Despite the best of intentions, holidays purchases is often left until the last minute. There’s always one more person to buy, one more gift to buy, resulting in a scramble at the eleventh hour.
Nearly half of holiday shopping is now done online, which means shipping time has to be factored into almost every purchase. In fact, the United States Postal Service estimates that this year 15.5 billion parcels, cards and letters will be sent during the festive period, an increase of 10% compared to last year.
This year, Christmas falls on a Friday, so try to place your orders (or send your parcels) the week before, from December 14 to 18. The longer the window of time you allow for the package to arrive, the better. If a retailer says it will take three to six business days, assume it will take the full six days.
Here is a list of last chance dates for a guaranteed arrival before Christmas:
Amazon makes its shipping dates clear, both for Amazon Prime members and regular shoppers. All dates apply to items that are in the warehouse, so make sure the retailer has what you are looking for in their warehouse before ordering.
- December 16: Last day for free shipping (non-Prime members)
- December 18: last day for standard shipping
- December 22: last day for 2-day shipping
- December 23: last day for 1-day shipping
- December 24: same day delivery
For Prime members, two-day delivery is always free. Same-day shipping is available free for Prime members in the following areas: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Ft. Worth, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, La San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Tampa Bay Area and Washington, DC Amazon will accept returns on purchases made between November 1. December 1 and 31 until January 31, 2016.
Online shoppers will receive free standard shipping for purchases made through December 25. The delivery time is three to five working days. So if you want to make sure your package arrives before Santa Claus, place your order no later than December 18th. For rush delivery, orders must be placed by 1:30 p.m. local time, Monday through Saturday, for same day delivery. Rush delivery is only available in the Boston, Miami and Minneapolis areas.
Wal-Mart offers free shipping on orders of $50 or more, and the arrival window is four to seven business days. The retailer takes one or two days to process the order, plus the standard three to five business days. Expedited and rush delivery is available, although there is no flat rate; the price is determined by the item ordered. Wal-Mart encourages shoppers to order online and pick up goods from stores in their neighborhood.
- December 14: Last day for an order with Value Shipping, Wal-Mart’s most economical shipping option, which takes six to nine business days
- December 16: Last day for standard shipping (three to five business days)
- December 22: last day for an expedited order (two to three days)
- December 23: Last day for a rush order (one to two days)
AT Macy’s, the date you can expect to receive your purchase will depend on its category. The delivery times listed below do not apply to custom lamps, rugs, furniture, mattresses, fixtures and rings. Check the website for more details. But for everything else (assuming it’s in stock), the following shipping days apply:
- Dec. 22 at 5 p.m. EST: last day for standard shipping (free with any purchase of $99 or more)
- December 23 at noon EST: last day for express shipping
- December 24 before noon local time: Last hour to pick up your item in store, if you buy it online
If you place your order within the above time frame and your package still does not arrive, Macy’s promise a gift card of value equal to the item (maximum $100). This does not apply if a late arrival is due to bad weather, strikes or natural disasters.
This big store is very clear about its “last days before Christmas” shipping dates for sending gifts to the contiguous United States
- December 20: Last day for standard shipping of in-stock items
- December 21: Last day for two-day express delivery
- December 23: Last day for Expedited One-Day Delivery (on most orders) if placed before 2:00 p.m.
toys r us
toys r us has a helpful shipping calendar so you know exactly when your orders will arrive. Orders must be placed by noon Eastern Time, and shipping costs are lower for orders of $19 or more.
- December 14: last day for economy shipping (six to nine days). The cost is $5.99 for orders under $19 and free for orders over $19.
- December 19, noon EST: last day for standard shipping (two to five days). The cost is $7.99 for orders under $19 and $4.99 for orders $19 and over.
- December 23, noon EST: last day for express shipping (one to two days); the cost is $29.99. To ensure that your gift arrives before Christmas, it is recommended to order and send before December 23rd.
You’ll want to make sure underwear, pajamas, and perfumes arrive on time. Victoria’s Secret lists the following lead times for orders and deliveries.
- December 16 at 5:00 p.m. EST: last day for standard shipping rates
- December 18 and 21 by 5:00 p.m. EST: last day for 3rd business day or Saturday delivery (order by December 18). The cost is $7.99 plus shipping; Saturday delivery is $23.99 plus shipping.
- December 22 at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time): Last day for 2nd business day express service. Cost is $10.99 plus shipping.
- December 23 at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern time): last day for Business fares the following day; the cost is $17.99 plus standard shipping and handling.
the consumer electronics retailer offers free shipping during the holiday season. Follow his timeline to make sure everything from headphones to laptops arrives at your doorstep by December 25.
- December 17: Last day for standard shipping (three to seven business days)
- December 22: Last day for expedited shipping (arrives in two business days)
- December 23: last day for express shipping (arrives within one business day)
If you plan to pack and ship yourself, keep these dates in mind if using US delivery services.
FedEx offers shipping until Christmas Day. Here are the last chance dates to ship to ensure your gifts arrive on time:
- December 14: Last day to ship via FedEx SmartPost
- December 16: Last day to ship via FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx Ground
- December 21: Last day to ship via FedEx Express Saver
- December 22: Last day to ship via FedEx 2Day and FedEx 2Day am
- December 23: Last day to ship via FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight and FedEx First Overnight
- December 25: Last day to ship via FedEx SameDay
US Postal Service:
The Postal Service expects the busiest day for shipping to be December 14th. If you use standard mail, USPS can guarantee delivery before Christmas if the package is postmarked before December 15th. Here are the last days to ship until Christmas to make sure your gifts arrive on time:
- December 21: last day to ship via Priority Mail
- December 23: Last day to ship via Priority Mail Express
Remember to save your tracking numbers and use them; you will be able to see where the package is and when it should arrive. Shipping rates differ for addresses in Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories; check your local post office for details.
United Parcel Service (UPS):
For some, the big brown UPS trucks are as much a symbol of the holidays as a Christmas tree or Santa Claus. To ensure delivery by December 25, note these dates:
- December 18: Last day for UPS 3 Day Select to ensure delivery by December 23
- December 21: last day for UPS 2nd Day Air to ensure delivery by December 24
- December 23: Last day for UPS Next Day Air to ensure delivery in time for Christmas Day
Once all the gift shopping is complete and you’ve found the perfect gifts, the last thing you want is for bad weather or overcrowded carriers to interfere with their arrival. Think about your shipping plan as much as your buying plan, because while retailers can deliver until the last minute, the fees increase dramatically as the December 25 deadline approaches.
This article first appeared on Nerd Wallet.