You may have noticed that Christmas is getting closer. If you haven't finished -- or started -- your online shopping, or need to send presents to family and friends elsewhere, you're nearly out of time if you want your presents to arrive by the big day itself.

Fortunately, while you've waited until the last minute, you haven't quite waited too long. And, if price is no object, there are ways -- at least in some markets -- to have items delivered on Christmas Eve, just in time to slip them under the tree.

People dressed as Santa work on a warehouse.

You may need to borrow a sleigh if you don't get your holiday shopping done. Image source: Getty Images.

What are the shipping deadlines?

Last-minute shoppers essentially have three major options:

  1. They can buy the items themselves and ship them via FedEx (FDX 0.12%), UPS (UPS 0.52%), or the United States Postal Service (USPS).
  2. They can order from Amazon (AMZN -0.68%).
  3. And a handful of retailers offer expedited shipping on orders placed by the end of Dec. 21.

In all of these cases, it's worth noting that no shipping service has a 100% on-time delivery rate, though both major commercial carriers came reasonably close in 2017.

During the week ended Dec. 23, UPS managed to deliver 99.1% of packages shipped by ground on time, according to parcel tracking firm ShipMatrix Inc. By air, each company had an on-time rate in the high 90s, Bloomberg reported.

Near-perfect isn't the same as perfect to the people who don't get their packages on time, but this close to the wire, shipments are more at risk for weather delays, human error, or other problems. That said, "high 90s" are great odds for gambling, so here are your options if you're willing to play the odds and not hedge your bet with something like a digital gift card:

  • Amazon: You have to be a Prime member to qualify for these shipping dates, but you can still sign up for the service (even using a free trial):
    • Dec. 22: Last day to order for free two-day Prime shipping, meaning you can still procrastinate another day!
    • Dec. 23: Last day for free Prime one-day shipping. But be very careful, as this is not offered in all areas.
    • Dec. 24: Last day for free same-day delivery -- be even more careful, the areas are even more limited, as is the product selection.
  • USPS: If you hope to use the United States Postal Service to deliver your package, you're mostly out of time. There's only one option left:
    • Dec. 22: Your delivery can still use Priority Mail Express, but it's going to cost you -- rates start at $24.70, and if your gifts are going to Alaska or Hawaii, it's already too late.
  • FedEx: Navigating the FedEx website is a challenge, as the company has so many different services. But it does give last-minute shoppers a few choices:
    • Dec. 21: Last day for FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, and FedEx First Overnight
    • Dec. 24: Deadline for FedEx Express and select FedEx Ground, good for ground shipping to destinations near you.
    • Dec. 25: In some markets, FedEx offers same-day shipping, but the geography is limited, and extra holiday fees apply.
  • UPS: UPS has fewer choices than its rival, and for its traditional delivery service, well, you'd better get moving:
    • Dec. 21: Last day for UPS Next Day Air (for delivery on Christmas Eve)
    • Dec. 22: In some markets, UPS offers Saturday pickups, and packages must be marked as such, for delivery by Dec. 24.
  • Retailers: Walmart, Best Buy, Macy's, and Target offer expedited shipping (for a fee) if you place your order by Dec. 21.

Get a move on

You didn't get to this point without being at least a bit of a procrastinator, so consider this your final warning. Jump onto Amazon, head to the stores, or get ready to stand in line at a shipping center (that's where scheduling a home pickup can be nice). You still have a little time to look like you planned well enough to have your gifts arrive before Christmas, but that time is rapidly ticking away.