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5 Tips for Holiday Shopping in an Unusual Year

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With Halloween in the rearview mirror, the holiday season is quickly approaching. You might’ve already heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at the grocery store or on the radio—something you can always count on this time of year. While some traditions will stay the same, the holidays will look a lot different this year. And that includes holiday shopping. Here are five tips for this unusual holiday shopping season.

1. Stay Safe and Save by Shopping Early and Online

Black Friday is typically the big kickoff to the holiday shopping season, with tons of sales and deals on everything from cars to home goods. But to prevent store overcrowding and try to make up for lost sales earlier in the year, many retailers are starting their deals as early as October and even extending them into December.
In February, the Commerce Department reported that online retail sales eclipsed general merchandise sales for the first time ever. And that was before COVID-19 shutdowns reached the United States.
The United States Postal Service has already dealt with issues during the pandemic, and the expected seasonal increase in online shopping volume will likely cause further shipping and delivery delays. So if you want to make sure your gifts arrive on time, put in your orders well before the holidays.
For the past several years, many retailers have started to make their Black Friday deals available earlier on Thanksgiving Day. But because of COVID-19, some major retailers—including Walmart, Target, and Kohl’s—will be closed on Thanksgiving Day in 2020. So, if you thought instead of getting together with family this year you’d be hitting the nearest big-box retailer, you may have to rethink that plan.

2. Change up How You Redeem Travel Miles

If the coronavirus has kept you from traveling this year, you may be sitting on an excess of miles from your travel rewards credit card. Rather than save these for your next trip (who knows when that will be, right?), consider redeeming those miles for gift cards, cash back, or a statement credit to help fund your holiday shopping this year. Check with your creditor to see if and how you can convert or transfer your miles.
If you struggle with credit card debt, using your miles as a statement credit can be a good way to pay off credit card debt.

3. Gift Digital Experiences

If you typically give experiences like concert tickets or salon/spa gift certificates as gifts, you might be out of luck this year. With many live events canceled or postponed and folks spending more time indoors, consider giving a digital experience as a gift. Perhaps an online yoga group course for your active giftee, a Masterclass cooking course subscription for the home chef on your list, an Amazon Audible subscription for the book lover, or a wine delivery subscription for…well, anyone over 21.

4. Watch Out for Return Shipping Costs

If you’re newer to online shopping and only making this your main form of holiday shopping because of the pandemic, definitely look out for return shipping costs. If you run into an issue with what you’ve purchased—be it clothing size or a defective product—and need to make a return, you might be subject to the cost of shipping on the return.
Make sure you’re not overpaying on shipping in the first place and check to see if there’s low- or no-cost return shipping. Consider using browser plugins like Honey or Capital One Shopping to evaluate offers and see if you’re getting the best deal possible.

5. Use Curbside Pickup

Curbside pickup has become one of the most popular phrases of the pandemic. Many retailers began offering this as a precautionary option for both customers and their employees to stay safe amid COVID-related concerns.
Curbside pickup allows shoppers to place an online order in advance and visit the store to pick it up. Because of shipping and delivery delays, this can sometimes be a faster way to get what you need while still avoiding store crowds. Not to mention, you can save money by steering clear of those pesky shipping fees.

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