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The cheapest way to ship gifts to arrive by Christmas Eve

Monday - 12/16/2013, 2:07pm  ET

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WTOP found the cheapest way to get packages to their house by Christmas Eve. (WTOP File)

GERMANTOWN, Md. - It's getting down to the wire and many people have yet to ship their gifts to loved ones. WTOP found the cheapest way to get packages to their destination by Christmas Eve.

Quoting a box shipping from D.C. to L.A., we compared three shipping carriers. The U.S. Postal Service is the cheapest.

The caveat -- the package must be sent by Tuesday to get the USPS' best rate using standard shipping.

Sending a 5 pound box will cost $14.20. A 10 pound box will cost $24.46. However, it is too late to use the USPS online shipping option and get it there in time using standard shipping.

As a rule, it is cheaper to use USPS boxes rather than your own.

If Tuesday is too soon to get the gifts together, customers shipping their gifts on Wednesday should use UPS.

A 5 pound box will ship on UPS Ground for $18.94 and reach its destination by Dec. 23. A 10 pound box will cost $23.21 and arrive on Dec. 23. However, for both quoted prices, the box must be dropped off at a UPS shipping location. UPS lets customers calculate rates for shipping on its website.

Finally, FedEx is the most expensive option. Even its cheapest shipping price will cost more than two-day Priority Mail shipping at the post office.

Using the FedEx Express Saver Tuesday, a 5 pound, medium box arrives Friday, Dec. 20 for $37.01. A 10 pound medium box ships for $55.52. FedEx offers customers a rate calculator to price out their shipping.

While many customers would rather stand in line to pay less, the postal service also offers online shipping.

The service normally costs less than shipping a package at a post office, but standard shipping isn't available because of the limited number of days left before Christmas. Check the USPS online postage calculator to see what other options are available to ship within your time frame.

Postal officials are urging customers to utilize the new technology to streamline their shipping.

"They can actually skip going to the post office," says Germantown Postmaster Hugo Aldana. "They can do it from home."

Customers with access to the internet can contact postal workers, print shipping labels from home and have mail picked up instead of waiting in line at a local post office.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, tens of millions of additional pieces of mail will flow through facilities across the nation on Monday, the single busiest day of the season.

On a typical day, postal workers handle around 500 million packages and letters. On Monday, Dec. 16, that number is expected to be closer to 600 million. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, it is a mind-blowing 15 billion pieces of mail.

For more information on shipping from home, follow this USPS link.

WTOP's Megan Cloherty and Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.

Follow @NickWTOP, @ClohertyWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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