Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2011: Time Your Purchase Right

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Update: FreeShipping.org has corrected its shipping deadline for Wal-Mart. The corrected date is reflected below.

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – If you do all of your Christmas shopping in the stores, your deadline for gift-buying is simple: Just get to the mall before it closes on Christmas Eve. But if you’re buying online and don’t want to pay a huge premium for overnight shipping, your holiday shipping deadline comes several days earlier.

FreeShipping.org, a site that provides codes for free shipping and is responsible for starting the popular Free Shipping Day, put out its list today of holiday shipping deadlines for 2011 to ensure delivery by Christmas. And if you’re new to the online retail game, take note: For many of the retailers, you have two weeks or less to make your purchase so that it arrives in time via standard shipping.

Coldwater Creek, for instance, is among several retailers that say you need to order by Dec. 12 to absolutely ensure that your package will arrive in time for the holiday. And a few are even earlier: According to FreeShipping.org, Soccer.com and clothing retailer Haband.com both say that you need to place your order by Dec. 9, giving you about a week to make your purchase. Not every retailer makes you order so early, though: Amazon, for instance, lets you order by Dec. 19 and still get your package, and Apple’s deadline is a day later.

Of course, if you’re a real procrastinator you could push that deadline back by choosing express shipping of some kind. FreeShipping.org also lists the deadlines for the fastest shipping option from each retailer, and in most cases it’s Dec. 21 or 22. But that will add a big premium to your order that will likely wipe out the price advantage of shopping online. By contrast, standard shipping usually costs only a few dollars, and in many cases is completely free depending on the retailer and how much you spend.

While not every retailer has announced its deadlines, the current list – featuring 170 online retailers – can be found on the FreeShipping.org website.  Here are some of the major retailers’ standard shipping deadlines:

Amazon.com: Dec. 19
Best Buy: Dec. 20, 11 a.m. ET
Crate and Barrel: Dec. 16
Disney Store: Dec. 18
Gap: Dec. 16
L.L. Bean: Dec. 16, 9:30 p.m. ET
Sears: Dec. 16
Toys R Us: Dec. 20, 3 p.m. ET
Wal-Mart: Dec. 19
Zappos: Dec. 16

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