If you need to ship your holiday gifts, plan ahead or end up paying more

When Jordann Brown was a student, she once was so caught up with exam season that she forgot to get her Christmas gifts in the mail ahead of the holidays.

“If you miss the shipping deadline, there’s not a lot you can do in terms of getting your package where it needs to go on time without paying a lot of money,” says Brown, the Halifax-based woman behind the My Alternate Life blog.

“In my case, I recorded a video explaining what the delay was and then I made a riddle so that they could get guess what the item was when it finally arrived and I gave that to them on Christmas Day.”

Brown was eager to not have that happen again.

When it comes to shipping gifts, she’s since trained herself to plan ahead and taught herself how to save while doing it. Sending presents, after all, can cost anywhere from a few dollars to much more, depending on the size and value of the gift and the distance it must travel.

The easiest way to not break the bank while sending a gift through the mail is to ship it as soon as you can, she says. The quicker you need to get it there, the more you’ll pay. She aims to get everything out by the first week of December.

If you’re using Canada Post to ship a gift within Canada, regular parcels need to be sent by Dec. 11 this year to arrive by Christmas. Express and priority shipping, which both cost more, have later deadlines.

Companies like FedEx, UPS and Purolator also offer gift delivery. When choosing between the many shipping options, Brown usually makes use of online calculators the services offer. The calculators allow users to input an address, package weight and size and desired delivery date to give an estimated shipping cost and help customers price compare.

A heavier and larger package will often raise your cost.

“Those old Amazon boxes you probably have piling up in your basement might seem really convenient to just reuse as a gift box, but in reality, if they’re very large or they don’t really fit the item, then you might actually be paying more,” Brown says. “A bubble mailer is usually the least expensive because it takes up the least amount of space.”

The cost can also increase if you request a signature or proof of delivery, parcel pickup or insurance.

“If it’s something that’s expensive, maybe invest in a little bit of insurance coverage because volumes for all of the shippers are really really high this time of year, so product damage is more likely to happen now than any other time,” Brown says. “Extra insurance coverage might be the difference between your nephew getting a broken Xbox and getting one that’s working.”

Brown usually considers insurance on anything she sends with a value of $100 or more or a gift that would be difficult or “painful” to replace.

Another trick she relies on to save is skipping handling her own shipping by either having the product sent directly to the gift recipient when she orders it or by arranging for them to be able to pick it up at their nearest store.

“Instead of bringing the item home and packaging it, especially if it’s an electronic or something that’s likely to be damaged in transit, I would probably do the gift option where they could just pick up the gift item at a local store,” she says.”

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