Last Minute (Seriously Last Minute!) Holiday Gift Ideas

These are gifts everyone will like that you can get right now (like seriously, this instant) or even after you’ve hopped out of the car or jumped off the plane. Good luck, my fellow princes of procrastination, you kings of last minute gifting!

Cider House Rules: "Good night you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England."

I’m ranking these by ease-of-access.

#1 Digital Copies of Video Games

I’m old school… I thought I was buying a copy of a game to send to my sister that would arrive in a plastic box and a tight wad of folded instructions inside to show her what to do after the CD installed on her computer and the game finished downloading gigs upon gigs of updates.

Cue Godvoice: “How wrong the 90s child was.”

Digital copies of online games like Cuphead, and certainly other digital games you can find in online stores, can be downloaded by you or your gift recipient in minutes. Then, once you have the game code, you can share it. The game may have an obvious ‘buy as gift’ option, or you may need to email it once you’ve received it after checkout. By the way, don’t make the same mistake I did… if you’re a n00b to this mysterious practice, don’t click through all the different windows after you buy a game until you accidentally redeem the code and claim it for yourself. Get the code, get it to the person you love.

One Word of Caution: Make Sure You Know the Gamer

I was thinking about this the other day and choosing a video game for someone is a lot like… don’t laugh… choosing a bride or husband for someone. You have NO idea what they are really into unless you’ve heard them explicitly say, “Man, I should buy that Cuphead game. I keep forgetting,” or something like it. Especially if you’ve never really played a lot of games yourself… or even if you have. Gamer culture is actually vast. Console gamers might not be PC gamers, and then PC gamers might be into something as low-key as a hidden object game, or something as demanding as World of Warcraft. You know, a whole world of warcrafting… And then you have people who prefer Farmville or another mobile game…

Bosses from the classic 1930s style Cuphead game, including an evil carrot, potato, onion and boxing frogs.
Funnily enough, this isn’t Farmville, like at all. By saalem-tan at

In a serious pinch, and when in serious doubt, think of a game that they already have. Then, buy them a gift card that enables them to play more of that game (or buy game-related items in the online store). The gift card might not be for the game specifically, it might come from Google Play, or something like that.

Then it gets even, even better. The gift cards… are digital, too. So you’ll be able to email them to your friend or loved one in seconds. Do it now, on the plane!

Where to Buy?

  • Try Steam. You can play thousands of games on several devices, anywhere. If your giftee already has Steam, you’re good to go.
  • Over on Peruse the digital games section, or search for any title and see if there’s a digital copy. Easy peasy.

#2 Speaking of Gift Cards…

Clearly, you gotta get up pretty early in the morning these days to not be able to find a fast digital gift… because apparently, even classy clothing stores that have been around a mightily long time, like Ann Taylor, will let you buy a gift card made of ones and zeroes… Ann Taylor will even let you ‘Pick a design and send instantly.’

Screenshot of the lovely "Wish for This" gifts at

Chances are, almost any store that you know your giftee is a fan of will have a gift card available. And that gift card will also have a digital version that you can buy right from the website and have emailed to them. (And you probably don’t even need their email address. You can email it to you, and then forward it to them once you brag to them about how shiny their present is, and what store it’s from and if only they could let you know their email address.)

Where to Buy?

  • Go online, man. (Well, you’re here so you’re already there.) But check out any website for your favorite store and they should be able to hook you up.

#3 A Sweater

You’re scared. I know you are. I said to buy someone the most unoriginal gift ever. And it also seems easy… too easy… But seriously, people, it’s cold. Every human being wants to put something over their naked hide to stop the horrible bleeding away of their precious body heat this time of year. You can also grab a sweater from any clothing store you come across, whether you haven’t left for the holidays yet, or if you’re in the airport mall. So, if you know what you’re doing (I’m about to tell you how), then you can breathe a lot of life back into the most classic, and efficient holiday gift.

Here’s how to buy a last minute sweater… take advice from a devoted shop-a-holic:

  1. Stick to earth tones. An earth tone is a color that you’d see on the ground. Muddy chocolates, a cozy burgundy, warm tan, shale (a gray-pink), ivory, forest green, golden olive, navy blue. A lot of stores this time of year have sweaters in blindingly bright colors, which I have no problem with, but if you can’t guarantee your giftee loves a blue that will burn her retinas, avoid it. Instead, go for a classic navy. Earth tones are colors that very few people find offensive, unless they are worried about how their complexion will work with a certain shade. (A very pale-skinned person might be self-conscious about buying white sweaters that make them feel washed out. A brown person, like me, can handle more brown clothes, but perhaps in a shade of brown that isn’t so close to their skin color.) By the way, I did mention olive-type colors, but I’d avoid most of these since not everyone likes certain shades of green or brownish green that remind them of… well, just avoid giving them a visceral bathroom reaction if you’re gonna hand over a green or brown earthtone sweater. Instead, focus on pleasant shades of coffee or tea that you’ve seen before in your favorite mug.
  2. Texture is everything. Feel the sweater. Does it feel soft, or kinda scratchy and weird? If you have time, try the sweater on. Does it itch? Do everything in your power to avoid buying your giftee an itchy sweater. And then, sweater-makers try to trip you up sometimes. I recently bought an adorable pink fluffy sweater for myself that was soft in the store, but when I put it on, I wanted to scream and tear it off, with my burning skin. Okay, it wasn’t that bad but it was pretty damn awful. Admittedly, it does matter where you buy the sweater and I’d gone to a cheapo place… Also, try to get something that’s thicker or at least feels warm on your skin when you slide your hand up into the sleeve. Merino wool is amazing. Cashmere is incredible (lots of consignment stores have like $20-$30 cashmere sweaters in dedicated sections right now). Or any soft cotton that feels great when you touch and feels warm when you reach inside of it. If you’re getting ready to cuddle it in the store, great! But remember, you’re buying, not marrying the thing.
  3. Target good stores that stock quality items. I’m not saying you have to go out of your way to go find a Saks, but your local Uniqlo (Oh, they’re the best! Those extra warm scoop neck thermal shirts are where it’s at!), any department store that has a range of brand names you’ve already heard of, Ann Taylor, especially Ann Taylor LOFT (the best sweaters for women that I have ever found or gifted)… or really any store known for making good stuff, not a lots-of-stuff, will serve you well. And then Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, all have a similar range of brand name sweaters as the department stores do, but for less. By the way, if you can find a Cable & Gauge sweater while you’re shopping, you’ve struck gold.
  4. Avoid, avoid, avoid the temptation to just grab something from anyplace. I confess to secretly hating H&M because of the lack of U.S. size ranges and the lack of quality… But watch me break down and buy one of their inexpensive oversized sweaters this winter to go with these Dolls Kill leggings that I got… but that’s a future blog post. Anyway though, I wouldn’t buy a not-warm, flimsy sweater from a store known for its quantity of merchandise, rather than the quality… for anyone else. That’s my point. If you want to grab any old thin sweater that looks okay, don’t. That’s actually how you buy someone a bad sweater.
  5. And don’t let yourself get stressed out. It’s just a sweater. It’s not a crazy situation. Get a little karmic and just do your best… then hand over the sweater with a gift receipt.
  6. For bonus points, get an accessory that goes with the sweater. To really polish off your sweater gift, grab something else wearable in the store that is the same color, or better yet—the trifecta: same color, texture and pattern. For example, a navy blue knit hat that matches the sweater. Or a scarf that is the same shade of ivory. Stores like Ann Taylor often stock jewelry that is the same earthtone shade as their sweaters. To really nail the sweater-accessory combo gift: don’t put the accessory in a separate box (unless it’s jewelry). Pile them both up in the same box for a sense of abundance and a bigger ‘wow’ affect.

#4 A Tech Purse or Wallet

I’ve frightened you again. How –the heck– do you buy a purse for someone else? Especially if you’ve never bought a purse before in your life?

Hold on, now… I’m a firm believer that if you go name-brand, if you get something in an earthtone or their favorite color that’s great quality (you can find excellent good price-point bags and wallets at DSW), then you’re done with your holiday shopping.

A tech wallet with built in power bank: the Lucca Bozzi solar wallet.
The Luca Bozzi Solar Wallet. More at

And, if you add to that a built-in charger, lining that protects your credit card from being scanned a la data theft, a compartment large enough for their cell phone… and if you also consider that a lot of people haven’t heard of, let alone own a wallet like this… a tech wallet (sometimes called a “charging wallet”) will seem like bounty from the gods.


Okay, maybe not specifically from Thor himself, but… if they don’t have one yet, it’s a revolutionary idea enough for a lot people that their wallet could charge their cellphone. Techies and non-techies will appreciate this. As a bonus, give them a little adapter that you can get from CVS or Walgreens, or 7-11 that they can use to plug in the wallet charger and charge it up for the first time, so they can start using their gift right away. I don’t know why, but I haven’t seen a lot of tech wallets/charging wallets and purses in non-department stores.

Where to Buy?

  • Go to Marshall’s. Go to TJ Maxx. Go to Ross. They always have piles of them in the purse section. All good-looking.
  • Go to any department store, like Macy’s or JC Penny.

To the men out there—I give this advice not only because I’ve followed it for others, but my dad recently did for me. And it blew my mind, eventhough I already owned a tech wallet. My father got me, again, a really nice store brand, neutral patterned tech purse that he likely found at Macys. It fits my phone, it does everything. I couldn’t wait to use it. I was also so proud of him! Actually, maybe he’s the one who passed his shopping genes down to me… I guess that is how it works, as per science.

#5 Flowers

My boss has three female employees and he was extremely clever this year and got us all a simple bouquet of flowers with a tidy Thank You note. I definitely wanted to mention it because it was an extremely intelligent and classy holiday present. And it is not expensive at all to ever buy someone flowers. People always appreciate it.

Red and pink roses, sea holly and other beautiful winter-kissed flowers for the holiday.
Oh, these are gorgeous! The Frost from Urban Stems.

Once, years ago, I knew a guy who loved stargazer lilies. He didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, but if you got him on the subject of being single, what he wants in a partner, his likes or dislikes, he would eventually get around to the topic of flowers and wax about how amazing stargazer lillies looked. Now, he would have been totally down for getting a classic bouquet of those to put on the dinner table. I have to say, I can’t be sure how many other men out there like flowers, but you never know. You might surprise an acquaintance of yours, woman or man, with the kindness it shows!

So, maybe if you have nothing else for your spouse, you might not rock up to Christmas Day with some ‘day old daises form the Kwik-E Mart’ (Shin Chan reference)… But if this is for an acquaintance, a hostess or host, you will probably nail it with gorgeous flowers. Even a small bouquet of a 4-5 blooms can go a long way.

If you’re not clear on what kind to get, a classic bouquet of poinsettias this time of year is a good bet. That always goes nicely on the coffee table or over a mantelpiece. For women, I can assure you that pretty roses are probably always welcome. To avoid any connotations of romance, because flowers are that powerful of a gift, add a note that says simply, ‘Happy Holidays!’ and you can even add, verbally, that you thought they’d like to put these on their dinner table or on the counter for the season.

Where to Buy?

  • Almost every grocery store has flowers, and sometimes people sell them right on the sidewalk, on your way to work. (In case you forgot.)
  • I can personally recommend the bouquets from Urban Stems, if you can get them. They even have same-day delivery. I got a few of these bouquets this year from a coworker, just the spare ‘extras’ her partner brought home that she didn’t want to go to waste… and even those were gorgeous! Seeing such unique blooms I had never seen before in life, and then beautifully arranged in a mason jar… Okay, when I got them home and put them on the counter, those flowers gave me this unusual, intense emotional reaction that I cannot explain. Maybe because I’m a nature lover and I felt moved, seeing something so unique? Maybe because it was a random act of kindness? Maybe because my small, messy kitchen is that measly-looking without flowers? Dunno, but it was so, sooo lovely.

Hopefully by now, I’ve helped you with your holiday shopping in just the nick of time. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Let me know how it goes. Did you find any great last minute gifts not on this list?


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