The Official 2018 Guide to Holiday Shopping Cut-Off Dates
If you prefer to wait a little further into the holiday season to do your holiday shopping, good for you. The question is: How long can you wait before it’s too late to get those gifts to where they’re going in time for Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah?
The holiday dates
Andrey Cherkasov /Shutterstock
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 Sunday, December 2, 2018, and continues through the evening of Monday, December 10. During 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 2.
- Christmas: This year, just like every year, Christmas is on December 25—a Tuesday, 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 Wednesday. 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 United States only):
- November 26 or December 20: cutoff for USPS First-Class Mail Service
- November 27 or December 20: cutoff for USPS Priority Mail Service
- November 29 or December 22: cutoff for USPS Priority Mail Express Service
Track your holiday shipments here.
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 United States:
- November 25 or December 18: Cutoff for UPS 3-Day Select shipments (delivery promised on Dec. 22)
- November 27 or December 20: Cutoff for UPS 2nd Day Air shipments (delivery promised on Dec. 22)
- November 29 or December 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 1 or 24: UPS Express Critical
Check out these insider secrets to help you save at all your favorite stores.
Also from Dealhack, we got the deadlines for using FedEx to get your packages where they’re going (within the United States) in time for Hanukkah or Christmas/Kwanzaa:
- November 21 or December 10: Deadline for FedEx SmartPost shipments
- November 21 or December 14: Deadline for FedEx Ground shipments
- November 26 or December 17: Deadline for FedEx Home Delivery shipments
- November 27 or December 19: Deadline for FedEx Express Saver shipments
- November 28 or 20: Deadline for FedEx 2-Day and 2-Day A.M. shipments
- November 29 or 21: Deadline for FedEx Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight, First Overnight shipments
- December 2 or 25: Deadline for all FedEx SameDay shipments
If you want FREE holiday shipping and an easy date to rememberVia Freeshippingday.com
“This year’s Free Shipping Day is Friday, December 14, 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 of 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:
- November 25 or December 17: Standard shipping option
- November 29 or December 22: Premium shipping option
- November 30 or December 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:
- November 24 or 18: Standard shipping option
- November 29 or December 22: Express shipping option
- November 30 or December 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.”
- November 26 or December 19: Guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery with Standard shipping option
- November 29 or December 22: 3-day shipping option
- November 30 or December 23: 2-day shipping option.
Walmart also partners with Unbeatable Sale to ship these gift baskets, which are subject to these shipping policies (some of these are shipped free, but you will have to check each one specifically). These are the best ways to save money on holiday shopping.
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 November 29 or December 22 (1 p.m. Central Standard Time) to make sure the delivery arrives on time.
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 November 28. 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.
These dates come from the Best Black Friday website:
- November 23 or December 16 (noon): Standard shipping
- November 28 or December 21 (noon): Expedited shipping
- November 29 or December 22 (noon): Express shipping
- November 30 or December 24 (2 p.m.): In-store pickup
Also from the Best Black Friday website:
- November 23 or December 16: In-store pickup
- November 25 or December 18: Direct manufacturer shipping
- November 26 or December 19: Standard shipping
- November 27 or December 20: Express 2-day delivery
- November 29 or December 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:
- November 29 or December 22 (5 p.m. local time): Free standard shipping
- November 30 or December 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:
- November 25 or December 18 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Standard shipping
- November 29 or December 22 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Express shipping
- November 30 or December 23 (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Fastest shipping
Here are Newegg’s shipping deadlines, according to Dealhack:
- November 20 or December 14: Super “Eggsaver” shipping
- November 23 or December 16: Large items
- November 28 or December 21: Business 3-day shipping
- November 29 or December 22: Business 2-day shipping
- November 30 or December 23: Business 1-day shipping
If you’re doing your holiday shopping at Macy’s, bear in mind these cut-off dates, according to Dealhack:
- November 29 or December 22 (5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time): Standard 2-day shipping
- November 30 or December 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 two-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 Tuesday and there would be no deliveries that Sunday.” Check out these Christmas gift ideas for people who are impossible to shop for.
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’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.
“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). Next, read about things that organized people do every holiday season that you don’t.