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Shopping and shipping deadlines for a hassle-free gifting experience

Most online retailers take around 5 to 7 business days to ship, so order early for your items to arrive in time for Christmas. (Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash)

Most online retailers take around 5 to 7 business days to ship, so order early for your items to arrive in time for Christmas. (Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. – With Christmas just two weeks away, even recent shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem like distant memories.

Retail stores are still offering a number of bargains for budget-conscious shoppers, but along with it comes the hassle: finding a place to park, battling shopping carts and crowds or finding out the coveted sale item is no longer in stock. Online retailers are also offering attractive sales, some even with free shipping – but there’s a catch. Will the items arrive in time for Christmas? Will they arrive in time for you to mail them somewhere else?

Chances are, the answer is yes, if you start early. Some online retailers promise delivery in as few as two days, although you may need to be a member or order a certain amount of merchandise.

Ordering from department stores online can be a bit slower, but many still offer free standard shipping (around 5-7 business days) and some offer in-store pickup for items purchased online.

These online retailers offer the following shipping options:

Amazon

For the first time, Amazon is offering free shipping on all holiday orders with no minimum purchase amount. The promotion has already started, so if you've got a shopping list and a couple of hours, your order could be at your doorstep in as little as three days. If you're already a Prime member, delivery is still guaranteed on items marked Prime.

Amazon uses a variety of shipping companies to deliver items, so if a company is experiencing high volume (and who isn’t right before Christmas), your package may be delayed. Earlier is better.

Bonus: If you’ve never signed up for Amazon Prime, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial and get free 2-day shipping through the holidays. Just don’t forget to cancel if you don’t plan on using the service – you will be charged $119 after the trial period ends.

Walmart

Walmart is famous (infamous?) for holiday crowds. If you want to avoid the hassle, you can order items online and either pick them up in your local store or have them delivered. Walmart is offering free 2-day shipping on all orders over $35 this year and is reportedly adding a few million items from both the company and third-party sellers.

There is no cost for store pick-up, although some items will be available the same day if your store has them in stock and others can take more than a week to arrive. If you plan on picking up the item in-store, plan to order by Dec. 13 – your items should arrive on or before Christmas Eve. Standard delivery is four to seven business days, so order by Dec. 15 to ensure arrival.

JC Penney, Sears and Macy’s

These stores also offer free shipping – but you have to order $49 worth of merchandise from JC Penney, Sears or Kmart and $99 from Macy’s in order to qualify. Shipping can take three to seven business days, so place your online orders by Dec. 15. Kmart and Sears can take up to 10 days to deliver and item, so make your purchase date Dec. 13.

USPS

All items are charged by weight, and you may see an extra fee if your box is an unusual size or shape. If you’re shipping via standard mail, the least expensive option, mail by Dec. 14. The deadline for Priority Mail is Dec. 20 and Priority Mail Express is Dec. 22.

Hint: Flat rate boxes are available for free from the post office. They are classified as Priority Mail, and an advantage of using them is everything you can reasonably fit into the box ships for one rate, no matter how much it weighs. If you’re shipping heavy items, this can save you money. If you’re shipping light items, you may save more money by paying for the weight.

UPS

UPS is offering 3-day and 2-day deliveries for the holiday season. If you choose 3-day, plan on mailing by Dec. 17. The deadlines for second-day air and next-day air are Dec. 20 and Dec. 22, respectively, although the fees for these services can be quite high.

UPS doesn’t pick-up or deliver Dec. 24 or 25.

FedEx

FedEx has a variety of delivery options for Christmas deliveries. For SmartPost deliveries, the least expensive option, mail by Dec. 13. Mail by Dec. 15 for FedEx Ground, Dec. 18 for FedEx Home Delivery and Dec. 19 for FedEx Express Saver.

Fed Ex does deliver closer to Christmas, although the fees are much higher.

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