack or Best Buy and see if any ideas spark, from video games to iPhone cases. And hey, there’s always Cool Mom Tech for hundreds of ideas.
13. Frame a favorite photo
This doesn’t have to be a cop-out gift at all! Choose a beautiful frame for a special photograph as a special way to thank those people who make your life full and happy. Or upgrade a simple frame or fix up an old one you already own with a fresh coat of paint and a great photo. If you have a high quality printer, you can even print the image out at home. (Photo: Very Rosenberry)
14. Experience Gifts
The only thing I dread about Christmas is the massive influx of toys that takes over my house. So, I’ve been strongly encouraging my family to give them the gift of a special experience, like a cooking class, passes to a rock climbing gym, or even the surprise of a summer camp if they’re feeling really splurgy.
The adults in your life will love to share an experience with you too—you can give them tickets to a sporting event, a show, a food festival, or concert. Be sure to check out services like Cloud 9 Living which we also recommended as a smart last-minute Father’s Day gift. My friend even took her adrenaline-junkie mother-in-law for skydiving lessons! And they offer gift cards too if you can’t decide.
15. Make a Video
If you’ve run out of time to put together a photo book for your family, it’s not too late to compile a super-easy Animoto video right from your phone. You can include up to 400 photos in your video (that said, we’d stick to a lot less) and add music, graphics, and filters. It could not be easier.
If you keep it simple, you can limit it to pictures as you eat Christmas breakfast and open gifts, then send it out that very day. Long-distance family will be wowed by the gesture.
16. Gift Cards, Of Course
The US spends roughly $80 billion (yes, with a b) on gift cards each year at the holidays so clearly it’s not a novel idea. But you can still make the gift of a gift card or cash stand out by finding a gorgeous gift card to begin with, or presenting it in a thoughtful way like these fun gift card holders just for teachers. Or how cute is this idea for a gift card tucked inside mason jars full of candy on Catch My Party? Yummy and fun.
Also, you can get more creative than just a card to a big store. Try dinner at a favorite local restaurant plus babysitting for new parents. Get your frazzled best friend a certificate for a maid service. A new mom would probably love a massage or a mani/pedi at a local salon. Pay the entrance fee for your running partner’s next marathon. Give an Etsy gift card to your friend who loves all things handmade.
You don’t even have to go out in the cold to buy it. You can get one for just about any major store through Amazon and get two-day shipping with a Prime membership–or we put together a fantastic list of the best gift card apps on Cool Mom Tech so you send one digitally to anyone at all on your list.
Now, do you have everything checked off your list? Go fix yourself an eggnog and relax. You deserve it.
Check us out on Pinterest for even more last-minute gift ideas.