For last-minute shoppers, the high street is perfect. But the real bargains can be found online. Yet be careful, as the shutters are pulled much earlier.
This detailed list of Christmas 2013 last order dates also explains what your rights are if things don't arrive on time.
The following table lists the last main order dates and times for big UK stores. We've highlighted the last date you can get free or 'cheap' delivery in red before premium prices kick in. But at that stage, it may just be worth going to the high street.
In previous years, bad weather has seen some firms change their last order dates. We're keeping an eye out for whether that will happen this year, and will update you here if it does.
Using last-minute premium delivery slots could still work out cheaper than shopping in-store. Use the MegaShopBot.com to compare prices and see if even with premium delivery, you could still save money shopping online.
|Time if specified||Price|
|Sunday 15 December|
|Early Learning Centre*||£2.95|
|Jessops (iPhone cases & photo calendars) last chance||Varies|
|M&S* (food to order) last chance||5pm||Free (collect in-store)|
|Monday 16 December|
|Aldo last chance||11.59pm||Free|
|Bonusprint last chance||£6.95-£74.95 (varies per item)|
|Jessops (all other products) last chance||Varies|
|Laura Ashley* last chance||£4.50|
|Sainsbury's* (entertainment) last chance||12 noon||Free|
|Tuesday 17 December|
|American Apparel last chance||5pm||£4|
|Ann Summers* last chance||2pm||Free|
|Asda Direct* (large items)||£8.95|
|Boots Photo* last chance||11.59pm||99p-£6.99|
|Build-a-Bear* last chance||£5.50|
|CC Fashion last chance||£4.95|
|Clarks* last chance||3pm||Free|
|Co-op Pharmacy last chance||12 noon||£2.95|
|Figleaves* last chance||12 noon||£3.50|
|Snapfish last chance||11.59pm||£0.99-£7.50|
|Tesco Direct* (small items) last chance||£3|
|Tesco Photo* last chance||£1.50-£5|
|Thorntons* last chance||4pm||£3.95|
|Truprint last chance||11.59pm||£0.99-£7.50|
|Waterstones last chance||Free||Wednesday 18 December|
|Amazon* (or FREE next-day with Prime trial. Full info in the Amazon Discount Finder)||11.59pm||Free|
|Asos* last chance||Free|
|BHS* last chance||£3.95|
|Body Shop* last chance||11.59pm||£2.99|
|Bon Marche* last chance||1pm||£2.99|
|Debenhams* last chance||11.59pm||£3.99|
|House of Fraser* last chance||7pm||£3|
|Molton Brown last chance||3pm||£4.95|
|Reiss last chance||£3.95|
|The Entertainer* last chance||10am||£2.99|
|Urban Outfitters* last chance||11.59pm||£3.99|
|WHSmith* last chance||4pm||£2.99-£3.99 (or collect in-store for free)|
|Thursday 19 December|
|Accessorize* last chance||Free|
|Asda Direct* (small/med items)||Free for small/medium items|
|Asda Direct* (large items; express delivery) last chance||£8.95|
|Early Learning Centre (next-day delivery) last chance||£6.95|
|Evans Cycles last chance||3pm||Free|
|Habitat* (small items) last chance||£4.95|
|Halfords* last chance||4pm||Free|
|HalfPricePerfumes* last chance||£2.99|
|John Lewis* last chance||£3|
|Maplin last chance||£2.99|
|M&S* (clothing, home, beauty, wine, gifts & entertainment) last chance||7pm||£3.50|
|Mothercare (express delivery)||£6.95|
|New Look* last chance||£3.95|
|Office* last chance||
|River Island last chance||£3.95|
|Sports Direct last chance||2pm||£4.99|
|Tesco Direct* (books, games & DVDs) last chance||Free|
|The White Company last chance||£4.95|
|Toys R Us* last chance||12 noon||£4.95|
|Vertbaudet* last chance||9pm||£3.99|
|Warehouse* last chance||£3.99|
|Waterstones (express delivery)||3pm||£2.75|
|Whistles last chance||11.59pm||Free|
|Whittard* last chance||£3|
|Zavvi* last chance||Free||Friday 20 December|
|Amazon* (first class or FREE next-day with Prime trial, full info: Amazon Discount Finder)||£1.19-£3.99|
|Argos* (large items) last chance||£8.95|
|Asda Direct* (small/med items; next-day delivery) last chance||£4.50|
|Boohoo* last chance||£3.99|
|Build-a-Bear* (next-day delivery)||£6.50|
|Burton* last chance||£3.95|
|Cath Kidston* last chance||£3.95|
|Charles Tyrwhitt last chance||2pm||£10.95|
|Currys* last chance||2pm||Free|
|Dorothy Perkins* last chance||8pm||£3.95|
|Dune last chance||4pm||£6.50|
|Ernest Jones last chance||2pm||£3|
|Evans* last chance||£3.95|
|Game last chance||1pm||Free|
|Lastminute.com* (first-class or recorded delivery) last chance||£1.20/£3|
|Maplin (express delivery)||£5.99|
|Miss Selfridge* last chance||£3.95|
|O2 (phones & mobile broadband) last chance||Free|
|PC World* last chance||2pm||Free|
|Thorntons* (express delivery)||4pm||£6.95|
|Ticketmaster last chance||3pm||£2|
|TM Lewin* last chance||1pm||£3.95 (or collect in-store for free)|
|Topman* last chance||12 noon||£4|
|Topshop last chance||12 noon||£4|
|Toys R Us*||4pm||£8.95|
|Wallis* last chance||12 noon||£3.95|
|WHSmith* (express delivery)||12 noon||£3.99-£5.99 (depending on size)||Saturday 21 December|
|Boots* last chance||£2.95|
|Molton Brown (next-day delivery)||3pm||£7.95|
|QVC last chance||Varies||Sunday 22 December|
|All Saints* last chance||12pm||Free|
|Argos* (small items) last chance||1pm||£3.95|
|BHS* (next-day delivery)||£5.95-£7.50|
|Boots* (next-day delivery)||£3.95|
|Burton* (next-day delivery)||£3.95|
|Evans Cycles||12 noon||£29.99 per bike (£4.99 per order for accessories)|
|John Lewis* (next-day delivery or collect in-store for free)||£6.95|
|M&M Direct last chance||12 noon||£3.99|
|M&S* (next-day delivery; clothing, home, beauty, wine, gifts & entertainment)||Midday||£4.95|
|Next last chance||£3.99|
|Sainsbury's* (grocery, if you can get a slot)||Book a slot||Varies|
|Tesco* (grocery, if you can get a slot)||Book a slot||£3-£6|
|Tesco Direct* (small items, express delivery)||3pm||£5.95 or collect in-store for free|
|Tesco Wine* last chance||Free|
|The White Company (next-day delivery)||£7.95|
|Topman* (express delivery)||2pm||£6|
|Topshop (express delivery)||2pm||£6|
|Waitrose* (if you can get a slot)||Book a slot||Free, min shop is £50|
|Whistles||4pm||£6||Monday 23 December|
|Amazon* (next-day or FREE next-day with Prime trial. Full info: Amazon Discount Finder) last chance||11am||£8.99|
|Accessorize* (express delivery)||£5.95|
|Asda* (grocery, if you can get a slot)||from £3|
|Asos* (next-day and express delivery)||9pm next-day, 11.59pm for express||£5.95 (next-day), £7.95 (express)|
|B&Q* (next-day items only) last chance||6pm||£5|
|Boots* (for collection in-store before 2pm on 24 Dec)||2pm||£1.95|
|Carphone Warehouse* last chance||5pm||Free|
|Currys* (next-day delivery)||5pm||£10-£22 large appliances, £4.99-£14.99 for other items|
|Ernest Jones (next-day delivery)||3pm||£5|
|Figleaves*||4pm via Royal Mail||£6.95|
|House of Fraser* (next-day delivery or collect in-store for free)||£6|
|Kiddicare last chance||£4.95|
|Lastminute.com* (special delivery)||£9.50|
|Matalan* (next-day delivery)||£4.50|
|Monsoon* (express delivery)||£5.95|
|Mothercare (collect in-store)||Free|
|Oasis* (next-day delivery)||£4.99|
|Ocado* (if you can get a slot)||Book a slot||Varies per slot|
|Rubber Sole* last chance||Free|
|The Entertainer* (express delivery)||Midday||£4.99|
|Wallis* (express delivery)||2pm||£5.95|
|Warehouse* (express delivery)||4pm||£5.49|
|Zavvi* (next-day delivery)||8pm||£3.95|
|Tuesday 24 December|
|Lastminute.com* (print-at-home evouchers)||Free|
Full DOs and DON'Ts
Whether it's a retailer or restaurateur, airline or air-conditioner seller, computer shop or car rental company, there are always two main risks. Either it's a dodgy company, or it's a legit company that has financial problems and goes bust.
The aim of these tips is to help you minimise the risks.
Quite simply, its customers are immediately transformed into creditors. This hits hardest if you've ordered goods or tickets from them, and not had delivery, as then you become one of a line of people trying to get your money back out of the company's assets, and you usually get back much less than you paid in.
Even if you've had delivery, if the company you bought from goes under and there's a problem with the goods, it can mean you've no comeback.
While MoneySavingExpert.com endeavours to check deals are valid, we don't check companies ' finances. Even huge names like MFI and Woolies have folded, so it's very important you use the right strategies to stay protected where possible.
Pay by credit card for something over £100, and Section 75 laws supercharge your consumer rights.
Unlike debit cards, cheques or cash, pay in full or part (even just £1) on a credit card and by law the lender's jointly liable with the retailer.
This means you have exactly the same rights with the card company as you do with the retailer. So if it goes bust, you can simply take your complaints there instead and get money back if there's no delivery.
Yet it's important you ALWAYS REPAY IN FULL each month, so there's no interest cost. See the full Section 75 guide.
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help. It isn't a legal protection, just Visa, Mastercard and Amex's rules, but it's a good back-up.
Spend on a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card or any debit or charge card. If the goods don't appear, you can try to ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you complain within 120 days of realising there’s a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products like Ugg boots and Tiffany necklaces, so be wary if it's an unfamiliar site. And don't think that because it appears on a reputable search engine, that makes it a reputable site - always check.
Most folk know to look for a security padlock on the bottom right of a website, but that doesn't mean the site's legit, just that payment's secure.
To find out who registered the site and when, search the Whois database. Reputable firms should also appear on the Companies House site, the UK Government's official companies register. Be very wary of businesses with just a PO Box or email address.
Study the site's worldwide web ranking on Alexa. Anything in the top 100,000 means it's reasonably big and a good, though not foolproof indication of legitimacy. Do a quick Google search for other shoppers' experiences.
Crucially, ensure your security's up-to-date - free software can be downloaded to your computer in about five minutes. Full details in the Free Antivirus Software guide.
Many people are surprised to learn you've MORE rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Distance Selling Regulations.
These give you a legal right to send most goods back within seven days for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery. Read Consumer Rights for a full guide.
However, of course, this is balanced by the fact ordering online automatically means there's a time gap between ordering and delivering - when the company has your money. So if it goes bust during that time, the distance selling rights don't help.
Ultimately, there is always a risk that a company can go bust. If the above routes don't apply, then you have to make a decision about whether you're willing to take the risk of parting with your cash.
Don't be scared of this. Every day we all make transactions based on trust, and this is part of that, but do balance up the amount you're spending against the risk. Don't give large amounts of money to a company you're not sure about.
Instead of going straight to one online retailer for books, games, CDs or anything else. Use the MegaShopBot, which searches scores of retailers just as quickly to tell you where to find them cheapest. For full info read the Cheapest Online Shopping and Best Cashback Sites guides.
Many retailers flaunt extra money-off discounts at this time of year. While these can smash the cost of some goods, check they're not overpriced in the first place. See the daily updated lists for ongoing and one day special sales, plus shopping discounts and vouchers in the Discount Vouchers deals note.
To make sure relatives' prezzies arrive in time, here are this year's Royal Mail last delivery dates:
Pay the right way and you can get more protection for yourself should something go wrong. Plus you can slash the cost even further.
Pay by credit card
Spend on any credit card and you get Section 75 legal protection; something which doesn't happen with cash, cheque or debit card transactions. So buy anything costing over £100, and providing some of it's paid on the card, the card company’s equally liable with the retailer if things go wrong. This is valuable additional protection and applies to goods bought abroad or on overseas websites too. Just ensure you pay the card off in full at the end of the month, so there’s no interest.
Earn extra cashback
Pay on the right credit card and you can earn up to 5% cashback on top. For more info, read the Cashback Cards article.
Christmas presents needn't cost the earth. If you're short on time and cash, a little bit of creative thinking goes a long way. Vouchers for time, love letters and homemade offerings can mean a lot more than the latest gadget. For a list of the top prezzies under a fiver, read the Festive Fivers article.
Buying from the US
Certain goods or brands may be cheaper across the pond. Bear in mind, though, delivery will take longer and you should factor in an extra 33% on top of the price to cover delivery and import charges.
Powerful tricks for shopping at Amazon
Massive web store Amazon* almost needs a rulebook of its own. Find out how to uncover special links to secret 75%-off bargains, track price reductions with tools, grab free gift vouchers and escape delivery charges in the Amazon Tricks guide.
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