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Too Busy for Christmas? Last Minute Holiday Shopping and Card Ideas That Work

Every year I do an article or post about making holiday shopping and other activities easier and/or faster. I wait until the last minute to do the post because it’s most helpful when it’s timely. Each year I mention some of the same old standbys and some new stuff.

Today is December 20. Some of you out there haven’t sent cards. You probably think it’s too late. You are probably right. Here are my solutions for card tardiness:

1. E-Cards. Yes, this is obvious. You’ve already thought of it yourself. But, as a recipient of some of the lame last-minute e-cards myself, I want to give you a couple of suggestions on sending good e-cards.

a. For goodness sake, stop going to the online vendors with cute animated cards that your recipient has to go fetch. Blech. Use your own mail program with stationery to make brief, personal greetings.

b. Ditto on the above stationery suggestion to make a Christmas email newsletter.

You can get plenty of Christmas theme email stationery for free from vendors like Cloudeight Stationery. Their Christmas Collection is at http://thundercloud.net/seasonal/christmas/. And there are others. Like Jumsoft for Mac (http://www.jumsoft.com/goodies/). Just Google “email Christmas stationery free.”

c. If you have the skills, just make a one-sided card in Photoshop or GIMP and send it to your Christmas email list.

2. Real Cards. If you have friends or family who don’t do email, or if you just prefer postal mail, send real cards anyway. They will be late. So what? A quick and easy way to do this is to go to CardStore.com. Pick a card from their stock or use their image upload to make your own photo card. Give them your list of people to send cards to. They’ll print the cards, stamp them and mail them for you. Whether you send one or a thousand.

Now, as for last minute gifts.

1. Amazon.com With Prime Shipping. You haven’t gotten Amazon Prime yet, have you? Stop monkeying around and get it. You can buy almost anything you can imagine on Amazon.com and with great prices. If you have Prime, you can have it shipped in two days for free. Or overnight for $3.99 per item.

No, not everything on Amazon qualifies for Prime, but you can filter your search results for products by requesting that they show you only Prime products. So, when you’re strapped for time, use Prime and get it quickly.

2. Gift Cards and Certificates.

First, a warning: Don’t get them off a display rack at retailers, supermarkets, etc. There’s a new scam to add to all the others you’ve read about in gift cards. Scammers take a mag strip scanner to the cards on the rack and find the serial number. They then call in to check on the card balance until they find it has been activated. As soon as it’s activated, they use the serial number to shop online and drain the value of the card. So it’s worthless when the gift recipient tries to use it. (Read about this scam and more at scambusters.org)

If you want to get gift cards locally and hand them out yourself, get them from the issuer or from the customer service counter of a retailer.

However, a fast, easy way to do gift cards and certificates is to go to giftcertificates.com. You can have them emailed right up until December 24. And they have “superpercertificates” that allow you to let the recipient choose what cards he wants. You can also print out a “superpercertificate” to physically hand the gift to your recipient.

3. Order And Pay Online But Pick Up At The Store.

BestBuy has it. Sears has it. Target has it. Walmart has it. Many stores with both physical and online presences have it. “Buy online, pick up locally.”

Don’t spend time wandering up and down aisles and waiting through long checkout lines. For goodness sake, just shop online and have the thing ready for you to pick up later on in the day. Costs the same in money. Much less cost in time. No shipping charges. Make a list, check it twice, shop online, save lots of time.