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Gift Ideas

13 last-minute gifts you can buy on Christmas Day

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Avoid the excruciating pain of having to admit you forgot to buy someone a present. Your secret's safe with these last-minute Christmas gift ideas.

father Christmas looking surprised and calendar

Yes, you now officially have a reason to panic. It's Christmas Day, you've missed all the last-minute delivery dates and you've forgotten to get your mum a gift...

But don't worry! As always, we've got your back. There are some options both online and off that can help you avoid any awkward gift-less situations.

You can purchase these last-minute gifts from the comfort of your own ho-ho-home before your nearest and dearest have realised something is missing under the Christmas tree.

Remember that you shouldn't feel that you have to buy gifts simply for the sake of it. It's best to consider the financial and environmental impact of buying gifts that may go to waste.

Last-minute Christmas gifts

Here's a list of great last-minute Christmas gifts you can buy on the day:

  1. Experience days

    people parachuting

    Cost: £10 – £50+ (depending on how guilty you're feeling!) is a good first port of call when buying a gift for someone on Christmas Day. You'll find everything here – from weekends away to skydiving and spa treatments.

    You'll likely be too late to get your voucher in the post, but you can opt for an online voucher instead. Simply print off the confirmation, or make your own voucher.

    Some other sites worth visiting for experience days include:

  2. Magazine subscription

    Cost: £10 – £60+

    A magazine subscription is a favourite of ours. Not only is it a perfect last-minute gift that takes next to no effort, but it's the gift that keeps on giving.

    Think about it. Grab a 12-month subscription and the gift receiver will be reminded of how generous you are every single month.

    Best magazine subscriptions

  3. Film streaming subscription

    Cost: £5+ per month

    Who doesn't love streaming movies? That's why you can't go wrong with an Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, NOW, Disney+ or Netflix subscription (unless they already have one, of course).

    You can offer to buy them a subscription for as many months as you want. Some of the super money-savers among you will notice that Amazon and Apple TV+ both offer free trials too.

    Plus, if you opt for Netflix, you can buy a gift voucher to cover the subscription. Look on eBay or CDKeys, where gift cards are sometimes sold for up to 25% less than their retail value. See our guide to buying discounted gift cards for more tips.

  4. Music streaming subscription

    spotify on phone on a table with earpods

    Credit: Yalcin Sonat - Shutterstock

    Cost: £5 – £10

    If films aren't their (or your) thing, you might want to delve into some tunes instead.

    Head over to Amazon Music or good ol' iTunes, buy an album and give it as a last-minute Christmas gift... simple!

    Or, you could give a music streaming subscription.

    A few of them even offer a student discount, which can bring the cost down by about 50%. Plus, we have loads of ways to save money on Spotify Premium.

    And again, there are plenty of free trials for music streaming services, so you can save a chunk on the first month.

  5. Do-something-nice cheques

    Cost: less than £1

    Make up some cheques (handcrafted or printed, depending on how creative you're feeling) for your services to be redeemed at a future date.

    For example, offer to make them breakfast in bed or do some household chores while you run them a hot bath.

    Write the following on your do-something-nice cheque:

    To: [their name]

    From: [your name]

    This cheque entitles you to...

    Hand it to your friend/family member (maybe even with some flowers if you're feeling particularly generous) and they can enlist your services when they like.

    However, if this is for a partner or a parent, prepare yourself for the 'you should be doing these things anyway' digs.

  6. Gift cards

    Cost: £10+

    True, gift cards can seem like a bit of a cop-out. Why not just stump up the cash instead of forcing them to shop at the store you have chosen?

    Nevertheless, some thought has gone into this one.

    If you had a gift in mind that you didn't get around to buying, you could include a note with the card saying "this is to buy that [insert item] you said you wanted".

    You can pick up gift cards all over the place nowadays, including supermarkets, petrol stations and even online. Some brands even do text and email gift cards.

    The choice of brands is equally vast, including iTunes, Amazon, Pizza Express and thousands more. This option could be a perfect last-minute saviour.

    If you're on a serious budget this year, we've also got a great guide on thoughtful gifts for £5 or less.
  7. DIY gift

    handmade gift and pine trees

    Credit: NT_Studio - Shutterstock

    Cost: about £5

    There's a lot to be said for getting creative and taking a minute to rustle something up by hand.

    You should only need an hour or so to make something nice on Christmas morning without anyone noticing.

    If you're looking for some inspiration on what to make, check out our homemade Christmas present ideas as well as our guide on how to upcycle old clothes into something brand-spanking-new. You're welcome.

  8. Petrol station treats

    Cost: about £8

    You can always count on petrol stations being open, even on Christmas Day. People have places to go and need fuel to get there, right?

    Some flowers can look great, but if other last-minute shoppers have already snapped them all up, don't sweat.

    Look for alternatives such as boxes of Liquorice Allsorts, Wine Gums or the classic festive Toblerone.

    If sweets aren't their thing, a bottle of wine, Bailey's or brandy usually hits the spot – making Christmas Day extra merry!

  9. Event tickets

    Cost: £30+

    You can pick up tickets for concerts, comedy gigs, sports events and more in a flash by jumping over to sites like Ticketmaster.

    You won't have the physical tickets to give them on Christmas Day, but you can draft up a couple of dummy tickets or print the receipt and pop it in a homemade card.

  10. Cook up some treats

    person hand pressing shapes into doughnut dough

    Credit: szmuli – Shutterstock

    Cost: about £3

    If you have more than just basic cooking skills, why not cook up some treats? If you're at home for Christmas, you can even use all the fancy grown-up kitchen gadgets. You may even get away with using your parents' food if you're feeling super cheeky.

    For a cheap and simple idea, why not try our chocolate truffle recipe?

  11. Plant a tree

    Cost: £5 – £60+

    If you're buying a present for one of your environmentally-conscious friends or family members, or want to nudge them in that direction, why not plant a tree on their behalf? It's easily one of the best eco-friendly gift ideas.

    For a donation of as little as £5, the National Trust will plant a tree and send you a digital certificate. You can then use that as your last-minute Christmas gift.

    Most wrapping paper contains plastic and has a big carbon footprint. Wrap beautiful presents using brown or recyclable paper, sealed with brown paper tape or twine. Or, go for reusable gift bags!
  12. Charity donation

    Cost: £10 – £50+

    Christmas is a time for giving and what's a better gift than helping those less fortunate?

    There are quite a few options in terms of making a charity donation on someone's behalf, and Oxfam lets you choose a charity e-card to help buy funds for a specific area of its work. Some of them include:

    You can buy these ecards online, add the recipient's email address and a personal message for them, and it will be delivered instantly. A life-saver if you're buying it on Christmas Day.

  13. I.O.U.

    As a last resort, you can play the I.O.U. card.

    We love a bit of money-saving, and we're guessing you do too! So, why not tell your friends and family that you want to buy them something in the Boxing Day/January sales because you know they (well, you) can get more for your money?

    Let them know that you didn't forget to buy them something, that you already know what you're getting them and that it was a conscious, money-saving decision to hold off. Genius!

If all else fails then you can just claim you've become disillusioned by the commercialisation of Christmas and choose not to buy Christmas presents for anyone out of principle. Don't be surprised if you don't get any presents back, though.

We're guessing your bank account might feel the Christmas crunch after splashing out on those pressies. Our New Year's money-saving resolutions can help you get back on track.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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