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What's The Cheapest Way To Ship Your Holiday Gifts?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- 'Tis the season, and we're all in a rush to get our holiday gifts bought and shipped. That means things are running full speed at shipping facilities like UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service.

The UPS facility in southwest suburban Hodgkins will handle 2.5 million packages a day during the holiday season.

As you pack your boxes, the question is: which company is the cheapest option for shipping your gifts? UPS, FedEx, or the post office?

CBS 2's Ed Curran went to find out.

At the UPS Store in Park Ridge, Bob Parr is an expert at shipping. He's been sending everything from gifts to trophies for 23 years. In the case of one huge gift, an extra $17 got a customer a new shipping box, just the right amount of peanut cushions, and Parr's expertise.

"We put a piece of cardboard over the top," Parr said, so the item won't be damaged when being opened by the recipient.

Shipping is big business this time of year, and there are a lot of options.

For a five-pound box being sent to New York, UPS was charging $30.29 for 2-day delivery, tracked and guaranteed.

At FedEx, the same box cost about the same for guaranteed 2-day delivery with tracking: $30.08.

But the post office can deliver the same box in 2 to 3 days, and save you a bunch. A medium flat-rate Priority Mail box costs just $11.35, regardless of the weight; as the Postal Service touts: if it fits, it ships. It costs an extra $2 for $100 of insurance.

However, unlike UPS and FedEx, the post office's 2 to 3 day shipping estimate is not guaranteed, and the delivery confirmation not as sophisticated.

But it is a way to spend a little less on shipping, and maybe a bit more on your gift if you don't need a guarantee it'll get there in just a couple days.

Whether it's the Postal Service, or FedEx, or UPS, experts said you should make sure the box you use to ship any gift is sturdy and secure, the gift inside is carefully floating in the middle and padded, and that you get it out right away, while time is on your side.

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