You’re not alone. The Washington Post reports on marathon shoppers, folks who are so far behind on their holiday purchases that a serious nonstop session at local retailers is the only way they’ll get it all done in time.
I saw a few of those harried folks today. My mom’s in town for the holiday this year and she needed to pick up one final gift. Of course we headed to the mall, AKA the “people zoo,” where this time of year the crowds quadruple. We made it out of there relatively unscathed, but I told her in no uncertain terms that trip was it. No way are we going back into the fray on Christmas Eve.
If you feel the same, you still can make it a jolly holiday without a lot of last-minute hassle. Bankrate.com has several suggestions for quick, inexpensive and welcome gifts, such as magazine subscriptions, a charitable gift in someone's name or photographs for family members that you culled from your personal collection. Maybe you even have some small gifts you picked up throughout the year and stashed away “just in case.” Well, now’s the case.
Or you could always regift.
OK, about a third of you are rolling your eyes in disgust. Another third have shouted “Eureka!” and quit reading to start digging through closets for unused gifts from past years. The final third is made up of those annoyingly smug individuals who have a Martha Stewart gene and have been ready since Dec. 1 for the holiday, gifts bought and neatly wrapped.
Some people (that first third I mentioned) find regifting the ultimate in bad taste. They even go so far as to flat out call you a Scrooge for giving a previous present rather than spending for a new one. But money is not always a regifter's prime motivator. And Scrooge doesn’t necessarily have to be a pejorative term. Hey, he did relent at the very end, so I guess that makes Mr. Dickens’s iconic character the ultimate last-minute shopper.
Done properly, regifting doesn’t have to be tacky. CNN/Money and MSN Money each offer some tips on ways to graciously regift. The main thing: Make sure you don’t give the item back to the original giver!
Finally, there’s the ultimate last-minute gift: Cash. That old saying about it always fits and green looks good on everyone is true. And you can spruce up your financial gift a bit.
Hand over a check with the proviso that it go into your recipient’s retirement account. Most people don’t max out their IRAs and even if they do, they wait until the final tax-filing deadline in April. But by giving them the money now, they get the benefit of depositing it sooner so that the magic of compounding begins earlier.
Or if your teenager earned money this year, open an IRA for the young man or woman. It’s a great way to teach them about managing money and the tax-deferred, or tax-free if you opt for a Roth account, status of the funds will basically be a gift that truly does keep giving well into the future.
Attend a festive online holiday carnival: Want some more Christmas cheer? Check out the inaugural Carnival of Christmas, a collection of holiday-themed blog postings, sacred and secular, that reflect the many sides of this special season. I’m proud to say that two of mine, confessions about our annual holiday letter and Santa's financial considerations, are included in this first Christmas Carnival. (Thanks, Adam!) Take a few minutes as the big day approaches to peruse the many offerings.
Taking some holiday time off: I've missed a couple of blogging days this week as the need to take care of Christmas traditions started catching up to me. And I'm going to take a few more off. As soon as this blog posts, I'm shutting down the computer until Dec. 27 to enjoy family, friends and the holiday. Of course, if any urgent or earth-shaking tax news does arise, I'll jump right back online. But I suspect that won't be a problem. So to all a good night and a Merry Christmas!