Does it feel like the holiday season begins earlier and earlier every year? The shopping season deals, and advertisements will be bombarding us before we know it. This year will feel even more different as more people will shop from the comfort of their own home rather than be greeted by the sweet sounds of Mariah Carey in the aisles of Target. If you're not following the holiday deals this year you might miss out on some serious savings. Here's what you should know about the holiday shopping season this year, and why it's going to be different than what you're used to.
Don't wait until Black Friday
Does anyone really miss the dark dreary mornings, the long lines, and being trampled by stampeding crowds after awakening disoriented from overindulgence the night before? All the noise and chaos to save a $100 on a flat screen TV Black Friday morning . . . If they didn't run out of inventory, of course! Since online shopping has become more mainstream, the allure of Black Friday savings has become less and less prominent as online deals, such as Cyber Monday, have leaped to the forefront. But even big online events like Cyber Monday don't occur until late November. Since it's 2020, and nearly everything has been upended, even the holiday shopping season has changed and waiting for deals until Black Friday may be a mistake.
Believe it or not, October is likely going to be one of the best months to start your holiday shopping to capture some of the best deals. In fact, this Sunday, the 11th, Walmart is starting its creatively named "Big Save Event" if only to eek out a start before Amazon's illustrious Prime Day which begins a couple days later on the 13th. Both events promise to offer great deals on a variety of products that will rival what will be found on Black Friday.
Did you expect Target to miss out on the action? They will also start their Deal Days Event the same day as Prime Day on October 13th. But the train doesn't stop there! Home Depot is expected to start their holiday discounts in early November, well before Black Friday.
While these are a few of the announced events so far, in such a competitive retail environment it wouldn't be surprising to see other big box retailers announce earlier deal events to get in on the action. The Clark Howard show has begun collecting names and dates of these events to make your shopping season easier. Keep an eye out for new releases as more get added to the list.
The early bird catches the worm
What's so wrong with waiting until Black Friday? Isn’t it likely to have good deals then, too? From the news we've seen, retailers are expected to offer deals around Black Friday as they have traditionally done. The issue is that being so late in the season you'll be up against the clock before the deals run out if you decide to wait until then.
More and more packages get shipped every year around the holidays. This puts an extra burden on delivery services which need to hire and train more people, offer overtime, and invest in additional infrastructure to meet the demand. These costs get passed along to consumers, even if they don't necessarily see it.
Like paying a gas tax at the pump, it's there, but unless you've done your research you don't know exactly how much more you're paying. Retailers will still offer "free" shipping because it is expected by consumers now. However, it's more than likely that these additional shipping costs will inflate the price of the goods purchased, evaporating any savings you would have otherwise realized. You won't explicitly pay a "shipping cost", but it will be reflected in the total price paid. Pretty sneaky.
A possible work around if you're shopping later in the season is to instead opt for curbside pickup when available. It's a little less convenient, but you're less likely to experience a price hike for having the product delivered to your door. But to avoid the hassle altogether, it's best to start your shopping a little earlier than you may be used to in the past.
Make a list and check it twice
As financial planners we would be remiss if we didn't discuss some best practices for managing your finances during the holiday shopping season. Especially during tumultuous times like these.
The holiday deals will look different this year, and your overall financial picture may be drastically different as well. This year, more than others in recent memory, it is incredibly important to make sure you're budgeting your holiday spending appropriately. If you're out of work, have had your pay reduced, or are at a risk of either soon, it's likely appropriate to curtail your holiday budget so not to put yourself in a detrimental financial situation. Saving $30 on a $100 item still means you're spending $70. Keep this going and you can find yourself spending much more than you intended, even though it may feel like you’re “saving” money.
A great way to manage your holiday budget is to start by making a list. What should this list include?
Your total holiday shopping budget
Who you would like to get gifts for
How much you would like to spend on each individual
What gifts you would like to get each person
The purpose of getting organized helps with a few things:
First, it should help you track how much you're spending so you know whether or not you're going over budget.
Second, writing down what items you'd like to get people gives you an idea of how much each item might cost, and your total expenditure.
Third, knowing who you'd like to get gifts for may help you cut down your list if you're finding you might be spending too much.
Lastly, knowing which items you'd like to get each person allows you to be focused on finding deals for those products, and not getting as distracted by other temping offers that get pushed your way.
As discussed before, the sooner you have this list ready the better since the deals are starting this weekend! Having the list ready means you'll be on the lookout longer, and will have more time to capture some savings and avoid the end of season price hikes as shipping costs skyrocket. By no means will most people have their shopping done in October, but based on the trends for this year, October is a good month to start.
The holiday shopping season seems to be starting much earlier in 2020 than it has in prior years. Keep a lookout for deals as early as this weekend up through Black Friday. But try to have all your shopping done by the end of November, before the real deals are gone.
Although we talked a lot about the consumerism side of the holidays, of course the most important aspect is cherishing the time spent with loved ones. Don't let a shopping spree overshadow what's really important this holiday season. Gift giving is an exciting and fun part of the holidays. But, if you're in a financial situation where you cannot give gifts as you have in the past, the most important thing is to be surrounded by loved ones. Even if it has to be virtually over Skype/Zoom.
As always, if you need help reviewing your financial plan, please reach out to our team.