Two Days to Christmas: Why You Waited So Long to Buy Gifts

It's not just because you're not Martha Stewart

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Some people are gift-giving pros. They plan their list and shopping trips for months, make their purchases and wrap everything up by Dec. 1.

And then there are those who take full advantage of the fact that some retailers will be open until 2am on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24. For any other gift giving event, like a birthday, buying a present the day of the party is usually worry-free, but during the holidays, stores can be picked over and over-crowded, making the whole experience more unpleasant. Still, millions continue to do it. In 2011, a reported 24 million Americans waited until Christmas Eve to buy their presents.

“We know that some people put it off because it’s too difficult and they’re indecisive. Or they don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort,” says Karen Pine, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in Hertfordshire, England, who actually studies the psychology behind giving gifts.

(MORE: What Your Gift-Giving Habits Say About You)

For some, there might be a good reason for putting off their gift-giving responsibilities. According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, about 20% of Americans are chronic procrastinators, and some research has linked chronic procrastination to personality issues like attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, passive-aggressive tendencies, revenge, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Serious procrastination, he says, is an active decision to not act.

For others, the holidays can simply be too overwhelming given the plethora of potential gift choices, both in stores and online. With too many decisions to make, some choose not to make any at all — until it’s too late. “Many people get overwhelmed by all the choice that’s available and decision paralysis sets in; they literally can’t do anything because they can’t decide. So they wait until the last minute when they simply have to make a choice,” says Pine.

Then there are those who roam the stores on Christmas Eve because…they didn’t think it was important enough to do it sooner. “Someone who isn’t so bothered about the meaning of the present, doesn’t feel it’s worth all the effort, and may leave it to the day before Christmas, and leave it to one shop and pick whatever is on the shelf,” says Pine.

That can make the whole experience even more stressful, however. So if you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet — stop reading this and get started!