U.S. Postal Service mail handler Nikeisha Mitchell sorts packages at the U.S. Postal service's Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center.

5 ways to save on shipping this Christmas

Believe in Santa if you like, but you'll still need to pay attention to key dates and deadlines if you want to save on shipping this Christmas.

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It's tough to eliminate shipping costs altogether if you don't live in a compound with all your friends and relatives, but a bit of planning and strictly adhering to a gift-purchasing schedule can slash your shipping costs.

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Here are five strategies that will help:

Try Free Shipping Day. There is a whole day dedicated to shoppers who would like to save on shipping. This year, Free Shipping Day is Dec. 14, 2019. The national shopping holiday has been going strong since 2008 and its manager, Kinoli Inc., also operates a coupon site.

Here's the catch: The billion-dollar event does feature 1,000 retail participants, and all of them offer free shipping. But you can't rely on this shopping opportunity entirely if you have super-specific purchases in mind, because the offers "will not be revealed until 12 a.m. EST on Friday, Dec. 14 and will be removed from the site at 11:59 p.m. EST unless otherwise requested," according to Kinoli.

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Avoid penalties by knowing your Christmas shipping deadlines. The 2019 key U.S. shipping dates for the major carriers look like this, with guaranteed Christmas delivery becoming more expensive as Dec. 25 gets closer:

USPS cutoffs 2019

Retail Ground™ Saturday, Dec. 14

First Class Mail® Friday, Dec. 20

Priority Mail® Saturday, Dec. 21

Priority Mail Express® Monday, Dec, 23

FedEx cutoffs 2019

FedEx SmartPost® Monday, Dec. 9

FedEx Ground® Monday, Dec. 16

Home Delivery® Monday, Dec. 16

Express Saver® Thursday, Dec 19

2Day® Services Friday, Dec. 20

Overnight® Services Monday, Dec. 23

UPS cutoffs 2019

Ground® Friday, Dec. 13

3 Day Select® Thursday, Dec. 19

2nd Day Air® Services Friday, Dec. 20

Next Day Air® Services Monday, Dec. 23

Ship Station also offers a handy infographic that sums up all the last days to ship and therefore save money on shipping. Consider printing it out and posting it on the fridge.

Combine your online purchases. To slash the cost of gifts that are coming to your own home, try to concentrate your purchases. "Making multiple purchases at once (rather than buying one item at a time) could help you hit the minimum purchase amount to qualify for free shipping," Consumer Reports noted.

Look into in-store pick-up. You can still shop for Christmas presents in your pajamas without paying for shipping. "See whether the store offers in-store pickup, which allows you to place the order online but pick it up at a walk-in location," CR recommended. "Though the item won't arrive at your doorstep, you'll save on shipping and avoid having to make your way through the crowded store to find the exact item on the shelves."

Consider cutting back on the gift-giving. If you can convince the rest of the family or friend group to go along, one of the best ways to save on shipping is to eliminate some of the gifts you exchange. The tiniest tots, in particular, tend to rake in more than enough Christmas gifts, and might benefit more from a cute card or prepaid plans for an outing next time the family is all in the same place.

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