Survival guide to last-second gift shopping

By Paul EngLifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

If you're still shopping for holiday presents, you're not completely out of luck.

Many stores and retail outlets—Best Buy, Costco, Kohl's, Macy's and Toys "R" Us, for example—are keeping their shops open on Christmas Eve. Check your local stores to find out the exact hours of operation. Some Target stores, for example, will be open until 10 p.m. Dec. 24. (Chase has taken steps to protect customers from the recent credit-card data theft at Target. Still, if you're concerned about ID theft and possible fraudulent charges, read "Protect Your Identity from Target's Security Breach.")

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But even if you're left scrambling for gifts to give on Christmas Day, you have options. Consider:

1. Supermarkets. Some of them, such as Safeway on the West Coast, will be open for part of Christmas Day. And with many of the larger supermarket chains stocking a wide variety of items—food baskets, baked goods, DVDs, gift cards for other retail outlets and restaurants—you should be able to scrape up a decent gift.

2. Drugstores. CVS, Walgreens, and others have positioned themselves as the desperation play of choice by highlighting their toys, electronics, perfumes, and of course, greeting cards and wrapping paper. Many drugstores will be open 24 hours (in some cases, even the pharmacy department), so a predawn shopping run on Christmas Day can be done. (For last-second gift ideas, consider these "Best As-Seen-on-TV Products," which you might find in those drugstore aisles.

3. Certificates from online retailers and media-streaming services. You can e-mail or print out gift certificates from shopping sites such as If the person you're shopping for has broadband at home, consider giving an online service such as Hulu Plus or Netflix so he or she can stream digital videos, movies, and TV shows. (Check our reviews of streaming media players and services for gift suggestions.)

4. Just give cash. You might have some of that around the house. If you don't, there's always the never-closed neighborhood ATM.

Good luck on your scramble to find last-minute gifts! (You'll do a better job of budgeting your shopping time for Christmas gifts next year.)

—Paul Eng

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