7 Fabulous Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Need a last-minute gift for an office party, your trusty mail carrier, a neighbor, co-worker or anyone else on your Christmas gift list? Here are nine great ideas that won’t take much time, and certainly won’t break the bank.

Woman Offering Christmas Gift

Give a treasure

Consider passing on an heirloom or family treasure to the next generation as a Christmas gift. Write a paragraph or two explaining the history or significance of the heirloom to go along with the gift. You will be preserving family history but not spending a dime. But here is the tricky part: Unless a person has expressed a particular love or desire for said heirloom and special treasure, do not assume your gesture will be appreciated.

Give an experience

Think about fun activities you could do with different people on your list: dinner for a friend; reading night and snacks with the grandkids; and movie night with the grandparents, complete with snacks. How about tickets to a local zoo, a day-trip on Amtrak? Write a description of the experience your recipient will receive, noting the day, time and all the details.

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The gift of compassion

If you want your gift to say how much you care, then find a way to show you care about what matters most to your recipient. Idea: Honor your recipient by gifting a third-world family with a flock of geese ($20) or a share in a goat ($10) to help that family become self-reliant through either Heifer or WorldVision. In just minutes you can place your order online, and print the gift card describing what you gave in your recipient’s name.


Photo: World Vision Catalog

Give what you do best

Often the most meaningful gifts are those that cost no money at all. A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent. Do you cook, clean, babysit, garden, sew, drive or shop? Create a gift certificate and make what you do the gift that you give.


Follow up within a few days to set the exact time your certificate will be redeemed. Your recipient may be too embarrassed to remind you to make good on your gift.


Photo: Families.com

Personalized stationery

Use your computer to make a supply of “borrowed-from” or address labels, notepaper, thank- you notes or stationery. Here’s a tutorial, Make Your Own Custom Stationery in Microsoft Word!

Most computers come loaded with some kind of print shop software that will do nearly all the work for you. Office supply stores sell the plain stock printable supplies to use in your printer.

Tie your finished products with a festive ribbon and place in an attractive tin for that one of a kind gift. Add a colorful pen and envelopes.

Family photos

Reproduce old family photos using your scanner or photocopier. Even if the photos are black and white, duplicate them on a color printer for the highest quality results. You’ll be amazed by how original they will appear when framed.


Include with your gift of an heirloom photo, as much information as you know—the who, where, and when!


Some people say giving money as a gift is tacky. I disagree, provided you put a modicum of care into how you package or present it. Money is a great gift. Money always fits and it’s never the wrong color.

Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking that money is okay. Sales of Hallmark greeting cards designed to hold cash have increased by nearly 200 percent in the past few years. Banks will trade wrinkled, dirty old money for newly printed, crisp bills for no fee. If you’re clever you’ll figure out how to fold those bills into fun origami shapes (Google “origami money” for instructions). Tuck them into tiny ring boxes or other appropriately sized containers.

100 dollar bill folded into a bow tie

You can always personalize cold cash with a warm note. A few XXs and OOs—the universal symbols of kisses and hugs—will make the gift even more valuable.

This post originally appeared on the pages of Everyday Cheapskate on 12-16-18, and has been updated with additional information, new how-tos and photo on 12-10-19. 


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Don’t miss today’s Podcast episodes (yes, TWO new episodes today!) You can listen right here. Or … all past episodes are archived HERE!

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