A word of advice. Try to plan your gift giving in advance. Don't wait to the very last minute. Last minute gifts would probably cost you more than you might anticipate.
Take a calendar and your organizer. Circle every birthday, your wedding anniversary, christmas and all gift giving dates on the calendar for the entire year. For starters get an extra calendar just for your gifts to simplify your gift giving.
Plan ahead a few weeks in advance. For each date, who are the persons you intend to get gifts for. What is your budget? What would you give that person?
Shop online for the gift. Now, this is why I say it is cheaper to plan ahead than wait for the very last minute. If you wait until a day or two before the event, you would probably have to go for overnight shipping. If you order long in advance, you can take the cheapest shipping method possible. The shipping cost between the different shipping options can vary considerably.
Some places offer free ground shipping within U.S. for a minimum order size. For this free or relatively cheap ground shipping, you have to order ahead of time. For example, if you want your gift to make it in time for Christmas within U.S., you have to order it by December 16th latest. Now if you miss that 16th December deadline, you would have to go for faster, more expensive shipping options. Between 16th December to 20th December, you would probably have to go for the UPS 3-Day shipping in order to make it in time for Christmas. That costs money. I used the UPS calculator to find the estimated cost of shipping a 1 lb package by UPS, using the 2 day delivery, within U.S. and the shipping cost alone was around $29.42. For UPS next day air saver, the shipping price was $34.03. For UPS next day air, the shipping cost was $36.28. The shipping cost of the package alone makes last minute gift giving rather expensive.
If you missed the shipping deadlines, the next best bet would to skip the excess shipping costs by sending an online gift certificate. These are electronic gift certificates that you can send by email. No shipping costs or shipping time required. Not as impressive as sending a nice package, but still better than nothing.
Another reason why you should do your gift buying preparations in advance is that you can take advantage of free gift cards to buy your gifts. All that takes time. There are a few such gift cards and free gifts available at http://www.gift-certificates.org/hot-gift-certificates.html. Basically, you answer some questions in surveys and get a gift certificate or gift card or free gift in return for your participation. Now if you do this way before the deadline, you would have time to complete the survey, get the gift certificate, go to the store and get the gifts. You save even more money getting your gifts that way.
That said, last minute gifts should be the last resort. Be wise and prepare your gifts ahead of time.
The writer is the webmaster of http://www.gift-certificates.org Here is where you can get online gift certificates.