Fastest, Cheapest Last-Minute Gift Shipping

CBS

Attention, last-minute shoppers - with only a week until Christmas, if you plan on shipping gifts to their recipients, the clock is ticking!

But there's no need to fret.

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," AOL Consumer Adviser Regina Lewis stopped by a New York UPS facility, and told viewers the quickest and least expensive ways to get those gifts there on time.

UPS is staring at what it expects to be its busiest week of the year - "peak week" - when the company anticipates delivering 278 packages every second. Wednesday is likely to be the busiest day of all, with volume 60 percent higher than normal.

Still, it's not too late to get standard shipping rates on packages.

Domestic shipping deadlines for some of the more popular shipping services:

(Source: The Consumerist)

U.S. Postal Service: The deadline for First Class mail is Monday. More expensive options let you procrastinate until Dec. 22.

UPS: Ship by Dec. 21 to use 3-Day Select. You have until Dec. 23 to use UPS Next Day Air.

FedEx: Offers same-day shipping Christmas Day, but the deadline for overnighting packages is Dec. 23.

DHL: Plan in advance. The U.S. deadline is Monday.

A handful of e-tailers are still offering "standard" shipping rates with delivery in time for Christmas. Some examples, with their deadlines:

Apple Store: Dec. 18 at midnight ET
Amazon.com: Dec. 20.
Target.com: Dec. 20.
Toys R Us: Dec. 20.
Best Buy: Dec. 21 at 11:00am ET

You should check with the retailer to see if your package will arrive in time before spending more for rush deliveries. You will start to notice some sites also adding in a cutoff "time" to order deadlines. You will see that a lot more as we move into two or three day "rush" shipping and overnight deadlines. So, hours and even minutes start to cost you money at this stage of the game.

DealHack.com lists shipping dealings for more than 170 popular retailers.

If you miss standard shipping deadlines, you will start to pay a premium for express and overnight shipping - and it may not be worth spending 20 bucks to send at gift that's only worth 20 or 30 bucks in the first place.

Tips to Ship Without Breaking the Bank:

• It's usually up to the consumer to seek out free or upgraded shipping options. You could, for instance, Google the retailers name and "shipping upgrade." And if you're signed up to receive deal newsletters from sites where you regularly shop, you're likely to find shipping upgrade codes in those e-mails.

• Buy as much as you can on one site, as opposed to many different ones, so you can have items grouped into one shipment. Buying several items on one site usually saves on shipping. You often take a hit on shipping on the first item, but, the more you purchase, the better the shipping deal. For example, that first sweater you order may cost you $7.95 to ship, but add a few more items to your cart, and the shipping charges go up in much smaller increments.

• Shop online, but pick up the item at the store. Retailers such as Best Buy and Sears offer that option. The advantage to shopping this way is that you know the item is in stock, there's no running from store-to-store hunting around for anything, and you can complete the transaction online.

If you still want to order something with a personal touch, it's not too late.

LLBean.com is taking orders for monogrammed items orders at this Web address as late as Wednesday, Dec. 22, at 9:30 p.m. ET, but expect to pay express shipping at that stage in the game.
And if you are going the monogramming route, stick to a well-known company that's accustomed to monogramming and handling high volumes of orders. Think: Land's End or LL Bean.

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