The holiday season is a time when you are shopping around for the best deals on gifts. However, not all of your gifts can be given in person, and not all of your deals are always found online. This turns into you having to make sure of shipping services to ensure that your gifts are sent and received in a timely manner.  Today, let’s go a bit over how to find the most affordable provider, how to stay on top of deadlines, and ways on how to track your shipments effectively.

Shipping Providers: Compared

For this article, we will focus on American shipping providers. The main providers are FedEx, UPS, and USPS. In terms of price, USPS is a good choice for individuals who don’t have an issue with size. If you item is able to fit into USPS’s flat rate boxes, you will be able to pay a specified price, as long as it’s under 7 pounds.

This is perfect for individuals who aren’t frequent shippers and want to take the guess work out of shipping. So, when is UPS or FedEx a good choice? The holiday season is a unique time when timing is of the essence. You may send a card or gift throughout the year for birthdays or anniversaries, and if they come a couple of days later than expected, then it’s not a problem.

However, during the holidays individuals are more serious about delivery times, something USPS isn’t as good at holding on to. FedEx and UPS aren’t apart of the postal service, these shipping companies are focused solely on shipments, and in turn they have been more reliable in terms of arrival times and dates. If price and delivery timing is an issue, you best bet would be FedEx.

Affordable Supplies for Shipping

If you are price conscious, USPS is a provider that provides individuals with free flat rate shipping items by request. These boxes, usually arriving at your door step a week after request, allows you to not only skip having to rush out for shipping supplies relative to your item’s size, but you can also ensure that you’ll pay a certain price. If you are shipping with USPS or considering this option, here’s how to get your boxes.

Deadlines: Closer than you Think

You can choose a provider with the best deals or the fastest delivery times, but all of these titles become empty if you don’t put in the effort to ship on time. Providers love when we ship late because this gives them a promise to hike up prices.

Don’t become victim to last minute shipping price gouging by making sure you know the deadlines for your basic ground shipment dates. As follows, USPS’s deadline is December 20th, three days earlier on the 17th (ten days from today) is FedEx’s deadline on Ground shipments, and finally, UPS is the most attractive in that you can ship anytime up till December 24th, they will be shipping on Christmas Eve.

Of course, in the end, everything comes at a price. FedEx is moderately priced, USPS is one of the cheapest, but UPS is the most expensive. This, of course, isn’t taking into consideration if you miss the aforementioned dates, which means you’ll have to pay even more for next day or two day shipping.

Amazon shoppers: more on specific deadlines are found here.

Tracking the Package

Apps for tracking your packages are available on almost every system that you use. First, let’s look out for our iOS users and list a couple of applications that help with tracking packages:

Slice for iOS – Focused not just on package tracking, but also your online spending habits, Slice automatically adds packages to track based on what you purchase online through your connected email accounts. Also, track how much you are spending and more. (Free)

Delivery Status Touch – Resembling Parcels for Android, Delivery Status Touch makes use of visuals (including color scheme) as a way for you to quickly tell the provider. You can also get a high quality map view on the right side and up-to-date parcel information at the very bottom. ($2.99)

Next up, Android users. Here are a couple of applications available to ensure that you know the status of your package.

Parcels for Android – This free application ensures that you stay updated on your shipment. even without having to lift another finger after first setting up. Package statuses are viewable in the application’s Google Maps view. (Free)

TrackChecker – This basic barebones tracker application is perfect for our international shipping readers out there. (Free)

Package Tracker Pro – Along with package tracking, Package Tracker Pro also allows you to receive up-to-date notifications and the ability through the sync site to automatically add/remove shipment tracking. ($1.99)

An IFTTT Hack: Shipment Tracking

If you aren’t familiar with IFTTT (no pun intended), the website allows you to create your own online algorithms allowing different websites to connect with each other to perform novel tasks, allowing the “Internet to work for you”.

One quick example would be “If I take an Instagram photo, automatically add the photo to a specific folder in Dropbox”. Get it now? Well, there’s an algorithms (or recipe as they are called) for package tracking that can be sent as a text message to your phone, perfect for the non-smartphone owners. Simply edit the XXXXs with your tracking number, and there you go! Here’s the link to the recipe.

Holiday shopping can be stressful, but shipping your items don’t have to be. Let us know in the comments which tip was most helpful for you and which tips you have for our other readers.

Featured photo credit:  Tug boat taking out the ship from the harbor via Shutterstock

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