Even the best-prepared of us can discover on Christmas Eve or even Christmas day that there’s a present we’ve forgotten to buy.
Perhaps a friend or relative is unexpectedly coming to visit, or you’ve just discovered that the intended recipient already owns the gift you were intending to give.
Whatever the reason, there’s no need to panic: there are still some last-minute present options that you don’t have to go to the shops for or wait to be delivered.
Downloadable films, music and books
Increasingly, people are likely to buy a lot of their music, films and even books on the internet to be downloaded on to their phones, tablets, computers or e-readers.
This is great news for the last-minute Christmas shopper: it takes just a couple of minutes to choose a gift from a site such as iTunes, pay for it online and have it emailed to whoever you like.
When the recipient gets the email, it will contain a link or a code so they can download whatever it is you have sent them.
How to buy downloadable gifts
To be able to give gifts in this way, you’ll need an account at a website that sells digital media.
Signing up to something like iTunes, run by Apple – the creator of the iPhone and iPad – doesn’t take too long and it is free. You will have to download the iTunes software to your computer if you don’t have an iPhone or iPad with it already installed, however.
Once you have an account and the right software, you just need to choose your gift: in the buying options listed when you click the downward arrow next to the “Buy” button, choose “Gift This Album”.
Then fill in the recipient’s email address, finish the transaction and you’re done.
It will make things easier if you buy your present from a retailer that the recipient already uses so they don’t have to go through a registration process.
Online gift vouchers
Amazon is another popular site for films, digital books and so on, but it does not allow gifting in the same way that iTunes does.
If you want to buy your present through Amazon, your only option is gift vouchers which can be emailed to the recipient as explained above. This may not be the ideal solution if you wanted to choose the gift, but it is possible to personalise the vouchers with your own photo, for example.
Most online retailers offer gift vouchers that can be emailed, so it shouldn't be too hard to find giftable vouchers.
Other last-minute gift ideas
If you are stuck for a last-minute Christmas present but do not want to give a voucher or downloadable films, music or books then you could consider concert or event tickets. By their nature the ticket is often not available until closer to the time of the event, and many are now e-mailed out, although you do need to be careful that the ticket does not require that the person whose card was used in the transaction does not need to be present. A well-chosen event can be remembered by the recipient for years to come.
If you can't get to the shops but you do have some spare time you could also consider something homemade, such as homemade chocolate or biscuits. You could try our Christmas baking ideas for inspiration.