11/29/2012 03:17 EST

Holiday Shopping Plan: How To Master Gift Giving (Even As A Procrastinator)


When it comes to perfecting the art of holiday shopping, everyone starts out with the best of intentions. But once the onslaught of holiday parties and obligations begins, it can be very easy to get off track. Don’t panic, though. You can still get the perfect item for everyone on your list, including truly unique finds and some of the year’s hottest gifts.

We’ve outlined several plans of attack for a variety of common holiday shopping pitfalls and challenges that may afflict you this year. So even if you face one of these tricky scenarios, you'll still emerge a gift-giving champion.

Photo gallery Becoming The Best Shopper See Gallery

If You’re Shopping At The 11th Hour…

Oops, you did it again. You put off holiday shopping until the last minute, even though you swore you wouldn’t after battling swarms of fellow procrastinators at the mall last year. Well, fear not. You still have some civilized options. If you’re not completely booked with family engagements on Christmas Eve, you may want to take your procrastination to the next level and put off your shopping until then. Many stores start transitioning popular gift items to clearance prices the day before Christmas, and you might even score an early Boxing Day deal as shops get a jump on marking down items for Canada’s biggest deal day. Don’t forget to check the store’s website to make sure the item you’re looking for is in stock before you brave the holiday shopping crowds.

If You’re Looking For A Unique Angle

All things related to iPads and e-readers are hot gift items this year. Stay on trend while getting a little creative by scooping up a unique handmade sleeve or case from one of the independent craftspeople on Etsy. December 12th will be your best bet for snagging a deal, since some of the merchants will be participating in the second annual Free Shipping Day Canada. Bypassing shipping fees can translate into some big savings for savvy online shoppers, and you’ll be getting something truly original to boot.

If What You’re Looking For Is Sold Out…

Uh oh. You finally landed on the perfect gift ideas for everyone on your list, but many of the items are sold out at all your favourite stores! Before returning to the drawing board, consider straying beyond your usual shopping routine to land that sold out item after all. Thinking outside the box will serve you well. For instance, if you’re hunting for the super hot Wii U, but it’s sold out at the usual suspects like Best Buy and Toys R Us, check stores that most people probably wouldn’t think of when shopping for electronics or toys, like Shoppers Drug Mart. Many pharmacies and grocers have introduced electronics sections in recent years in an effort to become one-stop-shopping destinations.

If You’re Hunting For A Deal…

Even if you missed the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bonanzas in November, your window for deals is still open — especially in the online realm. Many group coupon sites have rolled out special holiday shopping features, such as Groupon’s “Grouponicus.” It highlights deals on popular gift items such as ties, spa packages and jewelry. If you prefer the good old-fashioned brick and mortar shopping experience, discount chains like Winners and HomeSense are always a great source for luxurious gifts at a bargain. And major U.S. discount retailers, like Marshalls, have recently opened Canadian locations, significantly expanding your options for snagging impressive gifts without breaking the bank.