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10 last-minute, money-saving Christmas shopping tips

Running to the mall to complete the shopping on your list is fraught with temptation and possibilities to overspend. You've been good so far. Don't blow it now.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 20, 2013 12:54PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyChristmas is right around the corner. Can you believe it?

Even if you've waited until the last minute to wrap up your shopping, you don't have to overspend. We have some valuable tips that will keep you from going overboard and spending more than you know you can afford.

1. Pare down your list

Since you're down to the wire, now is not the time to splurge on Christmas gifts because, for many items, the best holiday prices have come and gone.

Instead, narrow down your list to include only those individuals you definitely expect to receive a gift from. It may be very tempting to pick up an adorable doll for the neighbor's toddler or a gift card for your favorite co-worker, but doing so can quickly cause your spending to spiral out of control, leaving a limited budget for those who matter most or, even worse, a substantial amount of newly acquired credit card debt.

And sorry to break it to you, but it is best if you leave those appealing items that you would love to have for yourself on the shelf for now. Remember that you're trying to save money.

2. Set a time limit

Once you have the final list in hand, determine a reasonable amount of time that will be required to pick up gifts for everyone on your list. Once you begin shopping, set an alarm on your phone or other electronic device and refer to it frequently to keep you on track.

If you're shopping with time constraints, there will be limited idle time to spend money on unnecessary items.

3. Pack your own snacks

Before heading out, fill up on your favorite meal or snacks within the comfort of your own home or take some snacks and a drink with you. The coffee shop in the mall may be filled with mouth-watering treats and tasty beverages to wash them all down, but before you know it, you will have spent money that could have otherwise been allocated to your holiday gift fund.

Woman with Santa hat © Stockdisc, SuperStock4. Comparison shop

Use your smartphone or any other electronic device that can access the Internet to locate the best deals available at retailers nationwide, as well as online coupons. Even if you find an irresistible offer online, you may be able to visit a brick-and-mortar store and convince the manager to match or even beat the price. You know how to haggle, don't you?

5. Re-gift

Do you have any brand-new items sitting around the house? Perhaps you've received a few gifts in the past on special occasions that you have no use for? These make perfect candidates for re-gifting.

Before you dust them off, be sure you’re aware of who gave the gifts to you in the first place so they don't end up in the hands of the original purchasers.

6. Put your creative talents to use

If you have a little bit of time to spare, try your hand at some arts and crafts. Not sure where to start? Pinterest is what I like to call the "creativity hub" as it offers a number of do-it-yourself project ideas along with instructions on how to create the perfect gift for your colleague or loved one at little or no cost to you.

7. Craigslist

Consider perusing the classifieds on Craigslist. Items offered on the site range from furniture to vehicles and everything in between. In some instances, items are offered free of charge to the first individual to respond to the ad. It may be a stretch, but one seller's trash may just be the treasure, or gift, that you're searching for.

8. Shop online

Going this route can save you a ton of time and money. Not only will you avoid the crowded stores, but you will also be able to sort items by price and compare prices from various retailers to get the best deal on what you are looking for. This chart from our friends at DealNews identifies the regular and expedited shipping deadlines of popular retailers to have your gift arrive on time.

There's still time but you have to act quickly.

9. Purchase gift cards from retailers with promotional offers

Many retailers and restaurants offer gift cards at a reduced rate as part of their holiday promotional offers. I did a bit of last-minute shopping at a local Japanese steakhouse offering a free $25 gift card with the purchase of $100 or more in gift cards.

Living Rich with Coupons has a comprehensive list of gift card offers from popular restaurants.

10. Let them choose

Still not sure what to purchase for those last few people on your list? Giftly allows you to give a specified sum of money, along with a suggestion on how to use it. In return, the recipient must let you know how the funds were spent.

These are just a few ways to save money while doing a little last-minute shopping. If you have any cost-cutting tips, share them in the comments below.

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