Why you should start your holiday shopping early

With only a few months until the holiday season, you may be wondering if now is the time to start crossing items off your holiday shopping list. If you feel like you’re ready to jump in, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a Bankrate survey conducted in September 2023, 50% of holiday shoppers have already begun purchasing holiday gifts (or plan to do so by Halloween on Oct. 31).

According to the data, 12% of shoppers started working on their holiday lists in August, another 12% started in September, and 26% started or plan to start in October. The remaining 50% intend to begin in November (37%), December (13%), or both.

While the 50% who get into the holiday spirit before Halloween may appear to be comically ahead of the rush, there are a number of advantages to shopping for seasonal gifts and supplies with a few months to spare. Here’s a rundown of the early shopping benefits to consider, as well as how holiday shopping might look in 2023.

How holiday shopping looks different in 2023

The good news for 2023 holiday shopping is that the supply chain issues caused by COVID-19 are mostly behind us. This year, fewer stores will be out of stock on popular holiday gifts, with no idea when they will be able to restock. Instead, if they don’t wait until the last minute to buy gifts, consumers should be able to find everything they want and need available for shipping or in-store pickup.

However, the elephant in the room these days is inflation, which has finally slowed after reaching its peak in the early 1980s. Given this, according to Bankrate data, only 33% of holiday shoppers believe inflation will change the way they shop in 2023, down from 40% last year.

However, because of the increased costs of almost everything caused by inflation, 25% of respondents in the Bankrate survey said they were concerned about costs this year, while another 23% said holiday shopping would strain their budgets. Another 13% anticipate feeling pressured to spend more than they can afford this holiday season.

The pros of starting your holiday shopping early

There are numerous advantages to getting started early. Some of the most significant benefits of starting your holiday shopping early include:

  • Having time to shop for deals: Buying early allows you to compare prices for items and shop around for deals, whereas waiting until the last minute forces you to pay whatever prices are available at the time.
  • Having time to apply for a new credit card: If you start early, you’ll still have time to apply for a rewards credit card or a cash back credit card and earn a credit card sign-up bonus that you can use to fund your holiday shopping. You may also be able to obtain a new card that offers 0% APR on purchases for a limited time. This allows you to pay off your holiday shopping bill interest-free for up to 21 months.
  • Paying for gifts as you go: If you shop early, you can spread the cost of your holiday shopping over several months. This is probably better for your budget and cash flow than paying for all of your gifts in a single month or pay period.

How to be a smart holiday shopper

Shopping early allows you to take advantage of the long lead time, and there are steps you can take to save big while looking for gifts. According to recent Bankrate data, 41% of consumers polled intend to use more coupons, discounts, or sales this year, while 20% intend to buy gifts from less expensive retailers or brands overall.

Stacking discounts, or combining multiple savings strategies on the same purchase, is another option to consider, such as using a rewards credit card, an online shopping portal, and a store coupon all at once. Paying with a credit card is a smart way to earn rewards and access other perks such as purchase protection and extended warranty coverage as long as you can pay in full and avoid interest. Credit cards also provide far superior fraud protection than debit cards.

Remember that, in addition to the fantastic deals available in stores, shopping for holiday gifts online can be a fantastic way to save. Shopping online also makes it much easier to compare prices and deals from multiple retailers at the same time. This could explain why 39% of shoppers plan to do the majority of their holiday gift shopping online in 2023, compared to 23% who plan to do the majority of their shopping in person.

Finally, remember to redeem any credit card rewards you’ve already accumulated. There are numerous ways that rewards points and miles can help offset your holiday expenses, whether for cash back, travel, gift cards, or merchandise.

The bottom line

Holiday shopping can be expensive, but with several months until Christmas, you have time on your side. Make good use of it. Make a good gift list and double-check it.

Put some money aside, compare prices, and take advantage of credit card rewards and gift cards — these are real money, even if they are sometimes out of sight, out of mind.

Key takeaways

  • According to a recent Bankrate survey, half of all holiday shoppers (50%) planned to begin shopping before the holidays this year by Halloween, with 12% beginning in September and another 12% beginning in August of 2023.
  • There are numerous advantages to shopping early, including the ability to shop around for deals and spread out the cost of gifts over several months.
  • Early shoppers can also sign up for a cash back credit card or rewards card, which gives them something back for every dollar spent.

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