Last-Minute Gift Ideas If Your Only Option Is the Dollar Store

Last-Minute Gift Ideas If Your Only Option Is the Dollar Store
Photo: Life and Times, Shutterstock

Well, well, well. The hour is nigh, and you’re in need of a last-minute gift. It’s too late for even the fastest online delivery, and most viable in-person store options are already closed. All that’s left to do is invent an excuse to get out of the house and proceed to sprint to your local 24-hour drug store.

Slipping up in the gift arena doesn’t make you the Grinch, or Scrooge, or any other anti-holiday caricature. Perhaps you procrastinated a “Secret Santa” gift exchange, or you’ve been blessed with an unexpected guest in need of a present so they don’t feel left out. Luckily, the last-minute drug store dash needn’t be as dire as it sounds. With a little ingenuity, you can whip up a quick, budget-friendly gift for that special (or not-so-special) someone.

I’ve carefully categorised your gift options into three tiers. The first is for gift-givers willing to shell out a little extra cash in their panic in order to create something somewhat personalised. The second tier includes single-item purchases that are simply passable gift options. The third tier is a warning.

Tier one: DIY signature collections

Like a chef turning baskets of mystery ingredients into a three-course meal on Chopped, this category of gifts is all about your innovation. In these DIY arrangements, the sum is greater than its parts, which should all be available at most chain drug stores. Here are some of our ideas for themed collections, but feel free to customise at your convenience.

  • Movie night: Popcorn. Funky popcorn toppings. Candy. Hot chocolate. Fuzzy socks. A little slip of paper with your Netflix login. You can’t go wrong with a cosy movie-night theme.
  • Treat yo’ self: Think spa day materials, like face masks, nail polish, and bath bombs. Throw in a candle to help set the pampering vibe.
  • Health and wellness: Browse around for gummy vitamins, supplements, protein powder, and whatever else catches your eye in the fitness aisle. Be warned: This one can quickly get expensive. (Plus, we here at Lifehacker believe that vitamins are mostly useless, even if they’re personalised.)
  • The Jetsetter: Pick from the array of travel-sized must-haves, including ear plugs and perhaps even a neck pillow (with a note about how to wear it right).
  • The Techie: Head to the electronics section and go wild with whatever gadgets are available and within your price range. Portable chargers and speakers are quality gifts in their own right.

Tier two: It’s the thought that counts

These items aren’t necessarily bad gifts, but many will be easily detected as a last-minute purchase. The success of tier two drug store gifts will come down to the charm of the gift-giver and the chill factor of the recipient.

  • Gift cards
  • Candles
  • Cosmetic bags
  • Therapeutic massager
  • Jewellery
  • Insulated mugs
  • Calendars or planners
  • Notebooks
  • Coffee/tea bundles
  • Wine and a corkscrew (depending on your state’s liquor laws)
  • Picture frames
  • Electronics, like ear buds or portable chargers

Tier three: “Gifts” that will do more harm than good

Hey, buddy. All is lost, huh? Personally, I recommend a white lie about an imaginary gift that didn’t arrive in time (supply chain issues, am I right?). Unless you’re confident you can pull off a gag gift, proceed with caution shall you opt to gift someone anything from the list below.

  • Lottery tickets
  • Command strips
  • Batteries
  • Pregnancy test
  • Beef jerky
  • Laxatives
  • A toilet plunger
  • Laxatives and a toilet plunger tied together with a bow

There you have it. If you have access to a drug store, you should be able to pull together a last-minute gift with moderate success.

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