The Do's and Don'ts of Last-Minute Presents

Before you re-gift or DIY something, keep these tips in mind

Are you a last-minute shopper like I am? If you are, the week before Christmas is probably one of the most stressed out, un-merry times of the year for you. Add a tight budget to the mix, and you've got yourself a recipe for deadline-shopping disaster.

Fear not! You can do this. Read on for some guidance on how to get through the rush with your sanity, your wallet, and the spirit of the season intact.

Last-minute scenario: re-gifting
The pros here are obvious: You can get rid of unwanted gifts while simultaneously checking people off your list. The cons? Even if you don't get caught -- and oh, so much worse if you do -- you feel like a cheapskate, and a lazy one at that. Still, many people re-gift (hey, you can always pat yourself on the back for recycling!). Just be sure you do it carefully: check the item for old forgotten gift-tags or stuck tape; make sure the item is clean and unused; never re-gift among the same group of friends. I personally think it's only okay when the giftee really would like or appreciate the item. A thoughtless regift makes it a double-Don't.

Bottom line: Don't, unless you know the gift will be loved by its second owner.

Last-minute scenario: buying gift cards for loved ones
I always feel a bit guilty when buying gift cards or gift certificates for people -- the idea seems so generic and has that "no thought went into this gift" stigma attached to it. But I'm starting to change my thinking about this, and here's why: Really, who doesn't love a gift card? I love getting them -- they're usually the highlight of my weeks post-holidays. In these tight times, free money to spend on yourself -- at a store, or your favorite coffee shop, or a spa -- is a wonderful thing. Still not convinced? Try choosing a personal, well-thought-out gift card for a place you know your recipient will find meaningful, and enclose a note of what you hope they'll enjoy. Bonus: You can send e-giftcards online and have your shopping finished in minutes -- all you need is your recipient's email address.

Bottom line: When done right, it's a do!

Last-minute scenario: handmade gifts
If you're crafty, or love to bake, or have an under-used artistic side, consider avoiding the stores this week and instead holing up at home and creating what you'll put under your tree. Your gifts will have a personal touch, you won't break the bank, and you'll feel good about what you give. Just be sure your hard work won't go unnoticed or unwanted: don't give brownies to your fitness-loving friend, cookies to someone who might be buying you a car, or an amateur watercolor painting to your boss. Handmade only works if it's pulled off in style: a Spanish-themed basket (wine, a map, baked goods) for your neighbor who just returned from her honeymoon in Ibiza; a framed beloved photograph of a new baby nephew to his parents.

Bottom line: If you know how, do it.

Last-minute scenario: the gift of time
As a real last resort, don't be afraid to give yourself and your time to that person who has everything. Maybe it's a mother-daughter New Year's lunch for your mom and sister, or a movie night out with your younger brother. Plans -- and you've got to follow through with them! -- make a sufficient last-minute gift when you really are in a bind.

Bottom line: Do (if you must).

Do you consider these last-minute gift ideas do's or don'ts? Chime in below!

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