As much as I resolve to be ahead of the game, I'm a procrastinator so, naturally, I tend to panic on December 24th — or even on Christmas morning when shopping time has, literally, run out.
Fortunately it is possible to go online and get a truly last minute gift — And I mean that literally. You can buy a gift as late as Christmas morning and get it there on time.
Of course it's too late to buy a physical gift for Christmas delivery but you can buy a gift certificate online and have it e-mailed to the recipient. — Amazon.com, Macys.com, Barns and Noble (bn.com) are among the many online merchants that will gladly sell you a gift card for e-mail delivery. — Amazon also sells magazine subscriptions. There's even a web site dedicated to this practice aptly named GiftCerticates.com. HallMark has a similar site called Gift Certificate Center. These sites have gift certificates redeemable at hundreds of stores and restaurants. —
Of course, you can't place an e-mail under the Christmas tree or next to the Hanukah Menorah, but some online merchants will let you print out a card that you can slip under the tree. — Even if they don't, you can make your own by going to the site, finding a graphic that would work well on a card, copying the graphic to the Windows or Macintosh clipboard and then pasting that same graphic into a word processing program. — From there you can creatively design a card that you can print out and slip into an envelope.
You can also give the gift of travel. Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Continental and other airlines offer gift certificates that you can purchase online. — Another option is downloadable music. Apple's — iTunes and Napster both offer gift cards redeemable for online music.
Before you buy a gift card, check out the fine print on the merchant's web site. — Macys online gift certificates, for example, can only be used at Macys.com. They can't be used at one of the company's retail stores. — Amazon.com's cards are good for two years and the value is stored online. That means you don't have to worry about the recipient losing a physical card or piece of paper which is a great idea for the organizationally challenged.
A syndicated technology columnist for nearly two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
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