Your Guide To Navigating The Last Minute Shopping Apocalypse


Look, we’re going to tell it you straight, the team of hunky astronauts we sent up in a rocket to stop Christmas from coming has failed. And now we’re at T-minus 5 days. Doomed to drink eggnog and gather ’round the tree to sing carols. Which means — we’re at critical mass for present shopping. No turning back, it’s just time to just brace yourself, accept your fate, and get those gifts.


Stop crying! There’s no time for that! (Throws water in your face). Get it together, man. You can do this, even though you waited so ridiculously long to get your partner a present. We can salvage something from the ruins of her dream holiday and still make her Christmas perfect. All is not doomed. Not if we can help it.

This is your guide to navigating every last-minute present shopping apocalypse scenario.

The Mad Max: Fury Road

Supplies are low and every store you go to is out of the ONE GIFT she told you she wanted. Now, you have to go on a perilous journey to find it or die trying.

Warner Bros.

First of all, there’s this thing called a phone, use it! Don’t keep driving from place to place if you don’t have to. That will leave you frustrated. And for every store you call that doesn’t have THE gift, ask them if they have any ideas or suggestions about who might have it in stock. Maybe they’ll know of something in their same lane that you haven’t thought of. If a gift is sold out on Amazon, try figuring out the source. The actual company that makes it may still have some stock and be able to rush deliver.

But worst case scenario — you absolutely can’t find the gift — she doesn’t have to go disappointed. Do an alternate gift that she’ll love and on top of it put an IOU. “XXXXXX gift is coming in January 2019, but you deserve two presents this year.” It’s a second Christmas to look forward to and who can be mad about that? (Santa definitely gave me a few IOU’s “elves hard at work making it” letters throughout my childhood.)

Point being, she’ll understand and she may even be happy about it.

The Yellowstone Super Volcano

You blew your budget on everyone else (or yourself Black Friday shopping —oops). Your bank account is empty and you still have to buy your girlfriend her gift.

Columbia Pictures
John Cusick in 2012, a movie about trying to get into Target on Christmas Eve before the doors close and lock.

We get it, that 60-inch flat screen wasn’t going to buy itself. But now you’re broke and stuck — and you can’t not buy her a gift (unfortunately, she doesn’t think your presence by her side while watching that awesome television is present enough. Some people, yeesh). But even though your bank account is emptier than Scrooge’s heart pre-ghosts, you can still get her a gift that will make her feel loved.

Think of a gift that will involve a time commitment — Spanish lessons so you can go to Costa Rica next year or a cooking course — but allows you to pay later. Or print out actual pictures and make her a scrapbook. Or try to go with a thoughtful present that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. We rounded up great presents for under $50, shop for them here.

Here’s the most important thing, make an effort. So is your gift a relatively cheap bath tray from a vintage shop? Give it by having a warm bath ready, rose petals in it, and the tray set up — a glass of wine and her favorite magazine ready to go. The gift is cool and the thoughtful gesture? Even better.

The Zombie Apocalypse

You don’t have enough time for shipping so you have to wade your way through the hordes of mall shoppers.

Laurel Group Inc.

At Christmastime, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead can feel less like a metaphor about consumerism and more like a literal documentary of life at the mall. It’s rough. You can do it though by minimizing the stress. Carve out a time when the mall is slower (right when it opens, a weekday etc), prepare to park far away (and don’t spend the time even looking for a closer spot) and have a clear list with a plan.

We have an in and out pain-free mall trip guide here. But the most important thing about going to the mall last minute is knowing some things may be sold out. Make a list that is flexible. Have some alternatives written under each item to avoid the panic of having to decide on something new in the moment.

The Day After Tomorrow

The weather is terrible! It’s too cold to leave your house, but you still have gifts to buy.

20th Century Fox

Don’t do it! Order things for delivery! Amazon next day shipping is your best friend here. But you can also get a little creative. Grocery delivery services (like Peapod, Whole Foods, etc.) can deliver you a bottle of nice wine or liquor and various gourmet treats (really nice cheese and chocolate, her favorite indulgences) in hours. Stick that all in a basket for a night of wine, cheese, and merriment. Have her favorite movies queued up (works best if you hate them and refuse to watch them normally) and get the Hot Toddys going.

And you should probably cook her a fancy dinner. You did wait until the last minute, after all.

The Snowpiercer

You’re already en route by plane, train, or automobile when you realize you forgot that one very important gift.

Moho Films

Here we go. You are literally traveling when you realize you forgot to get her a present. This is bad, we’re not going to sugarcoat it. But we can still salvage it. The airport has a surprising amount of gifts you can wrap and make it seem like you braved the mall. A great book, booze, electronics… It’s honestly the mall of the sky, you’ll be fine. Just sneak away for 20 minutes before boarding (“The bathroom line was so long!” you can say when you get back). And don’t forget your carry on, so you can stuff things in and she won’t see the bag. It’s doable.

If you’re on the road? Okay, you’re going to get her a gas station gag gift: A forty of bad beer, tons of different kinds of scratch-off lottery tickets, Hostess cupcakes, chips, a collection of three dollar DVDs, and some kind of weird t-shirt with a bible quote on it. Think the kitschier, the better here. Wrap each present individually for a laugh. Then reveal that her actual present is a day at the spa when you get home (massage, pedicure/manicure, facial) and that was just a lot harder to wrap.

It’s a lie. But just a little one that will save you from a breakup.

The Giant Asteroid Headed Toward Earth

Her birthday is near Christmas and you already burned out hitting her hard with the best present ever. Now, you’re out of ideas.

Paramount Pictures

A December birthday is hard on the person who has it, but it’s even harder on the loved ones. That’s a lot of gifts and attention you have to give. If you already did a big physical present for her this year, why not go with something experiential that you can share together? Now is the time to surprise her with a weekend away skiing or a visit to somewhere tropical. For more experience ideas, check out our guide here. Then book it all online and print out the confirmations.

Slap in a card and boom. This is a gift that will totally surprise her and be fun for you both.