Start Your Holiday Shopping Now

If you haven’t seen the holiday decorations creeping into the stores, jostling for space next to the Halloween costumes, you probably haven’t been to a brick-and-mortar establishment lately. So while you may think it’s too early to start holiday shopping, BILLSHARK can assure you the retailers don’t share that attitude.

We urge you to follow their lead, for several reasons.

You’ll find a better selection

To get the best selection of items, you’ll want to start shopping early because the supply chain has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Retailers are still not operating at 2019 product levels,” Kayla Marci, a market analyst at data-driven retail consultancy EDITED, told House Beautiful magazine recently. “The number of new products available in the U.S. market last week was 43 percent lower than in 2019.”

Karl Haller, a partner and retail industry expert at IBM Global Business Services, echoed her warning.

“With potential product shortages continuing, if you see something you know you want, go ahead and buy it,” he told USA Today.

You’ll find better deals earlier

The pandemic has played havoc not only with retail, but with shoppers’ ability to spend. Since the beginning of the shutdowns in early spring, some 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Even many of those who have returned to their jobs are still working reduced hours, while others are clinging tightly to their wallets in fear of what lies ahead (always a good idea, by the way).

So as retailers try to lure customers out, the best prices will likely be available before the traditional start of the shopping crunch, the day after Thanksgiving, which falls on November 26th this year. USA Today reports that Amazon will hold its annual Prime Day in October, and will begin its Black Friday deals earlier in the month of November.

You’ll avoid holiday shipping concerns

The pandemic has also affected package shipping across the board, with delays experienced by FEDEX, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service. Then there’s the political interference in USPS mailing practices, which has slowed the U.S. mail in many parts of the country. This situation has still not been resolved.

Even though the private carriers are adding employees in advance of the holidays, if you’re shopping online, expect your purchases to take longer to reach you. And if in turn you’re sending gifts out of town, you’ll need to leave extra time for them to arrive at their destinations.

It’s kinder to your wallet

Early planning and holiday shopping will prove beneficial to your budget in the long run.

In fact, now is the perfect time to take a rational, clear-eyed view of your end-of-year spending before you become caught up in all the seasonal merriment. Once it has hold of you, it’s too all easy to shrug your shoulders, rationalize that “it’s only once a year,” and open your wallet far wider than you’d planned to.

Have a plan to start shopping

Add in the occupancy and social distancing restrictions remaining in some stores, and the possibility of more lockdowns ahead as the virus threatens a resurgence in the fall, and you’ll quickly see that 2020 holiday shopping will be very different from previous seasons.

So here’s how to get started.

1. Make out a gift list.

Include family and friends, of course, but also anyone in your life to whom you feel either inclined or obligated to gift during the holidays. This includes co-workers, neighbors, teachers and your children’s coaches, people with whom you associate during volunteer work, and those whom you ordinarily tip: hairdresser, newspaper carrier, doorman, maid, lawn mower, and so on.

2. Set a budget and stick to it.

Start with whatever fixed amount you can afford, and begin to apportion it across your gift list.

Here’s where you can see that what you want or need to spend so easily exceeds the amount you can afford. If you end up in the red on paper, you’ll need to think carefully about where you can cut back.

If the money won’t stretch as far as you’d like, and you can’t think of any way to make it grow between now and the end of December, you’ll either need to be ruthless in paring your list or be creative in your gift selections. Look for less expensive items, or finding meaningful gifts that don’t cost money (e.g., memory books, special photos, letters of appreciation, redeemable coupons for baby- or pet-sitting, yard work, etc.).

3. Shop carefully

Watch for sales. Use price-tracking websites to get the best deal. If you’ve already bought a gift for your sister and later find The Perfect Gift, return the one you bought earlier, assuming the new one fits your budget.

If you start holiday shopping now, you’ll avoid the headaches of panic shopping. Plus, you’ll be more likely to not overspend, and your bank account will be a lot healthier come January.

And to find extra cash, let BILLSHARK’s professional negotiators help lower your bills. We’ll review them for free, and charge only if we can save you money.

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