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 2012 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, with free or standard delivery. Some may deliver at shorter notice, for a hefty premium. But at that stage, though, 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|
(accessories under £50)
|Thursday 20 December|
|Amazon* (first class) or FREE next day with Prime trial, full info in the Amazon Discount Finder||11.59pm||Varies per order|
|Argos* (small items)||1pm||£3.95|
|Asda Direct* (small/med items)||Free for small/medium items|
|Bon Marche* (express delivery)||£5.95|
|Boots*||7pm||Depends on value at checkout|
|Build-a-Bear (next day delivery)||1.30pm||£6.50|
|Clarks* (next day delivery)||3pm||£5.50|
|Early Learning Centre (next day delivery)||5pm||£7.95|
|Evans Cycles (next day delivery)||1pm||£19.99 (bikes) £3.99 (accessories)|
|Gap*||11.59pm||Free with the code FREE50|
|Game*||1pm (3pm express)||Free (express £4.95)|
|John Lewis* (express delivery)||7pm||£6.95|
|Matalan* (next day delivery)||5pm||£4.95|
|Molton Brown (next day delivery)||3pm||£7.95|
|Monsoon* (next day delivery)||£5.95|
|Mothercare (next day delivery)||5pm||£7.95|
|New Look* (next day delivery)||£4.95|
|O2 (phones and mobile broadband)||4pm||Free|
|Orange Shop||12 noon||£2.50|
|Past Times* (next day delivery)||£4.95|
|Republic* (next day delivery)||5pm||£3.99|
|Rubber Sole* (express delivery)||11am||£12|
|See Tickets||3pm||Varies (though mostly £2.75)|
|The Entertainer* (express delivery)||1pm||£4.99|
|The White Company||£4.95|
|Urban Outfitters* (express delivery)||£9.99|
|Waitrose* (if you can get a slot)||Free, min shop is £50|
|Waterstones (courier delivery or in-store collect)||3pm||From £4.95 courier, free in-store collect|
|Whistles (next day delivery)||£6|
|Whittard* (next working day delivery)||2pm||£6.95|
|WHSmith* (first class and courier delivery)||11am||£3.99-£9.99 (depending on size)||Friday 21 December|
|Accessorize* (express for Sat delivery)||2pm||£7.95|
|Asda* (grocery, if you can get a slot)||from £3|
|Asda Direct* (next day delivery)||11pm||£4.50|
(expedited (priority) delivery)
|Boots.com* (next day delivery)||3.30pm||Depends on total, approx £4.95|
|Burton* (nominated day delivery)||4pm||£5.95 Mon-Fri, £7.95 Sat del|
|Carphone Warehouse* (for delivery on Sat)||5pm||£7.50|
|CC Fashion* (next day delivery)||£10.95|
|Charles Tyrwhitt (next day delivery)||2pm||£10.95|
|Currys* (pay & collect)||5pm||Free|
|Dorothy Perkins* (nominated delivery)||4pm||£5-7|
|Ernest Jones (next day delivery)||3pm||£5|
|Evans*||4pm||£5 Mon-Fri, £7 Sat|
|Figleaves* (next day delivery or to Bybox lockers)||4pm||£6 (Bybox locker £3.50)|
|House of Fraser* (collect in-store)||Free|
|John Lewis* (next day delivery)||7pm||£6.95|
|M&S* (express delivery: clothing, home, beauty, wine, gifts & entertainment)||7pm||£4.95|
|Maplin (express delivery)||£5.99|
|Miss Selfridge* (express delivery)||£7.50|
|Monsoon* (Saturday delivery)||£7.95|
|PC World* (pay & collect)||5pm||Free|
|Sports Direct (standard/express delivery)||2pm/4pm||£3.99/£5.99|
|Tesco Clothing* (next day delivery)||3pm||£5.95-7|
|Tesco Direct* (small items)||3pm||£3-7|
|Tesco Wine*||12 noon||£6|
|The White Company (next day delivery)||£9.95|
|Thorntons* (express delivery)||11am||£6.95|
|Topman*(nominated day delivery)||4pm||£5-£7.50|
|Topshop (express/nominated delivery)||6pm||£5-£7.50|
|Toys R Us (next day delivery)||4pm||£9.95|
|Wallis* (next day delivery)||4pm||From £5|
|Warehouse* (nominated day delivery)||4pm||From £4.99|
|Wilkinson* (premium delivery)||2pm||£6.95 or free in-store collect||Saturday 22 December|
|B&Q* (next day del)||6pm||£5|
|Currys* (next day delivery)||2.30pm||£3.99|
|Ernest Jones (collect in-store)||9pm||Free|
|John Lewis* (collect in-store)||7pm||Free|
|PC World* (next day delivery)||2.30pm||£3.99|
|Sainsbury's* (grocery, if you can get a slot)||11pm||£2.95-£5.95|
|Waitrose* (grocery, if you can get a slot)||Free, min order is £50||Sunday 23 December|
|Amazon* (express delivery/one-day delivery) or FREE next day with Prime trial, full info Amazon Discount Finder||11am||£8.99/£5.99-£7.99 for one-day|
|Argos*||£8.95 for large items|
(next/nominated day & evening next day)
|2pm & 11.59pm||£5.95 & £7.95|
|Burton* (click 'n' collect)||12noon||£2|
|Kiddicare (next day delivery)||8pm||£4.95|
|Oasis* (next day delivery)||1pm||£4.99|
|River Island (express delivery)||5pm||£5.95|
|Tesco (grocery)||Book a slot||£3-£6|
|Topman* (collect in-store)||12 noon||£2|
|Wallis* (collect in-store)||12 noon||£2||Monday 24 December|
|Amazon* (evening delivery, major cities only)||9.30am||£14.99|
|Argos* (click and collect)||Free for small items|
|Dunelm Mill (reserve and collect)||Reserve by 12 noon, collect by 3pm||Free|
|Oasis* (express delivery)||3pm||£7.99|
|Ocado* (if you can get a slot)||Varies per slot|
|Warehouse* (same day delivery)||11am||£6.99|
|Up to 25 December|
|Retailer||Order by||Delivery costs|
|Lastminute.com*||Any time||None, order online and print voucher off|
|Ticketmaster||Any time||None, print your tickets|
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 thereís 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 companyís 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 thereís 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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