This week marks a transition – by Dec. 19, most major stores’ free shipping or standard shipping options will no longer guarantee before-Christmas delivery. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the guaranteed-by-Christmas deadlines for ground shipping for the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS have also passed.
So is paying an exorbitant amount for expedited shipping – or worse, braving the stores in the days leading up to Christmas – your only option if you don’t have Amazon Prime?
Fortunately, no. These backup plans will get you on-time Christmas delivery without requiring you to spend extra or give up the convenience of online shopping.
1. Use GiftNow. A few major retailers, including Macy’s, Target and Neiman Marcus, have incorporated this feature. While shopping online, select an item eligible for GiftNow, pay for it, and instead of entering shipping information, input the email address of the recipient. Your recipient will get an email that announces the gift you’ve selected – and gives her the option to select her preferred size and color, or exchange the value of the gift toward something else before it’s shipped.
GiftNow will send out the email notification instantly, so you could technically buy the gift on Christmas morning. Your recipients will so appreciate the ability to vet their own gifts that they won’t care that those Christmas gifts didn’t come wrapped under the tree.
2. Check whether your credit cards include fast-shipping benefits. Some credit cards from Barclaycard and American Express include free ShopRunner membership. ShopRunner partners with a variety of merchants, including Bloomingdale’s, Staples, Brooks Brothers, Kay Jewelers and more to guarantee free two-day shipping. You must place your order with a card that has this perk, so log into online banking, navigate to your card’s benefits and look for ShopRunner. If you have this benefit and order early this week, you can still get your order in just under the wire and have it arrive in time for Christmas.
3. Order online and pick up in store. You may not want to go to the store, but because you waited until the last minute, you may have to settle for this compromise. At least you’ll get to place your order online.
In many cases, the item you want will be available at a nearby location. If it is, you’ll simply need to select your nearest store, complete your order online and head to the store’s designated pickup area. Walmart, Kohl’s and Bed Bath & Beyond are just some of the retailers that will have your order ready for pickup within a couple of hours, assuming it’s available locally.
4. Buy a gift card. Some folks may never consider gift cards to be as thoughtful as personalized gifts. However, you’re beyond the selecting-with-much-forethought-and-deliberation stage. Plus, the holiday season happens to be a great time to buy gift cards. Many merchants and restaurants are running holiday gift card specials through Dec. 31 and are throwing in all kinds of extras with gift-card purchases, including small gifts, bonus gift cards and certificates for a future meal or treat. If you don’t want to go to the store or restaurant to buy a gift card, e-gift cards can be scheduled to land in your recipient’s inbox by Christmas.
5. Give the gift of a subscription box, such as Birchbox, BarkBox or Beer of the Month Club. The beauty of the subscription box is that it is designed to arrive after Christmas. These services allow you to arrange for your recipient to receive a box in the mail every month that contains something relevant to his or her interests (whether that’s beauty products, coffee, socks or pet toys). If you’re trying to keep costs low, plenty of services allow you to set up just a few months’ worth of deliveries.
So give your recipients the joy of opening an envelope on Christmas, revealing which box they can look forward to, and set up the first delivery for January. Nobody has to know you placed the order at 11:52 p.m. on Dec. 24.