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6 tips to survive last-minute holiday shopping

All of the presents, none of the stress.

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There are the people who have all of their holiday shopping finished by Black Friday—and then there are the people who wait until 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve to even start shopping. If you're someone who tends to fall in the latter category (guilty!), fear not. Below are our experts' top six tips for making the most of your last-minute shopping, whether you're doing it all online or heading to the stores.

1. Look for shipping deals.

Shipping
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You can't go wrong with Amazon's overnight shipping.

With free, next-day shipping, Amazon Prime is a no-brainer when it comes to the best (and most reliable) shipping option. But most online retailers offer special shipping perks and prices around the holidays, whether it's free shipping on orders over a certain amount or guaranteed shipping by Christmas Eve. Do your research before you click "buy" and make sure you calculate the shipping time properly so you can rest easy knowing your package will get to you in time.

You can also have gifts shipped directly to your giftee to make things easier. If you do that, shop a retailer that will gift wrap the present for you so it doesn't arrive in a boring cardboard shipping box. This is a great option especially if you're traveling and either don't want to lug gifts around or don't have time to wait for something to be shipped to your own home.

2. Buy gifts online that don't need shipping.

To get last-minute gifts, you don't have to brave crowded stores or frantically track packages to make sure they'll arrive before Christmas. There are other presents that you can get online that are just as good if not better—and there's no shipping required. Some of our editors' top ideas include tickets (to a concert or event, for instance), virtual gift cards, museum memberships, or a MasterClass. Another good option is a subscription box, which you can order now to be shipped to your giftee starting in the new year. We like this beauty box from Sephora or this wine subscription box in particular.

3. Shop stores that will gift wrap presents for you.

Wrap
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Let someone else do the wrapping for you.

If you're picking up a present on the way to a holiday party, you have approximately 10 minutes to find, buy, and wrap something. Save some time—and effort—by shopping at stores that provide gift wrapping services. Not only will you be on your way faster, but you'll also end up with a professionally wrapped masterpiece that's sure to impress your giftee. P.S.: A lot of online retailers (Amazon included) also offer gift wrapping so your present can arrive on your doorstep ready to go.

4. Avoid crowds.

You've successfully picked out the perfect present and are feeling good about yourself—until you get to the front of the store and realize there are 25 people ahead of you in line. While most stores will likely be more crowded than usual from now until Christmas, you can avoid some of hoopla by shopping at non-peak times. Many stores have extended holiday hours so you can go super early in the morning or late at night rather than during the busiest times like after work.

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Another good option to steer clear of long lines is to take advantage of in-store pickup. Some retailers allow you to shop online and then pick up your order in store at the customer service desk so you don't have to wait in line or wait for your gifts to be shipped.

5. Pretty up the presentation.

Nothing says "I waited until the last minute to buy this gift" like something shoved in a Christmas bag with the price tag still on it and no tissue paper. Make a gift feel more special—and more thought-out—with a pretty wrap job. A nice box, some ribbon, and a handwritten card or tag go a long way in dressing up a last-minute buy.

6. Give food or drinks as gifts.

Cookie
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The way to everyone's heart is through their stomach.

One place you didn't think to do your holiday shopping? The grocery store. Some of our editors have made their own gift boxes with gourmet candies, cheeses, crackers and other assorted goodies and said they were very well-received by their giftees (after all, who doesn't love free food?!). Customizing your own mix for the people on your list based on their tastes and preferences also makes for a more thoughtful last-minute present than just buying a pre-made set. And if you want to go the extra mile, bake some cookies or fill a jar of hot cocoa mix for a homemade gift.

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