Every year, it seems like the holiday shopping season is being pushed earlier and earlier. We find ourselves saying, “It’s not even Halloween yet, and they’re already selling December Holiday decorations!”
Related Article: Have a Safe and Budget-Friendly Halloween this Year
This year, however, getting holiday shopping done early is essential.
Every aspect of our lives has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including shopping, shipping, and the fulfillment of online orders. There are many reasons why you can expect continued disruptions in the normal holiday shopping season this year:
- Shipping is limited, as UPS and FedEx have to be careful to protect their workers’ safety. They’ve done an admirable job of keeping up shipping, but many orders are taking longer to fulfill than usual. Some retailers are seeing fewer deliveries, as the shipping companies are consolidating—delivering one large shipment every week instead of a smaller shipment each day, for example.
- Warehouses are understaffed as companies strive to keep social distancing and not force too many employees to be indoors together. This slows the picking and shipping process right from the start. Where you might expect a warehouse to pick your order and get it packed for shipping on the same day you order it, these days your order goes on the bottom of a list and they might not get to it right away.
- Stores are similarly understaffed and if they get large deliveries, it can take longer for them to unpack and shelve the goods they receive. That means the item you’re shopping for might be in the building, but there’s no telling how long before the store will have the chance to get that item on the shelf.
- Traditional postal mail has also been delayed in many parts of the country, with USA Today reporting that small businesses have been hit especially hard by USPS delays this year.
- People are buying more items remotely, making it harder for fulfillment centers to keep essential items in stock. You’re likely to see more items unavailable for purchase online or “out of stock,” especially staple items. We already saw a nationwide run on toilet paper and disinfectant supplies earlier this year, and that kind of shortage could happen again easily.
Given that this year is unique, and shipping delays and staffing problems will continue to affect us all throughout the holiday season, there are some strategies you should take to make the holiday shopping season as smooth as possible:
Shop Early and Save Early
Whether shopping online or venturing out to a store, get your holiday shopping done sooner rather than later. Don’t assume the stores will have what you are looking for if you wait too late to go shopping. If you’re buying online, place your orders as early as you can to account for extended shipping times.
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Stay Vigilant About Safety
As people re-enter public life and begin crowding stores, we can likely expect COVID-19 outbreaks to continue. No matter how much cases have declined in your area, continue to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, and maintain social distance when you’re out and about. This is another reason to shop early, as you want to avoid the crowded rush of a Black Friday shopping event.
Don’t Depend on Black Friday
Many retail chains have stated they will be closed this Thanksgiving, and if there is a spike in cases, then more Black Friday sales may end up being canceled. Don’t hold out for Black Friday expecting great deals—assume instead that stores won’t be open at all.
That said, if stores aren’t planning to open on Black Friday, be sure to take advantage of online sales.
More Resources: Money-Saving Tips for Thanksgiving
Hunt for Discounts
Big retailers may be offering discounts to get people back into their stores this fall. Keep an eye out for stores fighting to win your business by offering steep discounts.
Don’t Wait on Returns
It’s expected that returns of packages and gifts will set records this year. If you have items you need to return, don’t wait—take care of that early and try to beat the rush.
Expect Surcharges on Shipping
Especially if you need fast delivery, shipping charges will be higher than usual this year. Many retailers are fulfilling online orders from their stores when they can—this relieves some of the pressure on their distribution centers, but is costlier and less efficient. Factor in extra costs for shipping if you’re making any purchases online.
Consider Not Shopping at All
This is expected to be a big year for gift cards, and with good reason. Why brave the crowds and enter stores during a pandemic? Give your recipients a gift card and let them do the shopping next year, when the risks are lower.
It’s Okay to Cut Back
This year has shifted everyone’s priorities, and underscored that we are all in it together when it comes to the pandemic. If you tighten your belt and change your gift-giving habits accordingly, everyone will understand. This is the perfect year for home-made gifts, or donating to charity in the name of your gift recipient.
Be Very Careful with Your Credit Cards
Online shopping means paying with plastic, and if you’re using credit cards for online shopping, be very careful. Only buy things if you have a plan to pay off that debt right away. Plan out your holiday spending in advance and stick to the spending plan you create.
If you’ve already accumulated credit card debt that will complicate your holiday shopping plans, help is available. Talk to a non-profit debt coach today for confidential, expert advice.