It’s that very merry time of the year where you’re starting to plan for holiday gifting. There are the obvious things to always keep in mind whether there’s a pandemic or not (sticking to a budget, for starters), but there are other specifics to think about particularly as people are shopping online more than ever this year. Your gifting game plan may change (experience gifts are out!) and you don’t want to fall victim to paying tons for shipping because of delays. Below, here’s more about what you need to know as you shop this season.
Create a list to stick with your budget
Every year, a budget should be an important factor so you don’t blow through your credit limits. “The list should include all recipients, gift ideas and a budget for each. Ideally, you make the list every year, so you can refer back to it,” says Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert. You can also add yourself to your list (you deserve a treat, too!), but “it’s important to set a budget for you, just like you would anyone else. Setting a limit for what you can spend will help you make more thoughtful choices,” she says.
Follow your favorite retailers
One of the best ways to save and stay in-the-know? “Retailers often share exclusive deals for their followers on their social media pages. Make sure you follow their pages so you don’t miss out,” says Sara Skirboll, RetailMeNot‘s shopping and trends expert. Plenty of brands will also share their deals early when you sign up for their newsletters, too.
Commit to just one or two saving methods
“There are so many ways to save while you shop, but from coupons to cashback to flipping through circulars, it can be a lot to think about. My advice would be to commit to one or two saving methods. To my mind, the easiest ones are installing a free browser extension, which will automatically alert you to available savings as you shop, and installing a savings app on your phone. Two of my favorites that have a browser extension and an app are Slickdeals.net, which I like because they crowdsource their deals from 12 million deal seekers, and CouponCabin.com, which often has stackable deals, like cashback plus a percentage off,” says Bodge.
Avoid shopping for clothes for others this year
Especially during a climate where people are uncomfortable going to stores to return items, you might want to avoid gifts like clothes that can be tricky. “Clothing is so personal. From style to size, to fit, there are so many ways to go wrong. If I find a brand or designer that I think someone would love, I’ll purchase something general, like a scarf or a wrap, or buy a gift card or, better yet, a GiftYa, which is a brand-new digital gift. It allows you to give someone spending money on a store of your choice. You personalize the GiftYa with a photo or video and send it by text to the recipient,” says Bodge.
Check out gift guides
Save yourself from some endless searching: Each brand will highlight the best of their best around this time of year with helpful gift guides to give you a source of inspiration. “Keep in mind your recipients’ likes and dislikes and go from there,” says Skirboll. “For both men and women, I’m expecting a surge in comfort-oriented gifts that make people feel good, like personal care products, cozy blankets, candles, CBD products, home fitness items,” says Bodge.
Shop early because of shipping delays
Because of COVID-19, shipping companies have been struggling all year to keep up with demand and since more people are shopping online as opposed to in stores, online retailers will be overloaded. “UPS, USPS and FedEx have been vocal about the shipping strain this year, and how they plan to continue to navigate and respond to it. The surge in online shopping means more packages in transit, which is resulting in increased holiday shipping rates and surcharges,” says Skirboll. Don’t procrastinate this year!
On that note, don’t pay for shipping at all
“If you’re shopping for multiple people, try your best to meet the minimum requirement for free shipping by adding multiple gifts to the basket,” says Skirboll. Most sites have a wishlist or a way to bookmark items, so add everything to a wishlist over a couple of days so you don’t lose track of your gifts. Just be careful when sales are happening, as the prices will change or they will sell out. Furthermore, many sites are offering free curbside pickups at their brick-and-mortar locations, so see if that’s an option for you.
Consider Secret Santas
From layoffs to furloughs, a lot of people have had their financial situations rocked to the core this year. “Try not to get caught up in what other people are spending. If you are struggling financially, only do what you can do, and don’t be afraid to propose something different this year. For instance, if you normally exchange gifts with a dozen family members and that puts a real dent in your budget, suggest drawing names instead. I’m sure many others would appreciate it,” says Bodge. Consider sites like Elfster that create a digital Secret Santa.
Dress up your gift cards
If you’re worried that a printed-out gift certificate or gift card doesn’t have that “wow” factor, try pairing it with something fun like a pop-up card from Lovepop. “Etsy also has really unique pop-up cards. Another thing to do is to bake cookies or hand make a card to give with a gift card, so it feels more personal,” says Bodge.