If you're still searching for low-cost gifts but dread the last-minute crowds in the stores, consider buying tickets online.
Using sites like reseller StubHub, you can take a kid to see the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks play for as little as $12 a ticket. Or surprise someone heading to New York for a vacation with discounted theater tickets from sites like TheaterMania.com or BroadwayBox.com.
And you don't have to wait for shipping. You can print tickets and wrap them up in time to get them under the tree.
StubHub might seem like an unusual place to look for a discount. The ticket reseller is often cited as a measure of how much fans are willing to pay for popular events like the World Series or the hottest concert in town. For the sold-out Phish concert on New Year's Eve at Madison Square Garden in New York, for example, seats near the stage on the floor are being offered for thousands of dollars.
But StubHub president Chris Tsakalakis said discounted prices are more common. "In 90 percent of the cases, the price goes down," he said. "It reflects the market, and it reflects the economy." Since 2007, he said, the average price of a ticket sold on StubHub is 22 percent lower than face value.
Regular season sports tickets offer the best opportunity for discounts, as season-ticket holders try to unload games they plan to skip. If you can avoid the weekends and look for a mid-week game, it is even easier to find lower prices.
Big rivalries or high-stakes games like Saturday's NFL faceoff between the New York Giants and New York Jets aren't the best place to look for discounts. Tickets for that game were listed at $45 a week ago, but with both teams' playoff hopes on the line after losses last weekend, the least expensive seats available are now $187 on the site.
Another option for discounted tickets is StubHub's parent, eBay Inc. Let's say you want a ticket for the musical "Billy Elliot" when the touring company visits Pittsburgh in February. You'll see performance dates and ticket prices on both eBay and StubHub by searching eBay.
The availability of reduced prices for shows nationwide is an advantage that the two eBay properties have over TheaterMania and BroadwayBox.com, which offer discounts only in a few cities, including New York and Las Vegas. Still, it's worth comparing prices before making a purchase. The two theater-focused sites offer set discounts that are easier to calculate. TheaterMania is offering 35 percent discounts for "Memphis" on Broadway through early March, for example, while BroadwayBox has $70 off tickets to the musical version of Spider-Man for performances through late February.
It's worth doing an online search for "discount theater tickets" and the name of the city you're interested in as well. Local tourism sites or independent discounts often have ticket deals, and some deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon may also have offers that can help you score the seats you're hoping to give.