The Last Word on Last Minute Online Gifts

It's near the big day and shoppers are scrambling for
eleventh-hour gift ideas. To beat the crowds and the holiday
shopping traffic, more and more consumers are turning to the
Internet. If you're careful to check expected arrival dates
posted on websites, are willing to pay more for fast delivery,
and can be creative for truly last-minute shopping (say,
Christmas morning), your gifts should still arrive in time to
be packed on Santa's sleigh.

Here's some advice for last-minute holiday shoppers.

1. Check holiday shipping schedules and make sure the product
is available for immediate shipment. Online retailers usually
post expected arrival dates and offer upgraded shipping options
for an additional fee. Still, those are estimates, and there's
no guarantee that Mother Nature will not dump 16 "of snow
somewhere along the delivery route. The sooner you order, the

2. Consider in-store pickup. Rather than wait for delivery, you
can quickly browse a favorite shop online, pick the gift you
want, and have it ready and waiting for you at the local
customer service counter. That neatly eliminates delivery
time, but if you have to wrap the gift and re-send it
else, it may still arrive too late.

Faster yet is to order a gift online and have it picked up at
the customer service desk of the store near the recipient.
Maybe, if you ask nice, your Mom will pick up the gift, wrap it
for you, and get it to Grandma in time. Just remember that
who picks picks up the gift needs to bring some form of ID and a
copy of the email order confirmation.

3. Order now, deliver later. Fortunately, there are many gifts
that can be ordered online and scheduled to arrive later. A
magazine subscription is a good idea – buy the current issue at
the local newsstand, wrap it, and enclose a note about the gift
subscription. Other ideas include scheduling a massage, a
vacation weekend for two or an experience such as a hot air
balloon ride, tickets to a concert, or a week's rental of a
snazzy convertible.

4. Use online tools to create a gift. For example, burn a
customized music CD or download tunes and videos straight to
your kids' MP3 players while they're sleeping. Try
Egypt (Not free, but legal. And still a good deal.)
Or download software or an e-book (just make sure it's
compatible with the loved one's computer.)

5. Download (or send) an email gift certificate. Probably the
most convenient option is to visit one of the many web vendors
who offer gift certificates that can be emailed. You can email
the certificate to yourself, print it out, and wrap it – it's a
lot more fun to unwrap an actual, physical gift. Or simply email
it directly to the recipient. Typically, the email contains a
special claim code with instructions how to log into the
website and use it to shop up to your predetermined limit.

Note that very few sellers allow you to redeem email gift
certificates in brick-and-mortar stores, so first make sure the
recipient is comfortable with buying online.

Order e-gift certificates directly from a favorite merchant, or
try to order certificates from a huge
selection of retailers.