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The advantages of last-minute holiday shopping

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Tackling tasks well in advance has many advantages, and often it is in one’s best interest to be ahead of the game, including when the game at hand is holiday shopping.

But men and women who simply can’t get a head start on their holiday shopping need not fear, as waiting until the eleventh hour to do the bulk of your shopping can have some distinct advantages, too.

A Consumer Reports Holiday Poll found 9 percent of shoppers — an estimated 17 million people — planned to shop in stores on Christmas Eve in 2012. Many stores are still open on Christmas Eve, even if the doors are only unlocked for a limited number of hours. That gives shoppers one last chance to find the perfect presents. In addition to having more time to decide on gifts, here are some other benefits to shopping later in the season.

  • Smaller crowds: As the holiday season winds down, many shoppers have already completed their shopping. Fewer people tend to be in stores in the final days before Christmas, as they are readying their homes for company or making travel plans. This can be a prime time for shopping and getting through malls or other retailers in less time.
  • Discounted prices: Anxious to reduce inventory and make the most of end-of-the-year profits, stores may discount merchandise even further for fast sale. Shoppers anxious to save a little bit more or come in under budget may find waiting to shop is to their financial advantage.
  • Lower chance of discovery: One difficulty of shopping early is keeping all of the gifts hidden for the duration of the month. Waiting until later to shop means only having to camouflage gifts for a few days. When you wait, curious kids are less likely to find their gifts before the big day.
  • Last-minute specials: Some online retailers offer ‘doorbuster’ sales at various times during the holiday shopping season. These sales may offer additional discounts or even free shipping. Just be sure to balance the benefits of the discount against the shipping price. If it means having to pay a premium for overnight shipping, it may not be worth the investment.
  • More time to plan: By the end of the holiday season you may have a better idea of what you need to purchase. You also may have polled others regarding what they are giving, reducing the chances of giving duplicate gifts.
  • Gift cards galore: Some people prefer to give gift cards, which are available all season long. Consumer Reports says 62 percent of last-minute shoppers grab gift cards. If you fall into that category, waiting to buy the cards won’t be an issue so long as you make it to the stores before they close.

Last-minute shopping has its advantages. If time is ticking away, there are still deals to be had.

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