43° F

Comparison shop for holiday shipping costs

Published On: Dec 13 2012 09:22:36 AM CST
Updated On: Dec 13 2012 09:35:53 AM CST

The long lines and costs of shipping holiday gifts frustrate plenty of shoppers, but experts say comparing prices is the best way to save money.

WISC-TV filled three identical boxes with the same three items: a stuffed teddy bear, a paperback novel and a picture frame. The packages, valued at $17.17 apiece, went to The UPS Store, FedEx and the U.S. Post Office in Madison destined for Spokane, Wash.

FedEx had the cheapest four-day guaranteed shipping at $10.74. The Post Office said the package would arrive in three days for $10.95, and UPS said it was likely to arrive in four days for $12.73. The scale at the UPS Store said that package was heavier than the other two by a few ounces, potentially increasing the cost.

Monday is the last day to send items and guarantee they arrive by Christmas with standard shipping, and the lines were long at the major shipping stores on Wednesday.

The costs of procrastinating were steep: For overnight shipping, UPS wanted $104, FedEx asked $89, and the Post Office's price was $39.40.

"If it's something that has to be there the next day and you procrastinated, it's going to cost big money, and that's your fault," said Mae Laatsch, a retail expert at Madison College.

Laatsch suggested shopping around, not only at the major shippers, but online to see whether your favorite retailer offers free shipping.

About 10 percent more retailers have that option this year than last, and consumers are getting used to the perk, Laatsch said.

"If you've got an app on your phone, it saves you from running around," she said. "The idea is that you can check online to see where the best deal is, and sometimes it's online and sometimes it's not."

Another trick is to ship to a business instead of a home, which is sometimes cheaper, she said.

Laatsch said stores will be busy and online ordering brisk next Monday on the last day to guarantee delivery by Christmas.

WISC-TV will follow up when the items arrive in Washington to make sure they got there on time and in good condition.

  • Ferguson protests

    Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Teen's shooting death sparks protests in Ferguson

    The police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, is expected to step down as part of the effort by city officials to reform the Police Department, mostly stemming from criticism of the department's handling of Michael Brown's shooting death in August. Take a look at images of the protests surrounding Brown's death.

  • Robert De Niro, thumbs up

    Mohamad Dabbouss/Reuters

    Celebrity New Yorkers

    Taylor Swift was recently named New York's first Global Welcome Ambassador for its "Welcome To New York" campaign, a decision that has been met with much controversy, especially from New Yorkers. Take a look at these famous New Yorkers.

  • Tim Cook at Apple event

    Robert Galbraith/Reuters

    Celebrities who are out and proud

    Apple CEO Tim Cook came out Thursday, announcing that he is gay in a column in Bloomberg Businessweek. See some of the other celebrities who are openly gay -- and proud of it.

  • jack-o-lantern Halloween pumpkin

    Juliet James/SXC


    Games, recipes, trick-or-treating, scary movies and everything else you need to make your Halloween extra spooky.

  • Politician, politics, debate, election

    iStock / bns124

    Election Coverage

    Get up-to-date on political stories, Reality Check the latest political ads, learn about the candidates and find election results in our special section.

  • Ebola virus pink


    Ebola special coverage

    Get the latest news on the Ebola outbreak and resources to help you learn more about the deadly virus.