Last minute Christmas presents

Picture of jars of home made cranberry sauce

Gussied up cranberry sauce to give away

I’m up early on Christmas Eve as I was talking to ‘Wake Up To Money’ on BBC Radio 5 Live about last minute Christmas presents. The 5.30am start (!) isn’t actually a bad thing, as I’m also surrounded by scissors, sticky tape and wrapping paper, with a lot of wrapping to do before tomorrow.

But if you still need to finish your Christmas shopping, or your parcels have been delayed (I hear Father Christmas just can’t get the delivery drivers these days) here are some ideas. You don’t have spend a bomb or to resort to three for two toiletry sets either.

I’ve focused on stuff you can do at home, over the Internet or in a supermarket, if you’d rather avoid the high street, and limit the chances of giving family and friends Covid for Christmas. 


Picture of home made mince pies as a last minute Christmas present

Feeling hungry now

Home made presents

Make the presents into a Christmas Eve activity, while listening to carols or getting the kids involved.

I’ve given presents of home-made decorated Christmas biscuits, mince pies and chocolate brownies. If you have a nice tin to put them in, or can get one somewhere like Wilko or Poundland, all the better. Otherwise wrap in foil then cover with tissue paper and ribbon.

The photo at the top shows this year’s batch of super easy cranberry sauce. I collect empty jam jars during the year to reuse, and add labels, fabric and ribbon to create festive gifts.

You might be a little late to make sloe gin or flavoured vodka but there’s always next year!

An added bonus with consumables is that they don’t add to clutter and landfill. 

Gift vouchers

If you’re looking for something more personal than pressing cash in a card, get a gift voucher related to the recipient’s interests. These can be particularly useful for tricky teens. You can often buy and email e-voucher codes at the last minute, and don’t have to resort to bumping up Amazon’s profits.

For example, get Cineworld or Odeon vouchers for movie lovers, Greggs for the ever-hungry, Forbidden Planet for comic and cult film fans, or iTunes or Google Play for gamers. Books tokens can also be spent beyond books in Waterstones.

The caveat, as ever, with gift vouchers is that they are only as good as the shop you buy them from. If the retailer goes bust, your present goes down the drain, so choose carefully.

On a budget? Give your time, with home-made vouchers for anything from babysitting or gardening, to ironing, dog-walking or DIY. Try to think of whatever skills you have, and the recipient might appreciate. My sister has strong-armed her children into making ‘Mummy Vouchers’ for maternal happiness, including the ‘no complain bedroom tidy’, dash to the corner shop and unloading the dishwasher.


Bunch of lilies and irises from Freddie's Flowers

Freddie’s Flowers delivered to their door


Make a virtue out of the last minute nature of your gift, and explain you’re extending the excitement of Christmas. See if you can snap up a bargain magazine subscription at this time of year that relates to their interests. My kids loved getting The Beano and The Week Junior from their grandparents. 

If you want to save money, a bunch of other subscription services offer cut price trials for your first box. Sign up online and send to the recipient, then make sure you cancel afterwards – could be anything from Freddie’s Flowers to the Craft Gin Club, Pong Cheese, Beer 52 or meals from Hello Fresh.


Picture of my Mum enjoying afternoon tea

Booking afternoon tea as a present

Experiences to remember

I’m a big fan of giving experiences rather than stuff, although with the prospect of Covid restrictions, do check flexibility about refunds or extending dates. 

I’ve given presents from a back massage at a local spa to a nearby manicure, while my husband once got me a course of trampoline lessons at the local leisure centre and I sent him on a cocktail-making class.

A regular favourite is bargain theatre tickets during January and February, thanks to the Society of London Theatre’s New Year Sale.

Check out Groupon and Wowcher for cut-price experiences – highlights for me including taking my Mum for afternoon tea and doing a cheese-making session with friends.

Look at sites such as BuyaGift, Red Letter Days and OffPeakLuxury for meals out, short breaks and for example a driving day for under 17s.

If you’re feeling particularly generous, annual membership of for example English Heritage or the National Trust will get people out and about. Give membership of the Royal Horticultural Society, and they can take advantage of priority tickets to Chelsea Flower Show next year.


Picture at a supermarket checkout with festive pyjamas, DVD, bedding, wine and bath salts

Last minute presents from a supermarket sweep

Supermarket sweep

The mahoosive supermarkets sell pretty much anything you can think of – books, DVDs, CDs, headphones, toys, bedding, festive pyjamas – so you can always go wild in the aisles. I got a great escape room game from Sainsbury’s one year, which the whole family enjoyed.

But if you don’t have a superstore nearby, stick with food and drink. Make it special by selecting something nostalgic they connect with Christmas – a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, jelly babies, turkish delight, crystallised ginger, a selection box.

Supersizing can make presents more special: an enormous bar of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, a whole tin of Quality Street to themselves.

Make up hampers for food lovers centred on a theme – smoked fish, fish pate and lemons, or curry spices and sauces with rice and jars of pickle and chutney. Add hot chocolate, mini marshmallows and popcorn to a DVD.

Finally, I reckon many of us could do with a strong drink to survive Christmas. If you’re seeing people in person, go for a favourite wine or fizz, a selection of local beers, or push the boat out with fancy gin, vodka or whisky. Less expensive options include ginger wine by Stones or Crabbies, brilliant after a bracing Boxing Day walk, or Chambord liqueur, which comes in a particularly festive bottle.

Now – over to you. Any last minute Christmas presents left to buy? What are your top tips? Do share in the comments – I’d love to hear!

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  1. Alice Strang
    24th December 2021 / 9:31 am

    Mummy Vouchers is a great idea!

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