Smart Buying

Last-Minute Deals for Holiday Shoppers

Take advantage of deep discounts on certain items and special online-only offers to save money.

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, you’re not alone. A survey by coupons Web site RetailMeNot found that more than half of those polled said they still will have gifts left to purchase by the time the last Saturday before Christmas rolls around. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise if you consider that December 20 – otherwise known as Super Saturday – is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the holiday season, according to to ShopperTrak, a firm that analyzes retail traffic.

You can count on stores being crowded if you have to do some last-minute shopping. On the bright side, you might find great deals on some items on your gift list. Retailers will be deeply discounting a variety of products during the days leading up to Christmas. Or you can avoid the hustle and bustle and take advantage of online sales if you act quickly to make purchases in time to receive them by Christmas Eve.

What’s on sale

Apparel. Expect clothing retailers to have sales on Super Saturday, December 20, with discounts of up to 50%, according to You’ll likely find bigger markdowns during clearance sales after Christmas, but the selection may be picked over. However, for shoe deals, wait until after-Christmas sales.

Beauty products. You’ll find discounts of 40% to 50% on bath and beauty products during last-minute holiday sales, says Kristin Cook, managing editor of deal site Ben’s Bargains. Some of the best sales will be at Bath and Body Works and Nordstrom, she says.

Holiday decorations. Although the discounts will be even better after Christmas – up to 90% off – stores will offer significant markdowns on holiday decorations before December 25, Cook says. If you’re looking for an inexpensive gift to give someone, consider an ornament or other holiday-themed item that’s on sale.

Mid-size HDTVs. DealNews expects retailers such as Best Buy, Dell and Walmart to have Super Saturday sales on 40-inch to 50-inch HDTVs, which will likely be bundled with extras such as a soundbar, Blu-ray player or gift card. Wait until January for deals on big-screen brand-name TVs (see 14 Things Not to Buy During the Holidays).

Pre-packaged gifts. Gift baskets, already stuffed stockings and similar items will be marked down by as much as 90%, says Vice President Howard Schaffer. The deepest discounts will be on Christmas Eve, when stores are eager to clear out this sort of holiday merchandise.

Toys. The toys that aren't this season's hot items will be deeply discounted during the last full week before Christmas, Cook says. The hot items will likely be discounted less because demand will be high, but there are still deals to be had on Legos, Skylanders, and Frozen toys, says Phong Vu, CEO of If you find a popular toy that your child wants in stock, don’t wait to buy it in hopes that the price will drop. Buy it now before it sells out, Schaffer says.

Video games and consoles. Look for aggressive sales at all major retailers on video games the week before Christmas, Cook says.You also should see discounts on Xbox One consoles that are on par with Black Friday markdowns, Vu says. Expect to see consoles bundled with games for as low as $329.

If you do wait until the very last-minute to shop, see the list of Christmas Eve store hours.

Online deals

Free shipping. You’ll have an opportunity to get free shipping on all purchases from the more than 1,000 retailers that will be participating in Free Shipping Day on December 18. Most of the participating retailers will be offering discounts of 20% to 40% – in addition to free shipping with guaranteed delivery by December 24, says Luke Knowles, who created Free Shipping Day in 2008. You can find a list of participating merchants at

Extra cash back. Cash-back shopping sites let you earn back a percentage of the money you spend on qualifying purchases at retail partners. During the holidays, some retailers increase their cash-back rates. For example, REI is offering 6% back – up from 3% -- on FatWallet. Combining cash-back offers with sales or other promotions can help you score major savings. Here are our top five picks for cash-back sites.

Last-minute specials. Mega-retailers Amazon and Walmart have discounted several items online for last-minute shoppers. Amazon’s “12 Days of Deals” will run through December 22 and features deep discounts on select items. Walmart,com has marked down select toys, electronics, home goods and more as much as 40%. Several other online retailers are having limited-time sales, so check with your favorites to see what discounts they’re offering. And check the Ben’s Bargains shipping deadlines list to find out by what day purchases need to be made to receive them in time for Christmas.

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