The holiday dates
This year, the big December holidays start early, with the dates falling as follows:
- Hanukkah: The Jewish festival of lights begins on the evening of Tuesday, December 12, 2017, and continues through the evening of Wednesday, December 20. On Hanukkah, gift-giving happens at sundown, along with the candle-lighting and prayer-singing (and don’t forget the latkes and doughnuts). Technically, all this happens every night during the Hanukkah festival. So, if you want to have your Hanukkah gifts all lined up before the first night, you’ll have to make sure to start early in order to get it done by December 12.
- Christmas: This year, just like every year, Christmas is on December 25—a Monday, this year, so you have the weekend for last-minute purchases.
- Kwanzaa: Kwanzaa begins on December 26 every year and ends on New Year’s Day. That places the first day of Kwanzaa on a Tuesday. Since most stores are closed on Christmas, you’ll need to have all your Kwanzaa gifts lined up by Christmas.
Retail analyst Krista Fabregas tells Reader’s Digest, “A good rule of thumb for holiday shopping is the earlier you order, the better.” So use this guide to help you time your holiday shopping and shipping—and put these five holiday shopping tips to use for stress-free mall trips.
The U.S. Postal Service
Whether you’re ordering from a place that uses USPS or you’re going to be doing your own shipping, you’ll need to know the basics, including what the United States Postal Service (USPS) can promise in terms of shipping times. Jenny Bahun, a spokesperson for Duck® brand packing tape gave Reader’s Digest these cutoffs for getting your gifts into the mail for delivery by the first day of Hanukkah or Christmas/Kwanzaa (for delivery in the U.S. only):
- December 6 or 19: cutoff for USPS First-Class Mail Service
- December 7 or 20: cutoff for USPS Priority Mail Service
- December 9 or 22: cutoff for USPS Priority Mail Express Service
From Dealhack, we learned that if time is too tight for delivery by the USPS, you can use UPS, but heed these shipping cutoffs if you want your gifts delivered by the first day of Hanukkah or Christmas/Kwanzaa in the U.S.:
- December 5 or 18: Cutoff for UPS 3-Day Select shipments (delivery promised on Dec 22)
- December 7 or 20: Cutoff for UPS 2nd Day Air shipments (delivery promised on Dec 22)
- December 9 or 22: Deadline for UPS Next Day Air shipments (delivery promised on Dec 23, but note: Packages must be processed and labeled for Saturday delivery, which is not available in all ZIP codes)
- December 11 or 24: UPS Express Critical
Here’s why UPS trucks never turn left.
Also from Dealhack, we got the deadlines for using FedEx to get your packages where they’re going (within the U.S.) in time for Hanukkah or Christmas/Kwanzaa:
- November 30 or December 11: Deadline for FedEx SmartPost shipments
- December 2 or 15: Deadline for FedEx Ground shipments
- December 5 or 18: Deadline for FedEx Home Delivery shipments
- December 6 or 19: Deadline for FedEx Express Saver shipments
- December 7 or 20: Deadline for FedEx 2-Day and 2-Day A.M. shipments
- December 8 or 21: Deadline for FedEx Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight, First Overnight shipments
- December 12 or 25: Deadline for all FedEx SameDay shipments
Please be very wary of this scam that uses real FedEx packaging to bait its victims.
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If you want FREE holiday shipping and an easy date to remember
“This year’s Free Shipping Day is Friday, December 15, so that’s a good order-by date to keep in mind when shopping,” says retail analyst, Krista Fabregas, especially considering that other than Free Shipping Day, the holiday delivery cutoff dates listed on online retailer websites “may be subject to unexpected factors (such as weather).”
After that, you’ll have to pay for shipping with many sellers, or pay an upcharge fee to guarantee holiday delivery. According to Dealhack, you’ll need to go the Free Shipping Day website to view the details of each store’s free shipping offer. Each works a bit differently. However, all participating retailers (there are over 1,000!) promise delivery Christmas Eve (December 24). And none have a minimum purchase requirement.
This year’s retailers include:
- Harry & David
- Barnes & Noble
- Lord & Taylor
- Vitamin Shoppe
- Ozone Socks
- Guitar Center
- Carl’s Golfland
- Cheryl’s Cookies
- Mrs. Fields
- Ralph Lauren
- Michael Stars
- Seven7 Jeans
Of course, you may not want to do all your shopping online on Free Shipping Day. Lindsay Sakraida, Director of Content Marketing with DealNews, shared with Reader’s Digest that you can order gifts online surprisingly close to Christmas if you’re willing to upgrade to expedited shipping (and its upgraded costs). Sakraida adds that while “stores do their best to adhere to their promises, every year we hear of shoppers who were disappointed on Christmas Day. To avoid any chance delays, we recommend that people order gifts by the standard shipping cutoff for your store of choice. That will give you a bit of buffer time in case something goes wrong.” Here are some great ways to save big by shopping online.
If you’re doing your shopping at Target and want to make sure your gifts are delivered on time, you’re going to want to heed the following dates, which come to us from Dealhack:
- December 4 or 17: Standard shipping option
- December 9 or 22: Premium shipping option
- December 10 or 23: Express shipping option
Shoppers wanting to deliver a wrapped gift without paying additional wrapping fees can find a variety of boxed gift sets that are pre-packaged at Target, as well as at Amazon, Sephora, Ulta, and Lowe’s, according to Fabregas. Here is how you can get free shipping from Target between now and December 23.
The following dates come from Dealhack:
- December 5 or 18: Standard shipping option
- December 9 or 22: Express shipping option
- December 10 or 23: Fastest shipping option
Amazon includes these international shipping cut-off dates for delivery by Christmas. Shoppers wanting to deliver a wrapped gift without paying additional wrapping fees can find a variety of boxed gift sets that are pre-packaged at on Amazon, as well as Target, Sephora, Ulta, and Lowe’s, according to Fabregas. Dealnews‘s Lindsay Sakraida adds that “Amazon in particular is a champ for late purchases that arrive on time.”
- December 6 or 19: Guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery with Standard shipping option
- December 9 or 22: 3-day shipping option
- December 10 or 23: 2-day shipping option.
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The only guaranteed delivery option Kohl’s offers this year is their one-day shipping, and you’ll have to get your shopping done by December 9 or 22 (1 p.m. Central Standard Time) to make sure the delivery arrives on time. What might make the deal sweeter is Dealhack’s Kohl’s coupons.
Barnes & Noble
Natalie Bean, a spokesperson for Barnes & Noble tells Reader’s Digest that shoppers must make their purchases by 11:59 a.m. on December 21 to receive their gifts in time for Christmas. Hanukkah shoppers should plan to wrap things up by December 8. For last-minute shoppers, Barnes & Noble stores will be open with limited hours on Christmas Eve. Also, from now until January 1, 2018, in-store shoppers have the opportunity to participate in Barnes & Noble’s annual book drive by purchasing a book for donation at check out, benefiting organizations that support children in need.
Here are nine other ways to get bookish about making charitable donations.
These dates come from the Best Black Friday website:
- December 3 or 16 (noon): Standard shipping
- December 8 or 21 (noon): Expedited shipping
- December 9 or 22 (noon): Express shipping
- December 10 or 24 (2 p.m.): In-store pickup
If you like to shop at Home Depot, then you might enjoy getting into some of these home DIY projects.
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Also from the Best Black Friday website:
- December 3 or 16: In-store pickup
- December 5 or 18: Direct manufacturer shipping
- December 6 or 19: Standard shipping
- December 7 or 20: Express 2-day delivery
- December 9 or 22 (before noon Central Standard Time): Expedited 1-day delivery
Here are the 50 hottest gift ideas from JCPenney.
If you’ll be shopping Apple for gifts, you’ll want to heed the following cut-off dates, according to Dealhack:
- December 9 or 22 (5 p.m. local time): Free standard shipping
- December 10 or 23: Next-day guarantee shipping
If you’ll be shopping Dell this holiday season, you’ll want to heed the following deadlines, according to Dealhack:
- December 5 or 18 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Standard shipping
- December 9 or 22 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Express shipping
- December 10 or 23 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Fastest shipping
Here are Dealhack’s Dell coupons.
Here are Newegg’s shipping deadlines, according to Dealhack:
- December 1 or 14: Super “Eggsaver” shipping
- December 3 or 16: Large items
- December 8 or 21: Business 3-day shipping
- December 9 or 22: Business 2-day shipping
- December 10 or 23: Business 1-day shipping
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If you’re doing your holiday shopping at Macy’s, bear in mind these cut-off dates, according to Dealhack:
- December 9 or 22 (5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Standard 2-day shipping
- December 10 or 23 (5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Express shipping
Ever wondered what Macy’s employees were thinking around the holidays? Here are the things Macy’s employees wish you knew about holiday shopping.
Wayfair, Joss&Main, AllModern, and BirchLane
Erin Murphy, a spokesperson for Wayfair and lifestyle brands Joss & Main, AllModern, and Birch Lane tells Reader’s Digest that “many items that we carry across these sites are available for 2-day shipping. So, for that reason, we have plenty of options for customers to shop up until December 21—given that Christmas is on a Monday and there would be no deliveries that Sunday.”
Harry & David
According to Meghan Speranzo, a spokesperson for Harry & David, the standard shipping cut-off for Christmas is December 18. You might still get it delivered before Christmas if you order by December 19 at 10 a.m. and cough up the extra shipping fee. In either case, shoppers can purchase personalized greeting cards to their gift at check-out for $3.99.
According to Meghan Speranzo, a spokesperson for Cheryl’s Cookies, the standard shipping cut-off for Christmas is December 20. If you miss it, you can try making your own, but make sure to use these flawless Christmas cookie baking hacks.
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If you’ve got a yoga or fitness enthusiast you’re shopping for, you can find the perfect gift for them at Lululemon and get it to them by December 24th if you make your purchase by December 21 (11:59 Pacific Standard Time). And that shipping is free! You can make the deal even better with these Dealhack Lululemon coupons. Here are the secrets of women who work out every day.
Toys “R” Us
If you’ve got a Toys “R” Us kid you’re shopping for this holiday season, you’ll need to know these deadlines, according to Dealhack:
- December 6 or 19 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Standard shipping
- December 9 or 22 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Expedited shipping
- December 10 or 23 (12 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Express shipping
- December 12 or 24: In-store pickup
Shop with Dealhack’s Toys “R” Us coupons. Check out these classic popular toys and find out what they were really intended for.
“Generally we tell our customers to shop through Free Shipping Day (December 15) for holiday arrival,” advises Marcus Svensson of Ozone Design, the makers of Ozone Socks. “It’s a great way to promote through Free Shipping Day, while also giving us room to package and ship all the orders in a timely fashion.” To sweeten this deal, Ozone will couple Free Shipping Day with a 10 percent off discount code (FSD10).