Time to shop: hit the bricks or with a click?

Shopping and shipping deadlines are fast approaching at both online and brick-and-mortar retailers

Most online retailers take around 5 to 7 business days to ship, so order early for your items to arrive in time for Christmas.

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Most online retailers take around 5 to 7 business days to ship, so order early for your items to arrive in time for Christmas.

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — With Christmas just three weeks away, 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 (Amazon) or order a certain amount of merchandise (Walmart).

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

If you’re a Prime member, you’re in luck. Shipping is free on all items marked Prime and delivery is in two days. If you’re not a Prime member, shipping cost varies by object, and the standard delivery time is three to five business days. You’ll want to order by Dec. 16 to make sure your items arrive in time.

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. This year, Walmart is offering a Shipping Pass for $50, which gets you free 2-day shipping for one year. As with Amazon, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial to get you through the holidays.

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.

Target and Best Buy

These retailers are offering free standard shipping on all orders through Christmas. Standard shipping takes three to seven business days, so order by Dec. 19 to receive items in time for Santa to leave them under the tree.

JC Penney, Sears, Kmart 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.

Apple Store

If a new iPhone is on someone’s wish list, Apple offers free, next-day shipping on any iPhone in stock. The store offers free two-day shipping on any other in-stock items.

Most retailers offer gift receipts and can ship the item directly to the person you’re buying it for. Simply input their address in the shipping form when you order.

If you want to wrap the gift and send it with your own box of goodies, the major shipping services have their own mail-by dates to ensure your package arrives in time for Christmas.

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. 15. The deadline for Priority Mail is Dec. 22 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 three-day and two-day deliveries for the holiday season. If you choose three-day, plan on mailing by Dec. 18. 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. 11. 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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