Despite the best intentions, holiday shopping is often left to the last minute. There’s always one more person to buy, one more must-have gift to buy, which leads to a scramble at the eleventh hour.
Almost half of holiday shopping is now done online, which means delivery time needs to be factored into almost every purchase. In fact, the United States Postal Service estimates that 15.5 billion packages, cards and letters will be sent over the holiday season this year, a 10% increase from last year.
This year, Christmas falls on a Friday, so try placing your orders (or posting packages) the week before, December 14-18. 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 the last chance dates for a guaranteed arrival before Christmas:
Amazon clearly indicates its shipping dates, both for Amazon Prime members and regular buyers. All dates apply to items 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 a 2-day expedition
- December 23: last day for a 1-day expedition
- December 24: same day delivery
For Prime members, two-day delivery is always free. Same-day shipping is available free to Prime members in the following regions: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Fort. Worth, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Tampa Bay area and Washington, DC Amazon will accept returns on purchases performed between November 2. December 1 and 31 to 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 urgent delivery, orders must be placed before 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 urgent delivery are available, although there is no fixed rate; the price is determined by the item ordered. Wal-Mart encourages shoppers to order online and pick up merchandise from stores in their neighborhood.
- December 14: Last day for a value shipping order, 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, when you can expect your purchase to arrive will depend on its category. The delivery times stated below do not apply to lamps, rugs, furniture, mattresses, lights and custom rings. Check the website for more details. But for everything else (assuming it’s in stock) the following shipping days apply:
- December 22 at 5 p.m. EST: Last day for standard delivery (free with purchases of $ 99 or more)
- December 23 at noon Eastern Time: last day for express shipments
- December 24 before noon local time: Last time to pick up your item in store, if you buy it online
If you place your order within the above timeframe and your package still does not arrive, Macy’s promises a gift card equal to the item value (maximum $ 100). This does not apply if a late arrival is due to bad weather, strikes or natural disasters.
This department store is very clear on 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 express delivery in two days
- December 23: last day for expedited one-day delivery (on most orders) if placed before 2:00 p.m. Central
Toys r us
Toys R Us has a helpful shipping schedule so you know exactly when your orders are coming. Orders must be placed before noon Eastern Time, and shipping charges 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 of $ 19 and over.
- December 23, noon EST: last day for express shipping (one to two days); the cost is $ 29.99. To make sure your gift arrives before Christmas, it is recommended that you order and ship by December 23.
You’ll want to make sure the underwear, pajamas, and perfume arrive on time. Victoria’s Secret lists the following deadlines for orders and deliveries.
- December 16 at 5 p.m. EST: last day for standard shipping rates
- December 18 and 21 before 5 p.m. EST: last day for the 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 p.m. EST: last day for the 2nd business day express. The cost is $ 10.99 plus shipping.
- December 23 at 5:00 p.m. EST: last day for Business rates the next day; the cost is $ 17.99 in addition to standard shipping and handling charges.
The consumer electronics retailer is offering free shipping during the holiday season. Follow her schedule 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 working day)
If you plan to do the packing and shipping yourself, keep these dates in mind if you are using delivery services in the United States.
FedEx offers delivery until Christmas Day. Here are the last chance shipping dates to make sure 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 predicts that the most important day for shipping will be December 14. If you use standard mail, USPS can guarantee delivery before Christmas if the package is postmarked by 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 the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, and the United States; check with your local post office for details.
United Parcel Service (UPS):
For some, UPS’s big brown 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 before December 23
- December 21: last day for UPS 2nd Day Air to ensure delivery before December 24
- December 23: last day for UPS Next Day Air to ensure on-time delivery for Christmas Day
Once all the gift shopping is done and you’ve found the perfect gifts, the last thing you want is bad weather or overloaded carriers to interfere with their arrival. Think as much about your shipping plan as you are about your buying plan, because while retailers may deliver until the last minute, fees increase dramatically as the December 25 deadline approaches.
This article first appeared on NerdWallet.