The best holiday shopping tips for the worst procrastinators

This pastoral scene shall pass.
This pastoral scene shall pass.
Image: Reuters/Neil Hall
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There are seven shopping days until Christmas. If you waited until the last minute, don’t panic—retailers are just as desperate to clear shelves as you are to score every last-minute item on your shopping list.

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping, you aren’t alone. The National Retail Federation estimates that only 1 in 10 Americans are done at this point. In fact, about a third of holiday shoppers don’t even begin making purchases until mid-December, so there is still a big incentive for retailers to push promotions throughout the month.

Most of the best discounts over the next week will shift from online to in-store. Here are the best tips for last-minute shopping:

Shop on Super Saturday

This year, for the first time since 2012, there will be four Saturdays in December ahead of Christmas, so consumers have an extra weekend day for last-minute shopping.

The last Saturday before Christmas Eve is Dec. 23, promoted as Super Saturday. (Two-thirds of Americans shopped on Super Saturday last year. Fittingly, its alternate name on Wikipedia is “Panic Saturday.”)

Super Saturday 2017, forecast to be the second-busiest shopping day of the year after Black Friday, will offer some of the best in-store discounts of the season. And it’s an even better buying opportunity if your are smart about your plan:

Do your research

Super Saturday is for strategic shopping, not browsing. Stores will be packed from the moment they open, so it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for.

Keep an eye out for special discounts on winter apparel, kitchen appliances, TVs, and toys—Christmas is typically the end of the “season” for these kinds of purchases, so retailers will slash prices to get rid of surplus stock.

Head out early

Super Saturday is a retail marathon: Stores are desperate to capture last-minute revenue, and shoppers can be at their most desperate. Serious shoppers should get a good night’s sleep, rise early, and stay out late. Prices can be slashed more dramatically as the day wears on.

Most retailers will offer extended hours Saturday. In New York, for example, Macy’s Herald Square—one of the world’s largest department stores—opens an hour early and will remain open until 2 am on the 22nd and 23rd.

Try eBay

Some of the most sought-after holiday items have been sold out for a while, but you can still find even the most coveted Christmas toys on eBay.

With many sellers now offering guaranteed three-day delivery, eBay is many parents’ best bet for scoring a Hatchimals Surprise or the hard-to-find Nintendo SNES classic edition.

Buy jewelry

December is a big month for jewelry retailers, who make some 20% of their annual sales during the holidays season. To encourage shoppers to pull the trigger on purchasing an expensive gift, many jewelers will freeze prices in December, independent of the rate of gold or silver.

Thinking of proposing?  Now is an excellent time to buy an engagement ring because prices will almost certainly go up after the holidays, ahead of Valentine’s day.

Pay attention to shipping dates

If you’re in a pinch, most online retailers are offering extremely expedited shipping ahead of the holidays:

  • Apple is offering free two-day shipping on all products
  • Best Buy and Walmart will include two-day shipping with orders over $35
  • Kmart will guarantee delivery on orders of at least $60 made before 4pm US Central Time on Dec. 21, and in-store pickup for any online purchases made by 3pm Dec. 24
  • Target promises Christmas delivery on orders placed by Dec. 20
  • Urban Outfitters and Zappos both offer one-day shipping for a fee
  • Amazon Prime offers two-day shipping year-round. You can sign up for a free one-month trial, order gifts by Dec. 22, and be set for Christmas.

It’s also important to note major shipping dates for delivery by Christmas, especially because the two days prior are weekend mail days:

  • FedEx - Dec. 19: Express Saver; Dec. 20: Two-day; Dec. 21: Overnight shipping 
  • USPS - Dec. 19: First Class; Dec. 20: Priority Mail; Dec. 22: Priority Mail Express
  • UPS - Dec. 18: 3 Day Select; Dec. 20: 2nd Day Air; Dec. 21: Next Day Air

Hold out if you can

Holiday shopping doesn’t end with Christmas. One in five shoppers will spend 23% of their holiday shopping budget after Dec. 25, according to Deloitte.

Dec. 26 is also one of the biggest retail days of the year, the day when people start exchanging items and using the gift cards they’ve received. Many stores will offer blow-out deals, so be on the lookout for any one-day discounts.

Buy bitcoin

There’s nothing like giving someone a buzzword as a Christmas gift.

If all else fails, why not gift your loved ones with a volatile, speculative investment in cryptocurrency? It’s the perfect way to tell your friends and family that you too are deeply suspect of a centralized monetary body, and you’ll never have to pay for expedited shipping.