Last year, holiday shopping was a panicked experience. The media ranted about supply shortages and higher prices because demand exceeded supply. 

Shopping in black fridayThis year we’re also dealing with higher prices, but because of inflation. While we’re used to the higher prices at this point, it’s a good reason to shop early to spread out your spending.

As many as 11 percent of Americans have already started their holiday shopping and many plan to start around Halloween. Only 12 percent of Americans plan to wait until December, which supports the thought that Americans plan to spread out their spending this year.

Why Start Holiday Shopping Early?

A big reason to start holiday shopping early is inflation. Higher prices mean gift givers have to get creative about gift giving.

Homer Simpson scared about prices

Buying gifts now spreads the spending over three months versus cramming it all into December when everyone is in a mad rush.

But, there's another reason.

Big box stores, such as Walmart and Target, have an inventory surplus to the point that they're taking up aisles that used to be walkways to offload their merchandise. The surplus is due to delayed shipping during COVID. Now that manufacturers are catching up, retailers have more inventory than they can handle.

What does that mean for consumers?

In some cases, you'll find slashed prices. This is because retailers are desperate to eliminate the surplus inventory to put out their typical holiday merchandise. 

This doesn't mean you'll get crazy discounts on everything, but if you shop now for big ticket items, you might save more than you would on Black Friday.

Doing holiday shopping early also allows you to create and stick to a budget. As a result, you won't feel the 'holiday craziness' of trying to cram all your gift buying into one month. Instead, you can be methodical about your shopping, keeping your wits about you and not overspending.

The key during all of this is to manage your expectations. Inflation is a big problem for many stores and consumers. Create a budget and figure out how to make your gift giving fit into it. It’s not the size of the gift or how much you spent. It’s the thought that counts.

What to Buy Now

dwight schrute with an elf hatIt's a good idea to make your gift giving list now and buy the items marked down now. Each store will differ, but overall, here are the products big box stores have a surplus of and need to move fast:


  • Clothing
  • Private brand merchandise
  • Activewear
  • Sleepwear
  • Household goods


What ‘Not’ to Buy Now

No way reaction by Jonah Jill Many categories of gift giving products, however, will see better prices on, or around, Black Friday. If any of these items are on your holiday shopping list, wait until the Thanksgiving sales come out, but pay close attention to 'early access' promotions. Amazon, Target and Walmart have hinted at early access to certain sales on items, including:


  • TVs
  • Gaming consoles
  • Appliances
  • Toys
  • Shoes


Tips to Get the Best Deals


So besides spreading your spending out throughout the next few months, how else can you get the best holiday shopping deals?


  • Think outside the box


You'll see crazy low prices on items retailers have been sitting on, but that may not be a 'typical gift item'. But don't let traditions control your spending. If you see an item marked down considerably and know it's something someone on your list could use, buy it. 


  • Watch shipping costs


If you shop online, don't get so excited about a good deal that you overlook the hefty shipping charges. With inflation, shipping prices have increased. If you can't get it shipped free, check for promo codes or have it shipped to the store, as this option is usually free. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, usually has the best shipping deals.


  • Stack rewards


If you aren't taking advantage of cash back shopping, find your favorite platform and sign up. A favorite cash back app is Rakuten because they partner with over 3,500 stores. Next, if you have a rewards credit card, use it to buy your gifts and stack your rewards. For example, when you shop through Rakuten and pay with your cash back credit card, you get double the rewards, reducing the cost of the gifts.


  • Sign up for promo emails


It might be annoying to get what feels like thousands of emails a day, but you'll know when the latest deals hit and can save the most money.


Don't have the emails sent to your primary email. Instead, set up a 'store circular' email and have all ads sent to your new email. Check it once daily and filter through the sales ads to try and save money this holiday season.


  • Skip the buy now pay later schemes


You'll likely see buy now pay later ads everywhere you shop, in-store or online. They may sound great, but the reality is you aren't saving money. It sounds like a great deal paying only 25% at checkout and then spreading the payments out over six weeks. However, unless you got the product on a great sale, you're paying the higher prices, just spreading out the payments.


  • Keep a list


If you shop early, it's easy to forget what you bought, and by the time Christmas rolls around, you've overbought.


Keep a running spreadsheet on Google sheets or an app on your phone, so you always have the list and won't buy for people who already have gifts.


Final Thoughts

Holiday shopping doesn't have to hurt your budget or put you into credit card debt. Instead, you can spread out your spending with careful planning and early shopping.


Inflation can play a big part of raising prices, but plenty of deals are still out there. The key is to think outside the box. Keep a running list of the gifts you bought early, and look for the best deals, whether now, on Black Friday, or even closer to Christmas, as retailers try to get rid of products that didn't sell.

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