Shipping Holiday Gifts? Read This First!

Want to avoid paying exorbitant last-minute shipping rates? Hit these deadlines to make sure your gifts will make it to their recipients before Dec. 25.

Your best deal for sending gifts via the United States Postal Service is their flat rate shipping boxes--ideal for small gifts. Pick up the priority mail boxes (or have them delivered!), print the shipping labels and schedule a pick-up. You'll pay one flat fee, no matter the weight. Ship by Dec. 21 and the gift will arrive in time for the holiday. If you plan on sending parcel post, ship gifts by Dec. 15; first class-sent packages should be mailed by Dec. 20. If you find yourself procrastinating, opt for express mail, which can cost a pretty penny but extends your deadline to Dec. 22.

Most United Parcel Service ground packages within the contiguous United States require five days or less to reach their destinations. However, unexpected events -- like inclement weather -- can cause delays when shipping coast-to-coast. UPS expects Dec. 13-17 to be the busiest week of the year, so play it safe and get gifts in the mail by Dec. 15 for standard delivery. If you wait until the week of Christmas, it'll cost you more, but your presents will still arrive. (Hint: Mondays are typically the busiest shipping days so try to avoid shipping then!)

FedEx Express will accept packages until Dec. 23 for delivery before Dec. 25. But sender beware: waiting until Dec. 23 means you'll need to use one of FedEx's more expensive services. If you're shipping within the contiguous United States, save some cash by getting your gifts to your local FedEx by Dec. 17 for FedEx ground or FedEx home delivery options. Got loved ones in Alaska or Hawaii? Ship gifts by Dec. 13 for lower-priced shipping options. Get more information on FedEx holiday shipping here.

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