Every year, last-minute holiday shoppers find themselves in a mad scramble to hit “add to cart,” only to be deflated by those little red letters at checkout: “expected to ship in 5-7 business days.” But this year, it’s looking like even shoppers who like to plan ahead will find themselves disappointed, thanks to global supply chain issues and resulting holiday shipping delays.
Smart shopping expert Trae Bodge describes the 2021 holiday shopping landscape as a “domino effect” of delays and shortages. Due to the pandemic, online shopping flux, labor shortages, jammed shipping ports and other variables, holiday shipping delays and product scarcity are inevitable in 2021, especially once the shopping season hits its peak around Black Friday. For that reason, Bodge suggests that consumers get started now in order to meet earlier-than-ever holiday shipping deadlines. “My fear is that shoppers who wait until later in the shopping season will find themselves in a bind,” she says.
Some retailers like Walmart and Lululemon are taking extra steps to beat the delay, with the former chartering its own vessels so it won’t rely on booked-and-busy outside vendors. Still, your question probably is: “what should I do?” We asked Bodge for her expert advice on navigating the ins and outs of holiday shopping delays in 2021, so you can stress less and save more. Here are her top tips:
Get your holiday shopping done early.
This year is not the time to try to hold out for a potential deal — if there’s something topping your shopping list, get it while you can. Luckily, stores like Amazon are rolling out pre-Black Friday deals — some just as impressive as their typical day-of sales. Opt for curbside pickup options to avoid shipping fees and back-ordered items. Still, not everything needs to be purchased ahead of time. Instead, focus on shopping for the hottest ticket items early. “Right now, I would focus on items where you have little flexibility, like a specific hot toy, a particular model of a gadget, or even a pair of shoes that are trending on TikTok,” Bodge says.
Expect unexpected delays.
When you shop early enough, express shipping methods should not be necessary, she says. But as the holidays draw closer, pay close attention to the estimated shipping times, which are usually clearly indicated at checkout. Consumers should brace themselves for the scenario that items may be unexpectedly delayed beyond the estimate. “If it looks like you’re cutting it close, it’s worth paying a bit extra for expedited shipping,” recommends Bodge.
Be willing to spend an extra buck.
According to the Price Index, general pricing is already up over 5% from 2020. “I’ve been hearing that prices in certain items will increase,” adds Bodge. “On top of inflation, consumers should expect to pay more this year than they have in previous years.”
Think savvy to save money.
Early shopping means there won’t be the usual deep holiday season-level discounts, so it’s important to look for ways to save, says Bodge. The solution? Coupon and cashback apps. If you’re in-store, scan coupons and cashback offers using the in-store tab in CouponCabin. For shopping online, browser extensions like Cently by CouponFollow will automatically notify you of available cashback offers and even run verified coupons for you at checkout. Plus, they’re free and easy to use, enthuses Bodge. Set deal alerts when on the hunt for specific items using the Deal Alert feature from Slickdeals.net, which automatically notifies you when they go on sale – saving you time and money.
Another savvy option? Gift your friends and family items that don’t need to be shipped before December 25 — gift certificates to local businesses, experience gifts, subscription boxes, DIY gifts and meal delivery services are all great gifts that don’t rely on shipping deadlines.
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