Last-minute gifts

You procrastinated. You waited. The weather was bad. You were buried at work. Whatever your excuse, you need to get gifts for friends and family -- and time is running out. Well, don't worry: thanks to fast shipping, gift cards, and subscription services, you can send movies, games, books and all manner of goodies to your giftees without braving crowds at the mall. On the following pages, you'll find some of our favorite last-minute gift options.

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Gift cards

These days, it seems like practically every store and restaurant has its own gift card.

Whether you're looking to buy someone a nice dinner, some movie tickets, a couple books, a few music albums, a Netflix or Spotify subscription, a couple video games, some household supplies or even money towards apps for their new iPhone or Android device, you can probably find the right gift card hanging from a big wall of gift cards at your local supermarket or drugstore.

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Electronic giftcards

But say you don't have time to run out and buy a real, physical giftcard. There's an alternative: You can send an electronic gift card, or even print one out at home if you want to be classy.

You can send e-gift cards from big retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart, movie theaters like AMC and Regal, restaurants like Red Robin and The Cheesecake Factory, and a fair number of clothing shops and electronics stores (Apple, Best Buy, Newegg) too.

Just be aware that not all electronic gift cards can be set to arrive on Christmas morning. You'll want to check and see whether you can schedule delivery, or whether your gift will immediately arrive in your recipient's inbox.

Photo by: Screenshot by John P. Falcone/CNET / Caption by:

Amazon Same-Day delivery

Gift cards might be the safest way to give a last-minute holiday gift, but -- believe it or not -- Amazon might still be able to ship physical presents to your door. The company now offers same-day delivery in most major metropolitan areas in the United States, and its Prime Now 1-hour delivery service is available in over 17 cities now.

There are a few catches, of course. You'll need to type in your ZIP code here to see if you're inside a Same-Day Delivery zone, and you may need to pay an additional fee ($6-10) if you aren't an Amazon Prime member, or if your order is under $35. Same-day orders also generally need to be placed before noon.

If you qualify, though, you can simply browse Amazon for items with the Prime Free Same-Day Delivery logo, or use the Prime Now app for iOS or Android to rapidly fill the holes in your shopping list.

Photo by: Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET / Caption by:

Amazon Prime subscription

Speaking of Amazon Prime, why not give it as a gift? For $99, you can give your recipient all of these benefits:

> Free two-day shipping on most anything from Amazon's online store

> Free same-day shipping on qualifying items totaling $35 or more

> Unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows available on Prime Instant Video (the company's Netflix-like service)

> Access to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (one free book a month, from a pre-established list that includes the entire Harry Potter series)

> Access to Prime Music, more than a million streaming songs available at no additional charge

> Unlimited free storage of digital photos in the cloud (Prime Photos)

Nearly all of the digital features will work across devices from multiple manufacturers, including iPhones and iPads, Android devices, Roku boxes and -- of course -- Amazon's own Kindle and Fire devices.

(The gift can be scheduled for a specific date, and if the recipient is already a Prime member, he or she will get an Amazon credit instead.)

Give the gift of Amazon Prime

Photo by: Screenshot by John P. Falcone/CNET / Caption by:

Amazon MP3 albums or Kindle e-books

Amazon can also help you gift music and e-books via email on Amazon. Just note that, for whatever reason, MP3 deliveries (full albums or single songs) cannot be scheduled for specific dates in the future, whereas e-book deliveries can be scheduled. What's really cool, however, is that the recipient can choose to accept the e-book or MP3 music or exchange them for a credit of the same value. That means you don't have to worry whether your recipient already owns the latest from Stephen King book or Taylor Swift album.

Give Amazon music: Click "More options" and then "Give Album or Song as Gift" on any MP3 song or album in Amazon's catalog

Give Amazon e-books: Click "Give as gift" on any Kindle e-book in Amazon's catalog

Photo by: Screenshot by John P. Falcone/CNET / Caption by:

PC games via Steam

Steam's digital distribution service has pretty much changed not only the way people buy PC games, but how they can shop for them as well.

Lucky for you, you can turn any Steam game purchase into a gift while you're in the checkout. If your giftee already uses Steam, you'll be able to see if they already own a game or if it's on their wish list. If not, you can send it to their email address.

Just note that gifts are sent immediately. To avoid early gifting, you can add a game to your Steam Inventory at the time you buy it, and then send it days or weeks later.

Check out Steam's FAQ on giving gifts.

Photo by: Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET / Caption by:

Digital game codes

PC gamers aren't the only ones who can receive games as last-minute gifts, though. These days, retailers like Amazon and GameStop sell digital activation codes for practically any game your giftee might like.

All you have to do is make sure you pick the right digital game for the right game console that your recipient owns (don't buy for PlayStation 3 if they have a 4!), and you'll receive a code that you can send to your giftee. They just punch it into their console and download the game -- no disc necessary.

If you're not sure which game to buy, there are also e-gift cards for Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo systems which can let your giftee decide.

Photo by: Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET / Caption by:

iOS apps and iTunes credits

Want to gift a specific song, album, movie, TV show or app to someone with an iOS device or an iTunes account?

To send an iTunes credit: Scroll down on the iTunes app to the "Send Gift" button, and you'll get the screen shown above. Email a credit of $15, $25, $100 -- or an amount of your choosing -- directly from the app. You can schedule it immediately, or on a future date.

To gift specific apps or media: Go to the song/album/movie/TV show or app in the iTunes Store app and hit the share button (the same one you use for Facebook or Twitter). Click the "gift" button on the following screen.

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Subscription boxes

The best last-minute gift might not be the one that arrives on the last day of Hanukkah or on Christmas morning -- but again and again throughout the year. That's what you'll be giving if you gift a subscription box this holiday season.

Subscription boxes work like this: Every month, a box arrives with some goodies inside. Barkbox offers dog toys and treats. Graze is filled with tasty human snacks. There's Birchbox for beauty products and StitchFix for personalized clothing. Search the internet and you'll find dozens and dozens of such boxes across all sorts of themes (gadgets, coffee, wine, shaving razors, etc) and entire websites dedicated to helping you find the right one.

Photo by: Barkbox / Caption by:

Groupon and Living Social

Or maybe what you really want to give your giftee is a nice day out. Groupon and LivingSocial specialize in offering discounted group rates on spa treatments, event tickets, car-detailing sessions, hang-gliding and skiing lessons, and all sorts of other rare opportunities for adventure and relaxation.

Caption by:

A hug

Seriously. Everybody likes hugs.

Photo by: Simon Liu/Flickr / Caption by:

More gifts

If you're lucky, there's still time to give your friends and family some great gifts this holiday season. If you need more gift ideas, be sure to check out our entire 2015 Holiday Gift Guide.

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:
Hot Galleries


Amazon Echo Dot is the future

The new and improved Echo Dot takes Amazon's best-in-class smart home speaker and wraps it in an ultra-affordable package. See why it earned our Editors' Choice award.

Hot Products