Last-minute Christmas shopping: Find cheap gifts in your neighborhood

Couple doing last minute Christmas shopping.


Christmas is almost here!  Have you finished your shopping yet?

Don’t worry if you haven’t– there are plenty of stores selling inexpensive gifts in your neighborhood.

All you need is a bit of creativity to transform everyday products into thoughtful holiday presents.

>> Update: If you prefer to shop online for last-minute presents, check out our Top 10 gift ideas from Pinterest!

#1- The drug store

Your neighborhood drug store is a great place to find last-minute presents. It only takes two minutes to grab a gift card near the cash register.  If your loved ones aren’t fans of Applebee’s or Home Depot, you can purchase an American Express gift card.

If you’re feeling creative, assemble a  gift basket with low-cost items from the beauty department. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hair Emergency Kit: Perfect for a hair-obsessed sister or cousin. Pick up a variety of hair care products, throw in a brush, and voilà! Your shopping is done.
  • Beauty 101 Set: Do you have a tween relative who is impossible to shop for?  Help her discover makeup by creating a beginner’s kit with mascara, eyeliner, blush, eyeshadow and lip gloss.
  • Manly Man Package: Not sure what to get your Budweiser-swilling brother-in-law? Create a funny and cheap “macho” gift set with a 6-pack of beer, beef jerky and a comb.

#2- The 99 cent store

99 cents only store

Photo: Ian Broyles/Flickr

99 cent stores are a Mecca for last-minute shoppers. Here are a few suggestions, inspired by recent visits to New York City’s Jack’s 99 Cent Store:

  • Stocking Stuffers: The options are endless. Our favorites include candies, gum, packages of mixed nuts, school supplies, mugs, flower pots and seeds, and hair clips.
  • Traveler’s Gift Basket: It’s easy to assemble a travel kit with five items from the 99 cent store: a road atlas, a journal or notebook, playing cards, a sewing kit and a sink plug (for washing clothes in the hotel room).
  • Zombie Apocalypse Kit: Is your brother a fan of AMC’s hit zombie show, The Walking Dead? Create a tongue-in-cheek “survival” kit with band-aids, bottled water, gauze, a handkerchief and a can of beans. (Shotgun must be purchased separately).

#3 – The supermarket

When all other stores are closed and you’re desperate for a last-minute gift, head to the local supermarket.  Grocery stores sell dozens of gifts for under $15:

  • Flowers and Plants: A colorful flower bouquet  or a red Poinsettia are thoughtful Christmas presents.
  • Stocking Stuffers: Candy is just begging to be included in a  Christmas stocking.
  • Magazines: Give your loved ones the latest issue of a magazine and include a note saying you’ve bought them a one year subscription. (Use one of the insert cards to subscribe).
  • Fruit and Cheese Gift Basket: Put Harry and David’s to shame with a homemade food basket. Include an assortment of cheeses, apples, pears, chocolates, nuts, jams, crackers, pita chips, smoked sausages and jerkies. Place in an old Easter basket from your basement or simply wrap the items in cellophane.

#4 -The liquor store

Dixie Liquor Store

Photo: Joseph A/Flickr

Wine and spirits are the perfect stand-by gift. Liquor stores sell bottles at many price points, so you can pick up a stocking stuffer or generous present:

  • Scotch: Dad will enjoy sipping a neat glass of Scotch after a long day of work (check out for the top brands).
  • Wine: Mom will actually use this gift, unlike the sweater you bought her last year. You can’t go wrong with white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Reisling and Chardonnay. Popular reds include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvigon, Malbec and Syrah.
  • Hard liquor is a classy gift for your brother or sister.  Many brands sell Christmas gift sets that include glasses or barware.
  • Mojito Gift Basket: Show your creativity with a gift set you assemble yourself, with a bottle of rum, a few packets of sugar, two limes, a bottle of carbonated water and a sprig of fresh mint.

#5 – Your own home

Re-gifting is tacky, but the price can’t be beat! Your home is the easiest place to shop for a last minute gift.

  • Alcohol is a classic re-gift item. We’ve all been given a bottle of wine that we just don’t like.  Put it to use by giving it to a loved one this Christmas.
  • Homemade Gift Basket: Create a personal care package that includes unused soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and a shower cap from your pantry. You can also put together a fruit and cheese basket from ingredients in your fridge. Just make sure they are unopened and haven’t expired!


Remember that this isn’t a free for all. Items that you should never re-gift include used clothing, wrapped gifts with the original “to and from” tags attached, and gifts you don’t remember getting. The worst thing you can do is re-gift an item to the person who originally gave it to you.


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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.